Adventures in Media Literacy

Media and Disrespect

Disrespect of different racial and ethnic groups in the media is still prevalent, in spite of many societal advances in civil rights. For instance, minorities have been under-represented in television programming, however this has changed since the 2000 public outcry of this issue. Still, Hispanics are still not proportionately represented. Often, when minorities are represented in television entertainment, it is in secondary or peripheral characters, such as maids.

TV news often presents a biased view towards minority neighborhoods. Applying the adage, “if it bleeds, it leads,” the predominant news coverage of inner-city neighborhoods is about violence. This is true in Boston, where the crime rate in the city has steadily decreased over the last 10 years.

A 2000 study by the FCC found that there was bias among advertisers in placing ads in radio markets that have ethnic or racial programming. Advertisers have used what they called “minority discounts” to minority focused media, paying less than the going rate.

Rap music videos that portray minorities often use violence and crime as story lines. These images often show men as perpetrators of violence, and women as victims. Rap music images are not accurate, and continue myths about minorities.

By not accurately portraying minorities, the media contributes to perpetuating myths about ethnic groups within society. These myths may contribute to the lack of voice within minority communities and the level of services they receive.

Media literacy poses important questions:

1. If the media is dependent on police for a steady stream of violent crime stories, is the media more reluctant to investigate police wrongdoing, for fear of 'biting the hand that feeds' it?

2. Does a misrepresentation of minorities in video games and TV promote an inaccurate perception of people of different races?

3. Are there groups who have little voice in society because of the way they are portrayed in the media?

For more information, please check out these links:

“TV News: What Local Stations Don’t Want You to Know” Greg Byron, 1977.

“Latinos Still Scarce on TV” Reuters, February 26, 2003.

“When Being No. 1 Isn’t Enough,” FCC Civil Rights Project, 2000.

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