After 2 years of struggle, Radio ARA, Luxembourg’s only nationwide operating community media, presented their case last Tuesday in front of the chamber of deputies. A reform not only of the state’s press funding but also of the funding of “Public Service”-assignments of Radio and TV is being discussed and should be voted in autumn. Luxembourg does not yet recognize the third pillar of the media sector and is under scrutiny because of its lack of media pluralism, its concentration of media ownership and its incapability to represent large parts of the population.
In fact, during the last 20 years, the part of Luxembourg’s population without the luxembourgish nationality has grown to 50%, many of those not fluently speaking one of the grand-duchy’s three official languages and not being represented by any media.
For Luxembourg’s Radio ARA the current debates are somehow a last chance. The radio financed itself during the last 15 years mainly through ARA City Radio, ARA’s English-speaking morning-shows that funded themselves and the volunteers’ program through advertising. This financial engine was closed end of last year due to the rise of English-speaking (and partly state funded) competitors. Jobs are at risk, ARA currently has 12 people working at the radio, mostly on part-time contracts. Important tasks, for example technical maintenance, are fully handled by volunteers. A dramatic and to some extend absurd situation, as Radio ARA is as healthy as never before. 170 volunteers produce 80 different shows in 13 different languages, reflecting the country’s diversity like no other medium. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Radio ARA was able to set up a new daily news show in 9 different languages (none of them an official language in Luxembourg), becoming the only source of information for parts of the population and its most vulnerable groups.
The program was a huge success and Radio ARA is heading to become more than ever the voice for and of marginalized groups, civil society, youth- and subculture. But politics has not reacted so far, leaving out community media not only of the pandemic emergency press help, but also again out of the political discussions around Luxembourg’s future media landscape. On July 7th Radio ARA was at last able to present a strong case for community media in parliament, proving their capability to enhance inclusion, media literacy and participation. Recognizing and funding community media would be a real chance to tackle Luxembourg’s biggest challenges.
All comes now down to decisions being taken in the liberal lead ministry of media and the luxembourgish chamber of deputies. Who will speak up for community media during a debate mainly focused on the future funding of luxembourgs quasi-monopolist RTL and Luxembourgs public radio 100komma7. Radio ARA will try to keep the pressure at a high level, knowing that much depends on these decisions.