Broadcasting - in the new Ireland
Titley, Gavan and Kerr, Aphra and King O Riain, Rebecca (2010) Broadcasting - in the new Ireland. Broadcasting Authority of Ireland , National University of Ireland Maynooth.
The inward migration of the late 1990s and 2000s has changed the fabric of society in Ireland. It altered the composition of media audiences for Irish broadcasters, and raised questions as to how broadcasters discuss migration and related issues; incorporate new audiences into their programming; and deal with questions of media representation and production. Investigating the significance of media in a changing society demands a multi-layered approach to research. This two-year research project involved research interviews and surveys with media producers in public, commercial and community radio and television; in-depth qualitative research with Nigerian, Chinese and Polish research participants nationwide; and an analysis of media policy nationally and comparatively in Europe. Irish media channels – in all sectors – have responded to this changed social context through programming and a range of initiatives concerning multiculturalism, interculturalism, and diversity. Part 1 of this report discusses the background to these ideas in media policy, media theory and wider public debate, and provides a basis for interpreting and evaluating their use and significance in Ireland. It illustrates how these ideas must be understood as relatively open discourses shaped by their use in different contexts, rather than as set ideas or policy frameworks. The regular media use of Nigerian, Chinese and Polish participants discussed in Part 2 integrates local, Irish national, home-country national, diasporic and transnational channels. This daily integration is facilitated and limited by a range of material factors, notably newspaper circulation, access to terrestrial Irish media, and Internet access. This integration is an ongoing process influenced by language proficiency, length of time living in Ireland, orientations towards past experiences and future horizons, and cultural capital. Integrated media use involves relational viewing and engagement, in which Irish media and other sources are compared and contrasted, and organized in relation to each other according to different needs, political readings, and pleasures. A feature of daily, integrated media use is a fluid understanding of local/national/international media. International news featuring issues/ contexts of interest is often intimately evaluated, and frequently seen as being as consequential as representations of migrants in Ireland. The presence of UK-based media in the public sphere in Ireland relativizes what is understood as Irish media. For participants from countries as relatively large and regionally complex as Nigeria, China and Poland, the national horizons of Irish news were often understood as local or parochial, and the scope of international news as being similarly limited; Media monitoring and evaluation is more pronounced among Nigerian participants, however all focus groups discussed the assumed consequentiality of representations of migrants for their acceptance in Ireland. As well as having a responsibility to provide fair and accurate representation, many participants commented on the need for an increased plurality of sources, perspectives and foci in Irish media. This increased plurality was discussed in relation to news, and also the spectrum of general programming available on television. This understanding of diversity contrasted with the institutional idea of diversity underpinning some public service broadcasting. Programming dealing with multiculturalism – though frequently not primarily aimed at migrant audiences – was often not received and interpreted as such. This understanding of diversity does not preclude the importance attached by many discussants to seeing increased diversity of people on Irish television. Both mainstream Irish media and media aimed at national migrant populations in Ireland were felt not to represent the internal diversity and differences of migrant populations. Diasporic and transnational media are centrally important for many participants across the focus group streams, but not in obvious or predictable ways. News, lifestyle and fictional programming on these services are watched relationally and critically, and discussed according to a range of aesthetic, affective and political criteria. Much television use has migrated to Internet platforms, almost to the same extent as newspaper use. This shift is a part of the pervasive importance of Internet use for many participants. This viewing and listening was integrated into a range of other multimedia and communicative practices online. However Internet use is restricted for many by cost and opportunity, and for those with the means, by widely criticized connection speeds and coverage. RTÉ has engaged consistently with the need to develop relevant programming and institutional policies. Part 3 documents the development of policy; the shift in radio programming away from first-wave programmes – mainly aimed at representing migrant lives and experiences to a mainstream Irish audience – to a still evolving emphasis on integrating diversity into programming; the shift in television programming towards a reliance on hybrid reality formats to normalize multiculturalism for a national public audience Community radio has been an important medium and space for the development of migrant-produced programming, however the quantity and scope of this programming has declined in 2009, for a variety of reasons. Community television currently offers significant possibilities for both migrant-led programming and for the integration of a broad spectrum of perspectives and voices in media production TV3 and TG4 regard specific policies in this area as overly rigid and potentially counter-productive, and instead argue for an idea of diversity emerging organically from the scope and focus of their programmes on society in Ireland. The commercial radio sector is open to ideas and initiatives, however pragmatic concerns regarding economies of scale and the relationship between investment and return has meant that few such initiatives – or radio programmes – have been developed. Exceptions to this general trend are discussed in Part 3. International, comparative research would suggest that broadcasting in Ireland, particularly public service broadcasting, has reached a point where first-wave programming primarily aimed at mainstream audience understanding is no longer relevant, but where the challenge of developing more integrated approaches to programme development and media production – under the rubric of diversity – is only beginning to take shape. The overarching conclusion of this report suggests that this challenge involves a fundamental shift in considering how audiences, and the public, are composed. The recommendations of this report discuss different aspects of this challenge by building on issues raised in the audience research. In particular, the research emphasizes the need to focus as much on the diversity of genres, programmes, and perspectives broadcast as the more conventional idea of diversity as involving the representation of diverse identities. This important difference in emphasis raises critical questions concerning the current shift to frameworks of diversity as they are currently understood and practiced in the different broadcast institutions. The conclusions draw attention to the current and future importance of training and the active inclusion of minorities in programme development and production. While cognizant of the difficulties, pitfalls and political controversies surrounding such issues, research suggests a basic, if complex, relationship between the plurality of media workers and a plurality of perspectives. The recommendations aimed at broadcasters draw attention to a variety of ways that this could be done.
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