Ethnic Media faces threat of extinction

David Shearer – For Web Edition- Sheepish favour-David Shearer

As our ethnic communities grow in size and power, so too does our ethnic media.

At the last census, 15% of New Zealanders identified as Maori, 12% as Asian (including Indian) and 7% as Pacific – all up several percentage points on the 2006 census.

This means a growing audience for ethnic media, and an ever-increasing relevance for Indian Newslink and other ethnic media in the New Zealand media landscape.

Statistics New Zealand estimates New Zealand’s Asian population will make up 20.9% of our population in 2023, compared to 12.2% in 2013.

That’s huge projected growth.

To be a serious political force in New Zealand, it’s already vital to connect with our country’s ethnic media. This will become ever truer as the diversity of our communities grows.

Loyal Indians

For me, this is one of the pleasures of being an MP. Before entering politics my family and I lived overseas for many years.

My electorate has one of the highest concentrations of Indian New Zealanders in New Zealand. They have supported me loyally over the years, and my family and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of community events like the recent Diwali festival.

For me, Diwali isn’t just an ancient festival; but also a living symbol of togetherness and Indian New Zealanders’ vital place in our economic, social and cultural fabric.

It’s nice to see the festival growing in popularity across mainstream kiwi culture.

I have noticed schools beginning to teach students about the symbolism of Diwali, and – perhaps led by the ethnic media – it is finally becoming a fixture in the mainstream media here too.

Failing mainstream

The mainstream media often falls short of addressing the needs of our ethnic minorities.

Media organisations are in a state of change, a majority of New Zealand journalists are Pakeha, resources are often stretched, and it takes time and effort to develop relationships with community and ethnic groups.

This is where ethnic media play a vital role: they can focus on our ethnic communities in all their wonderful diversity and nuance.

Indian Newslink, for example, is a forum for the discussion of issues affecting the Indian New Zealand community. It helps foster cultural identity among Indian New Zealanders, it enables the community to keep in touch with news and issues in India, and it plays a welcoming, orienting role for new Indian migrants to New Zealand.

It has an understanding of its audience that the mainstream media cannot match, taking into account various religions, regions, languages and ethnic groups.

I would like to congratulate Indian Newslink on 16 years of filling this role for New Zealand Indians.

The challenges

It too faces challenges in the years ahead. The way we get our news now is changing dramatically – most of our younger people engage more with social media than the traditional press.

It mirrors the upheavals brought by online publishing and changes in media ownership globally. But the one thing that never changes is the importance of quality content.

Indian Newslink reflects a smart, modern Indian New Zealand community that is business savvy and fully engaged with politics both locally and internationally.

I have really appreciated that during the years I have been MP for Mount Albert.

I hope Indian Newslink continues to thrive and provide the important news source you do for your community – and also for me.

It has been good to see some significant issues being covered, and continues to be a useful way for me to keep in touch with the issues that matter in the community.

Here’s to the continued success of Indian Newslink: an intelligent news source and window on our shared South Asian identity.

David Shearer is a Member of Parliament elected from Mount Albert Constituency in Auckland. He has a sound knowledge of international affairs, having worked for United Nations for more than 20 years in several countries in various capacities.

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