Sikkuy Launches New and Improved Arab Media Representation Index
Exactly one year ago, with support from the New Israel Fund, Sikkuy launched the “Arab Media Representation Index” which, for the first time, measured the participation of Arab citizens (or lack of their inclusion) in mainstream Hebrew public affairs radio and television programmes.
Sikkuy unsurprisingly discovered that Arab citizens are almost totally excluded from leading programmes and rarely invited as interviewees or as commentators. They also confirmed that interviews with Arab citizens on these programmes were usually on topics related to the “conflict” or other negative issues. Arab experts on subjects of general societal interest (economics, art, business, culture, health, hi-tech, etc.) were almost never seen or heard, thus contributing to the general impression that Arab citizens were not stakeholders in the public discourse in Israel.
Sikkuy’s goal in publicising the data was to use it as a “carrot and stick” to encourage the mainstream Hebrew media to begin to include Arab citizens in their broadcasts as a shared space where Jews and Arabs could have a positive encounter.
Thanks to the weekly publication of the data, which in turn generated competition between the leading television and radio programmes, the number of Arab interviewees and the range of topics they speak on has gone up significantly.
But this was only the beginning. Many leading programmes still largely exclude Arab interviewees and as a result these programmes present a distorted and discriminatory perspective on Israeli society which has more than 1.5 million Arab citizens. Sikkuy determined that the index needed to be an ongoing tool for maintaining the pressure on the media decision-makers in Israel to advance inclusion and diversity.
Sikkuy have renewed and improved collaboration with the Seventh Eye as the primary publicist of the expanded Arab Media Representation Index on their Hebrew website. The upgraded index also tracks new areas like popular business and finance programmes as well as the composition of the panels of experts on the three main weekend television news programs. They are encouraging these high-rating television news programmes to include Arab experts as regular participants on their broadcasts and are proud to announce that Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Communications is now a partner in the project.
Sikkuy will continue the struggle for fair, equal and balanced representation of Arab citizens in the media as a basic right of Arab citizens to be seen and heard and as the vital interest of the Jewish population as well, to see and hear their Arab neighbours as equal participants in the public discourse.
In response to requests by the main Hebrew media outlets for assistance in finding Arab interviewees on a wide range of topics, Sikkuy also participated in the development of an on-line database of Arab experts, the “A-List”. The database, initiated by ANU in cooperation with Sikkuy, includes almost 200 Arab experts from every relevant field, many of whom are now regular and “in-demand” guests on the targeted radio and television programmes.