Nuqanchik: Peruvian news and the politics of language

The Listening Post travels to Peru to speak to journalists broadcasting a new programme called Nuqanchik, which means “us” in Quechua, one of the region’s oldest languages. 

With about eight million speakers across the South American continent, and 13 percent of the Peruvian population itself fluent in the language, Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language in the Americas. And its appearance on Peru’s public broadcaster, Canal Peru, is being seen as a significant moment in the country’s media history. 

While Quechua is an official language in Peru, it is saddled with baggage as a result of the country’s colonial legacy.

Quechua speakers are often from marginalised communities living in poverty, with little access to education and to the national economy.

The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro travelled to Lima and spoke to the journalists behind Nuqanchik.

The fact that this programme is being broadcast means “Quechua speakers will lift their heads up and will be better informed – and they will no longer be ashamed of speaking Quechua,” says Clodomiro Landeo, a TV presenter at Nuqanchik.

Broadcasting in Quechua is important because “this is a multicultural, multilingual, multi-ethnic country”, says Hugo Coya, a director at TV Peru.

Beyond just broadcasting in a different language, Nuqanchik focuses on a different reality that isn’t mainstream in Peru.

It will highlight important issues that affect the country’s rural communities, often ignored by mainstream Spanish-language media which centres around Lima politics.

“It doesn’t mean we are going to just see folk music and dance. These are important and valuable aspects of that culture, but its fundamental purpose is to address people’s needs,” explains Raul Castro, a media anthropologist.

For the commercial players in Peru’s media market, the Quechua audience hasn’t even been an afterthought – the language and the community isn’t represented on either private radio or TV.

In a media ecosystem that depends on advertising revenue, the Quechua segment of the audience simply doesn’t qualify in terms of purchasing power or economic presence.

Against that backdrop, Nuqanchik is one of a kind.

“Obviously, these issues made it very difficult for Quechua-language programmes to be produced for television. If Quechua speakers weren’t going to purchase goods – there would be no advertising revenue, so that became a vicious circle. As public broadcasters, we aren’t so pre-occupied with commercial matters – our main concern is the public,” explains Coya.

Clodomiro Landeo, TV presenter, Nuqanchik
Marisol Mesa, TV presenter, Nuqanchik
Hugo Coya, director, TV Peru
Raul Castro, media anthropologist
Patricia del Rio, host, Radio Television Peru

Source: Al Jazeera