Programs in the native languages of minorities and migrants started appearing in European community radios in the 1980s. Underrepresented and marginalised by private and public service media, migrant groups identified alternative media projects as a natural channel to reach out to their communities. Producers were either individuals or associations,
aiming to share relevant information and news in their mother tongue and clearly addressing the diaspora community as target audience.
Community radios thus evolved naturally into multicultural projects, where one would often hear statements like: ‘‘We broadcast in 12 different languages!”, ‘‘We have six Turkish programmes”, ‘‘We have 15 non-German speaking programmes.” Community radios were reflecting the diversity of the multicultural cities in which they were based, with several cultures and languages coexisting next to one another, but not necessarily communicating with one another.
In the late 1990s a group of radio activists from Austria, Germany and Switzerland started promoting closer cooperation between radio producers of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds through multilingual programming. The working group babelingo focused on how to conduct programs using two or more languages within the same program (multilingual programming) versus plurilingual programming (different programs in various native languages). Some of the methods implemented by the activists participating in the workshops were language hopping, the use of a bridge language or summarizing. The listeners could enjoy multilingual productions by broadcasters with different backgrounds, some of whom had never before used a language different than their own on air. This led to several joint projects to develop and implement intercultural radio training schemes and toolkits, which are still used today.
It became evident that intercultural programming could bring a number of benefits to volunteer-based organisations like community radios: a stronger cooperation between different sub-groups, a shared sense of responsibility for the organisation as a common project and the facilitation of participatory processes. Whilst multilingual methods are now included in most basic radio trainings offered to volunteers, specific funding from governmental authorities and private foundations is needed for more articulated intercultural projects. (from Spaces of Inclusion – An explorative study on needs of refugees and migrants in the domain of media communication and on responses by community media)
The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of resources on multilingual broadcasting:
- SMART Specific Methodologies and Resources For Radio Trainers
- RAWIK Radio Aus- und Weiterbildung im Interkulturellen Kontext, Union nicht-kommerzorientierter Lokalradios UNIKOM with Radioschule klipp+klang, Zurich (2012)
- Interaudio Materialien für die interkulturelle Radioausbildung. Antje Schwarzmeier und Ulrike Werner. Hessische Landesanstalt für privaten Rundfunk, LPR Hessen (2007)
- Inter.Media Intercultural Media Training in Europe. Handbuch für TrainerInnen, MitarbeiterInnen und RedakteurInnen. kopaed, München (2006)