ELL: Re: Bad News from New Zealand

Nicholas Ostler nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk
Sat Jul 17 15:24:19 UTC 1999

*** EOOH ***
Return-Path: <owner-endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au>
X-Authentication-Warning: carmen.murdoch.edu.au: majodomo set sender to
owner-endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au using -f
X-Sender: chibcha at pop3.demon.co.uk
In-Reply-To: <v03130300b3b2bd922601@[]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 16:24:19 +0100
To: endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au
From: Nicholas Ostler <nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk>
Subject: ELL: Re: Bad News from New Zealand
Cc: tino-rangatiratanga at egroups.com, <tahuhu at mailcity.com>
Sender: owner-endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au
Precedence: bulk
Reply-To: endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au

At 11:22 pm +0100 14/7/99, Jonathan Bobaljik <jbobal at po-box.mcgill.ca> wrote:
>This is the kind of thing that an international letter writing campaign
>(however small) might actually make a difference in. If you could provide
>at least an address to write to (even better would be a sample letter), I
>would be happy to send something from here outlining my disappointment in
>the move in New Zealand, which we (had) taken to be somewhat of flagship in
>the world of endangered language maintenance (a view represented in the
>latest National Geographic, for example).

I believe the relevant details are:

Broadcasting House, Bowen Street, Wellington
PO Box 123
New Zealand
Phone: +64 4 474 1999
Fax:   +64 4 474 1761
Email: infofind at radionz.co.nz
Chief executive: Sharon Crosbie

I myself will fax her the following letter on behalf of the Foundation,
which others in sympathy are welcome to make the basis of their own


Ms Sharon Crosbie, Chief executive
New Zealand


I understand that on 9 July, by your decision, the three daily news
bulletins in Maori were dropped from National Radio. This was particularly
momentous, since I also understand that Maori news bulletins had previously
been running for 57 years.

I do not know anything of the internal division of responsibility and
funding, and the particular developments, which motivated this unfortunate
decision.  These are in fact beside the point.

As the national public radio service of your country, you have a unique
duty to serve the full range of your country's society.  By summarily
withdrawing a service in your country's indigenous language (still
understood by 5% of New Zealanders), you are betraying an important part of
that duty.   Furthermore, you lay New Zealand Radio open to the charge that
it is a service only for the white New Zealander.

5% is an important minority in itself, but the Maoris are not just a
minority. They represent the earliest inhabitants of your islands, as well
as forming approximately 10% of the NZ population.  According to an
authoritative source (Barbara Grimes ed., Ethnologue, 1996) approximately
half of them are still capable of understanding Maori, the indigenous
language of their ancestors.

Those of us involved in the struggle to maintain and foster indigenous
languages all over the world  are particularly saddened by this decision,
since recent developments in New Zealand have given some hope that Maori
might at last be regaining ground, not least through more enlightened
public policy.  (As a sign of this, we are receiving three presentations on
Maori in schools at our Foundation's conference this year (Maynooth,
Ireland, 17-19 September), which focuses on the role of education in
language maintenance.  An article in this week's National Geographic
magazine also represents Maori in New Zealand as a beacon of hope for
indigenous languages.)

I am confident that you will be receiving a storm of protest, nationally
and internationally, as a result of this decision, and trust that you
understand that far more is at stake here than the constraints of the
annual budget of Radio New Zealand.  Radio is expecially important in
maintaining a favourable background for indigenous language use in a
developed modern state, so that by withdrawing your service, you are not
simply disregarding Maori but actually making its survival less likely,
with all that implies for the long-term peace and internal well-being of
New Zealand society.

English language broadcasts about Maori affairs are no substitute.  An
indigenous language provides a means of sharing a distinctive viewpoint not
just of local affairs but of the world as a whole. You show total
misunderstanding of what is at issue if you maintain that the requirement
in RNZ's charter to provide 250 hours a year of programmes promoting the
Maori language and culture can be met by English or bilingual programmes
about the Maori.

I hope and trust, on behalf of all the members of our Foundation
world-wide, that means may yet be found to reverse this pernicious decision
before serious damge is done to New Zealand's future.

Yours truly

Nicholas Ostler

Chair, Radio New Zealand board (same Address)

Derek Lowe, Chairman, Radio Broadcasters Association
PO Box 3762, AUCKLAND CITY, New Zealand
Ph: (09) 378 0788    Fax: (09) 378 8180

Foundation for Endangered Languages (UK regd charity, 250 members worldwide)
Endangered Languages List

                       Nicholas   Ostler
						                Foundation for
                       Endangered Languages
		                         Registered Charity 1070616

					              Batheaston Villa,  172
					              Bailbrook Lane
					              BA1 7AA        England
					              fax +44-1225-85-9258
						                        nostler at chibcha.demon.co.uk

									       endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au
									       majordomo at carmen.murdoch.edu.au

More information about the Endangered-languages-l mailing list