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  • Ida Beltran-Lucila

Filipino Voice for the Airwaves

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released a call for applications for an ethnic radio station in Edmonton. Edmonton’s population growth over the past two years has outpaced that of Alberta as a whole, and was over three times that of the current estimates of growth for Canada. The largest groups of immigrants come from the Philippines and India. Alberta Employment and Immigration found there were over 130 languages identified by new immigrants destined to the province as their mother tongue with English, Tagalog, Punjabi, Mandarin, and Spanish consistently in the top five languages. With currently only one radio station for the ethnic communities, 101.7 World FM, the need for at least another ethnic radio station was evident.

I was approached to be a part of the panel for the application for a license by Akash Broadcasting, based in BC. This was my first foray into the world of radio broadcast, not counting the few projects I did as part of my Theatre Arts Bachelor’s degree at the University of the Philippines. Needless to say, the whole experience was fascinating to me. The amount of work and resources required for an application alone, is staggering. There’s the engineering survey, the market research, financial feasibility, audience demographics, programming options, to name a few, that needs thorough research. And then comes the most crucial phase of the application, which I was involved in, the hearings with the Commission.

My commitment involved four intense days of preparation and the actual hearing day, with a very dynamic and committed group representing different sectors of the community: Tejinderpaul Singh - well-known broadcaster with Shaw Multicultural Channel, performing artist, teacher, and volunteer; Herkiranjeet Kaur Mann - entrepreneur; Marco Luciano - advocate of migrant rights; Nav Kaur - educator and equity advocate; Simrat Cheema - radio and television broadcaster; Satnam Rai - financial advisor; Kanak Chamarty and Julie Zhang - journalists; Jagdeep Sandhu - telecom engineer, talk show host and DJ; Stephen Zolf - legal counsel; Andrew Forsyth - broadcast consultant; Kerry Pelser - consulting engineer; and Rita Cugini - adviser. The five-day stint we shared was marked with enriching, diverse dialogue, validated and challenged perspectives, and initiated relationships. We shared our vision and desires for an ethnic radio station, immigrant stories, employment issues, child rearing practices, educational philosophies, ways of life, entertainment preferences, and humour. In all these interaction, I kept in mind that I was there primarily as a Filipino and an artist.

There were a total of 11 applications for this call. The hearing for all applicants went for four whole days, sometimes stretching to the evening. The whole process allowed for inquiries and rebuttals from Commissioners, other applicants, supporters and opposers of an applicant.

The applications had commonalities in their objective - to complement, and not compete, with the existing ethnic radio station, in offering extended programming for underserved communities mainly in the languages of Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. For programming dedicated to the Filipino community, 101.7 World FM currently allots 3-4 hours one day a week.

It does not need to be emphasized that another ethnic radio station in Edmonton will only benefit the Filipino community. As an artist, I see this as a bonus opportunity to develop and promote works of Filipino artists, and open up avenues of collaboration with other cultural groups. As a Filipino, this is a way to build a community with other Filipinos in this country and to reflect on our culture in a global framework. As a Canadian, this is a platform that stresses the importance of, and regard towards diversity, and honouring each other’s cultural perspective. So regardless of which applicant is granted the license, regardless of whether we have supported an applicant or not, the Filipino community should rally to support and patronize whoever is granted a license to operate this ethnic radio station. Because as succinctly articulated by Thomas Berry, “Diversity is the magic. It is the first manifestation, the first beginning of the differentiation of a thing and of simple identity. The greater the diversity, the greater the perfection.” Let our voices be heard.

* This article was published in the Alberta Filipino Journal November 2016 issue.

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