ECMI report online: Media in transition call upon new research

Illustration by GettyImagesMinorities, Media and Intercultural Dialogue: Opportunities and Challenges identifies new research areas in the context of media transition and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The report is now online.

Plenty of issues are presented in a new report by the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) in Flensburg. The issues originate in the ongoing media transition, and the question: how does the ongoing transition affect the promotion of ‘intercultural dialogue’?

The report is the result of a seminar that took place at the ECMI headquarters in January. A media and minority professionals’ forum of around 15 experts attended the seminar.

Read also: Seminar:“Minorities, Media and Intercultural Dialogue” on 18-19 January in Flensburg.

Integration of minorities or of right wing cultures?

The report reflects the expert forum’s answers to questions like, what is the “…role of the media in promoting intercultural dialogue?”

Naturally, this question leads to some more preliminary questions. The preliminary questions are also included in the report. They can probably be paraphrased like

“What makes a dialogue a dialogue?”
“How can one know that a dialogue is not just two or more monologues?”
“What makes a culture culture, so that it qualifies to join an ‘intercultural dialogue’?”

’Intercultural dialogue‘ is a concept contained in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM). This is why it is at stake for the expert forum altogether. The FCNM obliges the state parties to take action, and “… encourage … intercultural dialogue and take effective measures to promote mutual respect and understanding … in particular in the fields of … the media.” (Article 6(1))

However, this contextualizes more issues raised by the expert forum. The issues can be paraphrased like:

“If the purpose of ’intercultural dialogue‘ is stability, does dialogue actually work?”
“Does the absence of ‘intercultural dialogue’ necessarily lead to instability?”
“If the purpose of ‘intercultural dialogue’ is integration, should the target of efforts be right wing cultures, rather than ’old minorities‘ cultures’ relations to ’old majority cultures?’
“Does ‘intercultural dialogue’ rather lead to assimilation?”

Game change by media in transition

“In spite of all the questions, there is a growing consensus that ‘intercultural dialogue’ leads to more harmonious relations between different cultures,” explains Dr Federica Prina.

As the head of ECMI’s Culture & Diversity Cluster, she is the conveyor of the expert forum and also its rapporteur. This positive approach to ‘intercultural dialogue’ is also the FCNM’s approach.

When the media are considered important, it is because they are important channels for ‘intercultural dialogue’. They provide spaces where the positive effects of ‘intercultural dialogue’ may manifest themselves. When the media undergo radical change due to digitalization, social media, globalization and more, what happens to intercultural dialogue? All the issues raised by the expert forum can probably be distilled to one main question: Do the changes promote or prevent ‘intercultural dialogue’?

According to Dr Prina the changes that affect the media environment are “ongoing as we speak” and the experts are in many cases discussing moving targets. Among the changes that could lead to either promoting or preventing the positive role of the media are:

  • The partial convergence of public service and private broadcasters
  • The Google algorithm’s promotion of user “narcissism”
  • Multiplex providers emerging and becoming intermediary
  • The policy effects of the current DNS regulation
  • New media promoting user ghettoization
  • The de-territorialization (digitalization) of radio and TV broadcasters
  • Market driven censorship (Google etc.)
  • Private enterprises’ control of audiences
  • Unfolding consequences of media spaces that are unregulated by governments
  • Web 2.0 developing two-ways media communication
  • Linguistic homogenization (English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese)

Suggested interventions and more knowledge

The report and the expert forum suggest a number of interventions to be made in order to safeguard intercultural dialogue and to protect minorities. However, according to Dr Prina, there are many new and emerging research areas hidden behind the bullet points that would benefit from further analysis. The overall question is:

If state parties of the FCNM take action in accordance with the convention, and “… encourage … intercultural dialogue … in the fields of … the media”, what measures are indeed effective?

Knowledge will nourish ECMI’s indicators’ project

ECMI has initiated a project to develop impact indicators for the FCNM and the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (ECRML). ECMI has already devised intercultural indicators in the past.

This project is instrumental in assessing states’ actions, including in the area of ‘intercultural dialogue’; state reports for the FCNM and ECRML are often superficial and at times anecdotal:

“While actions undertaken by states are listed, there is a general absence of evaluation of their impact,” says the report.

“Naturally, the results of new research could very well nourish ECMI’s indicators’ project”, explains Dr Prina.

Knowledge of what promotes and what prevents ‘intercultural dialogue’ in the media during the ongoing transition period will foster ECMI’s attempt to identify indicators. The indicators’ project is another ECMI research project, of which the question is:

How can the impact of the state parties’ interventions be measured?

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