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Media For Ethnic Minorities - Media Segregation?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Hürriyet, a Turkish newspaper that has a special edition that is published in Germany for the Turkish diasporaWe're using the summer to work hard on putting the finishing touches on our forthcoming publication, Public Sentinel: News Media and Governance Reform, edited by Pippa Norris from the Harvard Kennedy School. In this book, we will discuss the news media's roles as watchdog, agenda setters, and gatekeepers to the public forum. We will present studies and cases from all over the world that show the effect that media can have, but also what constraints can hinder the media in fulfilling these roles. When we started putting this work together, I was struck by how little examples and evidence we could find on the media as public forum, as a platform that gives voice to diverse social groups, even those on the margins of society. Now that I'm proofreading the final chapters, I'm reminded of a study I was once involved in that looked at the media's role for Turkish migrants in Germany - a group that qualifies as marginalized indeed.

Turkish migrants are in their fourth generation in Germany by now, the largest migrant group in the country. There is not much experience with multi-ethnicity in Western Europe, and accordingly the relations between Turks and Germans in Germany aren't always as cooperative as they could be. In the study, my revered professor Beate Schneider from the Institute for Journalism and Communication Research in Hannover/Germany and I argue that social integration is a continuing process where social groups interact and exchange information and knowledge that originate in only one of the groups. Common values, structures of meaning, and identity - the foundation of integration - can only be constructed when they are communicated. Here, obviously, the media play a huge role. Research on the representation of ethnic minorities in the media points to mass media’s ability to influence integration through the way it portrays social groups. Assuming that pictures in the media become pictures in the minds of the audience, media representations could create, alter, or dismantle prejudices and distances between ethnic groups. A second approach focuses on media consumption, assuming that the development of language and communication proficiencies is a basis for creating inter-ethnic relations and inter-ethnic communication; and second, the diffusion of information and knowledge about values, meanings, and identities creating a symbolic community - between or within groups.

Different types of media have, of course, different functions. In Germany Turkish migrants can use German media, Turkish media that they receive per satellite from Turkey, and Turkish media that is published in Germany for a Turkish audience. It has been argued that the latter two groups of media could increase segregation because the audience does not come in touch with issues from the host country. On the other hand, German mainstream media does not usually address issues that are relevant to Turkish migrants. A dilemma?

In our research we found some potential - that remained largely unused. We asked a group of several hundred migrants about what media they used and what specifically they were looking for in them. We also asked a small group of Turkish journalists working in Germany for their views on integration and their understanding of their role in the integration process. We found that ethnic media do not communicate separation nor is this the intention of ethnic journalists. We did, however, find specific functions of ethnic media that point to a specific role for integration and matters of cultural identity. Whereas German mainstream media provide information on current affairs, ethnic media are turned to for several reasons. On one hand, the audience is looking for orientation in everyday life; on the other, emotional aspects play a crucial role. Turkish media provide a bond between the Turks living in Germany and their culture of origin; they preserve ethnic traditions and foster a family’s sense of togetherness as Turks.

It was very clear, however, that our respondents did not feel that the German mainstream media provided any public platform for them. On the contrary, there was consensus that Turks were mostly portrayed with negative attributes. A platform for their voices they found in online communities - with predominantly Turkish and German-Turkish membership. But - what good is a public forum that is not also a shared forum? Germans don't use Turkish media, online or offline. We did find a clear media segregation that is indeed worrisome in a society where the youngest Turkish generations have never seen Turkey and have a German passport. But they would not call themselves Germans. If you don't have a voice in society, you're not part of it.


Submitted by Norm Berberich on
In your blog you write that you are "struck by how little examples and evidence we could find on the media as public forum, as a platform that gives voice to diverse social groups, even those on the margins of society." Have you taken a look at ethnic media in Canada. Our ethnic papers and broadcasters are extremely diverse. I would say that most ethnic media have a large 'new-Canadian' and multi-generational' ethnic audience so they often blend stories from abroad with coverage of local and international headline news. Often the reason for reading ethnic media is not so much to stay in contact with what is going on in someone's native country as it is used for ease of reading; to reduce the language barriers and provide one source access to local, international and homeland news. There are also examples of mainstream Canadian media providing coverage of what might otherwise be considered ethnic minority topics (e.g. Tamil Canadian reaction to the war in Sri Lanka or 'mash-up' a CBC program that speaks to the experiences of 1st generation Canadians straddling two cultures.) On the flip side, there are also examples of 3rd and 4rth generation Canadians tuning in to ethnic TV programs because they present a point of view on a minority group that they find interesting and informative and one that they would not be able to access through 'mainstream' Canadian media. Today, in Canada (still a largely christian society) it is not uncommon for muslims write regularly about the muslim faith in mainstream media because quite frankly in Canada it is quite possible for minority groups to find they have a mainstream audience. I'd say by and large ethnic media in Canada has contributed more to integration than segregation of our many ethnicities and cultures. I enjoy following the work of Commgap and reading the many blogs posted here. Keep up this valuable work.

You're absolutely right - Canada is an impressive and positive example in terms of integration in more than one regard. The diversity and the size of the audience for ethnic media in Canada is just one indicator for the country's very successful integration policies. In fact, some German sociologists, among them Rainer Geißler from Siegen University who gave us an outlet to publish parts of the study that I describe, sees Canada as the most successful example for multi-ethnic integration in the world. It is certainly a fascinating discussion how Canada came to be there. Unfortunately, success is less obvious in much of Western - and Eastern, for that matter - Europe. There isn't much experience with multi-ethnicity, and it's a dicey topic there anyway. Integration laws in Europe have been discussed as being insufficient to deal with todays immigration reality, especially since the demographic changes in Western Europe make immigration more and more necessary for economic growth. With a long history of multi-ethnicity comes a tradition of ethnic media - and there's a lot we can learn from Canada in that regard.

Submitted by Thanyachanok on
I find it is amazing that there is not more diverse coverage in media. Considering how non-mainstream the “normal” audience has become. By “normal”, I’m referring to the usual north American born Christian based education and social awareness, cultural awareness has start to become a normal part of the media. I think that is a sure sign of a nation turn towards becoming more accepting and understanding of other cultures and races.

I am really excited that you touch upon this topic. My experience with it in countries with large indigenous minorities (e.g. fYROM) has been that ethnic communities tend to segregate quite willingly, to the extent that their news bulletins have very few common items. Even if these are two channels of the same public service broadcaster. The end result being that they share no common space for ideas and/or debate. I think ethnic diversity is still understood in a patronising way. I suppose everybody faces the same problems as a regular tax payer, so minorities or migrant groups can't just be covered in terms of their reaction to the news in their 'old country' or as sound bites to the new intergration study. In that regard to me the only solution is more journalists of 'migrant origin', as they call them in germany, in the mainstream media. Interestingly, today the Frankfurter Allgemeine has reported that the Turkish residents in Germany are not part of regular media research, allegedly for the lack of funding. So nobody actually knows what a Turkish third-generation migrant (without a German passport) is watching right now.

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