Under Represented people in the Media

         The media continues to evolve into a very powerful entity. For some people it has either made them famous or inferior. The world today has reached a very high level of industrialisation. The internet, television, ever-expanding newspaper cooperation and radio contribute greatly to it. The media is very concentrated of late and dominated by just a small number of firms.

When we talk about underrepresentation, we take into account how certain groups of people are depicted. This is a powerful concept as it helps society form an understanding of people either in a positive light or it creates stereotypes. The media can sometimes victimise people and for some the seeking to shed off their stereotypes is difficult.

One group of people most often underrepresented in the media are women. For a very long time women have been objectified in the society. In as much as most women are engaging in very productive junctures, the very patriarchal society is intolerant of it. They are gazed on as images of beauty or objects of desire. In the job sector they are most often underpaid and also find it hard to vie for prestigious positions. Women who opt to be housewives for the good of their families on the other hand are seen as incapable and lazy individuals.

Another group of people the media under represents is disabled people. They are often ostracised because of their disability and always considered second best. Society is becoming more tolerant of same sex couples but their positive representation by the media is still few and far in-between. More so, when it comes to politics and turmoil in third world countries, they are often ignored by the main stream media.

Another group of people that are sometimes offensively represented by the media is the Romany gypsy community. Gypsy travellers are an estimate of 30,000 people with Romany gypsies forming 60 percent whilst ethically Irish traveller’s forms 10 percent. New traveller’s form 5% however these are people who have chosen to live their lives as travellers: Nomadic by choice. Roma gypsies form 15 percent and they tend to be darker skin and come from eastern European state. In all we are looking at a population of over 12 million people; bigger than Sweden and Denmark put together he reported.

Channel 4’s cutting edge documentary ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ watch by an estimate of nine million viewers prompted a backlash from the gypsy community.  The Guardian called it a platform for bigotry. Romany Journalist and broadcaster Jake Bowers stated it was a poor representation of his community. He also added that the continuous negative representation was one of the reasons he became a journalist.

Over the years, gypsies have always been portrayed negatively in the media. They have been stereotyped in literature as depicted in the ‘hutch back of Notre dame’ and in film as seen in ‘Snatch’. Channel 4 was rambled for presenting documentary as facts. Consequently, the programme added to the already existing stereotypes. This resulted in unprecedented consequences such as people losing their jobs and the encouragement of bullying in the play ground.

Representations like these for instance leaves the wider community confused as we are constantly bombarded with false information. Jake bowers during his visit to Coventry as the speaker for Coventry conversation said “the gypsy community is not a secretive one as everyone likes to think and most of us don’t live in caravans anymore”.

The media is however not all about spreading false information. As well as bringing our attention to the events happening around us, it presents us with facts and opinions. More so, Journalists are supposed to check their facts before reporting them and Reports needs to accurate and fair. Nonetheless, the images and representation should be in a positive light so that no group of people are left to feel inferior.

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My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding: Fact or Fiction?

Romany Journalist and broadcaster Jake Bowers dropped by at the Herbert Art Gallery on Friday the 4th, to give us an insight in to channel 4’s cutting edge documentary “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”

A programme watched by 9 million viewers with the statistics growing weekly has been a huge success the makers say and an American version is ‘in the pipe line.

More than two thirds of the audience who attended the presentation by show of hands believed they were watching a documentary as well as a true insight into the traveller’s community.

Mr Bowers started his presentation with an overview of who he is. I am a husband, a father, a brother and a friend he said.

He is also a Romany gypsy community member, a former presenter of BBC radio programme for the travelling community. He has contributed to the ‘Guardian’, the ‘independent’ and the ‘ecologist.’ He edits the Traveller’s Times and runs a Gypsy Media Company which aims to broadcast the real truth about gypsies.

Additionally, he gave an over view of who gypsy travellers are. They are an estimate of 30,000 people with Romany gypsies forming 60 percent whilst ethically Irish traveller’s forms 10 percent. New traveller’s form 5% however these are people who have chosen to live their lives as travellers: Nomadic by choice. Roma gypsies form 15 percent and they tend to be darker skin and come from eastern European state. In all we are looking at a population of over 12 million people; bigger than Sweden and Denmark put together he reported.

Over the years gypsies have always been portrayed negatively in the media. They have been stereotyped in literature as depicted in the ‘hutch back of Notre dame’ and in film as seen in ‘Snatch’ for example.

Press propaganda against this community hasn’t been any better. The continuous negative representation of his community is one of the reasons he became a journalist. He stated that he used to think he was the only Romani journalist but added there are three others now.

He reiterated the fact that the programme has been created having no experts from the gypsy community involved and a dress maker acting as spokes person is not in good taste.

Journalist Bowers described the programme as a sneering ‘mockumentary’ not journalism. The Tone and voice over did no justice to the documentary either. Young brides tripping and falling over on their wedding day was just disgraceful not to mention the wrong invited guests in attendance. He added: this is just ‘Trailer trash Flintstones’ showing an unbalanced representation and adding insult not insight.

Channel 4 defended themselves saying they didn’t create any new stereotype. Mr Bowers stated that they didn’t challenge the old ones either but have rather added to it and that was an utter heartbreak to his community. The added stereotype has resulted in unprecedented consequences such as people losing their jobs and also encouraged more bullying in the play ground.

He distastefully stated how his culture has been described as everything that glistens. This is clearly shown in the wedding and communion dresses deck in thousands of crystals. Anyone watching this programme would think we were all ‘loaded’ he said.

Grabbing, he strongly reaffirmed “is not a gypsy tradition. It is a blatant sexual that does not define who we are.” This is a programme that sexualises children, juxtaposes young gypsy girls as prostitute but with morals, women are presented as domestic slaves and their world is described as a man’s world.

He admitted that their attitude towards woman may not be up to date with the 21st century’s definition but describing their world as misogynistic one is deeply offensive.”

The gypsy culture he enlightened has its roots in India so it affects the way they dress and how they see women, however they do accord respect to their women. Eighty percent of the people used in the programme were Irish travellers and that is a poor presentation of Britain’s gypsies.

This programme has prompted a backlash from the gypsy community.  There has being a massive internet revolution and complaints to channel 4 as well as 175,000 facebook fans. The Guardian has called it a platform for bigotry and this resulted in a change of the sound track so that it was less mockery.

Channel 4 has been rumbled for presenting documentary as fact and this programme has prompted an unfinished business and the debate will still carry. The programme was entertainment and should have been clearly labelled as such he added.

Mr Bowers also mentioned that his greatest objection to the programme is not what was in it but rather what could have been in it. There are lots of untold story about the gypsy community. The programme could have looked at  Roma as the fastest growing community, the forced sterilisation of gypsy women, the educational segregation they experience, poverty, crime and also the trafficking of gypsies from Europe.

This programme has left some viewer genuinely surprised as well as fuelled more hatred. There is a great deal of debate going on about representation and non-gypsies are left confused. However the silver lining he sees, is the programme has granted his community a huge media attention.

He concluded that “being gypsy is not defined by life style but rather by bloodline. We have a language and an identity.

When asked if the gypsy community was a secretive one he boldly replied “no”. We are just like everybody else and we just want to live our lives. Most of us don’t live in caravans anymore he added.