Multilingual’s the frequency

Right on time for the Olympics, just like many other life-improving services that have emerged in and around the city over the past few weeks, the country’s first multilingual radio station is now broadcasting on the Athens FM dial. The station, AIR 104.4 FM, fully launched last month following a series of preceding pilot programs, intends to keep Olympic visitors and foreign residents in Athens informed of local news and events in 12 languages. Links with three major international broadcasters also provide listeners with news from abroad. The station’s content primarily comprises talk-show radio with a limited amount of music integrated into the total offering. «This is mainly talk radio. A wide choice of music already exists on FM radio in Athens. What was lacking, though, was talk radio. The station was established to cover this need,» the station’s managing editor, Panos Polyzoidis, noted yesterday. «But, nevertheless, there is quite a lot of music on offer. And much of this is Greek to help foreigners become better acquainted with Greece,» he added. Polyzoidis listed English-speaking residents of Athens, visitors, and foreigners residing in Athens as the station’s target market. At this stage, it remains unclear whether the new station is an Olympics-related project only, or whether it will carry on broadcasting to the Greek capital’s considerable foreign population once the sports extravaganza is over. Nationwide, around 10 percent of Greece’s 11-million-strong population is now foreign-born, mostly Albanian, with a steady rise in influx from the former Soviet republics, Africa and the Middle East. Speaking publicly on the venture, the capital’s mayor, Dora Bakoyannis, recently declared that the radio station’s «scope extends well beyond the Athens Olympics and Paralympics,» which end in late September. AIR 104.4 FM, a joint partnership between the Municipality of Athens and Athens 2004, the organizing committee of the Athens Olympics, broadcasts its shows around the clock in English, Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, French, German, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Tagalog, one of the major languages spoken in the Philippines. The station’s homegrown produce, currently totaling over seven hours of air time a day, has been integrated with links from three major broadcasters, the BBC World Service, Radio France Internationale, and Deutsche Welle, for coverage of major international news and other specialized programs. Throughout the Olympics, AIR 104.4 FM is carrying the BBC World Service’s daily Olympic Sportsworld program (9-11 p.m.), which includes live coverage of the Games and roundups of each day’s sporting events. AIR 104.4 FM broadcasts three English-language magazines (9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) three music shows (10-11.30 a.m. and 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. daily, as well as 1-3 p.m. on weekends), and several news updates, daily, on the hour. Other agenda segments include news bulletins and cultural guides in Arabic, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Tailor-made for Athens’s immigrant communities are programs presented in six languages – one per night – six days a week, at 8.30 p.m. (Monday in Albanian, Tuesday in Bulgarian; Wednesday in Russian, Thursday in Polish, Friday in Romanian, and Sunday in Tagalog). The station’s presenters are all native speakers of their respective tongues, Polyzoidis said. One of the station’s producers, Alexia Amvrazi, who co-hosts a morning-hour, English-language magazine, said her show was aimed at both keeping foreign listeners informed of the news and familiarizing them with local customs. «Besides presenting the news, both in brief and analytical form, we’re also offering small features about Greece to help visitors get by and enjoy themselves more thoroughly during their stays. Topics range from local cuisine to domestic taboos – things you can and can’t do here,» Amvrazi said. She said the feedback to date had been favorable. «We’re getting a good response. Apparently, quite a lot of the athletes are tuning in at the Olympic Village, and our frequency is also being played at cafes around town,» Amvrazi noted. «Finding yourself in a foreign city can be quite confusing, so hopefully we’re helping our listeners understand Athens and local ways better and, furthermore, offering useful suggestions about how to make the most of the time spent here.»

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