Campaign to increase Israeli Arab commentators in the media seen as success
A campaign by Israeli NGOs to boost the Arab presence in the Hebrew media has shown signs of success, with a jump of around 80 percent from January to May, according to the head of an NGO involved in the media project.
Edan Ring, director of public affairs at Sikkuy, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the new numbers include a significant increase in the Arab experts appearing on current affairs programming in recent months, following a campaign to improve the numbers.
Sikkuy – the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, the Berl Katznelson Foundation, and media critique website The Seventh Eye jointly cooperated in sponsoring the ongoing media monitoring project of Hebrew TV and radio stations. In addition, the project involves regularly monitoring the number of Arab experts and professionals interviewed by the media.
The program received a boost with the launch two weeks ago of a Hebrew database of dozens of Arab experts in various fields, on the website a-list.org.il/. The expert list is periodically updated, and includes various fields such as medicine, high-tech, tourism, and foreign policy.
Makbula Nassar, manager of the A-List project run by the Israeli NGO ANU in cooperation with Sikkuy, told the Post that the website is meant to help the Hebrew media find Arab experts in order to make their programs more interesting and diverse.
“The public agenda is being formed in the mainstream media, and the ongoing conflict is affecting every aspect of our lives, so we had to do something,” said Nassar, who also is active in Arab Israeli media.
“There are so many excellent Arab experts that even many within Arab society don’t know about,” she said, noting that they include doctors, finance experts, and female experts.
The Israeli media tends to seek Arab experts only to discuss Arab issues, but hopefully this will change, she added.
In addition, the A-List project plans to hold workshops and training for Arab experts on how to deal with the media.
Nassar said the results so far have been promising, with many calls from the Hebrew media inquiring about Arab experts on their list.
The initial report in March showed Arab interviewees were underrepresented in Hebrew broadcast media at a rate of only 2%. Before the public campaign began, they found that only some 30 Arab experts were invited per month to be interviewed in various types of media outlets.
In May, the number rose by 80% to 50, and in the last two months the average representation of Arabs appearing on the top news programs rose to 3.7% from 3% or less before the project began.
“The positive results are due to the public pressure on the media,” said Ring. “By publicizing the actual magnitude of Arab exclusion in the media, we were able to create motivation and increase the demand for Arab interviewees amongst decision makers in the different programs.”
“The launch of the new database comes just in time,” he added.
In addition, the project also keeps track of the numbers of Arab guests on 19 leading current affairs programs on five channels, and publishes a weekly comparative table.
SOME OF the Arab experts and professionals who are being promoted to be used as commentators on current affairs programming, following a campaign to improve their presence.