SBS has been described as “biased against traditional marriage”.
Senator Matt Canavan said the decision by the public broadcaster earlier this year not to air an advertisement promoting traditional marriage was wrong.
“SBS has fallen down in not airing this ad and has left people questioning the independence of SBS on the issue,” he said.
Senator Canavan has questioned SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid and Chief Content Officer Helen Kellie on the decision during Senate estimates hearings in Canberra.
“In evidence to the estimates hearing, SBS confirmed that in fact they would have put to air an advertisement in favour of same-sex marriage, while refusing to air an advertisement in favour of traditional marriage. That admission directly demonstrates interference in free speech, self-censorship and political selectivity – in other words, bias.”
Senator Canavan told Mr Ebeid he found the SBS decision “remarkable”.
“You are a public broadcaster using public money and clearly favour one side of the argument over the other,” he said. “You are meant to be fair and balanced.”
Senator Canavan said later SBS operates courtesy of generous funding from all Australian taxpayers and it is appropriate that significant community views are allowed to be aired.
“The point here is not whether this advertisement was for or against traditional marriage versus same-sex marriage but the fact that an advertisement supporting a position held by a large number of Australians – at this point in time, probably still the majority of Australians – was not allowed to air.
“Both Channel Seven and Channel Nine put the ad by the Australian Marriage Forum to air on the same night in March that SBS refused to broadcast it.
“This self-censorship by the SBS is a worrying indication that the organisation is biased against traditional marriage in its editorial and advertising policies.”