A new initiative launched in January aims to foster more fair and equal representation of Arab citizens of Israel in Israeli media. The Representation Index regularly checks the number and rate of Arab interviewees on leading news and current affairs programmes at the five main broadcasting media channels in Israel: TV Channels 1,2, and 10, and radio stations Reshet Bet and Army Radio.
The index examines primarily the representation of Arab experts and professional commentators and provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis of these interviews and monitors the framing and context of every interview. For instance, it includes in-depth findings that assess which of the interviewees were interviewed simply because they are Arabs and which were interviewed because their area of expertise was relevant to the topic or issue being discussed.
Edan Ring, the Representation Index director from Sikkuy, explained that, “In the Hebrew-language media you will rarely find Arab experts discussing science, medicine, arts or entertainment.” He continued, saying, “The non-existent representation of the Arab minority in the media, especially on subjects that are not related to conflict, and especially for offering authoritative commentary and analysis, has a direct effect on the ability of the Jewish public to see them as partners to the public discourse and to Israeli society in general.”
The index has been published every week since the beginning of March, and has had a dramatic, positive impact on the number of Arab experts interviewed on Israeli television and radio broadcasts. At the beginning of 2016 research showed that the percentage of Arab interviewees in the main Israeli media was a mere 2-3 percent, sometimes even less. Removing members of Knesset from the equation, Arab representation dropped to 1.5 percent.
Following the monthly publication of the ‘Arab Representation Index’ there has been a significant increase in the number of Arab experts interviewed in the Israeli media. Whereas in January there were 29 interviews with Arab experts on the five leading Israeli television stations, and in February there were 31 (less than 0.5% of all interviewees). During March after the publication of the first findings of the Representation Index, the number of Arab experts interviewed increased to 51. In April there was a slight decrease to 38 Arab experts interviewees, but in May the number increased again to 49 Arab experts in 19 leading interviewing programmes on the 5 main Israeli broadcasting channels.
The programme received a boost in May with the launch of a Hebrew database of dozens of Arab experts in various fields. The A-LIST website (initiated by the NGOs ANU and Sikkuy) offers a sleek, easy-to-use database of a potential Arab experts interviewees in Israel who can speak with authority on subjects like environment, medicine, law, technology, high-tech and more.
The Representation Index is a partnership project of the Seventh Eye magazine, Sikkuy and the Berl Katznelson Foundation, support by the New Israel Fund. All the index results are being published every week in Hebrew at The Seven Eye magazine.
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