Cultural Diversity in Media

Cultural diversity is certainly a largely shared value. But it is understood in various ways and it does not have the same meaning in Canada, Europe, Brazil, the Middle East or China. Global culture is following the path opened by economic globalisation. It usually evokes superficial consumer products, and is often perceived as a threat to national and local cultures. The acceptance of universal individual and collective rights could be seen as a positive outcome of the globalisation process. If the universalisation of human rights is to be promoted, it appears to most experts that cultural diversity is a collective heritage that must also be protected. However, it has to be recognised, at the same time, that cultural vitality also depends on contacts with other cultures. Interchanges should be encouraged to maintain the dynamism of different cultures. In this respect, to ensure cultural development, openness is as much needed as protection.

Fostering cultural diversity in and through the media can go a long way toward bringing a civic discourse which favors tolerance and facilitates co-existence. It can contribute to the breaking down of cultural barriers, the initiation of cultural dialogues, the empowerment of marginalized groups, and the practice of good governance. The celebration of difference does not preclude the valuation of a common cultural core or a common humanity which brings people together in spite of their differences.

Cultural diversity has become a major concern also for journalism. News media are increasingly expected to recognize multiple ethnic constituencies and to take measures to represent these constituencies more strongly in the news agenda, the newsroom‘s workforce, and the audience. Common among these measures are initiatives to recruit more minority media professionals; to train reporters to be more sensitive to cultural differences; and to produce special programs or publications targeting minority audiences.

Whereas calls to bring cultural diversity into the news media can be heard across national contexts, they are not always justified and implemented in the same way.

We have access to the media almost every day by surfing the net, reading newspapers and magazines, watching television and by listening to the radio.

In today’s era of information technology, media has a deep impact on how we think and react. The mainstream or commercial media often portray multicultural issues in a less prominent manner. Or often these issues are completely ignored. Often their stance seems to be ‘If you are different, you don’t exist’. But worse still is when people from certain races are stereotyped. Every young Asian is turned into a gangster or a drug dealer, every young lady wearing a scarf over her head is ‘a damsel in distress’ suppressed and harassed by a chauvinist Islamic husband. And of course, every Muslim on the street is a potential terrorist!

In conclusion, media’s role in modern society is unchallenged. What we need however is socially responsible media. We need media that can, and I quote from the SBS mission statement, “contribute to a more cohesive, equitable and harmonious global society.”

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