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Website development and digital skill: the state of traditional media in European minority languages.


This study investigates two important areas of digital convergence and production among traditional news organizations of European minority languages: the development of Internet sites and the perception journalists of those traditional outlets have about their own degree of digital competency in the production of online news. The former can be framed within the theory of media systems and markets (McQuail, 2000, pp. 190-195) and the latter as part of the theory of professionalism and/or professionalization (Wahl-Jorgensen & Hanitzsch, 2009).

Findings on minority-language traditional media's progress or delay in building online services to reach out to and interact with the audience can reveal whether or not a new, transversal digital divide is being generated between minority and majority languages. Given its structural nature, such a divide would affect the whole language community, transcending the standard concept built around people's operational, informational, and strategic digital skills (Van Dijk & Hacker, 2003). The question therefore deserves special attention, considering also that several years have passed since the start of the third decade of online journalism, characterized as an era of partnership between publishers and users, around 2002 (Carlson, 2000-2005; Deuze & Paulussen, 2003).

Mainstream scholars may take for granted that, well into the 21st century and the third wave of online journalism, most traditional media organizations have a presence on the Internet, whether as full-fledged news services or, at least, basic websites. But the reality of minority-language media systems can be quite different, even though the economic crisis and the relatively low cost of online technology are good reasons to expand their organizations and build news websites.

Furthermore, although the pertinence of adequate systems of traditional outlets (press, radio, and TV) is unremitting for minority languages worldwide--most of which are in danger of dying out-- nowadays it is increasingly important to expand and transform these systems into multimedia organizations by developing Internet and online media platforms as either complements to traditional outlets or autonomous cyber-media. In all cases, technology-savvy journalists are needed.

"Radical shifts" in journalism have accelerated since 2009 (Franklin, 2012, p. 663) owing to intramedia factors and the economic crisis that exploded internationally in 2008-2009, hitting most of Europe. Thus it becomes particularly relevant that this study is framed between the years 2008 and 2009, on the verge of "that radical and structural reshaping of journalism" (p. 633), in Franklin's words. But the import of this investigation lies not only in the findings on growth of online sites and journalists' Internet and multimedia skills, but also in the unveiling of an often invisible Europe of minority languages and their struggles to keep pace with current digital convergence.

The digital divide or "cyberspace divide" (Fairclough, 1992; Loader, 1998) is usually considered within the spatial and/or political framework of the nation-state, a unit of reference that may have a series of corresponding subcategories (international, regional, etc.). This perspective follows the theory of embedded statism (Taylor, 1996) or methodological nationalism (Wimmer & Glick Schiller, 2002, 2003), which treats social phenomena as bounded by the nation-state. Scholars in different fields have forcefully criticized this theory, claiming it obscures cultural diversity and processes of transnationalization and globalization (Amelina, Nergiz, Faist, & Glick Schiller, 2012), veils transcultural practices and connections (Meinhof & Triandafyllidou, 2006), and "privileges cultural homogeneity" (Robins, 2006a, p. 21). Yet it retains unquestioned status in social theory, research, and policy, which continue to take national discourses and geographies as natural entities for analytical focus. Diverse transnational and transcultural realities, however, must be approached from a different perspective, as must minority-language communities and communication systems, where the unit of analysis is anchored in the language and the area in which it is spoken, regardless of whether it falls within one or several states.

The 10 European minority languages analyzed in this article are Basque, Catalan, Galician, Corsican, Breton, Frisian, Scottish-Gaelic, Welsh, Irish, and Sami. Their speakers number over 12 million. Some of the languages are located within one state; others, in two or more. Europe has other minority languages, but these are the ones that have reached a minimum degree of traditional media development in terms of outlets and full-time journalists.

The theoretical foundation of this systematic and comparative study could also be atributed to the project of the Council of Europe on Cultural Policy and Cultural Diversity, which calls attention to issues of transcultural diversity, public space, and citizenship, acknowledging the limitations of the national imaginaire (Robins, 2006b).

Literature Review

Studies on online media are already vast and complex (Shepard, 2012), and new methods and theories are being developed (Lievrouw & Livingstone, 2002). Various frames of reference--evolution phases, normative theories, models, industry and technology, and so on--can structure new media research, which "is still in its infancy" (Ure, 2002, p. 267). However, the traditional five phases of research evolution (Wimmer & Dominick, 1983) may be insufficient, and the normative theories (Christians, Glasser, McQuail, Nordenstreng, & White, 2009) that explicate standard key roles of media and journalism in democratic societies need to be reassessed, as does the role of identity (re)producer (Soffer, 2013). The broad area of industry and technology is perhaps a site of greater research emphasis.

As for the business model, even though a commercial approach to news seems predominant (Benson, Blach-Orsten, Powers, Willig, & Vera Zambrano, 2012), the struggle to develop a successful revenue model concomitantly with the areas of production and audience is a current issue in the industry and a recurrent topic in the specialized press.

An established periodization of online news and journalism posits three time frames, each approximately a decade long, starting in 1982 (Pryor, 2002). The third and current wave (2002 onward) is referred to as the wireless/broadband, mobile, and networked-journalism era (Van Der Haak, Parks, & Castells, 2012). Scholarly literature on the transformation under way in the traditional media industry throughout those three decades of online journalism can be recapitulated on a spectrum (Franklin, 2008) between, on one end, fear of downfall resulting from dominance of online news services (Jones, 2009) and, opposite that, traditional media's permanence, enabled by a suitable digital convergence that could even be strategic for funding journalism (Krumsvik, 2012).

Early in the third decade, websites of newspapers and radio and TV stations differed significantly in their content emphasis (Lin & Jeffres, 2001). Findings also suggested that journalists were "normalizing" the Internet as a way to further traditional journalistic roles and goals (Singer, 2003). Noting this potential "dependency path," studies on the sociology of news indicate solid continuities between online and print newspapers attributable to organizational norms rather than to new technical possibilities (Mitchelstein & Boczkowski, 2009).

Thus it seems online news has failed to live up to the expectations of interactivity, participation, and new ways of storytelling (Franklin, 2008) and "the promises of an interactive age of reporting are not fulfilled yet" (Quandt & Singer, 2009, p. 717). Nowadays, however, at the end of the third decade of online journalism, scholars state that profound changes in journalism are affecting virtually every aspect of the gathering, reporting, and reception of news. Moreover, and partly motivated by the economic crisis, "the pace, extent and significance of these developments have accelerated markedly since 2009" (Franklin, 2012, p. 663). As a result, "a new professional figure has emerged, the networked journalist, as the subject of networked journalism" (Van Der Haak et al., 2012, p. 5).

It is precisely the technological competence and production know-how of journalists that has mattered most in this long process of media convergence, which "[has] placed journalists in charge of virtually every aspect of production" (Delano, 2007, p. 271). Compared to the second decade of online journalism and the beginning of the third, today's online media environment-- with its emerging paywalls, multiplatform publishing, multiskilled users, crowdsourcing, and user interactivity--demands greater competence and better skills from editors, management, and journalists (Bartosova, 2011; Boers, Ercan, Rinsdorf, & Vaagan, 2012).

Actually, much of the literature and information suggests journalists are in a steady, gradual process of updating their craft to accommodate multimedia and online production, sharing, and distribution (Van Der Haak et al., 2012, p. 5), as well as the imperative of immediacy. But discussions still center on the level of technical and technological skill journalists need to function proficiently online, the resistance to change, and the learning curve involved in mastering the use of interfaces and Content Management Systems (CMS)-based software to create, edit, manage, and publish content in a consistent, somewhat user-friendly way.

Most of the literature cited to this point would fall within the framework and theory of methodological nationalism. But beyond that, considerable research has also addressed digital media that are transcultural and transnational in character--especially those that cover immigration and diaspora-- focusing on access and on these technologies' social uses in maintaining and developing community ties at local and transnational levels (Doest, Cola, Mauri Brusa, & Lemish, 2012; Everett, 2009; Karim, 2004).

Literature on online media in minority languages is in quite the opposite situation, as extensive search efforts reveal. Some studies emphasize that websites and online communities provide a service by promoting the use of native languages (Anderson, 2003; Cunliffe & Harries, 2005), but the Internet's prospective effects on minority languages represent both opportunity and threat:

It appears obvious that many minority languages will never make a successful transition to the Internet and that some may consciously choose not to in order to preserve their language and culture. For others the Internet will remain an irrelevance due to lack of appropriate access or more pressing social needs. (Cunliffe, 2007, p. 147)

As for general research on minority-language media, some studies emerged in the 1980s (Bevan, 1984; Gifreu, 1986), and the situation improved in the 1990s (Browne, 1992; Cormack, 1993). The body of research continues to increase in the new century (Cormack & Hourigan, 2007; Hourigan, 2001; KellyHolmes, 2002; Zabaleta, Urrutia, Gutierrez, Xamardo, & Mendizabal, 2004; Zabaleta, Xamardo, Gutierrez, Urrutia, & Fernandez Astobiza, 2008). Some studies have the character of essays (McGonagle & Moring, 2012). Others present case studies (Dunbar, 2012), and even European institutions deliver reports and resources. (2) But very few adopt a systematically comparative approach among several languages. In some cases, theoretical reflections are joined to sequential single case studies.

Minority Languages

The concept of minority language needs a precise definition, for its reality is varied. It can be framed in a meta-category of "minoritiness," which we describe as a state or quality of being, or being considered, subordinate, lesser, or discriminated against in a given society because of sociocultural circumstances/attributes (language, ethnicity, class, gender, identity, etc.) or even the mere quantity of members, in some cases. Minoritiness can be internal and external to the community.

In our case, it implies the existence of media systems and journalists that belong to and work for a minority/minoritized community. Such a linguistic community's language is typically considered minority because of its reduced degree of development in terms of speaking population, education, and social and/or political status. This kind of minoritiness differs from that of diasporic linguistic communities (e.g., Arab), whose language is a majority tongue in another country with a fully developed media structure that is accessible online or by other means. In the latter case, the element triggering minoritiness is not language but the human collectivity that is marginal or marginalized in another or its own country.

This conceptual distinction is stated in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, (3) supervised by the Council of Europe and adopted by many countries. Following that, the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages (EBLUL, 1999) classified minority and regional languages into five categories: (a) national languages of small nation-states that are threatened or less used, as in the case of Irish; (b) languages of communities residing in a single nation-state, such as Breton, Galician, and Welsh; (c) languages of communities residing in two or more nation-states, for example, Basque and Catalan; (d) languages spoken in communities constituting a minority in the nation-state where they live that are majority languages in other countries, like German in Belgium, Turkish in Germany, and the Croatian and Slovenian spoken in communities in Italy and Austria; and (e) nonterritorial languages, which are traditionally spoken in one or several nation-states but cannot be identified with a particular area, for instance, the language of the Roma minority.

At this point, it is worth bearing in mind that the social sciences delineate the term community, a probably loose yet continuously present concept, along the parameters of locality, social activity, social structure, and sentiment, all of which integrate two essential elements of community, "a sense of solidarity and a sense of significance" (Clark, 1973, p. 404). We define community along the parameter of language, but with the added feature of minoritiness or minoritization, which accentuates language's relevance as a community definer.

This study exclusively investigates 10 languages that belong to categories a, b, and c in the EBLUL classification. We briefly outline them below to help put the results into context. The total number of speakers of these 10 languages is estimated--cautiously in most cases, owing to difficulties in comparing census data and discrepancies among sources (MacKinnon, 2003)--at about 12.4 million speakers, out of a total population of 37.3 million living in those communities. (4)

There are about 7.2 million Catalan speakers (55.7% of the total population living in the regions where Catalan (5) is spoken), 2.2 million Galician (80.0%), 0.9 million Basque (32.0%), 0.6 million Welsh (20.4%), 0.6 million Irish (10.0%), 0.5 million Frisian (73.8%), 0.3 million Breton (7.0%), 0.1 million Corsican (50.0%), 0.06 million Scottish-Gaelic (i.e., approximately 60,000 speakers; 1.2%), and 0.02 million Sami (20,000-30,000 individuals; 25.0%). In all cases the percentages represent the ratio of speakers in relation to the total population residing in the area(s) of the linguistic community, regardless of political or administrative division.

Five of these languages are split between two or more states. Catalan- and Basque-speaking people live in areas of Spain and France (as well as a Catalan-speaking city in Italy); the Sami community is native to Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia; the Irish live in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; and the Frisian language, mostly rooted in the Netherlands, is also spoken by a small population in Germany. The other five communities (Galician, Welsh, Breton, Corsican, and Scottish-Gaelic) are resident in only one state.

Research Questions

The research questions studied in this article are scrutinized along the variables of media type, ownership, and diffusion to get a clearer picture of the situation and its implications.

1. How do the traditional media systems (press, radio, TV) of European minority languages address their presence on the Internet? Are there still traditional outlets without Internet platforms?

2. What kind of website prevails among traditional European minority-language media, and more precisely, what are the current state and overall progress of online news services?

3. How do European minority-language journalists evaluate their own competence in using multimedia and Internet technology in their journalistic activity?


Two different methods were used. The first aimed to investigate the existence and types of websites among traditional news media organizations; the second attempted to measure journalists' perceptions of their own technological competence.

The first step was to identify and code all the monolingual minority-language newspapers, magazines, and radio and television channels existing in the communities. For that task, we used two different techniques: First, native experts from each community prepared a preliminary report on the media outlets; second, we traveled to all the communities, visited the main news organizations, interviewed directors, editors, and managers, conducted intensive fieldwork, and explored all kinds of sources. The result was a notably comprehensive database on European minority- language media, charted at the beginning of 2008 and fully updated to 2009.

The unit of analysis was the traditional media outlet, operationally defined as any medium in the print, radio, and television sectors that used the minority language in at least 70% of its content, was available to society (organization bulletins distributed only among associates were excluded), and was published/broadcast more than once a year.

As for the variable of diffusion, local media were considered those outlets whose reach was limited to a town, county, or province; and general media, those that were accessible to the whole political or linguistic community. Finally, media ownership was distributed among three categories: private or forprofit media companies; public entities owned or controlled by public institutions; and social media managed by not-for-profit organizations.


The unit of measurement was the online site of a traditional media outlet. For the purpose of this study, we set up two categories: (a) the simple website (web) of a traditional company or medium without a news service, also known as a corporate website, used solely to provide background information about the news organization; and (b) a website with a news service (web+news), that is, a corporate website that also included a regularly updated news information service. The latter might take several forms in terms of its relation to traditional media: It could involve simple uploading, adaptation, or webcasting of content presented via newspaper, radio, or television; imply a complementary and/or partial version (e.g., headlines and archives services) of printed or broadcast material; or even be a totally different news service with its own personality, possibly also including some or all content from the traditional outlet. Meanwhile, "cyber-media," or online-only news platforms not affiliated with traditional news organizations, were not investigated for this study.

Whereas the above two categories of website were best suited to the goals of our study, we acknowledge there are other ways to classify websites, such as by function or content, style, or business model (Schiff, 2006). Our first category is divisible into numerous subtypes (news, corporate, community, commerce, personal, government, nonprofit organization, etc.); the category of style is usually split between static and dynamic websites; and the business-model category can be separated into content-based sites, where revenue comes from selling advertising space, and product- or service-based sites, where goods or services may be purchased online.

As for potential methodological concerns about the validity of just counting outlets, in all probability it is a clear, consistent procedure for comparing such different language realities. Further reinforcing this claim is the fact that specific analysis has been conducted on the Internet presence of major media outlets, that is, dailies, weeklies, and radio and TV channels of general reach and content.

We estimated that in 2009, media organizations with [greater than or equal to] 70% of content in the minority language numbered 1,028 outlets, with 52.0% in print media, 33.9% in radio, and 14.1% in television. In terms of communities, the calculated distribution was of 760 Catalan media outlets (75%); more than 100 Basque (10%); 70 Welsh (7%); 45 Galician (4%); 10-15 in each of the Irish, Breton, and Frisian communities (about 1% each); and fewer than five apiece in the Sami, Corsican, and Scottish- Gaelic communities (<1%).

Journalists' Digital Competence

Our operational definition of a journalist, similar to that of Weaver and Wilhoit (1996), was as follows: a person with a full-time or nearly full-time occupation reporting, writing, editing, photographing, broadcasting, or relaying news stories or other information to the public via established media. The method for studying journalists' technological skill relied on a stratified, weighted, multistage survey of journalists working in print, radio, and TV media in the 10 chosen European minority languages. It was conducted using questionnaires between 2007 and 2008. The authors then gathered information from editors, directors, and managers about the number of full-time journalists in each language community.

At the beginning of 2008, an estimated 5,301 journalists (30% in print, 38% in radio, and 32% in TV) were distributed among communities as follows: 3,677 Catalan-language journalists (69.3% of the total), 650 Basque (12.3%), 460 Galician (8.7%), 121 Irish (2.3%), 103 Sami (1.9%), 95 Welsh (1.8%), 81 Frisian (1.5%), 51 Breton (0.9%), 35 Scottish-Gaelic (0.7%), and 28 Corsican (0.5%).

Since the distribution curve of the population of journalists was skewed, three methodological decisions were introduced into our sampling procedure: to transform highly skewed data into a normal distribution by taking the square root (Rummel, 1970; Wimmer & Dominick, 1983); to increase, to at least 10 questionnaires, the sample of communities with a low square root value and to apply a similar percentage increment to the samples from the remaining communities.

The final sample consisted of 230 responses and, at the 95% confidence level, the confidence interval of the sample was 6.32%. Those values, from the perspective of inductive statistics, allowed the generalization of results to the population of journalists.

The distribution by media sector was 69 questionnaires (30.0%) on print press, 90 (39.0%) on radio, and 71 (30.9%) on TV. Those values differed by less than 1% from those of the total population. Even in the cases of the variables of ownership and level of diffusion, the differences were under 5%. As for gender, the gap was below 8%.

The questionnaire on technological competence asked journalists to estimate their own digital skill in journalistic production in the areas of print, television, and Internet and multimedia. (6) With regard to professional expertise using technical tools for online journalism, complementary information was added to explain that this referred to the capacity to operate dedicated software for creating news and multimedia products, or create and upload news stories to blogs and websites. Journalists were also asked to provide basic information: age, gender, number of years working in minority- language media, and education or training in journalism, among other data.

A word of methodological caution is nonetheless warranted in view of the third- person effect hypothesis (Davison, 1983), which states that people tend to overestimate the impact of mass media on others' attitudes and behaviors, and underestimate the effect on themselves. Researchers regard this as part of a broader tendency in which other, associated hypotheses can be introduced (Huge, Glynn, & Jeong, 2006). The third-person effect may be present in surveys like the one in this study, where journalists may have overrated their own technological competence and underestimated that of others. In any case, it is important to remain alert to this inevitable artifact.


Results are presented in two levels: as an intercommunity comparison and at the European level, built with the totals of the 10 languages.


Data in Table 1 indicate that in 2009, at the European level, 29% of traditional monolingual media organizations (press, radio, and television outlets with general and specialized content) did not have any kind of Web page yet; 47% had a simple corporate website that mostly provided information about the news organization, and in the case of some broadcast media even a programming schedule, but no news coverage; and finally, only 24% had a website that offered both a news service updated more or less regularly and corporate information.

As for the variable of media type, 34% of the TV stations, 31% of the print media, and 23% of the radio channels did not have any Internet presence.

In terms of ownership, again at the European level, 42% of social, 27% of public, and 18% of private traditional media organizations had no Web platforms.

However, the diffusion level is probably the most relevant variable for analyzing the degree of Internet development among traditional media outlets. Thus, with results being statistically significant, 33% of local media did not have a website, but that figure declined to just 10% for news organizations of general diffusion. Likewise, the values were reversed in almost the same proportion in the case of online outlets with a news service: 38% of general-reach outlets had a Web platform with an online journalism service, whereas the number dropped to 21% among local media.

Major Media

Taking into account only major monolingual media of traditional character (daily and weekly newspapers, radio, and television) and excluding local media as well as specialized print media or broadcast stations dedicated to culture, politics, music, and the like, the general results are very different: 76% of the major traditional-media organizations had an Internet platform with an online journalism or news service; 20% maintained simple websites; and only 4% had no websites. In the Basque and Welsh communities, at least one major media organization lacked a website. In seven others, most of the major outlets provided some sort of online news service. The Corsican community could not be incorporated because it lacked major traditional outlets.

By communities, the level of Web development yielded two categories and one exception:

* Communities where all or almost all traditional media have websites: In three communities (Irish, Frisian, Scottish-Gaelic), all monolingual traditional media organizations of general or specialized content had some kind of website, and in two more (Galician and Breton), 90% of traditional outlets were in the same position in 2009. However, the total number of media outlets was quite small in all but the Galician language.

* Communities where more than one quarter of traditional media do not have websites: In four communities (Catalan, Basque, Sami, and Corsican), 25-33% of the traditional monolingual media organizations (newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV) did not have a website. These data are noteworthy in the case of the Catalan and Basque languages because their media systems are well developed and monolingual outlets are relatively numerous. However, the percentages for the Sami and Corsican languages can be misleading, as their media systems are composed of just four and three outlets respectively. Looking deeper into the Sami case, it is also relevant that the central newspaper Avvir, a merger of previous weekly papers Min Aigi and Assu published five times a week, did have an online news website. That strong Internet presence was further enhanced by the websites of three partially bilingual public radio stations (NRK Sami Radio, YLE Sami Radio, and SR Sameradion).

* One community where more than 70% of traditional media have no websites: We estimated that 76% of the Welsh language community's traditional news media outlets did not have websites in 2009. It was a peculiar case then and continued to be so as late as 2011 because of the modest Internet presence of the community newspapers called Papurau Bro. These constituted about 74% of the total number of traditional Welsh language media organizations, but less than 15% of them had a website. Even the weekly newspaper Y Cymro, a major outlet in the Welsh-language media system, did not go online until April 2010.

Looking at the results from different angles (see Table 2), we found that the majority of traditional monolingual media organizations without websites belonged to the print media sector in five communities (Basque, Welsh, Breton, Sami, and Corsican); and to radio in the Galician community. The lack of online presence was proportionately distributed among the three media sectors (press, radio, TV) in the case of the Catalan traditional media.

On the variable of media ownership, in four communities (Basque, Breton, Sami, and Corsican) most media with no online presence belonged to social or not-for-profit organizations. That finding becomes relevant in the Basque case, which concerns a fairly large media system, but not in the other three communities, where the number of outlets is small; besides, the Breton and Corsican media systems are largely socially owned. Another remarkable finding was that 56% of Catalan and 80% of Galician news organizations without websites were public media. Unambiguously, most of those outlets were of local diffusion.

To illustrate those quantitative results, we could mention, from among the Basque linguistic community's 31 media organizations without websites, the print publications Herria, a major weekly published in the French Basque provinces, and Txaparro; as well as six radio and two television stations, all local, such as Arreta Irratia in Ermua (Biscay) and Xaloa Telebista (7) in Baztan (Navarre). The Galician community had five outlets with no websites: the newspaper El Periodico de Lalin and four radio stations, including Radio Melide and Radio Quiroga.

In the Sami language, the magazine Anaras of Inari (Finland) lacked a website, as did the literature magazine Avali in Corsica and the socially owned children's magazine Rouzig in the Breton community.

The Catalan language media system requires special comment. Traditional Catalan- language news organizations were pioneers in accessing the Internet and deploying websites, a process approximately contemporaneous with that in the United States, that is, occurring in the first half of the 1990s. But as of 2009, an estimated 178 media organizations still had no website. Almost all of them were of local diffusion and belonged among the three traditional media sectors. Some examples were TV Igualada (Barcelona) and TV Felanitxera (Majorca), Radio Valira (Lleida), and the weeklies El 29 d'Olot (Girona) and L'Hora del Garraf (Barcelona).

Technological Skill

As discussed in the methodology section, this type of competence refers to journalists' capacity to produce journalistic content using dedicated software for creating Internet journalism and multimedia products and stories.

Results presented in Table 3 indicate that at the European level, 65.7% of the journalists evaluated their own technical and technological competence in online journalism as medium or high, and 25.2% as low or very low.

Focusing on the variable of media type, at the European level, there were no statistically significant differences among journalists in television (76.1% assigned themselves medium or high competence), radio (61.1%), and press (60.9%). Nor did the variable of media ownership produce significant differences among journalists working for private (62.0%), public (67.1%), or social (68.4%) outlets. A similar outcome was observed with respect to the level of media diffusion, where only a two-point difference was found between journalists of general (65.1%) and local (67.2%) diffusion in terms of the aggregate of medium and high skill.

Whereas age did not reveal statistically significant differences, a differentiation was perceptible between age ranges above and below 40: 73.6% of journalists in the 20-29 bracket and 70.6% of those in the 30-39 cohort reported good skills (medium plus high), but those figures decreased considerably to 56.3% and 55.6% among the media professionals aged 40-49 and 50-65.

Finally, the variable of journalism studies, which could range from university degrees to nonuniversity certificates (professional training courses, etc.), also did not produce statistical differences at the European level, and percentages of good competence among journalists with journalism education/training (65.3%) and without it (65.1%) were practically equivalent.

Comparing by communities, two clearly distinct groups are recognizable. In one, more than 60% of the journalists believed they had moderately high technical competence; in the other, less than 50% perceived themselves as well prepared for online and multimedia journalism. The first group was composed of journalists from eight communities (Frisian, Corsican, Sami, Welsh, Basque, Irish, Galician, and Catalan) and the second group came from two communities (Breton and Scottish-Gaelic). Partially clarifying the results of the latter group is the consideration that most Breton media were and are of social ownership, with much voluntary work. As for the Scottish-Gaelic language media system, all but one journalist worked at the BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, and at the time practically none of them produced content for the website, which in 2008 was very simple, lacking full-scale Internet radio capability and devoted to mere upload of the morning news bulletin after it aired on the radio. Evidently because it is part of the BBC, Radio nan Gaidheal now has full-fledged Internet radio.


Even without the assistance of professional software and designers, building simple websites and blogs is possible and quite easy, especially when the goal is to showcase the state and activities of an organization. That statement holds true for media organizations as well. So it seems surprising that in 2009, nearly three decades into online journalism and website development for traditional media, and on the threshold of far-reaching changes in the whole business of journalism, almost 30% of all traditional media outlets in European minority languages did not yet have websites. Such a situation could jeopardize their development and even hamper the community's access to online information in its own language. This unexpected finding suggests that in certain European minority-language communities, some traditional media had not yet evolved and updated their communication system so as to include an online presence. Even more perturbing was the finding that not even one in four of these media outlets had an online news service updated with some regularity on its Web platform.

The variables of diffusion and ownership are key factors to understanding this situation. The lack of any Internet presence was much more widespread among local media outlets than among generaldiffusion news organizations. As for ownership, private media had markedly higher Internet development than public and social outlets. On the other hand, the online presence of print publications was less developed than that of the broadcasting sector.

But since major traditional outlets (daily and weekly papers, radio, and TV) were and still are the backbone of any media system, whatever the language, it was very encouraging to see that more than 90% of major monolingual media organizations had a website, and that many of these had an online news service. Thus, they were able to fulfill the tasks of creating an active public sphere at the community level and empowering the language, two accomplishments whose mention, we believe, does not conflict with a rigorous scholarly approach. Furthermore, by filling the gap, they may have avoided the new, transversal digital divide between minority and majority languages that was cautioned against at the beginning of this article.

Regarding the size and degree of development of the minority-language media systems, the situation of the Catalan and Basque language communities, where the absence of websites was relatively high, was somewhat unexpected. This remark is especially true for the Catalan case, given that the first print publication to go online in Spain was the Catalan-language cultural magazine El Temps, published in Valencia (Meso, 2006, p. 275). Likewise, the country's first daily online newspaper was the Catalan language Avui, which launched its website in 1995, ahead of the major Spanish- language dailies in Madrid and Barcelona.

Thus, we estimate that local traditional media in European minority languages have been somewhat slow to embrace digital convergence, website construction, and especially online news services.

This small Internet presence does not have a simple and verifiable explanation, but one could advance the rationalization that perhaps local news organizations lack sufficient financing, resources, and/or expertise to build a website commensurate to the level of their media organization. Or maybe so far they have not even felt the need for an Internet presence, as they stress a more physical, direct communication with their community and/or audience via print and traditional broadcast radio or TV. In any case, it seems that in addition to the recurrent and customary weaknesses (funding, resources, audience), other obstacles impeded digital convergence.

As for the variable of ownership, the result for social media seems reasonable, considering that many of these outlets are kept alive by grassroots organizations and the efforts of volunteers. However, it was quite surprising to see that a relatively high percentage of public institutions that owned and/or controlled media outlets had let those news organizations lag behind in terms of their online accessibility. Evidently, this finding has no simple explanation, but public bodies' secular inertia to social and technological change should not be overlooked.

Another plus on the side of overcoming the risk of digital divide was the notably high level of competence journalists perceived themselves as having in Internet and multimedia technologies for journalism--keeping in mind, though, the third-person effect's potential to distort any self-evaluation. That perception was consistent across the variables of media type, ownership, and diffusion, as well as gender and even journalistic training. The only indicator to reveal significant differences among journalists was age, which could be considered normal from a sociological viewpoint. Close to three out of four journalists who were not yet 40 believed they had medium or high technical skill levels, a proportion that was 15 percentage points lower among journalists 40 and over.

In conclusion, we note that online journalism in general has evolved much over the past three years and this growth has possibly extended to European minority-language media too. Nonetheless, the findings of this study can be very useful as a benchmark and reference for future research and for scholars who are currently following the evolution of online journalism relative to the effects of the economic crisis. Beyond that, the results are also meaningful for those communities' people, media editors, and policy makers, inasmuch as the research is based on the language community and not on a political locus (e.g., Catalonia or the Republic of Ireland) and has offered a thorough picture of that reality. Indeed, European minority-language media, beyond the traditional outlets, need a strong Internet presence to build community in new ways and even to facilitate the participation of speakers and people living in the diaspora. Certainly this would, we believe, promote the defense of cultural and linguistic diversity that is a basic scholarly stance in an open and democratic society.


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University of the Basque Country


Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona




University of the Basque Country

Inaki Zabaleta:

Arantza Gutierrez:

Carme Ferre-Pavia:

Itxaso Fernandez:

Santi Urrutia:

Nikolas Xamardo:

Date submitted: 2012-12-31

(1) The University of the Basque Country provided funding for this research upon its positive evaluation by the National Research Evaluation Committee of Spain. We are grateful for the assistance offered by media directors and journalists in the 10 communities. This study is part of a larger, ongoing project on media and journalism in European minority languages.

(2) See documents and recommendations of the Council of Europe: and

(3) See

(4) Compare the Database for the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Ethnologue, the Languages of the World ( See also Institut d'Estadfstica de Catalunya (2007), Instituto Vasco de Estadfstica (1991-2011), Instituto Galego de Estatfstica (2008), Office de la Langue Bretonne (2007), Central Statistics Office of the Government of Ireland (2011), Office for National Statistics of the UK Government (2011), Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (2011) and General Register Office for Scotland (2005).

(5) In the Valencian Community, the Catalan language is called Valenciano. Both names, based on autoglottonyms and heteroglottonyms, refer to the same language as it has been declared by the Academia Valenciana de la Llengua in its dictum "Dictamen sobre los principios y criterios para la defensa de la denominacion y entidad del valenciano," approved on February 9, 2005 ( castellana).

(6) The question was: "In your opinion, what is your level of skill in the use of journalistic technology (high, medium, low)?" A subparagraph followed for each media sector with the following wording: (1) Print media: use of computer and layout software (QuarkXpress, Indesign, etc.); (2) Broadcasting: use of audio/video equipment (camera, VC, etc.) and computer-based editing software; (3) Internet and multimedia: use of dedicated software for journalism production (for websites,

DVD, etc.).

(7) Went online in 2011 (
Table 1. Type of Websites by Community (2009).

                     Web          Web + News    No Web       Total

Catalan              54%          20%           26%          100%
Basque               39%          33%           28%          100%
Welsh                5%           18%           76%          100%
Galician             29%          60%           11%          100%
Irish                54%          46%           0%           100%
Breton               55%          36%           9%           100%
Frisian              82%          18%           0%           100%
Sami                 50%          25%           25%          100%
Corsican             33%          33%           33%          100%
Scottish-Gaelic      0%           100%          0%           100%
Total                47%          24%           29%          100%

N = 1,028 media outlets.

Table 2. Traditional Media Outlets with No Websites (2009).

               Media type                 Ownership

               Press    Radio    TV       Public    Priv.    Social

Catalan        35%      39%      25%      56%       23%      21%
Basque         74%      19%      6%       10%       19%      71%
Welsh          100%     0%       0%       0%        9%       91%
Galician       20%      80%      0%       80%       20%      0%
Irish          0%       0%                0%        0%       0%
Breton         100%     0%       0%       0%        0%       100%
Frisian                                   0%                 0%
Sami           100%     0%       0%       0%        0%       100%
Corsican       100%     0%                0%        0%       100%
Scottish-               0%       0%       0%
Total          54%      29%      17%      39%       19%      42%


               General   Local

Catalan        2%        98%
Basque         19%       81%
Welsh          14%       86%
Galician       0%        100%
Irish          0%        0%
Breton         100%      0%
Frisian        0%        0%
Sami           0%        100%
Corsican       100%      0%
Scottish-      0%
Total          7%        93%

N = 1,028 media outlets.

Table 3. Journalists' Technological Skill (2007-2008).

                High       Medium     Medium +     Low        Very Low

Frisian         40.0%      40.0%      80.0%        10.0%      0.0%
Corsican        10.0%      70.0%      80.0%        10.0%      0.0%
Sami            29.4%      47.1%      76.5%        17.6%      0.0%
Welsh           20.0%      53.3%      73.3%        13.3%      6.7%
Basque          29.0%      41.9%      71.0%        25.8%      0.0%
Irish           11.8%      58.8%      70.6%        17.6%      0.0%
Galician        36.0%      28.0%      64.0%        28.0%      0.0%
Catalan         30.5%      32.9%      63.4%        23.2%      0.0%
Breton          0.0%       45.5%      45.5%        36.4%      9.1%
Scottish-       16.7%      16.7%      33.3%        50.0%      16.7%
Total           26.1%      39.6%      65.7%        23.5%      1.7%

                Low + Very    No info    Total

Frisian         10.0          10.0%      100.0%
Corsican        10.0          10.0%      100.0%
Sami            17.6          5.9%       100.0%
Welsh           20.0          6.7%       100.0%
Basque          25.8          3.2%       100.0%
Irish           17.6          11.8%      100.0%
Galician        28.0          8.0%       100.0%
Catalan         23.2          13.4%      100.0%
Breton          45.5          9.1%       100.0%
Scottish-       66.7          0.0%       100.0%
Total           25.2          9.1%       100.0%

N = 230.
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Author:Zabaleta, Inaki; Gutierrez, Arantza; Ferre-Pavia, Carme; Fernandez, Itxaso; Urrutia, Santi; Xamardo,
Publication:International journal of communication (Online)
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Aug 1, 2013
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