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Subject: Sociology »


Hear it in your own language - SBS Radio

Stepan Kerkyasharian.

Stepan Kerkyasharian, Head of SBS Radio 1980-89, speaks on the Government three month experimental radio.



Date Added:

26 June 2002


Making Multicultural Australia


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



30 secs


Head of SBS Radio, 1980-89

They (the Government) said well this will be a three month experimental radio. So at that point there was no intention at all to have a permanent service. There were very strict instructions given to the people that they were not to broadcast any news at all. There will be no news. There will be music and there will be messages about Medicare. And thatís all the people got for three months.

But of course what the Government did not bank on was this huge thirst and hunger which was out there. And suddenly they found that they couldnít shut it down...


The role of the SBS radio was the "voice of ethnic Australia". And all you have to do is to go to the homes, particularly of some of our elderly migrants who are totally isolated from their own environment. They are even isolated from their own children. And radio tells them that they have not lost their sanity. There are other people who still think their way. There are other people who still speak their language, and the culture and the homeland they left behind is still there and is progressing. Ethnic radio is a lifeline.

It is my firm view that there was a firm commitment to ethnic broadcasting. The Fraser Governmentís commitment to ethnic radio was there, and that commitment was there by both political parties. It was bureaucracy that frustrated it every day. The Department of Communication and the Department of Finance were always, always against it, from secretary down, right up to 1990.

The broadcasters were not paid. The pressure was on them to add more languages. So, by 1976 they added on another 30 languages. They did not pay those broadcasters, but they asked those broadcasters to pay the Government. They used to pay $35 per program for the studio time.

There was a lot of good material broadcast, but they virtually broke every rule, every copyright rule, by lifting news out of newspapers, some of it highly inflammatory, bordering on racism.

And all this was going on against a background where the Government and the bureaucrats and the broadcasters themselves were projecting an image of absolute and total harmony.

Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1994.