Finnish radio drops Latin news after 30 years

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Logo of Finnish radio's Latin news bulletinImage source,
Image caption,
For thirty years Finland has spoken 'urbi et orbi'

Finnish radio is ending its long-running weekly news bulletin in Latin.

The Yle public broadcaster has told its 'carissimi auditores' (dear listeners) that "everything passes, and even the best programmes reach the end of the road. This is now the case with our world-famous bulletin, which has broadcast the news in Latin on Friday for the past 30 years".

The core members of the 'Nuntii Latini' (News in Latin) team - Professor Tuomo Pekkanen and lecturer Virpi Seppala-Pekkanen - have been with the five-minute bulletin since it was first broadcast on 1 September 1989, although other newsreaders and writers have joined since.

Professor Pekkanen took gracious leave of Yle, saying that, "judging by the feedback, Nuntii Latini will be missed around the world - and we send our warm thanks to you all for these past years!"

'Started as an experiment'

Reijo Pitkaranta of Helsinki University's Classics Department was involved in the project from the start, and told Yle that "what started as an experiment has become an international phenomenon in modern Latin studies, while also reporting on major events like the Asian tsunami and the Twin Towers attack in New York".

Yle's own creative director, Ville Vilen, also praised the programme's "unique cultural contribution", but concluded that ultimately the broadcaster's limited resources had to be focused on Finland rather than the 500-800 Latin enthusiasts who not only regularly tune in but actively engage with the bulletin around the world.

The last bulletin went out last Friday evening, although broadcasts going back to 2011 will be available on Yle's Live Archive site.

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The growth of the internet has made far more spoken Latin resources available to listeners.

Germany's F.R.E.I. Erfurt runs a 15-minute fortnightly show, Radio Bremen Zwei does something similar, and in the US there is the weekly podcast put out by Western Washington University's Latin class, among others.

This is one of the reasons Yle gave for deciding to shut Nuntii Latini down in 2017, until an international outcry persuaded them to push the leaving date back to this summer.

The legacy of Yle's innovative broadcasts lives on in the spoken Latin community, where it has helped coin terms the Ancients could have had little concept of - such as the 'interrete' (internet) itself.

'The Pope's Week'

Latin news addicts won't have to suffer withdrawal symptoms for long, as the language's greatest remaining bastion, the Catholic Church, launched its own weekly news bulletin in Latin the same week as Yle's programme went off air.

The key difference is that Yle offered a broad world news agenda, rather than Vatican Radio's more focused 'Hebdomada Papae' (The Pope's Week) - not to mention the fact that the Catholic Church uses its own, Italian-influenced pronunciation, rather than the Classical version preferred by scholars.

Despite the demise of Nuntii Latini, Finland's special relationship with Ancient Rome is far from over.

During its presidency of the European Union in 2006, for example, the country put out a newsletter in Latin, which picked up more subscribers than the French version.

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The Vatican's news bulletin has a narrower focus

Reporting by Chris Greenway and Martin Morgan

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