Pidgin is one of West Africa’s most widely spoken languages. It is, however, not officially recognized as it is a mixture of English and the local languages, which enables different people without a common language communicate.
It is primarily an oral language and does not have a standard agreed form for writing. It is, therefore, something to reckon when an international media house such as the BBC World Service decides to start a mobile, video content, and social media presence using the Pidgin language.
The broadcaster becomes the first international player to offer online services across digital platform using the Pidgin language. Already, there is a local radio station Wazobia FM that currently broadcasts exclusively in Pidgin language. The station began operating about 10 years ago; BBC WS becomes just the first international broadcaster to broadcast in Pidgin.
Nonetheless, there are some challenges in using the language; Pidgin, as it has been developing, has not standardized written form, and it is an informal language.
“The BBC is going to be a pioneer in this area,” said Bilkisu Labaran, a lead editor at the new BBC Pidgin service. “It’s an informal lingua franca. It is a language that really unites people and cuts across all sorts of barriers – ethnic, regional, and socioeconomic.”
Labaran is a fluent speaker of the Pidgin language, and she admits there will be some challenges ahead. At the same time, broadcasting in Pidgin language also presents an opportunity for the anticipated debate on the harmonization of the written and spoken Pidgin words.
What services will BBC Pidgin be offering?
This BBC WS service will provide a mix of local, regional, and international news on current affairs; the BBC wants to bring the World to the region, as it takes the region to the world. The service will have a special focus on news touching on matters important to the youths and the women.
BBC Pidgin will have “extensive coverage of culture, entertainment, entrepreneurship, science and technology, health and sport; including the English Premier League.”
The productions will be based in Lagos, at the commercial capital of Nigeria. The reporters will be spread out across Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon to gather ground breaking news. BBC Pidgin will also have content in Yoruba and Igbo, to complement the current BBC WS services in Hausa and English.