Minority-Language Related Broadcasting and Legislation in the OSCE

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McGonagle, Tarlach
Davis Noll, Bethany

There are a large number of language-related regulations (both prescriptive and proscriptive) that affect the shape of the broadcasting media and therefore have an impact on the life of persons belonging to minorities. Of course, language has been and remains an important instrument in State-building and maintenance. In this context, requirements have also been put in place to accommodate national minorities. In some settings, there is legislation to assure availability of programming in minority languages.1 Language rules have also been manipulated for restrictive, sometimes punitive ends. A language can become or be made a focus of loyalty for a minority community that thinks itself suppressed, persecuted, or subjected to discrimination. Regulations relating to broadcasting may make language a target for attack or suppression if the authorities associate it with what they consider a disaffected or secessionist group or even just a culturally inferior one. In light of such concerns, a crosscountry study was necessary to establish and analyse the existing practice of language regulations used by States to advance or restrict certain groups, as well as for the identification and possible development of best practices in language regulation in the broadcast media. This study reports on the basic regulations of minority-language related broadcasting of the 55 participating States of the OSCE. Specifically, the study surveys State practice with regard to: (1) whether there are any stipulated quotas on the use of language as a vehicle of broadcasting (both for publicly- and privately-owned and run broadcasters); and (2) whether there is any accommodation (such as, specifically allotted time, bands, financial support) for minority-language broadcasting. The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) commissioned this study because of his realisation that a) a key marker of identity is language and b) how States affect or regulate the use of language or languages has significant implications for the exercise of rights. States, through regulation, can strengthen or weaken languages and thereby, at times, strengthen or weaken the position of national minorities. In the information age, a major theatre where this takes place is in the structure of media in various societies and that is the focus of this study. Thus, the present exercise seeks to identify broad trends and indicate the different approaches for each of these.

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