Radio France Talks To the World Only In Proper Francais
HERE are some words you are not going to hear anymore on Radio France International: black, fun, speed, toast, ragamuffin, peace, and love.
The expunging of these and other Anglicisms, or ''pearls without culture,'' is just part of a new effort by RFI to sharpen France's broadcast image abroad.
''When RFI speaks French, the world listens,'' says a Radio France International (RFI) pamphlet explaining the changes to come. ''That French had better be correct.''
This year RFI aims to complete a worldwide digital network of satellite links to extend its reach into East Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Founded in 1975 to broadcast to French people living abroad, the state-owned radio network now claims some 30 million listeners.
But the key change is likely to be in content. On Sept. 25, RFI began a shakeup of programming to ''professionalize'' the broadcasts.
''We are aiming for professional credibility. We want to be a radio of influence,'' says new programming director Michel Meyer. ''We don't want to be propagandist.''
Conservative critics have long charged that under the 14-year presidency of Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, RFI had developed too much of a ''third world'' orientation. The new programming director promises more French-centered analysis.
''We want to explain the world to the world from the French point of view,'' says Mr. Meyer. ''And we also want to explain France to the world.''
News commentators from the conservative daily Le Figaro and left-leaning Le Monde have been added to to help listeners understand the context of the news, he adds.
Rival Francophone station Africa No. 1 is following these changes with interest.
''Until now, RFI has been oriented toward local programming and giving air time to writers, musicians, and activists around the world,'' says Pierre Devoluy, who directs the private station based in Libraville, Gabon.
''It looks as if that is changing, and we'll see more commentary from France,'' Mr. Devoluy says.
''France has had a very bad image in Africa'' since it devalued its currency in Africa last year, and ''RFI was viewed as the bearer of bad news,'' he adds. ''Now [RFI] will be felt as farther away, and, ironically, will be less likely to be criticized.''
As for the goal of promoting pure French, Devoluy has his doubts.
''There's no question that the quality of spoken French in Africa is deteriorating,'' he says. ''But the fascination [of Africans] with South Africa is not going away and will be a powerful vehicle for English across the whole continent.''
Africa No. 1 has ''had to ask ourselves: If we want to be listened to, we need to evolve toward a mix of languages. After a long debate, we no longer see our role as promoting the French language. We try to speak French [as well as] as possible - and to promote African production,'' Devoluy says.