Fighting cultural fade

Canada has traditionally thought of itself as a cultural mosaic rather than a melting pot, but the truth is that most new immigration populations become integrated into the cultural mainstream in a single generation.
For Canada's ethnic media this is more than an interesting observation, it's a threat. It means that unless there's a steady supply of new immigrants, you find your readerships and viewerships shrinking as your target become assimilated.

Canada has traditionally thought of itself as a cultural mosaic rather than a melting pot, but the truth is that most new immigration populations become integrated into the cultural mainstream in a single generation.

For Canada’s ethnic media this is more than an interesting observation, it’s a threat. It means that unless there’s a steady supply of new immigrants, you find your readerships and viewerships shrinking as your target become assimilated.

Take Toronto-based Multimedia Nova’s 47-year-old Italian language paper Corriere Canadese. Its pool of potential readers, not surprisingly, is limited to the pool of Italian-speaking Canadians. But according to the latest available figures from Statistics Canada, that pool shrank by 1.1% between 1991 and 1996.

The impact on readership? Ten years ago the paper enjoyed a circulation of 32,500. Five years ago that dropped to 30,700. Today it sits at 27,300.

The German-speaking population is also on the wane in Canada, and growth in the Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking populations is slowing. Such European groups are rapidly being replaced by immigrants speaking Chinese and South Asian languages, according to Jane Badets, chief of immigration and ethno cultural statistics for Ottawa-based Statistics Canada.

But rather than throwing up their collective hands, Canada’s ethnic media are hatching strategies to keep their empires growing.

These range from launching new publications and TV channels for new immigration waves, to branching out to hook into mainstream Canada, by dubbing shows in English or producing English-language sister pubs.

‘As publishers, we have two obligations,’ says Corriere founder Daniel Iannuzzi. ‘Integrate the first generation into Canadian society and then integrate the second-generation, Canadian-born group, back into their ethnic cultures. It’s understandable that as the ethnic group ages, so does the publication. So to offset that, we have to open new markets in Canada to maintain the circulation levels that we once had.’

For Multimedia Nova (formerly Multimedia WTM), this meant launching Tandem, an English-language Sunday magazine for second-generation Italians, back in 1995. Then, just last year, the publisher cast its eyes longingly to the still-swelling ranks of Latino Canadians with the launch of the tri-weekly Spanish-language Correo Canadiense (see ‘New Latin paper plans to go daily,’ below).

As Iannuzzi notes, each publication was launched to reach a different wave of immigration: Corriere Canadese for the Italian wave that peaked in the ’70s, Multimedia’s Portuguese-language Nove Ilhas to reach the Portuguese wave in the ’80s, and now Correo Canadiense for the Latin American wave of the late ’90s.

For Iannuzzi, the expansion won’t stop with his new Spanish paper. Now he has convergence on the mind, and he plans to expand his franchise to include a broadcast network as well.

Multimedia has already secured a licence for the World Television Network, a multilingual network which would air 50% international content, and develop the other half in Canada. But it wasn’t the licence Iannuzzi was hoping for: the network was granted a category two digital position, rather than the basic analogue license initially requested. A petition is currently being considered on the subject, and Iannuzzi has had to delay the launch until September 2003.

Multimedia isn’t the only media house tweaking its offerings to keep up with immigration patterns. Fairchild Television, a Vancouver- and Toronto-based Chinese television station, recently responded to a dialect change among audience members with the introduction of Fairchild Talentvision in Ontario last September.

‘We depend on the immigration from Asia, and in the past few years, according to the immigration department’s figures, we have more Mandarin-speaking people coming from mainland China. So we decided to apply for a Mandarin TV station, Talentvision, in Ontario,’ says Tina Chow, Fairchild’s Toronto-based director of marketing and sales.

Specifically, Chow says that according to ACNielsen estimates, between the years 2000 and 2001 the percentage of Chinese immigrants in Toronto who speak a dialect other than Cantonese (mainly Mandarin) shot up from 22% to 31%.

Helen Lee, controller, marketing and sales for Fairchild, says Talentvision was launched in Vancouver in 1998 due to a similar change in immigration patterns on the West Coast. And in Vancouver, the viewers are already responding: according to the ACNielsen Chinese Media Index, the average daily reach of Talentvision increased by an impressive 45% over its first two years of operation.

Toronto-based multilingual station CFMT has also applied for a second station to reach out to newer, growing waves of immigrants.

‘We’re seeing new language groups you never would have thought of – the Afghan community is increasingly growing. And in the South Asian corridor, the Tamil community is growing as well,’ says Madeline Ziniak, VP and station manager for CFMT. ‘These communities are coming to a level where they want programming, and we didn’t have space on the station.’

Toronto-based Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily is also expanding with last week’s launch of its first four-colour magazine. ‘The content is sourced from Hong Kong but edited in Canada,’ says Herbert Moon, managing director and president of Sing Tao. ‘It includes some news, entertainment and columnists. It’s a leisurely read.’ The estimated 96-page newsprint magazine will be inserted in the Sunday edition of the newspaper in Toronto and Vancouver.

If they’re not launching whole new media offerings, current ethnic publications and stations are at least experimenting with the content of current offerings to reach out to that lucrative second generation.

For instance, last September the Toronto-based Telelatino Television Network began offering two of its more popular programs, Tequila & Bonetti from Italy, and the Spanish soap opera, Calypso, in dual-track audio. Both shows are now offered in one time slot in Italian or Spanish, and in a second slot with English dubbing.

‘It’s been a conscious effort to direct more in the way of promotional initiatives in certain programming to a younger demographic,’ says Alf De Blasis, TLN’s promotions manager. ‘And with Calypso, we feel that the general appeal could also be quite wide – not just restricted to a Latin Canadian audience. I think you’ll see more of this dubbing integrated into our general programming schedule.’

Other programming changes at TLN include the introduction of Eurosport News, a U.K.-produced European sports show that’s heavily geared to instant information, with a four-part screen and scrolling content.

For its part, rather than incorporating English-language programming, Fairchild is introducing more kid-friendly programming on weekend afternoons in a bid to lure the next generation. Just last month, the station increased its children’s programming to two hours, up significantly from the half-hour if aired before then.

‘Chinese are very loyal to their language and even though they understand and speak English, they still prefer doing things in their own language,’ says Chow.

Media Monitor

New Latin paper plans to go daily

The paper only launched in June – and newspaper advertising hasn’t exactly been robust lately – but Multimedia Nova founder and publisher Daniel Iannuzzi still plans to take his new thrice-weekly Spanish-language newspaper, Correo Canadiense, daily by the fall of 2003.

‘We’ve started testing ideas on the market on a tri-weekly basis right now,’ says Iannuzzi, ‘and we’re maintaining distribution in the Southern Ontario markets and greater Toronto.’

For now, the European-format newspaper (same width as a daily newspaper, but shorter in length) appears at doorsteps and newsstands on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Although the paper generally carries coverage of the roughly 20 countries that help comprise Latin America (including Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and other countries), some 20% covers events and news in Canada as well.

From there, it goes into a per day/content split: 30% of the paper’s coverage on Mondays focuses on sports; 30% on Wednesdays focuses on family and homes; and on Friday, 30% is dedicated to entertainment. On average, the publication is 20 to 24 pages long.

For now, the paper maintains a Greater Toronto Area focus, but distribution does stretch southwest to Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. and as far east as Oshawa, Ont. Circulation is currently averaging at roughly 12,000 readers.

Correo Canadiense has a younger audience than its Italian sister publication, Corriere Canadese, or its Portuguese equivalent, Nove Ilhas, says Iannuzzi. The paper largely targets the 20 to 34 age bracket, comprised mostly of singles or young couples. Generally the readers are apartment dwellers, with an average household income of $37,000 to $38,000 who are college- or university-educated.