Is the media representative of its audience?

Is British media representative of its audience?

It may be a generalisation, but British media, on the whole, feel that it is fairer than most, especially the public service broadcasters like the BBC. However, when looking at even the recent news stories, it is not surprising that many people outside the industry do not feel the same way. This issue is particularly accentuated when it comes to stories related to ethnic minorities.

While it is known that particular print media take a specific political stance, it is expected that the broadcasters should be impartial. However, in reality, both the print and broadcast media has been criticised for the lack of understanding and fairness toward Britain’s 13% ethnic minorities.

A report by the race think tank Runnymead Trust in 2014 revealed that ethnic minorities feel that the media does not aid their cause fairly. In a survey, 78% of the respondents felt that the way the media relates stories promotes racism. Even more surprising is that 76% of the white respondents also felt the same. Other studies previously have offered similar results.

The media is not responsible for society’s ills. However, it has a moral responsibility to portray fairly and not be a vehicle for socio-political injustice. Honest journalism equates to good public service which can help progress society and community harmony. But, in reality, there is a lot to do.

One example is the recent terrorists attack that killed seven Hindu pilgrims and injured another twenty in Jammu & Kashmir while visiting the Amarnath Shrine. All the Indian media reported the incident as a terrorist attack. However, most of the foreign media reported the terror attack as an attack by militants or gunmen.

On another recent story, Indian twitter followers went ballistic the way the BBC reported the anniversary of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani’s death. The BBC referred Wani as a ‘rebel leader’ and not as a terrorist. Angry Twitters users asked whether the BBC would call Osama Bin Laden a ‘rebel’ and why they would refer attackers of the London tube as ‘terrorists’.

There have been instances in the UK when attacks on civilians by non-whites have been seen as terror, but attacks on ethnic minorities by white supremacists have not been labelled as a terrorist crime. Instead, the individual had been suffering from mental illness which led him to commit such a ghastly act!  

The controversy continues, but what is important to note is that with over 1.5 million Indians living in the UK and with hundreds of years of links with the Indian sub-continent, Britain will come to terms with understanding the cultural nuisances of their ethnic kinsfolks. In the modern Britain, the ethnic minorities of south Asian, Africa, Caribbean and more recently the Eastern Europeans play a highly proactive role in society to make Britain a success. The press needs to reflect this.

There are a number of things that need further push or introducing new ideas so that the media does take notice and fairly represent what the ‘real’ society.

HMB Recommendations:-

Cultural Literacy

Journalists need to understand better the different ethnic communities and the cultural differences to better report stories. One way of doing this is for the press to visit places of worship, festivals and holding workshops as part of educational development.


Diversity in the Workforce

There are not enough people of diversity in the British media, especially in the print media. Without a proper representation, media outlets will not be equipped to relay stories, especially from areas linked to ethnic minority culture and regions associated with these communities. While some media organisations would argue that they do have representative minorities in their workforce, there is a distinct lack of these individuals at Board and executive level.


Fair Reporting

There has to be equivalence in how stories are reported. A story about killing civilians by armed gunmen is terrorism, no matter what the political agenda is. It cannot be a militant incident in one case and a terrorist attack in another case. It has to be reported as a terrorist attack as such, no matter what the geographical area or community involved. Mistakes could be alleviated if there was more cultural literacy among journalists and diversity in the workforce where ethnic minorities can bring in an added knowledge.