Björn Sundell Head of Research, Think tank Magma
Minority media compete with majority media. Therefore quality is of utmost importance.
Before I try to draw some conclusions of this highly interesting seminar here in Brussels, I wish to say a few words about the role of minority media. This I shall do with the experience of working for minority radio, TV and press for more than 20 years prior to joining the think tank I am now working for.
Minority media compete with majority media. Quality and quantity are important factors in this competition. What do people prefer when they choose their personal intake of news, information and entertainment? How much less in the mother language is good enough? When does the minority choose majority media because they have more to offer? This is a question that most minorities are facing, whether they want to admit it or not. We at Magma commissioned a report last year comparing the media outlook for five European minorities – one of the authors of this report is sitting here amongst us, professor Tom Moring.
This report shows, for instance, that there are great variations between the tolerance levels of minorities – or, if you prefer it – the language loyalty of minorities. When we focus on TV or the new social media, the German speakers of South Tirol in northern Italy are extremely loyal, almost always preferring information in German. On the other end of the scale are, unfortunately, the Swedish speakers of southern Finland, who very easily turn to TV-channels or Internet sources in Finnish. The difference is, in fact, enormous.
When we are aware of the various differences I think there is scope for a lot of cooperation and exchange of experiences between language minorities in Europe. This we have been doing here today, and I wish to point at some issues that I feel are relevant to most language minorities:
How do we increase language loyalty?
Get the attention of young people?
How to we innovate in order to remain interesting?
How do we portray representatives of the minority in our media so that they seem fascinating, even to the majority?
How do we strengthen people´s belief in the future of the minority?
How do we keep the quality of the media content high enough in these times of economic hardship?
Well, language minorities in Europe face both different and similar challenges, as we have heard today. Minority media play an extremely important role in keeping the minority language alive. I wish to emphasize this, even though I am certain that what I am saying is no news to you. But we must never forget that minority media are more than just a business or an interesting venture or a “must” according to law. I will try to summarize the tasks:
Minority media strengthens the culture of the minority – Welsh TV has been very good at this.
They support the democratic rights of a minority – there are good examples from Finland.
Minority media strengthen social networks.
Minority media can bring local communities to life. I have seen it in South Tirol when I visited the Dolomiten- newspaper with its vast network of local correspondents.
Minority media, small and flexible, can be innovative. Like in Catalonia, which is big enough to have the resources .
The media make representatives of the minority visible, both within the minority and to the majority.
Minority media report on things that the majority couldn´t care about.
Minority media ensure that the language is constantly modernized – this they do by reporting on the most important topics of the day so that every new expression in the majority language starts living vividly also in the minds of the minority.
No minorities, especially not young people, want to speak a language that feels outdated and boring. It is the task of us who are here today to make the language stay full of life. Can we do it? Yes, I think we can.
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