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UC's industry partnership with SBS to evolve multilingual community research

Elly Mackay

15 February 2022: A new partnership between the University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) and public service broadcaster SBS will focus on multicultural audiences in Australia and their media behaviour and news consumption.

The program – which will see University of Canberra Professor Sora Park undertake a three-month placement in the Audience, Data and Insights team at the media organisation – aims to improve the diversity, representation, trust and sense of belonging in a multicultural society through news.

It will also allow researchers from the N&MRC to access and analyse real-life data and see how that data is used to understand nuances of multilingual communities and how to best serve them on platforms of choice. The data will add value to ongoing research, and link industry trends to an educational portfolio.

“SBS has been servicing multilingual communities in Australia for more than 45 years. At UC, our research team has been studying trust in news for many years. These combined, we will be able to produce unique insights into how news can affect people’s belonging to society, and whether Australian media is meeting the needs of diverse communities,” Professor Park said.

She added that the program will be mutually beneficial.

“For N&MRC researchers, it’s going to enhance the knowledge, skills, professional experience and performance. It will also assist in the Centre reaching its goals with respect to teaching, research and industry engagement,” Professor Park said.

“In return, it’s going to provide industry with disciplinary expertise and input, and test theories in practice.”

As part of the partnership, N&MRC and SBS co-designed a longitudinal research project and have now collected 1,083 responses from five language communities (Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Italian) on their views on multilingual news, and their sense of belonging to the Australian community. The report will be released later this year.

After the launch of Arabic and Mandarin news bulletins in February, the team will conduct a repeat survey to see if there was an improvement in audiences’ trust and sense of belonging.

Professor Kerry McCallum who heads up the University’s N&MRC as Director, says the research has the ability to provide valuable insights around multicultural news services, particularly in light of the pandemic and the necessity to communicate ever-evolving health advice.

“For many people, being able to get news in their own language is vitally important as it gives credibility to the news source. Particularly in these times, when we are constantly experiencing rapid changes in health advice, it is critical that people are offered nuanced messaging in a language that they are comfortable with.”, Professor McCallum said.

“The current research that the N&MRC co-developed with SBS will provide valuable insights into the state of multicultural news services in Australia, and how they help people feel they belong.”

Rebecca Griffiths, who is the Lead of the Audience Research & Customer Service at SBS said she hopes the initial program will bring a new lens to culturally-led research, incorporating theory to practice.

“This partnership is an experiment for both of our organisations. We are thinking outside of the box and trying to maximise benefits for both parties. It is an exciting opportunity to marry university researchers’ theory to our decades of multilingual research. The initial program will assist in developing a longer-term suite of collaborations between SBS and UC”, she said.