By Iminza Keboge
Published August 21, 2017
A digital broadcast service in Pidgin in which social media play a key role has been launched.
BBC World Service says its “first African digital service [that] will provide impartial news, current affairs and analysis of Nigeria, West and Central Africa – as well as international news from the BBC’s global network of correspondents” aims at serving a younger audience, particularly women.
The service, BBC says, will not only provide the BBC’s global audience with a better understanding of west and central Africa but will also have “extensive coverage of culture, entertainment, entrepreneurship, science & technology, health and sport – including the English Premier League.”
The new service, that BBC says targets younger and female audiences, “will also feature BBC Minute, broadcasting six times a day, with a round up of the world in 60 seconds available online and social. New programming will also feature a specially commissioned drama which will illustrate the beauty of the language and the fun people have in following the language.”
Bilkisu Labaran, BBC Pidgin Editorial head for Nigeria, says, “We are so proud to be launching the BBC’s first digital service in Africa. Pidgin is the language spoken among so many people across West and Central Africa and for the first time we will be connecting with the next generation of speakers. Pidgin is the common thread in the region, the language of unity spoken by people from all walks of life, and we are excited at the prospect of providing this service”
On her part, Francesca Unsworth, World Service Director, says, “I’m delighted that millions of people in Nigeria and beyond, will be able to access the BBC in such a popular language as Pidgin.”
BBC reports that Pidgin, a largely oral language without a standard agreed written form, is spoken by 75 million people in Nigeria alone, with additional speakers in Cameroon, Ghana, and Equatorial Guinea.
What is so special about Pidgin?
Although it is commonly spoken, Pidgin is not an official language anywhere in West Africa.
Describing Pidgin as being “quite fluid”, Labaran says the language that originated along the coast during the Atlantic slave trade in the late 17th and 18th Centuries, “keeps changing all the time and it’s expressive as well,” says Labaran.”Sometimes, if you don’t have a word for something, you can just create an onomatopoeic sound and just express yourself. And it will be appreciated and understood. Also, Pidgin hardly follows standard grammatical rules so “you can lose things like verbs”, by saying: ‘I dey go’ to mean ‘I’m going’.
“With the introduction of this new service,” BBC says it “hopes to contribute to the development of this language.”
Besides Pidgin Other 11 languages in which BBC World Service is launching broadcasts include Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Igbo, Tigrinya, Yoruba, Gujarati, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Serbian and Telugu.
BBC World Service says its “BBC Africa hub brings together the production of multilingual content about the continent on radio, on TV and online on bbcafrica.com.”
As it delivers content in English, French, Hausa, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Somali and Kiswahili, BBC says its BBC Africa team in London (England and much of sub-Saharan Africa, “ensures a pan-African approach to the output, offering its audiences opportunities to join the global conversation.”