A new study about the media representation of minorities in Hungary

By • on July 1, 2011

Borbála Tóth’s study has been recently published in Budapest by the Center for Independent Journalism as a part of the international project „Multicultural Europe in Media”. It focuses on the largest of minorities, and analyses the representation of the Roma in society at large as well as in the media. In addition to listing and evaluating the programmes, campaigns and projects for Roma integration, the researcher also conducted a survey on how minority issues are covered by media outlets (including the presence or absence of ethical guidelines or of a codex for dealing with minorities, or whether the employment of  Roma people is part of their recruitment policy or not). I asked Borbála Tóth about the results of her survey and the media representation of her published study.


Gy.R.: Why did you choose the Minorities in the Hungarian Media as the topic of your study?

B.T.: I have been interested in the media representation of minorities in the Hungarian media for a while. When the Center for Independent Journalism asked me to make a research on this topic, I was happy to join the project. The study entitled „Minorities in the Hungarian media – Campaigns, projects and programmes for intergration” (see http://www.cij.hu/hu/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/toth-b-kisebbmedia-web-eng_final.pdf) was born under the framework of Multicultural Europe in the Media (for more information see: http://www.tuningintodiversity.eu/about/mem/) in collaboration with Mira Media, and supported by the Royal Netherlands’ Embassy in Budapest and the European Commission’s „Fundamental rights and citizenship programme”. The study’s aim was to present the current situation of minorities – in this context that of the immigrants, asylum seekers, national and ethnic minorities – and to list those media programmes that might have fostered the integration of these groups.


Gy.R.: What method did you chose and how long have you been researching your topic?

B.T.: We have basically done an overview of the existing literature, introducing the demographic background of minorities, the (old and new) legal context of covering news items related to minorities and enlisted major projects that involved the media in order to enhance the integration of immigrants, asylum seekers, national and ethnic minorities. We started to work in the summer of 2010, and the study was presented in February 2011.


Gy.R.: How much publicity has your study gained in the Hungarian media?

B.T.: Not much. The public was more concerned with the changes induced by the new media acts. But a study like this is more important for researchers and non-profit organizations then for the wider public.


Gy.R.: What role does the public media play in the Roma integration in Hungary?

B.T.: Public media outlets are legally obliged to produce programmes for the acknowledged national and ethnic minorities, thus for the Roma as well. Hungarian Television (MTV) regularly broadcasts programmes for these groups, most of them produced by members of these minorities. These programmes are aired in the early morning hours or in the afternoon. The daily audience share of MTV is significantly lower than that of national commercial television channels (see http://adattar.nmhh.hu/agb/nezettseg/201010, table entitled „Terrestrial broadcasters monthly audience share (SHR%), population above age of 4”), supposedly it is even lower early in the morning and in the afternoon. No matter what quality programmes MTV produces for the minorities, they can reach only a small portion of the society, but even if they reached the whole society, the effect of media programmes would be unpredictable.

The award-winning Mundi Romani (see http://www.mundiromani.com/) of Duna Television earned international attention due to its high-quality porgrammes.


Gy.R.: What role does the commercial media play in the Roma integration?

B.T.: During the study we conducted a non-representative survey among some editors and journalists working for various media outlets. We wanted to know whether these media outlets have any codes of conduct on how to cover topics related to minorities, and whether they employ members of the aforementioned minorities in their editorial boards. The answers indicated that the respondents did not really consider these questions important and previous interviews conducted by Lídia Balogh show that the media outlets are satisfied with their performance related to the representation of the ethnic groups (link in Hungarian-  http://www.foldresz.hu/sites/default/files/Foldresz2009_3-4_Balogh.pdf).

The findings of these studies (for instance those of Gábor Bernáth and Vera Messing in 1998) conducted on the media representation of the Roma in the Hungarian media indicate that the Roma are depicted in connection with their conflicts and problems, without any representation of the context –namely, the socio-economic situation of the Roma. What is even worse is that some media outlets are even „ethnicising” the news items: highlighting the ethnicity of the actors of a news item (see the report of ORTT) – no matter if this fact has any news value or not.

In general, one should not expect a solution from the media when it comes to Roma intergration. When the majority of the society looks down at the Roma as a negative reference group, one single programme cannot change pulbic opinion. All they can do is focus the majority’s attention to the issue.


Gy.R.: In which ways can campaigns, projects, and programs help the integration? Please give me some details about the most positive example from the last year.

B.T.: It is difficult to asses the effect of one single programme. A conference, a concert, an exhibition, a documentary in and by itself will not change the beliefs of a person, but keeping the topic on the agenda might emphasize the importance of these issues.


Gy.R.: Can you see changes from the perspective of the Roma integration and the media representation of Roma minorities in the context of the new media law?

B.T.: The new media regulation will be fully enforced from July 1, 2011, the restructuration of the public media has not been completed yet, and thus their consequences are unpredictable.