Machine translation obtained using Elia by Elhuyar
Yearbook 2023-24 | Lander Arretxea Bereziartua (Gidoilaria, kazetaria eta komunikazioan aditua)

Where you see the crisis, I see the opportunity. It is difficult to form more rabid phrases. Nine out of ten, when they say “opportunity”, means the possibility of extending their false neoliberal reflection to the four winds. And yet, focusing on all the earthquakes that supposedly carry automatic translations and keep drinking from the source of the algorithms, I want to look at the cracks or relatively bright windows that they can open. You will allow me, therefore, to try to provide handles to deal with what may come with less anxiety. I do not believe that I own a formula to rethink the direction of content in Basque or Basque culture, but I do hope that it will help us to work and sleep a little quieter. Is it not a simple objective?

What crisis or earthquakes does this mean? Some of you might think. No wonder. The inexhaustible list consists of factors that have hindered and hindered the performance of the Basque media. But I, in particular, am referring to an earthquake that can sacrifice the impossible balance between them, with artificial intelligence and machine translation. That is, the disappearance of the variable from the original language, the transformation of authorship into a fuzzy concept, and that all, more than ever, are part of a global communication market without linguistic customs. In this too broad window it will be difficult to clarify who and in what language you have created what; or when a content is “true” and when not. Even harder if algorithms anticipate our choices. We may be shown one or the other content based on our behaviors or characteristics. On Instagram or similar it is already.

They are therefore not a very distant future. It is possible to read today an interview by Berria in Catalan. Or watch some Basque videos with Galician subtitles. How long will it take for international authorities to see in our language? When will the BBC, Meta or other group, a media that can be received in any language? What will happen tomorrow if smart devices prioritize a single app that will give us live entertainment and information content? Will the owners of this device or application be tempted to decide which means of communication to include the offer on the wheel and which are not?

Well, that"s it, that"s the world, a priori, dystopian, that I could imagine this chronic, bizarre thing that I am most of the hours of the day. But, as we have said, the essence of this article is the opposite: to calm gravity. Because there is reason to think that no, that this communicative ecosystem under the dictatorship of algorithms that are in the hands of a few companies, even if we get there, will not absorb us entirely. And it will not be, at least primarily, because it will save us from the fact that the grammatical structure of the Basque Country is unusual or a relatively small number of speakers. Without having to address those two weak savages, that future that we can imagine full of difficulties has some gaps that may interest the Basque media.

Jalgi yells at the world, even if he returns

Anyone who wants to explore the first gap will have to go out into the sea where machine translation and the area of communication is absolutely globalised. Until recently, and despite subscriptions based on militant solidarity, knowledge of the language and the level of competence have limited the scope of contents and media in Basque. The consequences are well known: the lack of a critical mass sufficient to be economically independent and the inability to reach many Basque citizens. These two conclusions have led to decisions that I regard as collateral damage: it has led some media to choose bilingualism (or Spanish or French), and many others to prioritize the general content and as common as possible, both in essence and in form, so as not to further fragment the group of potential receptors, previously sufficiently reduced.

These tendencies have led to a certain compaction of the Vasco-speaking community, but now, when regulated education has an evident inability to create whole Basques; now, when we have non-Vasco-speaking neighbors coming from dozens of countries; it is not negligible that the content generated in Basque and Basque can be offered in Arabic, Spanish or Wolof. The issues addressed by the Basque media or the opinions they allow are of interest to many others who distance themselves from language skills. Machine translation can be a route, with an appropriate strategy, to attract them to a community based in Euskera. Or to some communities, better said. The Basque media is not only the store of words in Euskera, they are speakers who talk about the time we live from certain places and looks. If it is right, our references, themes and approaches will be able to travel the route to more fellow citizens, without the need to dedicate less resources or spaces to the content in Basque.

This formula is not exclusive to the Castellanoparlantes of the Basque territories. There are many stateless nations in the world and more minority languages. Who says that the reflections or debates we approach from a local perspective will not be of interest to the members of those communities? But we"re not, fortunately, just that. What we write and do about the privatisation of public services, the consequences of tourism, obesity or the impoverishment of workers speak of contemporary and universal conflicts. How many thousands of people there are outside Euskal Herria who would be interested in the special issue that this year has made light of the Palestinian genocide?

I have talked about Palestine, but we do not need to go that far to find facts that can draw the attention of many of our outside our borders. The so-called Basque conflict is a matter of great interest. In order not to experience the pain of each other and limited by the fear of repression, many experiences and events have remained uncounted and explained. But before or after, the Basque media, the filmmakers or whatever. Until now, the conflict has reached other languages in a distorted and oral way. It will not revolutionize this trend by blurring the boundaries of language, but it can mitigate it.

Another beneficiary of this supposed context is the specific content or content of the niche. Except for exceptions, anyone who wants to talk about bonsai, hockey or fantastic literature does not create a format or channel in Basque. Either it dispenses with something more general, or it selects a language that allows a wider audience to speak. The same happens to us as receivers. We have content in Euskera on more or less general issues, but in depth the topics that interest us most, those that the internal geek asks us for, we search in Spanish, English or French. In a hypothetical ecosystem in which content is collected in its own optional language, those who have something to say and what they have tried need not act in other languages. On the contrary, Adanism will lose meaning. We can continue to translate formats or ideas, but not only in Basque because they do not exist. Who, from where and how it does so, will be more decisive than the language itself, so that no one can take care of it.

If I can"t believe it"s not my channel

I have promised to be optimistic, but not blind. Perhaps this first wave of situations seems risky enough for Basque content to be collected in any other language, also in any other language, and we will hardly be able to compete for outside attention with English or French media with more than a thousand times more resources to produce and disseminate the content. It will condemn the disappearance, both of the Basque people and of the Basque media, before or after. Don"t worry. In this hypothetical disturbing future, there is a second group of cracks that can relax the most skeptical.

If everything can be in Basque, if we have at hand what is produced by the world’s richest communication groups, why will anyone select the content treated by Gaztea, Uriola or Kanaldude? There is no need to go that far in time to answer: for the same reasons that you now choose. Almost all Vasco-speakers are bilingual, even those who resort to content in Basque. And yet, many of us in Euskera feel more of them. Because they realize what happens in our villages, because we see that in their videos they appear in concert halls or demonstrations, because they interview people we know, because we feel that they are addressing us or others like us, because we join their online publisher or because they make us feel part of something we have and that is tangible. Although we share more and more concerns and references with a larger Australian, we feel and will continue to feel the impulse to explore, deepen and look at the world in our particularities.

But what, for lack of visibility or vetoes of algorithms, is not possible to select the contents of the Basque media? Encourage, now yes, but not so much. To begin with, we are people of very different ages and trends who cannot enter the same bag between Basque speakers. People over 50 constitute a large part of the population of the Basque Country. The pie is even bigger if we look at the distribution of economic resources. Perhaps the trend is inevitable to focus the attention and priorities of Basque cultural activity on young people, but what comes, will be the support of the media in Basque those adults who are more resistant to changing habits and affective ties.

There is room for optimism for children and young people that we label them as digital natives. What I"ve outlined or imagined as a communication framework, global-artificial intelligence, conditioned, is terrible. Why is it known, then, that we are going to ingest totally as receptors? And above all, what about the younger ones? All generations of young people tend to question what they"ve received. What is more counter-culture today than leaving the vicious circle that makes us unstoppable consumers under algorithms?

There are no reasons why Instagram, X, etc. (a little or totally) park. Damage to mental health and concentration ability, all possible dark uses of data -- but the development of artificial intelligence will greatly hinder the separation of fake and true videos. If app owners are increasingly turning the algorithms around to influence our behaviors and opinions, or if governments are starting to intervene in them, who thinks what they see or read in those applications is reliable? In this context, alternative social networks or devices will be developed that may be suitable spaces for Basque, current or new media to create their own communities. Nor is the new flowering of paper negligible. If we cannot consider what screens offer us credible, if our health is affected by the need to live glued to them, we will need alternatives sooner or later. Who takes the bet? He did not close the printing press: Within 15 years we will create or continue to create new magazines and fanzines in Basque. The screens in Basque must continue to be claimed, yes, but without giving up direct and tangible initiatives.

And if not, what?

Did it calm you down? Maybe not. It might seem like I"ve hidden in the clouds of what may come so I don"t have to talk about the challenges we have now and here. True, but not entirely. These over-optimistic assumptions that I"ve placed in the future, even if you don"t improve your dream, would also mean something about the Basque media, now and here. Beyond the mere fact of being in Basque, the media and content are all those who connect with our communities. Credibility, closeness and centrality have and will continue to have value. And we have a lot to tell and offer to those who so far have not approached the Basque media. The new technological revolutions will come or not, but if we face homogenizing and individualistic aggression, also from the media, we will keep all the large and small communities built in Basque.

How do you do it? I wish I had a round answer, but as I entered the temerity trail, I"m moving forward to the wall. One of the components must be the quality attention and voice to what is being built, politically, in the urban. Caring for relationships is not a good grip either. There are not few local media that use and smoke unfairly interviewees, suppliers or workers. If we do not drown in the next storms, we will have to become a friendly and caring experience for many events where working with the media or appearing in the media. And finally, somehow, we"ll have to flee the trap of quantity. It"s as tempting as measuring the value of our work in views, clicks, etc. I think everything is so transitory that we must look at the depth of the footprint left by the content. It"s not so necessary that something has a weekly frequency or that it gets 3,000 visits every time, but that it has the ability to offer people, themes or looks that gain a stable place in the mental frames of the receivers. There"s an infinite and broad battle there, leaf by leaf, video by video, meeting by meeting, that you have to fight.