Ofcom study of Asian viewers ‘does not reveal true picture’
AUDIENCES’ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS: Channels showing programmes such as Indian reality TV dance show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Reloaded featuring performances from Bollywood stars like Shilpa Shetty (left) with her sister Shamita Shetty, are popular with first- and second-generation south Asian viewers in the UK. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Diaspora watch ethnic content but UK channels ‘do not cater to diverse audiences’ entertainment
ETHNIC MINORITY viewers in the UK have said watching Asian channels helps them keep in touch with their culture, according to a survey for Ofcom, but the regulator was criticised for not acknowledging that British TV and radio services do not cater for south Asian audiences.
An Ofcom report published last Wednesday (3) found that TV channels and radio stations aimed at south Asian communities played a key role in people’s lives and were highly valued by them.
Participants said engaging with these channels gave them a sense of belonging to their communities.
However, the findings also highlighted concerns about violence and domestic abuse in soaps broadcast on these channels, as well as violent or graphic news coverage, and depictions of sexualised content.
Among south Asians, first-generation migrants preferred content in their mother tongue because they felt that it reflected their morals and values, the study showed.
Content targeting first-generation participants was typically their primary viewing, while second-generation participants switched between both ethnic and mainstream content. Third-generation participants mainly used mainstream content, Ofcom found.
Saurav Dutt, 39, from London, told Eastern Eye: “I definitely feel there is a disconnect.
“I don’t think it’s representative, both in terms of the quantity and the quality.
“In terms of the quantity, I don’t feel that there are many shows, whether it’s in radio or television, that focus on the south Asians diaspora at any length.”
Being in the second generation, Dutt said he was concerned about the representation on TV as it lacked depth and context.
He said, “We have a background, we have complexity to us. We have cultural roots and what brought us to this point, and that needs to be reflected in the characters, casting, dialogue and in the scripting.”
Ofcom’s research found that the second-generation participants enjoyed culturally relevant music programmes and liked to keep up with news from the Indian subcontinent via Asian radio stations.
A second-generation Pakistani man from Bradford said, “I like watching programmes on politics from Pakistan and family stories in dramas. Listening to these in Urdu makes me feel good.”
Third-generation Pakistani women said that they watched soaps, dramas, entertainment shows, lifestyle programmes and documentaries aimed at them.
However, the communications regulator was criticised for failing to acknowledge that first and second-generation south Asians were not served by mainstream content on TV and radio stations in the UK.
Writing in this week’s Eastern Eye, Barnie Choudhury, a former member of the advisory committee for Ofcom, said: “Broadcasters don’t give a fig about people of colour or what we want. They pay lip service to the programmes we want to make and see.”
Dutt also commented on the fact that south Asian viewers often have to pay extra to subscribe to certain ethnic TV channels.
He told Eastern Eye: “I think a certain default number of programmes should come with any existing package, because south Asians, British Asians, are part of the fabric of this country.
“We shouldn’t have to pay [extra] to get representation.”
He added: “Things like news [channels] should come as default because that’s the greatest link that we have to our culture, heritage and background; seeing what’s going on in the countries we are originally from.”
Despite this research being a one-off and lacking other significant conclusions, Ofcom said that “there are no plans to repeat this research, but we will continue to work on our engagement with minority ethnic viewers and listeners in the year ahead and beyond”.
Lizzi Regan an Ofcom spokesperson, told Eastern Eye: “We were aware from our previous research that ethnic minority audiences’ expectations of these targeted, often smaller, services might be different to their expectations of other mainstream stations and channels.
“As we regulate a range of services, it was important for us to understand the experiences and expectations these audiences have of content broadcast across the channels and stations we regulate.”
Another concern raised in the report was about south Asians being reluctant to complain about content in the ethnic channels.
Dealing with complaints is a key part of Ofcom’s role, so how can it be sure harm, offence and poor portrayal don’t happen as a matter of course and are being allowed to propagate racism and stereotypes?
Regan said: “Over the last few years, we have significantly expanded our capacity to translate and analyse the content broadcast on smaller channels and stations aimed at specific ethnic communities.
“In our broadcast standards team, we have content specialists from a range of ethnic backgrounds who speak multiple languages, including from a south Asian background.”
Ofcom said the report also would “help drive greater awareness of the regulator among minority ethnic communities, so people can feel confident in their ability to raise concerns with us about content that they consider to be harmful or offensive”.
Broadcast consumption of minority ethnic communities were gathered by research agency Ethnic Dimension, where first, second and third-generations of ethnic viewers were sampled.