In the beginning of March it became known that the Australian Public Radio and Television (SBS) was preparing to close its program in Bulgarian language and our compatriots overseas have not stopped looking for ways to prevent this from happening. To date, more than 1,300 people have signed the petition organized by the local Bulgarian associations.
The Bulgarian diaspora is united in its battle for saving the program. In recent weeks, a series of letters have been sent to media and institutions concerned with linguistic and cultural diversity in Australia. "We have not received a positive answer yet, but we have not given up," Filli Ladgman, executive director of the Bulgarian section of SBS, says and adds:
"While trying to attract the attention of the SBS management board, we also want to reach out to various members of parliament at federal and state level to make it clear that a small community in Australia is greatly affected by such a move. This means closing a program that has existed on Australian airwaves for 46 years and that the Bulgarian community needs and is used to. This program is a matter of national self-awareness and of the fact that the Bulgarian language should be present among all other languages in Australia."
According to official data, there are about 2,800 Bulgarian-speaking citizens of Australia. The management of SBS says that the Bulgarian audience on the continent is too small and does not meet the criteria for radio broadcasting. In addition, the community is well-integrated, with good English language proficiency, high incomes, and with a small number of elderly audience.
According to Sonya Arabadzhieva, head of the "Bulgari" Folk Group in Melbourne, this cannot be a valid reason to deprive so many people of access to information in their native language:
"When on March 1 the shocking news that our program in Bulgarian was at risk came, we started calling each other and discussing what we should do to protect ourselves. If the Bulgarian voice in Australia is silenced, it would be very difficult to restore it again. We all feel responsible for protecting our national interest. If the language is lost, the foundations of culture, traditions, folklore and everything else are undermined. So, our first reaction was to write an official letter to the management of SBS,” Sonya Arabadzhieva says.
The preservation of the weekly one-hour program in Bulgarian has become an important cause for Bulgarian compatriots in Australia. The broadcast is very important, especially for the older generation of Bulgarians in the country, who do not speak English well, as well as for newcomers who need information, Sonya Arabadzhieva says.
The Bulgarian program is expected to be suspended on May 1, 2023. The remaining five languages that do not meet SBS broadcasting criteria are Albanian, Finnish, Romanian, Slovak and Slovenian.
English: Al. Markov
Photos: personal archive of Filli Ladgman
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