Ofcom: ‘Ethnic-focused services highly-valued’
November 3, 2021
By Colin Mann
TV channels and radio stations aimed at minority ethnic communities are highly valued by viewers and listeners, according to a new study published by UK broadcast regulator Ofcom, although certain content gives audiences cause for concern.
According to Ofcom, the report is the first of its kind. It spoke to more than 160 people from Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Black African and Arabic-speaking backgrounds to better understand how they think and feel about programmes that directly target their cultural or religious communities – and how their expectations differ from other mainstream channels and stations. Focusing primarily on its rules around harm, offence, hatred and abuse, it also asked participants what they expect from broadcasters, Ofcom and content regulation.
The people Ofcom spoke to told it how minority ethnic TV and radio services provide a sense of belonging, and help connect them with their cultural roots, faith and linguistic heritage. They also provide an opportunity for shared inter-generational family viewing.
But people also expressed unease around certain content, including:
- violent or graphic news coverage, which viewers observed was often looped throughout the day without warnings.
- aggressive, prejudicial or intolerant behaviour within current affairs discussion programmes, prompting concerns that such content could create tensions between communities and stifle open debate;
- depictions of violence and domestic abuse in soaps or dramas; and
- depictions of sexualised content.
Given these concerns, people felt it was important for broadcasters to take steps to protect audiences from harm and offence – such as appropriate scheduling to protect children, providing clear and relevant warnings, or signposting to support networks or organisations.
Engaging with minority ethnic audiences
Ofcom licenses around 2,000 television and radio services – ranging from the Public Service Broadcasters (such as the BBC and Channel 4) to smaller community radio stations and TV channels aimed at particular communities or religions.
Complaints are dealt with by Ofcom’s Broadcast Standards team, which includes content specialists from a range of ethnic backgrounds who speak multiple languages. Over the last few years, Ofcom has significantly expanded its capacity to translate and analyse content broadcast on smaller channels and stations aimed at specific ethnic communities, but accepts that it has more work to do.
“We will use today’s report to drive greater awareness of Ofcom and our role in protecting audiences among minority ethnic communities, so people can feel confident in their ability to raise concerns with us in the first place,” it confirms.