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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Racism 'reinforced' in TV adverts
Mel B
Mel B appeared in a recent anti-racism campaign
By the BBC's media correspondent Torin Douglas

The use of stereotypes in TV advertisements can reinforce racism and school bullying, according to a survey of viewers.

Black and ethnic minority respondents said they felt advertising did not reflect the UK's cultural diversity, and some commercials were overtly racist.

But they praised attempts by some advertisers to counter negative stereotypes, for example, by showing Asians speaking with Scottish accents.

The survey was published by the Independent Television Commission.


The report says the use of stereotypes is widely accepted by viewers as a quick way to establish characters in a short TV advertisement.

Many of the stereotypes are seen as perfectly acceptable but the ITC receives complaints that others are patronising or insulting.

One commercial, for Reed Employment, was seen as overtly racist, not just by ethnic minority groups, even though its intention was to counter such assumptions.

It showed a black youth with dreadlocks bumping into a smartly dressed white man, apparently deliberately.

It appeared as though he had picked the man's pocket - in fact he had left a note in the man's wallet telling him of a job opportunity.

Glaswegian accents

An advert for Typhoo Tea was criticised by many Asian people surveyed for portraying workers on a tea plantation in an patronising and offensive way.

But an advert for Homepride Curry Sauce was praised for featuring British Asians with strong Glaswegian accents.

The report also says commercials showing children who are overweight or wear glasses can exacerbate school bullying.

  • Ian Blair, ITC acting director of advertising, said: "These findings show that viewers are sophisticated in their understanding of television advertising.

    "They will help the ITC to distinguish between harmless, acceptable stereotypes and those few which justify intervention."

  • See also:

    17 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
    Millionaire 'racism' charge dismissed
    06 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
    Race awards recognise diversity
    06 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
    TV to get diversity guidelines
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