Skip to content

Radio shows in minority group languages in Romania 

Source: Pexels

Romania has a very broad history of cultural and ethnic diversity, yet this diversity has often been followed by discrimination against minority groups and stigmatization. Currently, the largest minority groups in Romania are Hungarians, Roma, Germans, Ukrainians, and Serbians, each of them with a unique story.

Hungarians, primarily residing in Transylvania, have experienced different levels of acceptance over the years. Following World War I, Transylvania was handed over from Hungary to Romania, leading to tensions boiling between the two. During the communist era, Hungarian language and culture were systematically repressed, but as of lately, the Hungarians residing in Romania are starting to gain more of their cultural rights.

The Roma community, in particular, has faced years and years of oppression. Originating from Northern India and arriving in Europe around the 14th century, the Roma were kept as slaves in Romania for almost 450 years. Even after being freed, they were stigmatized as criminals and beggars and suffered from severe social marginalization even. Unfortunately, the Roma community still faces considerable obstacles in housing, work, education and more.

Following the war between Russia and Ukraine, a lot of Ukrainians crossed the neighboring state’s borders, seeking refuge on Romanian territory. According to Eurostat, as of April of 2024, 154,870 of the 5.5 million Ukrainians who have passed through Romania since the start of the conflict have chosen to remain here under temporary protection. Even though they wished to return to their country as soon as possible, due to the prolongation of the war, this was not possible. Many of them worked for their integration and were successful in doing so, whether it was easy or not. Yet the majority of them faced the same insurmountable obstacle: the Romanian language. 

Like them, many other minorities living in Romania are going through the struggle of understanding the language. It is concerning, in particular, when it comes to access to information. In important areas such as health, education, and legal rights, language barriers can have significant consequences. Information in minority languages is much needed in order for them to not feel marginalized and make informed decisions. As part of the European Union and signatory to international human rights treaties, Romania is obligated to respect, but also protect the rights of minorities. Providing media content, such as radio and television, in minority languages is one aspect of the deal. 

The data above shows us the results of the Romanian censuses, from 1930 to the most recent one, from 2021. It is clear enough that for the past century, Hungarians have consistently been the most numerous minority group. The lowest number was recorded in 2021, of just over one million Hungarians living in Romania. And yet, it respresented 5.1% of the entire Romanian population in that year. Mara, as well as many others, is part of that tiny but significant percentage.

Another minority that seems to be just a small number is the Roma community, which takes up 2.9% of Romania’s population in 2021. In reality, it is the second largest minority group in Romania, and at the same time, the least represented one by the media.

Although Romania has made legislative strides to improve minority rights, including reserved parliamentary seats for ethnic minorities, these measures are still not enough to combat deep-seated stereotypes. Giving voice to minority communities and providing them with platforms to share media content is essential for building a more inclusive society.

The data supplied by Romania’s National Audiovisual Council sheds light on the state of minority language broadcasting in the nation, focusing mainly on radio and television programs. The number of radio broadcasting program services, belonging to the private sector, which broadcast programs in the language of the national minorities is 68, out of which 53 are exclusively in Hungarian.This suggests that although the Hungarian community is well targeted, other minority languages are represented to a lesser extent in radio broadcasting. The television broadcasting data shows us a slightly different situation. Out of the 329 licensed television stations in Romania, only 24 of them broadcast exclusively in Hungarian, which outlines the importance and demand for media content in Hungarian. Additionally, 27 television stations broadcast in other minority languages, which include Roma but also other minority languages such as Ukrainian, German, and more.

Media and minorities

Taking a look at the biggest groups of minorities in Romania, we were curious to see how much this reflects in the media. For a minority group to feel completely included, there is a certain necessity for their language to be spoken in the media. Seeing that Hungarians are the biggest group, we thought we’d speak to someone from their community. Mara Ollerer, a journalism student who is part of the Hungarian community of Reghin, has told us how she contributed to this necessity and how she felt about it.

“I remember listening to the radio as a kid, my mom and I would have it in the background, it was always in Hungarian, I can’t imagine it any other way. When I had the opportunity for an internship at the radio station in my town, I realized even more how important it is for the community to have shows in their own language…The inside jokes are different, the words you use express different things based on the language so if we didn’t have radio or TV in Hungarian, a big part of our culture wouldn’t get through”

Hungarians are still the biggest minority in Romania and that reflects in the number of radio hours broadcasted in Hungarian which has skyrocketed in 2017. For Germans and Serbians though, the numbers are disproportionate. We can see that in the past few years, German minorities in Romania have almost dissolved, but the number of hours broadcasted over radio in German has gone up and down. While in the case of Ukrainans, as mentioned before, the numbers have increased following the war, and there are no Ukrainan radio shows available yet.

Just like Mara told us, the need for media representation in minority languages can make a huge difference in feeling included and understood. As the data shows, the biggest minority groups are represented, but maybe there could be improvements even for those.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.