The Institute for Strategic Dialogue launched a new report on Friday on the way Muslims are covered in the media in the UK and Germany. It was sparked by concerns that the growth of specialist media – especially that aimed specifically at Muslims – could lead towards the development of parallel media societies. It involved focus groups with journalists in both mainstream and specialist/Muslim media, focus groups with media consumers (Muslims and non-Muslims), and a survey of media consumers in the UK and Germany.
The key findings were:
- There is no such thing as a parallel media society in terms of news and current affairs coverage. Both Muslims and Muslims still rely on a small number of mainstream media outlets for their news, and consumer roughly the same amount of current affairs from specialist outlets.
- Muslims rarely consume media on the basis of their religion or as a religious community – but they do, like other groups, rely on it for languages, diaspora links, and special interests.
- The Internet and social media are important for all groups, especially as a go to place to check media coverage from other sources.
- All groups believe that coverage of Muslims in the media is negative and stereotyped, but especially in Germany and among Muslims. Consumers were easily able to recall negative news stories about Muslims, but not positive ones.
- Journalists accepted that this negative portrayal was disproportionate to the balance of reality – but didn’t on the whole recognise that their own organisations were guilty of negative portrayal.
- Media consumers also feel that Muslims are underrepresented in the media, both in front of and behind the camera.
- There was broad agreement that the media – amongst other things – has an impact on community relations on the ground. It impacts on the perceptions of Muslims, relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, and sometimes real life events are affected.
- There is a need for critical media consumption – and also critical media production. This was recognised by both consumers and producers alike.
- But overall, most people felt that the media has the potential to have an enormously positive effect on community relations.
The research will be published along with a policy brief with detailed policy and practical recommendations in the next month or so. A further discussion event will be held in Germany in May. Get in touch if you would like more information about this project.