Ethnicity – Media

Lesson objectiveTo explore ethnicity is represented
Lesson outcomes• Assess difference in representations of ethnicity
• Evaluate the impact
• Explain how ethnicity is represented

General features about the portrayal of different classes

Black and Asian

Hall (2003) highlights that Black and Asian people are scapegoated as being cheats, deviant and the problem of society. This is supported by long term studies such as Hall et al (1978), Alvarado et al (1987), Van Dijk (1991) and Cottle (2000) who show that the media uses the same old jargon to label Black and Asian pupils, such as:

1) As deviants and lawbreakers. Hargrave (2000) showed that black people were twice as likely to be portrayed as criminals on TV than any other ethnic minority. REACH (2007), Black people committing a crime is far more likely to be reported than black people being the victims of crime. Hall et al (1978) claimed that the media portrayed black people as being more likely to commit a crime than white.

It is important to try to link these statements to one of the 3 approaches of the media. Based on pupil subcultures and deviancy is this portrayal accurate?

2) As a posing threat. Those cultures that are ‘alien’ to British culture are a threat. This shows that there is a greater focus on non-British culture e.g. FGM, Honour Killings, Arranged Marriages.

3) As causing social problems e.g. Disruption of Black students in schools or illegal immigrants. These are often over-represented considering they are the minority in society.

4) As having little talent. Most Black and Asian’s are portrayed as having poor working-class jobs and offer little to further or develop society.

5) As having problems internationally. The Glasgow Media Group (2000) highlighted that disasters and terrorism are the main stories presented. Poorer countries, such as those in Africa, were presented with the same keywords ‘famine’, ‘drought’, ‘wars’. Little context or examples were given in a wider context and these were seen as just labels. Developing countries were viewed as being less structured/ stable and more violent than in developed countries.

European Ethnic Minorities

  • Media shows us that European ethnic minorities such as Romanians, Polish, Bulgarians etc are often scapegoated for European and British problems. Dowling (2007) shows that in 2000, these minorities were often blamed for being benefit scroungers, lone-parents, causing damage to property. He also noted, however, that some much stranger blames were shown such as eating swans, overcrowding churches, selling babies and stealing fish. Take a look at the following article: Look at the language that is used.


 Islamophobia is where an irrational fear exists of hatred or aversion to the religion of Islam. With the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan War following the collapse of the two towers, the stereotype of the Muslim has fundamentally become the image of terror. In 2007, a report commissioned by the Mayor of London showed that 98% of articles in a traditional British newspaper over the space of one week were negative about Muslims. According to Goffman, this has led to a stigmatised identity, which is an identity that is in some way undesirable, or demeaning and excludes people from full societal integration and acceptance. Phillips (2007), points out that the word Muslim is now linked to fear and terrorism, rather than a friendly Muslim you know down the street. Quraishi (2015) argues that counter-terrorism responses following 9/11 have contributed significantly to the creation of ‘Muslims’ as the latest ‘folk-devils’, to be used as political scapegoats by the far-right and vilified as a deviant ‘enemy within’.

Explanations for stereotypes

Pluralists argue that stereotypes in the media exist because journalists and corporations control what people read. Cottle (2000), relates this to realistic conflict theory whereby media seeks to create a ‘them and us culture’ because of different cultures. Neo-Marxists, GMG, highlight that the media seeks to do this because it is owned by upper-class bourgeoisie and seeks to divide the public so they can’t concentrate on important issues such as the housing crisis and poverty. Neo-Marxists say this creates moral panics and thus the upper class maintains its status as hegemony.

For instance, Lacey (2009) highlights how the mass media frequently characterises or frames events, individuals and groups, into ‘types’. This can clearly be seen in early cinema, where certain visible characteristics were often used to signify personality traits; such as villains were often portrayed with a big black moustache and top hat.

Are we changing?

 Society has become much more focused on equality, both in terms of gender, but also ethnicity. There has been a shift in the media to recruit more ethnic minorities to appear to relate more to an ever-changing multicultural society. There are now more TV programs, channels, radio stations etc. targeting Black and Asian communities, particularly young people, as these make up the fastest-growing age. Ambercrombie (1996) states that these changes are now evident in soaps such as Eastenders and Coronation Street where ethnic minorities have more of an ordinary role now than they would have done so before. Eastenders leads the way in this field with 43% of ethnic minorities watching making it the third most popular soap for ethnic minorities.

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