March 28, 2019

A recent Q & A with CEMA Chair, Madeline Ziniak, re-printed with the permission of University of Toronto, in Innis Alumni Magazine

Madeline Ziniak (BA ’78) has been involved in ethnic media for over 30 years and is the current chair of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA). She is also the chair of Ontario’s Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and former vice-chair of Women in Film and Television – Toronto. Among the many honours she has received for her service include the Order of Canada, and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.

Q:  You have a long and distinguished career working in multicultural broadcasting. As current Chair of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry over the past decade?

A:  Ethnic media has existed in Canada from the early 1800’s, and has evolved to where it is today. This is a rich expression of democracy that envelops so many intrinsic Canadian values and experiences. The role of ethnic media in Canadian nation-building has been significant, both in the past and the present, in an increasingly multicultural, multilingual and diverse society.  Throughout the generations, immigrant communities as well as second and third generations have derived considerable and necessary knowledge about this country from publications, broadcasting programs, internet streaming and blogs.

Q:  Canada – and particularly large urban areas such as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto – is a diverse country. Given the increasing fragmentation and the tough economic reality of broadcast media, how do you make sure that these many voices are represented?

A:  The multilingual media industry continues to morph as ethnic populations shift and grow. Challenges continue to include: lack of accurate ratings for multilingual broadcasting, which impacts advertising agencies, interest and confidence in ethnic media; audience fragmentation; and lack of more research indicating the effectiveness and need for multilingual media. Despite this, the need for information in one’s language of comfort continues to be important in a growing diverse nation.
Ethnic media was and is a key contributor to the feeling of belonging within a linguistic and/or contextualization of oneself in the larger Canadian society, and encourages self-esteem. As traditional media diminishes access to marginal voices, ethnic media continues to play an important role in the expression and reflection of diverse communities.

For such reasons, it is imperative for organizations such as the Canadian Ethnic Media Association to ensure that many voices are represented in Canada. As a non-profit organization, we have lobbied both federal and provincial governments for more industry accessibility to funding triggers and envelopes.  Most recently, we successfully lobbied the previous provincial government to initiate an unprecedented Multicultural Journalism Fund, which would “assist independent journalists as well as news organizations that produce journalism to serve multicultural communities, build audiences, and attract advertising revenue”. However, it is yet to be determined if the newly elected government will continue this fund. Since the private broadcasting industry has proven to be capricious towards ethnic media interest and support, we have suggested: Is it time for a TVO and/or CBC model for multilingual Canadian broadcasting?

Q:  When you graduated from Innis in 1978, did you envision your career focus on multiculturalism in broadcasting? What inspired you to follow this path?

A:  When I graduated from Innis, I was inspired by the need for and endless possibilities of advancing opportunities and platforms of expression for marginalized groups.  As a daughter of an ethnic editor, publisher, and writer, I was always acutely aware of the importance of this medium and through my involvement with my father’s paper, Byelorussian Voice, I nurtured my passion for communication and expression – through media – for better civil engagement at an early age.

To attain tools of the trade, I was afforded opportunities: to kick-start my craft at Rogers Community 10 Programming; and then onward to resuscitate CFMT-TV from bankruptcy, develop the brand, and build the OMNI Television Network.

Q:  What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the field?

A:  Be flexible in attitude, mindful of industry trends, and passionate and adamant about freedom of expression and communication in one’s language of comfort.

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