Here's where Calgarians can get their multicultural news, in different languages

·5 min read
Calgary is home to many ethnic radio stations and shows, newspapers, TV programming and online sources, serving diverse communities. (Unsplash - image credit)
Calgary is home to many ethnic radio stations and shows, newspapers, TV programming and online sources, serving diverse communities. (Unsplash - image credit)

The number of people who predominantly speak a language other than English at home is continuing to grow in Calgary, according to new census data released on Wednesday.

The data shows that Punjabi and Tagalog remain Calgary's top two most spoken languages, aside from English.

That's followed by Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Arabic and Urdu. One of Canada's two official languages, French, is the 12th most spoken language in Calgary homes.

Language spoken most often at home

So, for those 318,445 Calgarians who reported predominantly speaking a language other than English — where can they get their news?

Calgary is home to many ethnic radio stations and shows, newspapers, TV programming and online sources, all aimed at keeping established immigrants and newcomers informed about the city they live in — and the countries they come from.

RED 106.7 FM: Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu

Before RED 106.7 FM was created in 2013, news director Rishi Nagar says the South Asian community in Calgary sometimes had to wait up to 15 days to get the news in their languages.

"People were actually…. They were starved. They were starved of this news," said Nagar.

RED FM — which stands for Reflecting Ethnic Diversity — now broadcasts programs in over 18 different languages to an audience of approximately 47,000 listeners at any given time.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

Nagar says the radio station mainly caters to the Punjabi community in Calgary, but that audience expands to those from Pakistan, India, Nepal, Fiji and more because their languages are very similar.

"Whoever understands any one of these languages — Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu — they all understand all languages."

Nagar says listeners often call RED FM with any questions they have — such as phone numbers for doctors, lawyers and organizations.

"We are actually 411 for them. We are actually the main source of information for them."

Weekends at RED FM are reserved for programming in other languages, such as Vietnamese, Korean, Bangladeshi and Croatian. Nagar says there's also programming in different languages during the week.

Radio Pinoy: Tagalog

Renato Barnachea spends every Thursday evening broadcasting news to Calgary's Filipino community with Radio Pinoy, at 94.7 FM.

He says 90 per cent of the show is broadcast in Tagalog, with the remaining 10 per cent in English.

"If we had some guests like the premier or an MLA…. We have to do it in English. Otherwise we can't understand each other," said Barnachea with a laugh.

Mike Symington/CBC
Mike Symington/CBC

He says the show was especially important during the pandemic, because he kept Radio Pinoy's audience informed about restrictions and COVID-19 updates.

"The importance here is they are aware of what's happening in our motherland, in our country, and of course here also in Alberta," said Barnachea.

He says there are a number of other Filipino news resources in Alberta, including Diaryo Alberta, the Alberta Filipino Journal and more, but they don't all cater to a Filipino-speaking audience.

Fairchild Radio Calgary, Trend Media: Mandarin, Cantonese

Fairchild Radio Calgary broadcasts Chinese programming through a mixture of Cantonese and Mandarin, every day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Calgary station was created in 1998 as part of Canada's biggest multicultural radio station.

Station manager Terry Chan says about 85,000 people tune into the station from Calgary every day, but it also has listeners from across the world — like Hong Kong and London.

"Our audience treats us like family," said Chan.

She says the Chinese community can also keep informed through their website and app, as it's always updated in Chinese languages.

Submitted by Terry Chan
Submitted by Terry Chan

Aside from the radio station, Chan says other digital platforms exist, but many print newspapers like the prominent Sing Tao Daily are no longer printing.

Trend Media — formerly Trend Weekly — is following Sing Tao's footsteps and recently stopped printing its weekly newspaper, which is produced in traditional Chinese.

Now, the outlet is transitioning to a digital platform to cut down on printing costs, and because most people now rely on information online.

It used to print 15,000 copies every week. But since the pandemic, fewer people are picking up papers, said publisher Danny Chan.

Calgary Arabia: Arabic

Without Calgary Arabia, host and producer Noha Mohamed says Arabs in Calgary would have to tune into Canadian media — and she says that's a huge barrier for people who don't speak English.

"The goal is to keep us connected as Canadian Arabs and for us to feel like we have a voice," said Mohamed.

Calgary Arabia was originally a radio show that broadcast out of RED FM, focused on Canadian arts and culture, as well as news related to the Canadian Arab diaspora.

Submitted by Noha Mohamed
Submitted by Noha Mohamed

But Mohamed says it was time for a switch, so the show is currently on hiatus as it transitions to another platform.

"Now we're expanding to a full radio station online that should serve all of Canada, not just Calgary specifically."

She says Calgary Arabia is still active online and its new platform is expected to launch in the new year.

Korean programming at RED FM: Korean

Every Saturday from 8 to 9 a.m., Korean programming takes over RED FM. It's a mix of Korean music across many genres and news in Korean.

Producer Anna Jun says the show gives Korean Calgarians confidence that they can listen to Korean programs in Canada.

"It also gives the motivation for the second generation to learn the Korean language too," she said.

Submitted by Anna Jun
Submitted by Anna Jun

Jun estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 people listen to the radio program each weekend. She says its audience spans from Calgary to Edmonton to Korea, and it isn't only Koreans who tune in — there's a large Indian and Chinese audience too.

She says that's because of the growing popularity of K-pop.

The Korean Weekly Journal is another popular resource for Koreans in Calgary, said Jun.