Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Language Image in National Minority Language Television Idents. TG4 (Teilifis Na Gaeilge, Ireland) and Whakaata Maori (Maori Television, New Zealand)

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Language Image in National Minority Language Television Idents. TG4 (Teilifis Na Gaeilge, Ireland) and Whakaata Maori (Maori Television, New Zealand)

Article excerpt

National television plays a key role in exploring central beliefs and versions of official and popular culture. The language used in broadcasting has huge symbolic importance. Negotiation between the national status of an official minority language (such as Irish in Ireland or te reo Maori in New Zealand) and the reality of its daily use yields a rich creative harvest for any television station which chooses to engage intelligently with this cultural nexus. TG4 and MTS idents respond to and celebrate current sociolinguistic changes (Romaine 2006; O Tuathaigh 2008), making them visible. Perhaps the most striking feature of the stations is their refusal to operate merely as oppositional voices to majority language media. Through a "non-dogmatic cultural ecology ... [and] continuity" they avoid reactionary binarism in favour of a more autonomous world view, celebrating "the validity and value of minority identities" (Mac Poilin 1996: 158).

Born of community and political action, Teilifis na Gaeilge (TG4) began in 1996, and Whakaata Maori (MTS) of New Zealand in 2004. Despite obvious differences between the two broadcasting environments, both stations attempt to reclaim a national (but minority) language and compete with other broadcasters to attract an audience by appealing to a sense of identity. This paper investigates idents from TG4 and MTS, and the image or brand of the language and culture portrayed in these mini-advertisements. Thornley's discussion of "transculturation" is a useful way to regard such "reinvent[ion] and use [of] products and ideologies transmitted by a dominant culture" (2004: 61).

Both MTS and TG4 are keenly aware of their position in the broadcasting environment of their respective countries, and actively study the schedules of other channels when deciding where to place programmes (Mather 2007; Ni Ogain 2008; O Gallchoir 2008). The emphasis by both television stations on the local is partially a recuperative strategy, to reassert the continuity of tradition after attempted erasure (and significant break in continuity) by colonising cultures. However, the focus on particularity or "myth of authenticity" (Graham 2001: 71) may result in the fossilisation or fetishisation of the old at the expense of the new, creating a privileged hierarchy of the voice of 'the people', where some natives are more authentic than others.

As public service broadcasters, TG4 and MTS are required to speak to the country as a whole. Despite the proliferation of satellite options, viewers in Ireland and New Zealand still turn to national channels for a perspective on and of their home place. According to Caughie, distance from the imaginary collectivity may provide a truer picture (1992: 36), and the composition of such a picture is in part the task of these alternative indigenous television stations. The motto 'Suil eile' (another perspective) is the criterion for many TG4 projects. It is clear from the MTS logline, 'ma matou, ma ratou, ma koutou, ma tatou' (just for us, for them, for all of you, for all of us), that they are aware of possible divisions in the audience/s.

Language and State

Unlike the Irish language which is a central feature of the education system in Ireland, te reo Maori has not been widely available in New Zealand schools. So whilst a significant proportion of Irish people may be assumed to have at least a passive knowledge of their first official national language, this is not the case for viewers of MTS in New Zealand. (1) The distinction between a minority and a minoritised language is emphasized by Arana et al. (2007). They believe that in a state of unequal relations, the submerged language retains a greater power in terms of identity politics (152). In this way, a minoritised language is much more than merely a language. "[We're] not simply dealing with languages--we're dealing with ourselves, our culture and our people" (Reeves 2008).

Another language provides a different filter through which to observe the affairs of the world. …

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