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The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy
"It's felt that television isn't reflecting society"
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Tuesday, 7 December, 1999, 15:14 GMT
TV 'failing ethnic minorities'
"Stereotypes": The Desais arrive in Coronation Street

Soap operas and other TV shows are lagging behind real life in their portrayal of ethnic minorities, according to a report from a broadcasting watchdog.

The Broadcasting Standards Commission said viewers felt ethnic groups were represented by two-dimensional characters, and were often negatively stereotyped.

People interviewed for the report felt minority characters were included just to make a point, rather than as an integral part of the plot - and did not represent real life for black and Asian people in the UK.

Goodness Gracious Me is praised in the report
One interviewee pointed at former EastEnders' characters Gita and Sanjay, saying that they "are Asians, but they don't show any religious ceremonies or relatives and stuff like that. What's the point in having ethnic minorities and not portray them in an honest way?"

Many also pointed at a past episode of Coronation Street transmitted 12 months ago which introduced a black character, Marcus Wrigley, only to have him immediately help somebody to break into a house.

A storyline involving Asian characters - the Desai family - taking over the soap's corner shop was also criticised.

But Brookside stalwart Mick Johnson - played by Louis Emerick - comes in for praise, as does the BBC Two comedy Goodness Gracious Me.

The report's author, Annabelle Sreberny of the University of Leicester, said: "The ethnic minority wants itself represented on television because it wants mainstream white Britain to understand the diversity of society and to understand the diversity of the lives they are living."

Brookside praise: Louis Emerick as Mick Johnson
She added: "Thinness of characterisation is worrying. People want the characters to be fleshed out, and not just plot devices."

BSC chairman Lord Holme of Cheltenham praised Brookside's Mick Johnson as a realistic "integrated" character.

He said: "He's not there as an issue, he's a person with a life and has friends from the wide community."

Lord Holme added that TV was lagging behind social reality, and that the UK is more cross-culturally aware than is shown in the media.

"Our society is changing rapidly, and it is important for broadcasters to eliminate the lag between multicultural reality and the way everyday life is portrayed on television."

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See also:
18 Oct 99 |  Entertainment
Brookside racist torched
11 Dec 98 |  Entertainment
The Street in black and white
25 Dec 98 |  Entertainment
First Asian family joins the Street
23 Jul 99 |  Entertainment
A night of Gracious comedy

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