SBS Radio donates 20,000 vinyl records to NFSA

BY THORSTEN KAEDING

Blue record cover with central image of a man and woman dressed in outrageous carnival costumes

Carnival in Rio. This record cover doesn't really convey the decadence of Rio's carnival, despite the central image.

In early 2018, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in Melbourne contacted the NFSA. Due to refurbishment at their main office in Federation Square they were no longer able to house their vinyl records, a collection which had been growing since 1975.

They thought the NFSA would be the ideal place for this significant collection and also offered us the vinyl discs held by SBS Radio in Sydney.

SBS preferred to keep the collections whole to reflect their importance as a representation of the beginnings of multicultural broadcasting in Australia.

These records were the basis for the different language programs provided by SBS over the years, which have had a big impact on individual communities and Australia generally.

From Medibank to Multiculturalism

In 1975 the Australian Government established radio stations 2EA in Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne to inform Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds about the new universal health care policy, Medibank.

A young man sits among his music collection while his annoyed girlfriend looks at him

Rock and Roll Zbirka by Crveni Koralji (Red Corals). This humorous record cover effectively crosses all cultural boundaries with the annoyed girl glaring at her boyfriend who is preoccupied with his music collection.

The stations were designed to provide important information to citizens in their native language, with an initial plan to broadcast for three months in seven languages.

They proved so popular that their broadcast time was extended by three years and the number of languages expanded.

On 1 January 1978, the Special Broadcasting Service was created to run the two stations. SBS TV was also set up at that time.

The number of languages broadcast steadily increased from over 40 in 1978 to more than 70 now.

From those first stations in Sydney and Melbourne, SBS Radio now has a variety of services across the country, with a charter mandating them ‘to provide multilingual radio … services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society.’

About the collection

A man in Sicilian folk costume playing a wooden flute. Text reads, The Magic Zufolo of Joe Castellana

The Magic Zufolo by Joe Castellana. Not much thought seems to have gone into the design of this record cover to convey the style of music.

The SBS Melbourne and Sydney vinyl collections represent most of the language and cultural groups broadcast by the stations in that early period. They include overseas recordings in Afghan, Albanian, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian and Serbian languages as well as recordings made in Australia in languages other than English.

The Melbourne World Music Collection alone includes over 12,000 vinyl discs, covering sound effects, jazz, popular music, religious, opera, classical, soundtracks, musicals, marches, humour and spoken word. Countries represented include: Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, the Middle East, Romania, Slovakia and Tahiti.

The NFSA seeks to represent, through its collection, the broad scope of Australia’s cultural heritage as reflected in its audiovisual industries and cultures. By this measure the SBS vinyl collection is a landmark collection which encapsulates the beginnings of multicultural broadcasting in this country.

While the NFSA collection is comprised primarily of Australian-produced material, or international material with significant Australian creative input, our collection policy and principles do allow for the selective inclusion of significant international material ‘to provide context to historical Australian audiovisual production, and to preserve a tangible record of historical cultural experience'.

On this basis the NFSA has accepted this collection and will maintain and make it accessible to Australians now and into the future.