My desire for diversity in the media is overwhelming. Time is running out and desire is burning. In a world this diverse, you would expect the media to reflect this. But even in 2023, I, like many other creators of color, still have to wonder: How much patience is expected of us? Isn't it astonishing that, 150 years after the abolition of slavery, there is still no real equality in the media? I experience the lack of this equality, both in creators and in content, as painful, very painful!
Although I feel my frustration, I realize that I am not in control, especially not in Hilversum. But there are bright spots. One of them is the TV Academy, an institute that has been dedicated to training people and providing genuine opportunities for 12 years. As a board member, I am proud of their efforts and determination to actually shape diversity in the media. They are not just talking, but are also concretely working to realize change. And that, in the midst of the struggle for representation, is where I draw hope and strength.”
View the Colorful Institute's website here
Diversity is gold dust
The TV Academy has taken up the challenge and is determined to bring about change. With their 12 years of experience and robust, high-quality training, they have laid the foundation for real change. But now it's time for a specific focus: diversity in its true form and meaning.
The TV Academy fills the gap in this regard. Diversity is no longer seen as a 'must' or an abstract concept, but as an essential tool for developing high-quality programs that appeal to the entire society. Diversity and quality are inextricably linked, as is evident from the word 'diversity'.
If we look at our society through this lens - or rather, this reality - we will see that Hilversum can undergo a metamorphosis. A place that actually becomes more diverse, richer, more tasteful, more attractive, more exciting and, yes, literally and figuratively more colorful. This means new stories told from within, delivered by the protagonists themselves. Stories and perspectives that may already be known within certain communities, but have not yet reached the national media. The TV Academy is committed to changing this and giving these essential stories a stage.
Why isn't this working yet?
Hilversum's media is largely led by a white perspective. If there are program makers of color, they are often in the shadows, not at the decision-making table. They risk the label of 'excuse immigrant' and sometimes choose adaptation over authenticity. But these creators possess a unique double identity, which makes them ideally positioned as bridge builders within the media. Their life experience enriches their perspective and that should be celebrated.
The fact that this rich experience is not central is a missed opportunity. Their ability to build bridges between different groups and cultures is invaluable to the media industry. This applies to all disciplines: from script writers to camera operators and presenters. Weaving diversity in a genuine way is the key to true representation.
Many people with a migrant background do not recognize the image that Hilversum paints of the Netherlands. The TV Academy invites these media makers to embrace their diversity. One in four Dutch people has a migrant background. Imagine the richness if this reality is authentically reflected in the media by teams infused with these diverse perspectives.
The traditional image in the media
Cigdem Yuksel is a Turkish photographer who created the award-winning series on refugee children who ended up in child labor.
She has just completed the research; Muslima. An investigation into the representation of Muslim women in the ANP's image bank. Where the conclusion was: 'Press photos show cliché image of Muslim woman'. As a striking example why things really have to change:
Cigdem Yuksel wins Silver Camera 2016. Source: Trouw
Almost all the women photographed wear headscarves, and many were photographed on the street, taken from a distance, and without their faces being fully recognizable. Yüksel calls these "safari photos": impersonal pictures. And when they do look recognizable, they look serious. A disproportionate number of the women in the photos wear a niqaab or burka. Only three percent of the photos show women with a profession; typically cashier of a supermarket, in a classroom, or as a cleaner. In addition, Yüksel examined what keywords the photographer attached to the photos to make them findable for newspapers. Besides "Muslim woman," these were: 'burka ban', 'immigrant', 'Islamization', 'integration'. Even if the photo gave no reason to do so. Yüksel concluded: the photos show a widespread stereotype that does not match reality.