March 30, 2005

Racism on Israeli TV

From Sephardic Heritage Update:

White power: Study of prime-time TV programming reveals secular, veteran Israeli men of European descent rule the screen

By Raz Shechnik

We hear much about how the racism that propelled the founders of Israel has become a thing of the past.  Guess again.

Israel is home to multiple ethnicities and religions, but you would never know it by watching local television shows. A recent study paints a bleak picture of deep-seated bias in the depiction of minorities on the small screen. 

Jewish, secular men of Ashkenazi (European) descent dominate prime-time programming, according to the study. Meanwhile, Jews of Middle Eastern origin are likelier to be associated with crime, violence, and poverty than Ashkenazi Jews. 

Professors Eli Avraham of University of Haifa and Anat First of Netanya College analyzed various programs, including newscasts, talk shows, game shows and dramas for about a year for the study, commissioned by Israel’s Second Broadcasting Authority. 

Their conclusion is that Israel’s minority groups, namely Arabs, Ultra-Orthodox, and new immigrants, have become virtually extinct when it comes to TV appearances. 

Women mostly appear in cooking, lifestyle shows

Meanwhile, women and Israelis of Middle Eastern origin did appear on television occasionally, but to a much lesser extent than their percentage in the population warrants. 

On another front, women tended to be featured in cooking, fashion and lifestyle shows. Settlers were also largely absent from the local television scene, with the exception of news programs.

The study found new immigrants played a central role in only 21 news items during the year, while 1,626 items focused on veteran Israelis. Ethiopian immigrants fared particularly poorly, with only three items focused on them. 

This trend was also seen on talk shows, with guests likely to be veteran, secular Israeli Jews, mostly of European descent. The same pattern held true for game show participants. 

When it came to dramas, 99 percent of characters were Jewish. The only non-Jew to make an appearance on one of the shows was a foreign worker. 

Meanwhile, 20 percent of the Arabs appearing on news shows were presented as holding provocative views, compared to only 5 percent of the Jews.

Moreover, while most newscasters and hosts tended to be Ashkenazi males, minority group members were often cast in the role of “the man on the street.”

‘Things would have to change’

Second Broadcasting Authority Director-General Moti Sklar said he does not intend to ignore the study’s findings. He likened the situation to an owner of a major road who decides to only allow brand new vehicles to travel on it. 

Sklar said the study confirmed an already present gut feeling. 

“Television stations only give expression to a very particular segment within Israeli society,” he said, and added things would have to change. 

“You cannot create a democracy, particularly in a country with so many schisms, when principal groups are not part of the discourse,” he said.

From Ynet News, March 13, 2005

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