My Topics

28 March 2019

Women and Ethnic Minorities Still Stereotyped on TV

Media play an important role in shaping our perceptions of minority groups. Television, for example, consistently shows stereotyped images of ethnic minorities, which can lead to the maintenance, strengthening and creation of stereotypes concerning ethnic minorities. A study in Communications analyses the representation of gender, age, sexuality and ethnicity on television and shows that the representation is particularly stereotyped for women and ethnic minorities.

Take aways

  • Dutch prime time television shows do not mirror Dutch society: women, children, seniors and sexual minorities are underrepresented.
  • Women are stereotypically associated with family and romance and ethnic minorities with crime.
  • Commercial and public broadcasters are advised to bring more diversity in their programming. Not only because it is demanded by law for public channels, but above all, because it can help to reduce or weaken harmful stereotypes about minority groups.

Study information

  • Who?

    The study analysed 325 prime-time programs, from both public broadcasters and commercial broadcasters, with a total of 2613 persons and characters.

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    Researchers viewed programs of public and commercial broadcasters and coded the gender, age, sexuality, and ethnicity of up to eight characters that actively contributed to a storyline. Additionally, the researchers coded the thematic domain in which these characters appeared.

Facts and findings

  • On Dutch prime time television, women, children, senior citizens and sexual minorities were generally underrepresented, and the representation of gender and ethnicity was highly stereotyped through association with family and romance for the former and crime for the latter.
  • Dutch commercial channels underrepresented gender and ethnic minorities less than public channels. Whereas public channels revealed a more representative representation of age and sexual minorities.
  • With regard to genres, the underrepresentation of women was most pronounced in the news, fictional programming was the most unbalanced in the representation of age, and sexual minorities were most underrepresented in entertainment and fictional programming. In the representation of ethnic minorities no genre-differences were found.