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Television brings harmony to foreign voices

Local TV with a difference swissinfo.ch

For three years a local television station has given a voice to the many cultures that make up the working-class neighbourhood of La Bourdonnette in Lausanne.

This content was published on April 15, 2005 - 11:13

But the station’s role goes far beyond broadcasting, serving as the village square for many of the 1,800 inhabitants from 45 different countries.

At first glance, La Bourdonnette is not especially appealing. Built on the outskirts of Lausanne, its concrete towers are hemmed in by the motorway and main roads.

But follow one of its streets and you’ll reach the Place du Soleil, where the neighbourhood’s heart beats. A café, post office, community centre, hairdresser and kiosk are all to be found there, along with something unexpected: a television station.

TV Bourdo-net was created in 2002; the idea being that a diverse community needed to communicate better and a forum to express itself.

When the neighbourhood was built in the 1960s, its population had a distinctly Latin flavour. Over time, this has changed: today there are 45 nationalities rubbing shoulders in La Bourdonnette.

"None of my friends here are from the same country," Rasim Cai told swissinfo.

Closer together

Cai, originally from Turkey, grew up in the shadow of the towers before moving away. Today he’s back for some hands-on experience at the television station as part of his audiovisual training course. He even runs his own music show, Bourdozik.

"When we were teenagers, we used to wonder why we had been sent here, isolated from the rest of the community," said Cai. "Today it’s good that people have television to express themselves."

Aristide Abena, who lives in La Bourdonnette and works as a volunteer for the station, is convinced it serves a real purpose. "It helps to bring us closer together."

Since its creation TV Bourdo-net has become part of neighbourhood life, and the community is now starting to take over the running of the station, as originally planned.

"We still have some progress to make," admitted Stéphane Richard, who manages the station. "It’s a long process, but we see the situation evolving every day."

Residents know they can draw on TV Bourdo-net’s resources and they often step in for a chat and a coffee. The station loans out equipment on a regular basis and collaborates with the community centre.

"One day, two kids walked in and borrowed some gear and made their own news programme that we broadcast afterwards," said Richard.

Neighbourhood interests

While TV Bourdo-net may appear laid back and somewhat disorganised, it still manages to produce good quality programmes. It has regular shows, such as news, workshops and an agenda.

Occasionally, it broadcasts reports about neighbourhood events and the station recently joined the fight save the local post office, threatened by cutbacks to postal services.

The station’s flagship is the news, which is presented on a weekly basis. When swissinfo turned up at TV-Bourdo-net, it was Rahim Mohammadi’s turn in the hot seat.

Mohammadi, an Iranian Kurd, moved to La Bourdonnette in 1999. He was one of the first people to join the station’s crew, as a cameraman, and he has been one of the news anchors for the past two years.

"It’s wonderful to see how a person can arrive here and know nothing about broadcasting and end up presenting the news," said Richard. "Rahim hasn’t even mastered French properly yet."

Kurdish and Portuguese anchors, Italian guests, African hosts and a Turkish cameraman reflect some of the neighbourhood’s diversity, but Richard says there is more to be done.

"All 45 nationalities aren’t represented here yet, but hopefully they will be one day."

swissinfo, Alexandra Richard

Key facts

TV Bourdo-net was created in 2002.
The project has financial support from the neighbourhood management company, the FLCL foundation and the city of Lausanne.
Two people, both working 80 per cent, manage the station.
According to the Federal Communications Office, TV Bourdo-net is unusual since it is the only television station in the country run by an association.

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In brief

La Bourdonnette, built at the end of the 1960s, is a neighbourhood where rents are subsidised.

The first families to move in were mainly Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, but today there are 45 different nationalities living there.

TV Bourdo-net’s aim is to help improve communication within the local community and provide it with a voice.

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