Catalan radio station Pakcelona reaches out to the Pakistani diaspora all over the world thanks to the Internet

The Catalan radio station Pakcelona made the most of the closure of it’s local FM broadcast to strengthen it’s presence on the World Wide Web.

CNA / Bertran Cazorla

January 31, 2011 11:01 PM

El Prat de Llobregat (ACN) .- A tiny little radio station broadcasting from the back of a bar in the Catalan town of El Prat de Llobregat is becoming an important reference for the Pakistani diaspora worldwide. It was back at the beginning of 2008 when Radio Pakcelona shot to fame as at that time, the Government closed it’s FM broadcast as it had no license. Three years later, ‘the closure has turned into something positive’, the founder of the radio Raja Shafiq tells the Catalan News Agency. ‘We realised that we had a huge audience online’. And indeed, from having revamped their presence online and for having promoted the language Urdu, Pakcelona radio has managed to attract listeners from all over the globe. ‘We also talk about Catalonia’ Shafiq says,'The Pakistanis who live here are Catalans so we tell listeners about our country’.

'After three and a half years, we have a more international audience’, Shafiq says before alluding to the figures, ‘last December, the website of Radio Pakcelona, where you can listen to the live broadcast, received 116,784 visits. In February there were 92,253. Many of these visits are of indeterminate origin.

But statistics show that 16,524 of those received last month were from servers in Spain and 14,290 hits were from servers worldwide. According to data, most visitors log on from Russia, the Netherlands, Poland, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia. 1,200 visits were from Pakistan.'People are calling us from all over the word’, exclaims the head of Radio Pakcelona, ‘from Canada, Mexico, Europe, Pakistan, China ... from many countries’.

Radio Pakcelona promotes free speech

If Radio Pakcelona is becoming a global medium, it is fair to say that the Internet has been a huge contributor to this, but not the only one. 'This is a free radio’, Shafiq tells CNA with enthusiasm, ‘that means we can say things that we would never be able to say in Pakistan’. 'The fact that we are able to report freely about events unfolding in our country has made us stand out as a media especially in times like back in Novemeber 2007 when the state declared the country in a state of emergency and GEO-TV broadcasts were affected and during the general elections in March 2008'.

Another factor, according to the journalist and businessman, that has helped to win Pakcelona international relevence it’s its promotion of the Urdu language. According to Shafiq, this is the only radio in Europe outside the UK (where the presence of immigrants from the former British colony is strong for years) that broadcasts in Urdu.

'All this is thanks to Catalan’, Shafiq insists, ‘so as we fully support the Catalan language- it showed me that the Urdu language also needs to be supported internationally’. 'We are doing special programs dedicated to Urdu and we have organised many conferences here in Barcelona', Safiqh tells CNA in Catalan.

In the beginning, Radio Pakcelona offered their microphones to writers who speak Urdu but live around the world just like the poet Syed Taghia who currently resides in Canada. But now, this collaboration with writers has progressed even more and last March, Pakcelona and Casa Asia organised a conference that brought Urdu speaking intellectuals from California, Belgium, Denmark and Germany together. Shafiq insists that this event gave the made the radio an initiartor of an outstanding initiative outside of Pakistan and the UK.

'We show our city and our country to people who don’t even know where Catalonia is'

Shafiq, who arrived in Catalonia shortly before Franco's death, uses this influence he has on Pakistani diaspora in the world to also introduce his host country Catalonia. 'Radio Pakcelona is a Catalan station for Pakistanis all around the world’. Therefore, from Barcelona and from Catalonia, we present Catalonia to the world through our own identity. Raja Shafiq insists that Pakistanis are Catalans who live in Catalonia but of Pakistani origin, so through the radio, they can teach people about their city and country, people who don’t even know where Catalonia is.