Niche TV for a small language


TelevisionRadio 4’s The Narrowcasters visits the Basque TV station, EITB, this week. The channel is described as one of the most important tools for promoting Euskara, a minority language spoken in the Basque Country, on the borders of Spain and France.

That’s the overarching theme of my PhD research – how the media support speakers of minority languages. My own work focuses on Welsh language media, which is often seen as a model for other minority language communities. In fact, Basque producers went to visit the Welsh language soap Pobol y Cwm to get some tips before they launched their own soap, Goenkale.

In a 15-minute documentary, Radio 4 can only scratch the surface of the topic. But they touch on issues that the Basque broadcasters, like many minority language broadcasters, have to consider: how do we cater for audiences who speak really different dialects? is it OK to use a mixture of the minority and the majority language? how do we attract new viewers?

The Narrowcasters is on iPlayer until 10:47am, Tuesday 29 March 2011.

5 Responses to “Niche TV for a small language”

  1. Glad that you’re blogging!

    I listened to this and although it started well, I was pretty disappointed overall. I know I’m probably asking a lot more of him than most of the audience as I’m a bit of an Euskophile, but I thought he missed the opportunity to ask a few questions which are at the heart of changes to minority language broadcasting.

    – why are viewing figures decreasing? (his answer was that young people don’t watch TV but he didn’t ask them the question)
    – what are they doing in terms of online?
    – how will minority language media diverge from traditional b/casting norms in order to survive the transition to digital and the loss of prominence in people’s living rooms?
    – minority language television seems to be in a worse situation than other ‘national’ channels that have existed for the same amount of time. Why is this?

    The interesting part for me and which has echoed discussions I’ve had here recently is the rural/city split. The need to appeal to all sections of the audience in one channel is one of the major challenges for minority language TV.

    And the worst bit, by far, were his closing remarks and questions about ETA. Does every piece from outside the Basque Country have to mention ETA? Are they really relevant to understanding how broadcasting works in the Basque Country? He had 15 minutes – surely a discussion of the politics of dealing with terrorists on TV was not the best use of it. It left a very bad taste in my mouth, as well as his *appalling* pronunciation of Euskara.

  2. As someone who can only understand English, I find the English subtitles a great way to view programmes in Gaelic or Welsh.

  3. Rhodri – I completely agree with you that talking about ETA was irrelevant. That annoyed me too.

  4. 4 Catherine

    Thanks for your comments. I missed the actual programme but am an English native living and working in the Basque Country and learning Basque.

    I agree entirely that mentioning ETA was irrelevant and unnecessary however, it is not only external media who are guilty of this, Spanish media all too often conflate issues of terrorism with issues of Basque language and identity. Thankfully the same issues don’t occur in Wales as far as I’m aware!

  5. 5 Rhodri ap Dyfrig


    “Thankfully the same issues don’t occur in Wales as far as I’m aware!”

    Don’t they? (see bottom of the article for the amendment that had to be made following complaints)

    Discussion of Welsh media is so rare outside of Wales that the British press like to give their twisted version of activism, in order to give context of course…