Indigenous | Broadcasting

Indigenous Arctic language broadcaster draws inspiration from Māori media

Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) Sámi Television chief executive Johan Ailo Kalstad says Māori have set the standard for indigenous language revitalisation.

Kalstad was speaking at the second day of the World Indigenous Content Conference Hawaikirangi, which brought hundreds back to the Due Drop Events Centre in Manukau.

“I’m very impressed with how visible the language is,” he says.

“The other day I went to an ATM and I saw that even there the language was visible, and of course, I watched Whakaata Māori every day and I love how you display the language ... so that makes some very happy as I know how important language to keep indigenous cultures alive.”

The Sami people, indigenous to the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and North Russia, have been revitalising their native language, known as Sami or Sámi. Aspects of their culture can seen in the popular animated Disney film Frozen.

“It’s inspired by the Sami culture. They (Disney) collaborated with Sami producers and representatives to make the movie.

As an integral aspect of their cultural heritage, the Sami language has faced many challenges due to historical assimilation policies and globalisation.

“Nowadays less than 50% of us speak the language daily, and we have about 20,000 to 30,000 speakers. We are not quite sure about the numbers because we don’t have any recent statistics or surveys.”

Through its commitment to cultural diversity, NRK has incorporated Sami-language programming and content, providing a platform for the language to thrive in the modern media landscape. “We put a high focus on the language - we think that is our main purpose to exist,” Kalstad says.

By supporting initiatives that celebrate Sami culture and language, NRK contributes significantly to the broader mission of the Sami people in reclaiming and strengthening their linguistic heritage.

Kalstad says conferences like Hawaikirangi are imperative for Indigenous networks to continue to grow and gain traction in their respective communities.

“We are small entities. Even Whakaata Māori, which is the biggest of us, is still small. So it’s important for us to come together to learn from each other and we all get stronger together.”