Dateline isn't dying, but it's getting a refresh: SBS CEO

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 14 November 2014

SBS CEO Michael Ebeid has denied reports in Crikey that flagship current affairs program Dateline will be gutted, while confirming that it will be refreshed next year, saying the program will get exactly the same amount of budget that it usually gets.

Speaking to AdNews on the sidelines of the SBS upfront event in Sydney today, Ebeid categorically denied the show was being gutted, as reported by Dateline producer Allan Hogan in a piece for Crikey [$], who he described as “a disgruntled ex-employee”.

“That story is completely false,” he said. “We're really dissaspointed in that story.”

“Dateline is not being axed or gutted. It is being refreshed with a new format, and we're reinvigorating the show. It will get exactly the same amount of money this year than it did in previous years,” Ebeid said.

Meanwhile, he said the effect of government cuts would not be reflected in its programming for the upcoming year, saying SBS had in effect been saving for the past four years.

“We've been saving for a while now, so we're ready for the cuts”.

However, instead of the savings being reinvested Ebeid said, “the money we saved is now going to the government instead of us commissioning new content”.

He also denied there would be mass layoffs because of the cuts.

“We're always looking to do different things, but there will be no mass redundancies.”

Ebeid had earlier told an audience at the SBS upfront event in Sydney that looming government cuts would not affect its programming in 2015, which had been locked in.

"A big focus of the SBS team and I over the last six to 12 months has been to talk to the government and really talk to them about our differentiation, how we do business, and how we have very efficient work practices in our organisation, probably the most efficient in the Australian media landscape," he said.

"We're going to continue to make investments in the content area because we believe that these are absolutely critical to our audiences and of course to our advertisers.

"So in 2015 all our content plans are locked and loaded and ready to go. So in spite what we've seen in the news about funding changes this week, there won't be an impact on our content next year."

Ebeid also said several back-end efficiency moves were underway, including investigating cross-platform and programmatic selling.

He also said internal operations would change.

"We've evolved some of our operating models internally to be even more agile and responsive," Ebeid said.

"We're also about to transition to a cloud-based technology for our master control, and we'll certainly be the first Australian broadcaster to do that."

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