SBS has come a long way since 1975: Mandi Wicks

At SBS Radio’s 40th birthday celebrations last night, radioinfo caught up with the current leader of SBS Radio, Mandi Wicks.

She says SBS Radio is “the foundation from which we have grown into a modern, multi-platform network.”

The network is now delivering news and information to a larger and more diverse community and across more platforms, than at any other point in its history.

Radio now falls under a more broadly named division called ‘Audio and Language Content’ to reflect the multi-platform nature of radio broadcasting today. Mandi Wicks’ title is Director of Audio & Language Content.

Wicks told radioinfo about how the radio network has evolved over the past 4 decades:

“SBS has come a long way since the launch of Radio 2EA in Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne… 40 years ago our broadcasters waited for weeks for newspapers and information to be sent from ‘home’ and listeners were faithfully glued to their programs. Today, SBS Radio is on all the platforms and devices that audiences are choosing to use. Today, an average house has four internet connected devices – pc, tablet or mobile phone. Over 50% of us use Facebook every month and 65% of people over 16 in Australia have a smart phone. Our audiences are growing rapidly on all these devices.”

With Australia’s increasing cultural diversity, the role of SBS has become more complex, says Wicks:  “40 years ago, SBS was the only multilingual broadcaster in Australia… today, migrant Australians have hundreds of cable and satellite channels to choose from and thousands of websites to keep them connected with their country of origin. But in this media landscape, SBS Radio has a unique purpose – to focus on Australian news and information in language – we talk to people about their communities here in Australia – the challenges, the celebrations – to encourage social cohesion and to make them feel at home in Australia.”

The 40th anniversary has provided a content focus for SBS Radio since January, and the network intends to continue that theme for the rest of the year.

“SBS Radio is taking audiences on a journey through the past 40 years – focusing on the biggest stories, which have shaped Australia and the world. Audiences are being encouraged to share their migrant journeys, and to celebrate their successes with us. Over 40 weeks, the programs are showcasing a year at a time, counting up from 1975 to 2015. And of course, you can explore all the content at

“While we’re connecting with first generation migrants through language, we are equally committed to engaging with younger audiences through music and pop culture.

“SBS PopAsia is still going from strength to strength, especially online, on mobile and on social. SBS PopAsia has more than 750k Facebook likes, is the third most popular radio Facebook page in Australia, and the interaction on social is huge with some posts attracting up to 150k comments! Some of the recent feedback has included: ‘it’s finally cool to be Asian in the school yard’, ‘it’s great seeing people who look like me on TV’ and ‘none of my friends are into Asian Pop, I’ve made new life-long ones on PopAsia’. Our purpose is to inspire social cohesion in these passion communities.”

In the last year, traffic to SBS Radio’s websites, and the number of listeners accessing audio streams via SBS Radio sites and Mobile Apps have experienced significant increases, fuelled by Australia’s fastest growing language communities, such as Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) and Hindi, and SBS PopAsia, and new language groups such as Dinka and Tigrinya. Those programs have more than doubled engagement in 12 months.

Wicks is looking forward to a continued strong presence for the network in years to come.

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