After one year, index sees increase in media representation ...
After one year, index sees increase in media representation of Arab citizens
In early 2016, Sikkuy and the Seventh Eye Magazine launched the Arab Media Representation Index, a project to enhance the frequency and diversity of Arab representation in Hebrew media in Israel. According to project leaders, "the media shapes the way [Jews and Arabs in Israel] perceive each other and becomes a central element that can either create escalation or contribute towards creating a shared and equal society. For many years, [Hebrew] media has excluded Arab citizens or has represented them in a negative manner, thus negatively affecting the fabric of Jewish Arab relations."
In a conference in April, Sikkuy, the Seventh Eye Magazine and Tel Aviv University presented the marked increase in representation already in effect after only one year of the project's existence, and examined ways to maintain and continue this increase.
According to data gathered over the year, in the first months of 2016 only 3-4% of interviewees in 19 mainstream Hebrew news programs were Arab. By December 2016, however, that percentage rose to 6%. In addition, while in early 2016 only around 30 Arabs a month were interviewed as experts in their field (not necessarily on issues related to Arab citizens specifically), this number gradually rose to more than 100 experts per month by the summer.
To encourage an increase in representation, the Arab Media Representation Index used "a little bit of carrot and a lot of stick." Over the course of the year, the data gathered about Arab representation was published each in the Seventh Eye Magazine, acknowledging programs and journalists that included diverse and relatively frequent representation of Arab speakers on their shows, and shaming, or publicly identifying networks and shows that did not. The Index also engaged the media outlets, and provided resources to aid the process of finding relevant interviewees and guests—namely the A-List, an online database of over almost 200 Arab experts, that was launched by ANU in cooperation with Sikkuy.
In total, average representation of Arabs in the mainstream Hebrew media rose throughout 2016 from 2.5% to 3.5%, a 1% increase overall. According to the organizers "this is still a terribly low number that presents us with an ongoing challenge: to continue to criticize, and to compliment when necessary, so as to remind those journalists who get up in the morning and need to decide who to interview and who to show – that they should be making a little more effort to give a more appropriate representation to a fifth of the population."
At the April conference, a number of journalists from media programs that excelled in Arab representation spoke about the importance they see for this issue, as well as the difficulties they have encountered along the way. Arab media experts spoke about the effects of exclusion of Arab in the Hebrew media, which risks turning Arab citizens into "strangers" in the eyes of the Jewish mainstream. Sikkuy and Seventh Eye representatives spoke about the success of their strategy plans to continue to enhance the presence of Arab interviewees and experts in the future.