Local media holds irreplaceable value

Peseta Sam Lotu-liga 

There’s never been more news, information and entertainment available to members of New Zealand’s different cultures. Much of this comes from overseas.

Indian Newslink is an example of local, home-grown ethnic media that remains important today – just as it was when the first British settlers arrived.

Ethnic Newspapers

We often don’t think of 19th century British immigrants as ‘ethnic’ but they were, like all immigrants, coming to a new land, where they needed to support each other and relate their new experiences to their culture.

On one immigrant ship, the ‘Whitby,’ sailing for Nelson in 1841, the passengers actually produced a newspaper while on board – and Nelson went on to be the home of lively and provocative newspapers chronicling the development of the settlement.

Māori were served by Māori language newspapers from 1842 when the government began publishing ‘Ko Te Karere o Niu Tireni.’ The first Maori-owned newspaper was ‘Te Hokioi o Niu Tireni e Rere atu na’ published in 1863 for the Kīngitanga (Māori King Movement). Many other Māori publications followed.

Christian Chronicle

Then, as new groups of immigrants from different parts of the world came here, they too began developing their own ways of communicating. A newspaper based around a Christian evangelist, the Kam lei Tong I Po was produced in 1883. Later, from the earlier 20th century, several Chinese groups produced their own newspapers and publications.

Another group of diggers – the Dalmatians who came to extract Kauri gum – produced no fewer than nine different newspapers between 1899 and 1919. Other early immigrant groups to publish at least small newsletters included Germans and the Irish.

Whoever we are; we need our own media, for news, entertainment, and commerce.

But it was not until more liberal media laws and greater immigration from non-traditional sources in the 1980s came together that we saw the real flourishing of ethnic media.

Radio Stations

Radio stations using the Māori language, Pacific, Indian and Chinese languages sprang up, as did groups using access and community stations. Radio New Zealand broadcast in Pacific languages – at least a little nationally and more on Radio New Zealand international. Some television programmes focussed on Pacific and ethnic groups. And the newer immigrants, their communities constantly refreshed by new arrivals, provided circulation for a wide range of print publications.

Indian publications were at the forefront of these developments. And of course Indian Newslink holds a special place in this history.

In the earlier part of the 20th century, some members of New Zealand’s tiny minority immigrant communities would listen to news and music from their home countries on shortwave radio – mainly at night, when the signal could crackle through audibly.

What a difference today. We have many international channels available both through pay TV and on the internet. It is possible for someone in New Zealand to be immersed in media from overseas.

Cultural reinforcement

This is great for language maintenance, and cultural reinforcement. But we also need to build a strong sense of community and pride in the New Zealand ethnic communities. And there are no such resources available for many cultures, including many pacific peoples.

So local, ethnic media will remain important – we are New Zealanders, proud of our backgrounds, and often with a deep sense of longing that our cultures and language will survive here. For this we need local media, relevant to local communities and cultures.

As it has been from the outset, results come from communities themselves, marshalling their own resources and investing their own time in developing their own media.

Easy access

Now, when anyone can publish online, essentially at no cost, access to media has never been more available to New Zealand ethnic groups. But the opposite side of this coin is: there is now huge competition for the attention of members of all communities both from New Zealand and overseas sources.

My message is: use the huge advantages of the new technologies coming through, but never forget the value of local news, local information, and local business to strengthen and build local communities. For that we need local community media, and I welcome every change to celebrate success. Congratulations, Indian Newslink.

Peseta Sam Lotu-liga is Minister of Ethnic Communities, Minister of Corrections and Minister of Pacific Peoples.

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