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During the course of looking at education, and ethnicity issues I became interested in how ethnic groups were portrayed in the media. Although I haven’t studied this before, I wanted to do something different, but still apply the fundamental theories which I have studied. I have noticed how there seems to be a trend with all areas involving ethnicity, and personally feel there is racism and under-representation of ethnic groups on television, and definitely inequalities in the press.
The media has a huge effect on our perception of life and self-concepts, and reinforce stereotypical ideals, and it seems that ethnic minorities tend to be characterised as uneducated, illiterate and bad role-models. Therefore the aim of this research is to see how people feel about the way the media represents all ethnic groups, and whether they think they are stereotypical. My first concept is the cultural effects model which sees the media as a very powerful influence, but also sees it as very diverse, and one type of audience’s response may vary to another.
However, there is an anticipated response, known as the preferred reading. Those who lack experience in cultural diversity are more likely to accept what is shown and therefore make generalisations from what they see to what they think. Therefore we make generalisations or stereotypical views of different members of society. This is my second concept. A stereotype is a conventional image of a person or group. Stereotypes generally conform to a pattern of dress or behaviour.
A BBC news article entitled ‘How entertainment changed: the media and multicultural Britain’ addressing how the media has changed over time and gives statistics from a recent survey to the public, to their (ethnic minorities) opinions on how they are represented in the media, and also how the overall public view the media’s representations. The results were promising inasmuch as the public suggested there was improvement.
However, there is apparently, still a lingering feeling that Britain has ‘a long way to go’ before its multiculturalism is represented properly and effectively in the media. This is relevant to the point of research since it discusses how society is responding to what the media is involving, and if it is improving or not. Since there is such a dynamic response, it suggests that stereotypes do exist, and that there has been negative representation of ethnic groups.
It also gives evidence to suggest that this representation has caused a problem – it has effected audience perception of sub-cultures in society. We come to expect certain behaviour or values without looking at the bigger picture, through which the media tends to overlook. The third concept is racism. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others is racism. The contextual research included in this is; ‘Racism and the press’ by Van Dijk in 1991.
Here he analyses the reporting of ethnic issues in 1985 & 1989, in which the press, (especially the tabloids) portrayed black people as a ‘problem’ and a ‘threat’ to mainstream society. The collected findings of both pieces of research generally give a depressing reading. Under-representation and stereotypical characterisation within entertainment genres and negative, problem-orientated portrayal within factuality and news forms, and a tendency to ignore structural inequalities are recurring research findings when looking into the media.