Dublin City University / MEDIVA Event on 22 May
The Future of Diversity in Irish Media
Panel Discussion and Launch of Research Report
On May 22nd DCU/ MEDIVA organised a half-day event to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development and to discuss the future of diversity in Irish media in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. The programme for the day included the launch of the DCU/MEDIVA report on diversity training as well as a panel discussion and Q&A session with a number of experts from the Irish NGO and media sector.
Over the last decade the face of Ireland and the composition of its population have changed significantly, and today the diversity of people living in Ireland is greater than ever. The event aimed to address how the media sector in Ireland and Europe is able to appropriately reflect an increasingly diverse society and, whether media organisations and their outlets are able to promote a more inclusive society and foster a better understanding of immigrant integration processes, especially at a time when social cohesion and integration policies are put to the test by an acute economic crisis.
The event was organised to bring together a number of experts from different backgrounds to discuss who are the key stakeholders and actors for the future of diversity in Irish media and what role would they have to play during this transformation process? At the event the question was raised what NGOs, academic institutions, representative bodies and media organisation can do to work together towards a more diverse society in Ireland.
The event was opened by Prof Paschal Preston who is the head of the Irish MEDIVA team at DCU. He welcomed all participants and especially keynote speaker Prof Peadar Kirby who formally launched the MEDIVA report on diversity training. In his opening speech Peadar Kirby urged Irish media organisations to embrace ethno-cultural diversity in Ireland and raised concerns about the danger that diversity might be seen as a “luxury” in times of severe recession. He also criticised that European leaders were showing a disturbing complacency about the rise of the political ultra-right which was exploiting racism.
In the following the authors Dr Neil O’Boyle and Franziska Fehr from DCU presented the findings of the MEDIVA thematic report on diversity training and a number of recommendations that targeted media organisations, media professionals, journalistic bodies and also institutions of journalism education.
The second half of the event was striving to facilitate a dialogue between different actors of the media/ NGO sector and to bring together people from different backgrounds that deal with ethno-cultural diversity, the media and intercultural issues on a regular basis. The panel speakers came from a broad spectrum of a number of NGOs that work in the field, intercultural media outlets, community and mainstream media as well as representatives of ethnic minorities in Ireland:
- Ebun Akpoveta, EPIC, member of RTE Audience Council
- Eric Yao, CEO, The Africa Centre
- Yolanda Kennedy, Associate External Relations Officer, UNHCR
- Grace Wilentz, Intercultural Coordinator, Near Media Co-op
- Mariaam Bhatti, Culture Shots project, Near FM
- Chinedu Onyejelem, Editor of Metro Éireann
- Jamie Smyth, Ireland correspondent with Financial Times
- Mick Clifford, journalist with Irish Examiner, and Sunday Times columnist
Each panellist was invited to speak for about 10-15 minutes about their field of expertise and their experience and viewpoint of media and diversity in Ireland.
Ebun Akpoveta talked about her experience as member of the RTE audience council and criticised that ethnic minorities are often not considered as significant section of the audience. She also raised issues of stereotyping and misrepresentation of ethnic minorities in Irish media, and talk about the impact this can have on the public.
Eric Yao presented some of the work of the Africa Centre and also talked about negative representations, especially of the African continent. He introduced the Africa Centre’s campaign “Africa also Smiles” that was launched to tackle existing misperceptions.
Yolanda Kennedy of the UNHCR spoke about general issues in terms of cooperation and communications between the different media organisations, NGOs or Civil Society Organisations and members of the migrant communities. She also presented a guide on reporting on asylum seekers and refugees that was produced by the UNHCR, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the National Union of Journalists.
Grace Wilentz introduced Near FM’s intercultural programme “Culture Shots” and their related training course. She gave a detailed overview of the activities and topics covered in the course and the following programme. Mariaam Bhatti, one of the participants of the programme, then gave a very interesting insight about her personal experience as a forced labourer in Ireland and talked about how the course and programme had given her a chance to voice her opinion.
The three journalists Chinedu Onyejelem, Jamie Smyth and Mick Clifford then commented on the topic and various issues that had been raised by the other speakers from their own perspective and experience. Chinedu Onyejelem explicitly made the point that journalists should not act as diversity champions or critics and that their task is not to promote diversity/ He rather thought their job is to tell balanced, informed stories that (re)present all sides in a more complex way, in order for simplified or stereotypical representations to be counter-balanced.
Mick Clifford pointed out that immigration history (of the respective country) matters. He described his own experience of being an immigrant himself and, while not wanting to make excuses for Ireland, did stress that the big influx of migrants was still rather "new".
The following lively discussion and Q&A session with the audience was led by Dil Wickremasinghe (presenter of Global Village, Newstalk).