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Former SBS Executive Denounces The Promise

February 9, 2012 – 7:56 pm48 Comments

Stepan Kerkyasharian

Stepan Kerkyasharian, the Chair of the Community Relations Commission for a multicultural NSW and President of the Anti-Discrimination Board, wrote the letter below to SBS in relation to The Promise. Notably, Kerkyasharian was the Head of SBS Radio in its formative years and member of the Executive team which set up SBS Television. He was also a member of the Independent Complaints Review Panel of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for ten years. This letters follows Jewish community complaints to SBS and this response from the SBS Ombudsman.

I refer to the series, “The Promise”, recently televised by the Special Broadcasting Service.

The Community Relations Commission has the legislated responsibility to promote community harmony in our multicultural and multi-faith society.

I am acutely aware of the distress that the series caused to the Jewish Community, particularly to the survivors of The Holocaust.

At the core is the concern that the series negatively portrays the WHOLE of the Jewish People. Such a portrayal cannot be justified in ANY context. There is a distinct separation between condemning an action by a government on the one hand and condemning the whole of the people of a nation collectively, through stereotyping, on the other hand. In the context of television, I am of the view that the portrayal of an entire nation in a negative light as part of a dramatic work is not acceptable either. This is reinforced by SBS Code 1.3.

Stereotyping, particularly in the context of race or ethnicity not only creates distrust and hatred but condemns the generations yet to be born.

I urge the Board of the Special Broadcasting Service, as the ultimate editorial authority of its programming content, to re-consider the representations from the Jewish Community with due regard to the potential destructive consequences of racial stereotyping and desist from further publication or distribution of the program.

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