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Monday, June 26, 2006

Forgotten in media's culture gap

Interesting article in the Toronto Star on ethnic media ...

Like most MSM (mainstream media) journalists, the writer has no clue about ethnic audiences. And the study cited ignored the Ukrainian community (as usual). But there's a nice tribute to Johnny Lombardi, the "godfather" of ethnic broadcasting in Canada.

... In 1966, Lombardi, an Italian immigrant, started CHIN radio, and by 1968, was broadcasting in 32 languages. Next week, CHIN will celebrate 40 years in business at its annual picnic, a cross-cultural extravaganza at the CNE grounds. ...

Lombardi's vision predated any official recognition of what a strong multicultural media could do for nation building. In 1985, the CRTC drafted its first ethnic broadcasting policy, drawn from the template Lombardi had been practising for almost 20 years.

"My dad's goal was always to help people integrate. He would encourage people to stay, to become Canadian, to make it their home," Lombardi says. "He knew that if people could flip on the radio and hear local programming in their own language from the local community, they would feel a much greater sense of belonging, and that's extremely important."

The communities have changed — largely integrated second- and third-generation Italians no longer need Italian-language programming — but burgeoning immigrant communities from China and South Asia have increased demand.

Now therein lies the "misunderstanding." The ethnic media is generally regarded primarily as a temporary linguistic aid to total cultural assimilation, even (in my experience) by ethnic broadcasters themselves.

CHIN has adjusted, boosting Chinese-language programming from two hours a week 10 years ago to 60 hours now. At the same time, Italian has dropped from 60 to 11. The languages may have changed, but the mandate has not. "We've never seen a waning of that need, for multicultural broadcasting," Lombardi says.

But here's one who seems to understand the diversity of ethnic audiences in Canada...

Thomas Saras, president of the Ethnic Media Association of Canada, says ... By the second or third generation, the native language was all but gone, replaced by English. The press of a particular culture then shifts from providing necessary information to being the glue for a cultural group spread out across the country.

From my experience producing Nash Holos beginning in 1990, both mainstream and ethnic media completely (still) completely overlook a huge market ... the second, third, fourth (and beyond) generations of Canadians of which Saras speaks. Many assimilated, unilingual, English-speaking Canadians want to stay in touch with their ethnic roots, although not necessarily be submerged in that culture... and similarly experience other cultures.

That market is sneered at by MSM types and the run-of-the-mill bigots that have always existed in Canadian society, while advertisers and ad agencies don't even know it's there.

Silly them.

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