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UK Media Representation of Ethnic Minorities

British society is not outnumbered by ethnic minorities, although new immigrants have come, mainly from Asia and Eastern Europe. 85% of UK citizens are white British, while the remaining 15% are recognized as ethnic minorities (Georgiou & Zaborowski, 2017). Black African, Black Caribbean, Indian, and Pakistani are the four largest ethnic groups in Great Britain. Ethnic minorities get relatively little coverage in the UK media, but they are highly noticeable in specific news, connected mainly with terrorism and crime. The media often attributes generic identities to separate minorities, paying little attention to the differences existing within ethnic groups. The research of UK media confirms the minimal presence of minority representatives in the media as speakers or actors in news (Cianetti & Lončar, 2018). This fact may demonstrate little importance of minority groups to the British press and their readers. This paper aims to discuss the significance of the representation of ethnic minorities by the UK mainstream media.

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The media has an immediate and powerful influence on the audience. It can play an important role in passing ideas about ethnic minorities so that public perceptions are highly affected. With this regard, hypodermic and interpretive models of interaction between mass media representation and public opinion can be defined. The interpretive model of interaction states that the active audience can interpret media representation to adequately reflect the existing state of issues (Ramasubramanian et al., 2017). However, according to the hypodermic model, media coverage has a visible impact on the public. Media news is presented as a kind of injection, with the help of which the necessary content is introduced to the passive audience. For example, the racialized representation of minorities in the UK press affects public opinion and creates stereotypes, even if the media initially does not have such an intention (Ramasubramanian et al., 2017). Media manipulation can easily direct public opinion, especially elderly people’s views on minorities, with possible negative consequences.

Media ownership affects the way minorities are represented in the British press. Five mainstream companies, News UK, Daily Mail Group, and Reach, Guardian, and Telegraph dominate in the UK newspaper market, while the BBC remains a powerful online source in broadcasting (Ramasubramanian et al., 2017). It is difficult to say that minority groups are widely presented in any of this mainstream British press. The concept of ethnic minorities is often used as a synonym for Black and Asian people, which means that other ethnic groups in Great Britain are homogenized and unseen among faceless immigrants (Cianetti & Lončar, 2018). Minority leaders occasionally appear in the news, but they are either Black or Asian representatives. It means that the visibility of minorities outside the two dominant groups is minimal. Fact Because the overall presence of ethnic groups in the UK mainstream media coverage is almost invisible, it is difficult for the ethnic groups to express and disseminate their personal and social identities.

Among the news with minority content, terrorism is one of the most referred to thematic areas, thus linking minority identities with this issue. The mainstream media is often involved in the stereotyping of minorities and immigrants, who are represented as criminal delinquents (Trebbe et al., 2017). Muslim communities frequently act as terrorists and a threat to national security, while Asian minorities are associated with human trafficking (Cianetti & Lončar, 2018). At the same time, news and articles with a positive description of minority representatives are rare and limited in scope. Such misrepresentation of ethnic groups in the eyes of the rest of British society leads to a distortion of information.

The UK mainstream media can be a powerful enemy to minorities, and its role in perpetuating stereotypes is well documented. Although Islam is the second religion in many Western European countries, they encounter a deep misunderstanding, being associated with violence and fanaticism (Hopkins, 2016). It is often presented in the official media as a threatening, dangerous, anti-government, and alien religion, not as a personal belief. Having studied the image of British Muslims in the media, as well as the forms of their identification by various social groups, it can be said that these representations are not homogeneous (Ahmed & Matthes, 2017). The Muslim position appears on the periphery of the print media, while the bulk of the content is divided between news reports, designs, and categorizations of conservative positions. Although some daily publications, such as the Guardian, sometimes attract Muslim journalists to work, many of them focus only on the primitive question of whether Islam is a progressive and rational or barbaric and irrational religion (Amer & Howarth, 2018). Media coverage of global terrorism tends to indirectly associate this phenomenon with ordinary British Muslims, whose position is now closely monitored.

In recent years, media has changed beyond recognition due to the new communication technologies. This contributes to the development of pluralism, the diverse media representation, expanding the range of information for the public. Further steps should be made to improve the representation of ethnic minorities in the mainstream media. Taking the British policy that guarantees freedom of expression and little interference of the state in media, it cannot have a direct impact on media coverage of minorities (Cianetti & Lončar, 2018). However, it can increase awareness about the importance of just and impartial representation of minorities among media ownerships (Trebbe et al., 2017). In this case, the media will be able to reach more diverse audiences. The policy involvement requires the attention and thorough consideration of media owners to change the representation of minorities in the national mass media.

Media may play an important role in forming public views about ethnic groups. The mainstream British media often abuse stereotypes and expose racial and cultural minorities only on the negative side, publishing them in the news of a particular genre, for example, in the crime section. This fact negatively influences the status of various ethnic groups, their personal and social identities. Building sustainable media plays an important role in promoting media pluralism in Great Britain. It is a prerequisite for providing access to unbiased information and the opportunity to get acquainted with various facts, discussions, and views concerning ethnic minorities. This allows the formation of a free, diverse, and pluralistic media landscape.

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Ahmed, S., & Matthes, J. (2017). Media representation of Muslims and Islam from 2000 to 2015: A meta-analysis. International Communication Gazette, 79(3), 219-244.

Amer, A., & Howarth, C. (2018). Constructing and contesting threat: Representations of white British Muslims across British national and Muslim newspapers. European Journal of Social Psychology, 48(5), 614-628.

Cianetti, L., & Lončar, J. (2018). Representation of minorities: Perspectives and challenges. Nationalities Papers, 46(2), 197-201.

Georgiou, M., & Zaborowski, R. (2017). Media coverage of the “refugee crisis”: A cross-European perspective. Council of Europe. Web.

Hopkins, P. (2016). Geographies of Muslim identities: Diaspora, gender and belonging. Routledge.

Ramasubramanian, S., Doshi, M. J., & Saleem, M. (2017). Mainstream versus ethnic media: How they shape ethnic pride and self-esteem among ethnic minority audiences. International Journal of Communication, 11, 1879-1899.

Trebbe, J., Paasch‐Colberg, S., Greyer, J., & Fehr, A (2017). Media representation: Racial and ethnic stereotypes. The International Encyclopedia of Media Effects, 1-9.

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