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SBS Hindi must do a lot more to gain the trust of the community.

Opinion by NRI Herald - July 29, 2021

As Abraham Lincoln once said:

“I would rather be a little nobody, then to be an evil somebody"

These words of Mr. Lincoln is of paramount importance in the field of Australian Journalism these days. Once the professions of noble and meritocrats is in absolute sluiceway these days, SBS (a broadcasting service which is hybrid-funded with 80% Australian public funds) is a classic example with recent subterfuge to its Hindi speaking listeners.

The Beginning


Ever since the departure of Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) Hindi service senior executive, following a spate of complaints and findings against her which sparked the allegations of bullying and toxic culture of bullying, the hybrid-funded Australian public service broadcaster is in the state of omnishambles. From hiring staffers with questionable experience in the field of "Hindi language" and selections which are laced with favouritism by SBS Hindi’s supervisors, there does not appear any serious or genuine effort to deal with the issues in the system.

The Investigation


NRI Herald in its preliminary investigation found out that to ease the crumbled ecosystem of SBS languages, SBS Director of Audio and Language content, David Hua, circulated an invite which called for a community meeting with key members of the Hindi speaking community members in Australia ostensibly to meet with SBS Radio to discuss SBS Hindi’s services, how they are delivered and what is important to the community. Surprisingly, the key Hindi speaking community members like Ms Rekha Rajvanshi, Ms Saba Zaidi Abdi, Dr Yadu Singh, Prashant Singh and Amit Jadaun were not invited for consultation despite they expressing their interest (here again favouritism played its key role). This was also reported by a Sydney based Australian news portal "The Indian Subcontinent times (IST)" (link)

NRI Herald sourced actual community consultation invite shared by SBS

furthermore, a tweet emerged on the social media on 14th July 2021 written by one of the Australia's prominent community leader, Dr. Yadu Singh which said:

“all we want is 2 see the attitude/behaviour of @SBSHindi fixed. They should accept that their behaviour/working is consistent with a publicly funded radio. Exclusion of people based on @SBSHindi’s whims/likes/dislikes is not acceptable.”

The tweet from Dr Yadu which tagged various senior position holders of SBS like Frank Mathisen (SBS- Community Project Manager), David Hua (SBS- Director Audio & Language content), SBS Hindi official Handle and Mandi Wicks (SBS-Director News and Current Affairs) further raised a major concern and said:

“there is a major concern with your so-called “community consultation” for SBS Hindi. Excluding key Hindi speaking people from all over Australia & “selecting” hand-picked people is just ticking the box. It’s not right/sincere!”


The Rot


Following the departure of the former senior executive over the allegations of bullying as alleged by one of her subordinates, Pallavi Jain, many employees like Vivek Asri & Gaurav Vaishnav were put to a lot of pressure, forcing them to leave their jobs in SBS Hindi. As IST published in its analysis, Vivek Asri said: “the managers would steal his by-line and publish his story as their own work”. He said in his resignation letter:

“Though journalists would publish their works around the world and organisations take pride in their literary success. But in SBS’s case that’s not the norm. You need to be a favourite of the managers in order to succeed and have peace, otherwise one is inviting mental health problems”.

The Rot continues


Except being from the same nationality, the new Executive Producer (EP) does not appear from publicly available sources to have any credentials in the field of Hindi Language. In fact, the new SBS Hindi Head, who has been selected by the SBS comes from an English background with ZERO credentials in the field of Hindi, while ignoring candidates with much stronger credentials for the job. People are worried that this might have happened due to “empire building” tendencies of SBS Hindi’s managers. Though, the SBS Code of Practice, as approved by the SBS Board outlines the principles and policies that guide SBS in ensuring the highest standards of editorial independence and integrity, the reality appears to be far from truth.

The Conclusion


The present situation at SBS reminds us of the words said by former United States Deputy Secretary of State and World Bank president, Robert Bruce Zoellic:

“Corruption is a cancer that steals from the poor, eats away at governance and moral fibre and destroys trust.”

The distrust and dissatisfaction against SBS Hindi among Hindi-speaking community members of Australian society are rampant and they do not see any glimmer of change in SBS Hindi Radio. A broadcaster which runs majorly on Australian public funds is answerable to the public, but that does not seem to have any resonance with SBS organisation.


It is about time that SBS organises a proper community consultation to seek views of the Hindi-speaking community with the sole purpose to improve SBS Hindi and to make its services productive and resonating with the needs of the Hindi-speaking community. While doing so, it would not be overstating to say that the selection of people for such consultations or for the guests in its programs should be based on objective criteria, not likes or dislikes of the SBS Hindi or its managers. After all, the rot in SBS Hindi needs to end.

 

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