Understanding the expectations of minority ethnic audiences
Our job at Ofcom is to uphold standards on TV and radio on behalf of viewers and listeners of all backgrounds. To do that effectively, we need to understand how different groups and communities think and feel about the programmes they regularly watch and listen to – and what they expect from broadcasters, Ofcom and content regulation.
Alongside our broader audience expectations research and offensive language report, today’s study (PDF, 1.3 MB) is the first of its kind for Ofcom. It researches, in-depth, the particular expectations that minority ethnic audiences have of the TV channels and radio stations that directly serve them and their cultural or religious communities.
We were aware from our previous research that ethnic minority audiences’ expectations of these targeted, often smaller, services might be different to their expectations of other mainstream stations and channels. To understand this further, we spoke to more than 170 people from Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Black African1 and Arabic-speaking2 backgrounds, focussing primarily on our rules around harm, offence, hatred and abuse.
During the workshop sessions, participants told us that they themselves, and people they knew, considered channels and stations aimed at their communities as important to them. They told us these services provided a sense of belonging and connection with their cultural roots, and an important shared family viewing experience. But we also heard about their unease around certain content, including violence or graphic news programmes; depictions of violence and domestic abuse; sexualised material; and content that had the potential to damage community cohesion.
Despite these concerns, very few participants said they were likely to complain to Ofcom about anything they saw or heard on TV or radio. They also had limited awareness of Ofcom, or our role in regulating these services. Within Ofcom’s standards team, we have content specialists from a range of ethnic backgrounds who speak multiple languages. Over the last few years we have significantly expanded our capacity to translate and analyse the content broadcast on smaller channels and stations aimed at specific ethnic communities.
While today’s research is invaluable in furthering our understanding of ethnic minority audiences’ perspectives and expectations, we recognise we have more work to do. That is why we are also using the publication of this report to drive greater awareness of Ofcom among minority ethnic communities, so people can feel confident in their ability to raise concerns with us in the first place.
We will continue to work on our engagement with minority ethnic viewers and listeners in the year ahead and beyond, especially given perspectives and tolerances can change over time. We will also work to promote our research in this area with the services we licence – and will take full account of it in our day-to-day efforts to protect audiences – all audiences – from harmful content.
1 Black African participants were from Nigerian, Ghanaian, Zimbabwean and Ugandan backgrounds.
2 Arabic-speaking participants were from Algerian, Egyptian and Tunisian backgrounds.