The boss of SBS has described the official ratings system for television OzTam as “very unscientific” and “not accurate”, and argued it significantly under represents the audiences the multicultural public broadcaster achieves on channels such as indigenous focused channels such as NITV.
Michael Ebeid, managing director of SBS, told Mumbrella after last Friday’s 2015 Upfront event that he did not believe Oztam was accurately reflecting NITV’s audience, which has previously posted a 0.0 per cent audience share in the official TV ratings since its launch two years ago.
“The thing you have to understand with the way our ratings system works is very unscientific,” Ebeid told Mumbrrella. “For example, there are no measurement boxes anywhere in the Northern Territory (NT) so any viewer in the NT is not counted anywhere in our measurement system.”
Ebeid went on to argue that Oztam disadvantaged the broadcaster but that there was little that could be done to address the situation.
“(The lack of ratings boxes in the NT) would obviously be a disadvantage for NITV in terms of measuring their numbers,” he said. “It is something we just have to live with. The measurement system is the measurement system – we know it is not accurate.”
The SBS managing director made comments after an Upfronts presentation in which the broadcaster reaffirmed its commitment to NITV and a willingness to spend taxpayer funds on it, despite its small audiences.
“From a channel perspective I think (NITV) is a really important channel and goes a long way to reconciliation in this country. It is important for the first people to have a platform that they can see themselves reflected and have their culture captured for future generations.
“I think it is exactly the type of thing a public broadcaster needs to do. It is not about chasing numbers and ratings — there is another purpose for NITV.”
During the presentations Ebeid told the room full of journalists that it was committed to fulfilling its charter through channels like NITV.
“Our content is all about delivering on our charter in contemporary Australia, where one in four of us were born overseas,” he said. “It is about being on all the platforms where our audiences are today but it is also leading the conversation about what it is to be Australian. That is what we enjoy doing.”
On the role of NITV Ebeid told the room: “NITV is of course our newest channel and it is a channel that is really evolving and growing since it went free to air. Not only is a channel for our first Australians but it is also a channel for non indigenous Australian to get a window into indigenous Australian culture.”
Ebeid cited this week’s launch of First Contact hosted by Ray Martin as an example of how the channel could be used to provide that window into the world of indigenous affairs and noted that the show would be simulcast on SBS1 and NITV.
“It is going to shine a light on the real divide between indigenous and non indigenous Australians, where we are going to immerse six Australians, who have had very little contact with indigenous Australians, and take them into aboriginal Australia,” he said.
“SBS 1 and NITV are going to partner and simulcast the three consecutive nights, starting with next Tuesday and we believe it will be event television and hopefully get the nation talking.”
In response to the comments on ratings measurement Doug Peiffer, CEO of OzTam, said: “OzTam’s ratings system is accurate for the markets that we cover – which are the five mainland capital cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
“If SBS would like coverage in the NT they need to speak with OzTAM, Regional TAM or Nielsen directly about installing people meters into that market.”