Ethnic Minorities and the Media: Changing Cultural Boundaries

By Simon Cottle | Go to book overview

8
IN WHOSE IMAGE? TV CRITICISM
AND BLACK MINORITY VIEWERS

Karen Ross


Introduction: research, ‘race’ and audience

Although two of the four main British television channels have discrete departments dedicated to producing and/or commissioning programmes for black minority viewers, the attitudes and beliefs of those putative viewers have never been canvassed in any systematic way.1 Unlike in the US, where concern over the representation of non-white Americans (see, for example, Fisler and Lowenstein 1968; Brasch 1981; MacDonald 1992; Dates and Barlow 1994; Campbell 1995; Wilson and Gutierrez 1995; hooks 1996; Dennis and Pease 1997; Gandy 1998) provoked a number of studies into the views of minority communities (Fife 1987; Gray 1989, 1995; Ziegler and White 1990; Jhally and Lewis 1992), private and piecemeal public protest among black minority viewers in Britain has not been followed by institutional concern. The research project on which this chapter is based, therefore, represents an unprecedented exploration of a great diversity of black minority voices articulating a variety of views on the ways in which ‘race’ and ethnicity are represented, but whose views nonetheless cohere in consensus around a number of highly significant and important aspects of black minority representation. While black actors and performers have been given some space to articulate their views and experiences in the past (see, for example, Pines 1992), those of the more ‘ordinary’ black minority viewer have scarcely been listened to, let alone acted upon. It is thus precisely the fact that these viewers’ opinions have at last been canvassed that makes the study on which this chapter is based so interesting and important – this is cutting edge.

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