From the Field: Who Is this “We” in the Media Programs? Public Service Broadcasting in a Superdiverse Society
Keywords:migration, diversity work, media diversity, WDR, journalism, affect, public service broadcasters, superdiversity
How do the German public service media respond to a society that is growing more diverse by the day? What ambivalences and affective reactions arise in connection with diversity strategies in the media, and what role could the media play in the changing social picture? The paper examines these questions regarding examples from the German public service broadcaster, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) in the context of migration.
Continuing migration has made Germany a truly “superdiverse” society (Vertovec & Wessendorf, 2005; Vertovec, 2007): one-third of the people in the broadcasting area of the WDR and almost half of those under the age of 18 have a “migration background” (either migrated themselves or at least one parent). This plurality is however often represented in a fragmented, sometimes belated, or even contradictory manner in the institutions, including the media. “Diversity work” (Ahmed, 2012; 2019) encompasses a set of measures that aim at addressing the lack of representation in the broadcasters’ workforce and content, but it is also a site where in the practice an array of ambivalences arise, especially when it comes to the concrete possibilities of institutional change. To what degree can such strategies answer the challenges of newsroom work and open spaces for multiperspectivity and alternative representations? Or is a new reflection on the speakers’ positions necessary? And, who exactly is this “we-position” in media work when “we” can no longer be defined along the lines of the nation state? The paper argues that, as spaces of representations of the social totality (Hall, 1977), the public service media, with their remit of addressing the whole society, have the possibility of redefining their role and offering articulations of belonging that correspond to the conditions of life in a society of many identities.
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