SBS orders Family Law

17 November, 2014 by Don Groves

SBS has commissioned a 6-part series based on Benjamin Law's novel about growing up as a Chinese Australian in a small town on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

SBS MD Michael Ebeid announced the project, Family Law, at today’s Screen Forever conference while assuring producers he did not expect the looming government budget cuts would force the broadcaster to reduce spending on content.


Ebeid said Screen Australia agreed to fund the series at Sunday’s board meeting and that 90% of the cast would be Asian.

Matchbox Pictures’ Tony Ayres and Debbie Lee will serve as executive producers and Sophie Miller and Julie Eckersley will produce the 6 x 30 series based on Law’s novel The Family Law;  casting is about to start.

According to media reports, the ABC and SBS both facing funding cuts of $200 million- $300 million.

Ebeid knows exactly how much the SBS will lose but can’t pre-empt the announcement by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. SBS had spent a lot of time explaining its business model and operations to the government, which the government understands, and he said “I am hopeful this will be reflected in the numbers.”

Ebeid added, “I don’t expect the cuts will have too much impact on content…We expect to maintain our content spend.”

SBS had saved $20 million in efficiency measures in the past three years, which had been invested in content. The broadcaster had hoped that savings in 2014 and 2015 would be spent on content but this would not happen due to the government cuts.

He described media reports that the government intends to allow SBS to double its advertising from five minutes as “far exaggerated” but said the broadcaster could not survive without ads, which generate 30% of its revenues.

While SBS commissions 90% of its local content Ebeid said that for every 100 pitches it gets, it is able to commission only two or three.

He said SBS intends to commission more online series such as one on the Cronulla riots, which is airing on SBS on Demand and will screen on SBS 2 on December 11.

Dateline would be refreshed because it needed more light and shade while still remaining a serious current affairs show, he said.