MEDIVA Third European Workshop


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European Workshop London, 23-24 April 2012

Venue: Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University

31, Jewry Street, London EC3N 2EY


The MEDIVA Workshop in London, 23 April 2012

The London workshop of MEDIVA presented the results of the MEDIVA Media indicators in Italy, Greece, Ireland, Poland, the UK and the Netherlands, assessing whether and to what extent specific media outlets (newspapers, TV stations, news web sites) reflect diversity and promote migrant integration in the surveyed European countries.

In particular the MEDIVA project pilot study implementing the indicators in the respective country contexts had assessed and presented the results from:

  • Italy on the newspapers: La Nazione, La Repubbica, Sole24Ore, Corriere della Sera and  TV: Rai TG3; 
  • Greece on the newspapers: Kathimerini, Eleftheros Typos, Proto Thema, the TV channels: MEGA and NET and the Web news site;
  • Ireland on the newspapers: The Irish Times, The Irish Independent; Metro Herald and TV: RTE News and TV3 News;
  • Poland on the newspapers: Gazeta Wyborcza, Rzeczpospolita; TV: Polsat, WTK; and, Radio: TOK FM;
  • UK on the newspapers: London Evening Standard, the Guardian and Morning Star [the evaluation of the BBC and the Telegraph was not completed at the time of the workshop]
  • The Netherlands on the newspapers: Algemeen Dagblad, De Volksant, Metro; TV: NOS Journaal, RTL Nieuws.


The event opened with a brief welcome by Sonia McKay, Professor in European Socio-Legal Studies at the Working Lives Research Institute and continued with a general presentation of the project by Iryna Ulasiuk, researcher from the MEDIVA coordinating team of the European University Institute (EUI) of Florence. Iryna Ulasiuk outlined the main sections of the MEDIVA website, notably the MEDIVA database, which includes studies on migration and diversity in seven European languages (English, Italian, German, Dutch, Greek, Bulgarian and Polish); the media ethics codes in the EU27; the MEDIVA thematic reports which analyse the content of the media in relation to migration related news, newsgathering and newsmaking practices, media recruitment and employment practices and, media diversity training. The thematic reports are based on the studies analysed in the database as well as materials taken from 68 interviews with senior journalists in Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK.

After this brief introduction, the main researchers for the case studies in Italy (Iryna Ulasiuk), Ireland (Franziska Fehr), Poland (Artur Lipinski) and the UK (Eugenia Markova) presented the results of the pilot studies assessing the media capacity in the respective countries to reflect diversity and promote migrant integration on the basis of the MEDIVA Indicators. The main researchers for Greece, Eda Gemi and for the Netherlands, Jessika TerWal, could not attend the workshop and the findings of their country studies were presented by Iryna Ulasiuk (presented the Greek case study) and Eugenia Markova (presented the Dutch case study).

The Italian pilot study assessed four newspapers, La Nazione, La Repubbica, Sole24Ore and Corriere della Sera and, one TV channel, Rai TG3. The Greek pilot study sampled three newspapers, Kathimerini, Proto Thema and Eleftheros Typos, two TV channels, Mega and NET and, one news web site, The Irish pilot study assessed five media outlets, three newspapers, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent and Metro Herald and, two TV news channels, RTE News and TV3 News. The Polish study assessed the newspapers Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita, the TV channels Polsat and WTK and, the Radio station TOK FM. The UK study assessed the newspapers London Evening Standard, the Guardian and Morning Star. The evaluation of the BBC and the Telegraph were still incomplete to be reported at the workshop. The assessment of the Dutch media study included the newspapers Algemeen Dagblad, De Volksant and Metro and, the TV channels NOS Journaal and RTL Nieuws.


The main findings presented can be summarised as follows:

  • The European media surveyed did not have specialised programmes or sections on migration related news nor specialised programmes concerning the countries of origin. They did not publish in migrant languages with the notable exception of the online edition of the Guardian, where main stories were available in other languages as well and the NOS public TV channel in the Netherlands, where remnants of niche programming for religious denominations in migrant languages in non-prime time slots existed.
  • Specialised journalists covering migration related topics were reported in the Dutch and the Greek media outlets surveyed. In Greece, these were not people who had received a special training but rather people who had acquired on-the-job training out of their personal interest. In the Netherlands, only quality newspapers had specialist reporters. In the other European countries in the sample, migration related topics were covered by the social, home affairs or criminal reporters.
  • Current economic crisis were pointed out as the main reason for the deteriorating situation in the media with regards to diversity issues (lack of specialised correspondents and diversity training).
  • Concerning news gathering, several sources were used by most of the media surveyed in the six EU countries and migrant sources were consulted. Nonetheless, there were very few examples of migrant voices being ‘heard’ in the media.
  • Overall, more negative than positive coverage of migration related stories was recorded. Neutral representation dominated the surveyed newspapers in the UK. Stigmatisation and lack of in-depth analysis characterised the migration stories in Greece and Italy. The news coverage of immigrants in Poland was extremely limited (eight items were published/broadcast by the media outlets in the sample period) explained by the low share of non-nationals in Poland’s population (less than 1%). The corresponding share of migrant related stories in the Netherlands was 12% (196 stories out of 1606), in the UK 91 stories were identified out of 4,008 sampled (2%) and in Greece, the figure varied between 1% and 2%; in Ireland, 2.87% of the surveyed news items related to migration. In Italy, stories on migration issues occupied a marginal place ranging from 0.58% to 1.47% of total news items.
  • There were general ethics codes in all the surveyed media outlets in Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands but almost none of them had any specific guidelines for treating migration related news and issues. Media outlets in all the surveyed countries however monitored for racist language and did not allow for racist and xenophobic statements. In one Greek newspaper only, Proto Thema, racist language was published in the name of freedom of expression.
  • There was a relatively high awareness of staff diversity among all media assessed in the UK and the Netherlands but not all had active recruitment measures in place to ensure that staff reflect the ethnic diversity of the recipient societies. There was no perception of discrimination but also very limited awareness that migrants did face glass ceilings and that they should be represented among media professionals in Greece, Italy and Ireland. There was an agreement among the surveyed Polish media that in a country with less than 1% of migrant population there was still no need for specific recruitment measures and outreach schemes. Outreach schemes were only applied by media outlets in the UK and the Netherlands.
  • With regards to diversity training, the only providers of such training were the public broadcasters in the Netherlands and the UK even though attendance was voluntary. There were no such schemes implemented by Irish, Greek, Italian and Polish media outlets.  

Workshop participants were asked to comment on the MEDIVA diversity indicators as a credible/reliable measure of diversity of any media outlet.

All agreed that it was very difficult to offer a stringent measure of media diversity. It would be hard to offer a universal tool either as it would depend on the type of media assessed, whether it is printed or audio-visual media as the use of image often proves a more powerful conveyer of messages than any words can achieve. Diversity indicators – it was suggested – had to consider on which page the migration story was published and if there was a picture or not.

Neil Ansell, MEDIVA liaison journalist for the UK, felt that it was hard to compare country to country diversity indicator results for two reasons - because there was a level of subjectivity in the rankings which meant that some of the researchers were applying more stringent criteria than others, and secondly, because of differences between the countries e.g. between the UK with a fairly large migrant community, and Poland which is still a major exporter of people and has very low levels of immigration.

He felt that the most useful figures of the diversity indicators related to the proportion of news stories which were deemed generally positive or neutral, rather than the raw number of news reports referencing migration. He gave an example with the media in the UK; the news outlets which probably run the most immigration related stories are the Mail and Express newspapers, yet their coverage is overwhelmingly negative. Invisibility i.e. being ignored by the media, is obviously unsatisfactory, but it becomes even more unsatisfactory if the media deal with the topic consistently from a negative perspective, as it develops a situation for the public in which the whole concept of migration has negative connotations.

Some expressed the need for a clear definition of what the figures for the indicators meant and the way each of the four levels was defined. When assessing the level of diversity of a media outlet, it was suggested that ethnic hierarchy is acknowledged and different criteria for different ethnic groups are constructed. There must be a common ground in terms of terminology between the EU countries.

Maria Delithanasi, a journalist from the Athens News Agency in Greece, suggested that the results from the pilot study would be very useful if converted into specialised media training in Europe about diversity and migration issues. She thought that this was the only way for journalists to be sensitised about these topics. She proposed the pilot study results to be officially presented to the Union of Journalists and to the editors-in-chief of the media outlets that were assessed. This may bring some changes in the way immigration and diversity issue are presented by the media.

Udo Enwereuzor (Centro d'informazione su razzismo e discriminazioniin Italy) suggested that the indicators would be a useful tool for their organization to decide who to give their annual ward for contributions to the fight against racism and discrimination.

Merim Tenev, a reporter for the Bulgarian TV+ channel, spoke of the need of quality journalism rather than the existence of codes of ethics in the media business. In Bulgaria, the media did not provide the right information and immigration issues were still not recognized. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee attempts to push the issue up on the agenda.

Catherine Reilly, a freelance journalist from Ireland spoke of journalists who were distant from the immigrant communities they were writing about. Journalists did not socialize with migrants thinking that they were unreachable. Language issues were the main barrier for migrant employment in the media.

Specialised migration correspondents were missing from the Irish media and their role was subsumed into social affairs. Their numbers were decreasing in Greece. Maria Delithanasi explained how she had been a special correspondent on migration issues for the Kathimerini newspaper in Greece for many years. Because of policy changes in the newspaper and the economic crisis, she was made redundant. In her new job – the biggest news agency in the country – she was told that her previous experience and knowledge of migration issues was not needed there.

The issue of “lazy” journalism emerged where articles published on migration were just responses to press releases, without prior research ‘on the ground’ and speaking to the migrant communities.

What is migration news? In Italy it was treated as any other news. For the news agencies, it involved large numbers of asylum seekers or immigrants, documented or undocumented. It was suggested that stories of excluded communities must be brought into the picture and make the news. A different news gathering approach was needed. An alarming trend was identified in the UK media: current journalists were previous Public Relations workers.   

The question of diversity training was raised. James Rodgers, former BBC correspondent and a Senior Lecturer in International Journalism at the London Metropolitan University, expressed concerns that for those journalists who had done the job for many years, it was quite difficult to teach them how to report on diversity and immigration issues. A change of mentality was needed for the ‘veteran’ journalists as they would normally feel defensive to be taught the job they have already been doing for a long time. 


The MEDIVA Workshop in London, 24 April 2012

Visits to the BBC International News, Television Centre

On the question of diversity in the newsroom of the BBC News, the editor-in-chief explained that there is a great variety of nationalities; he was from New Zealand and many working there were from the closed-down language sections of the BBC World Service.



Visit to the BBC Diversity Centre, White City Building

The BBC Head of Diversity, Amanda Rice, introduced the Corporation‘s context of diversity management based on the BBC Royal Charter commitments (internal factor) and the relevant legislation together with the views of audiences and staff as external drivers for change. It was emphasized that the new Equality Act 2010 had simplified and strengthened the law on equality and diversity, and in particular, introduced a stronger public sector duty.   Face-to-face qualitative research and public attitude surveys are regularly conducted highlighting the audiences’ views of the BBC and in turn, help inform the direction of the programming. Regular surveys are conducted with staff to understand their experiences at work I line with the BBC commitment for providing a working environment that is ‘free from harassment, intimidation and unlawful discrimination’.



Amanda Rice presented the BBC Diversity Strategy for 2011-2015, outlining their plans for improving representation in the programme making. The results followed months of targeted research via workshops and consultations with the public, audience feedback and staff consultations. Specifically, the Strategy aims for a better range of visibility for ethnic, disabled and gay communities. Overall, it is built on five pan-BBC inter-dependent strategic equality and diversity objectives: to advance equal opportunities to diversify and develop the workforce and the senior leaders so that they better reflect their audience; to deliver high quality programming which reflects modern Britain accurately and authentically; to build o\in accessibility from the start when developing new products and services and ensuring sustainable and ongoing accessibility. Amanda Rice explained that the Diversity Department I responsible for the accessibility to the BBC by people of all abilities. The other two strategic objectives included: to connect with their audiences, including their underserved audiences using different methods to inform the quality and direction of the programmes. Each BBC division is required to develop a Diversity Action Plan which sets out how they will meet their objectives against the Diversity Strategy. Amanda Rice discussed the role of the Cultural Diversity Network (CDN) – a partnership of the main UK broadcasters, excluding Channel 5, and other media industry bodies- in improving on and off screen diversity across the broadcast and the wider creative media industry (The BBC is chairing the network this year). The CDN collects portrayal monitoring data that informs the BBC’s decisions about programming. In 2009, it conducted a snapshot analysis of the diversity of people represented on the UK television by age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Some of its findings included: men occupied double the screen time versus women; black and ethnic minority people represented 10% of the TV population compared with nearly 13% of the England’s population. Amanda Rice spoke of the data collection inside the BBC. She explained that they monitor the diversity of staff to ‘understand the make-up of the workforce and identify any barriers that may be affecting the recruitment, progression or experience of any group of staff.’ Historically, they have collected information at point of recruitment and via regular staff surveys on the age, gender, disability and ethnicity of their staff. They have recently introduced new categories of religion and belief, and on sexual orientation. They have recently conducted an internal staff census to update existing information and collect new information around the new monitoring categories. The BBC Executive reports in detail to the BBC Trust annually on how it is delivering equality for its staff.

The meeting ended with a question about diversity training. The BBC Head of Diversity, Amanda Rice, responded that such training was designed and delivered to senior managers but it was not compulsory for staff.