Catherine Murray

Study advocates stronger links among ethnic media

December 5, 2007

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By Julie Ovenell-Carter

A new SFU study praises B.C.’s thriving multicultural media for helping immigrants adapt to Canadian society, but recommends stronger connections between ethnic news services to improve intercultural understanding and collective citizenship.

Catherine Murray, a researcher in SFU’s Centre for Policy Studies on Culture and Communities, says the study, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Media in B.C., “awards high marks to ethnic media for helping their audiences bridge  ‘here’ and ‘home’.

“But given that B.C. has one of the highest rates of immigration and cultural change in the country, we urgently need to promote stronger links between the various linguistic and cultural groups.”

(“Ethnic media” refers to media produced in languages other than English, French or Aboriginal languages, or produced in English for audiences immigrating or descended from communities where other languages are in the majority.)

With support from the Department of Canadian Heritage, Murray’s team tracked a random sub-sample of 144 Vancouver-based media outlets in 22 languages over a representative month.

Among their findings:

•    Ethnic media offer balanced geographical coverage of international and local news, but little national or provincial news

•    Ethnic media are better than English-language media at covering so-called “news you can use” stories about social and cultural policies, immigration laws and regulations, healthcare and education

•    There are vast linguistic and racial divides: headlines reflect very different news priorities among the ethnic communities, and Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi, or Korean media in particular include little cross-cultural reporting in their news coverage

•    International news relevant to B.C.’s ethnic communities is thin in English-only media

•    B.C.’s ethnic media market is large and competitive: nine new newspapers launched during the study period (Sept.-June  2007), and a third of all ethnic media outlets were started since 2000. Korean and Iranian print media are the fastest-growing sector of the industry

•    Co-ventures on news exchanges between ethnic and English media are increasing

•    Multicultural reality is either under- or misrepresented in B.C.’s English-only media

The study recommends independent monitoring of ethnic media news coverage during the next federal and provincial elections to establish whether or not citizens have access to enough high-quality news to make informed decisions.

It also advocates the creation of a code of practice on intercultural reporting by industry, community and media leaders and improved government distribution of translated information and advertising across ethnic media.
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