Managing Super-Diversity on Television: The Representation of Ethnic Minorities in Flemish Non-Fiction Programmes

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Managing Super-Diversity on Television: The Representation of Ethnic Minorities in Flemish Non-Fiction Programmes


  • Koen Panis Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Steve Paulussen Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Alexander Dhoest Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Belgium


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Abstract:  This study examines and evaluates the representation of ethnocultural diversity in non-fiction TV programmes broadcasted by the Flemish (Belgian Dutch-speaking) public service broadcaster VRT in the 2016–2017 TV season. A qualitative content analysis of a sample comprising 36 clips and episodes of 14 non-fiction programmes was supplemented by four focus group interviews with a total of 12 participants belonging to different ethnocultural minorities. The findings suggest that despite several measures undertaken by the VRT, the representation of ethnocultural minorities is still unbalanced and biased in at least three ways: first, in presenting minorities as homogeneous groups rather than highlighting intragroup differences; second, in ‘typecasting’ people with a migration background thematically, i.e., for items on topics and issues related to their ethnocultural identity; and, third, in portraying and approaching minorities from a dominant group perspective. The article ends with the recommendation for public service media to further improve ethnocultural diversity in the workforce and to encourage their journalists and TV producers to reconsider their ‘professional pragmatics’ in order to increase their ethnocultural sensitivity and better manage the representation of super-diversity in their programmes.

Keywords:  ethnic minorities; ethnocultural diversity; super-diversity; media representation; public service media; television; non-fiction programmes

Published:   5 February 2019


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v7i1.1614


© Koen Panis, Steve Paulussen, Alexander Dhoest. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.