Minorities shortchanged in Quebec, says study

Only 7% of the faces on TVA, the province's most popular network, are members of ethno-cultural communities, according to Conseil des relations interculturelles.

Quebec TV is too white. That’s the finding of a recent study by the Conseil des relations interculturelles, which reports to the province’s minister of immigration and cultural communities.

In prime-time news, entertainment and dramatic programs, only 7% of the faces on Quebec’s most popular network, the privately owned TVA, are members of ethno-cultural communities – a term frequently employed in Quebec to describe non-white francophones.

Pubcaster Télé-Québec got the highest marks from the CRI; during prime time, 26% of those featured are cultural minorities. At Radio-Canada, it’s 11.5%, said the report, which is based on a 2008 review of French-language programming in prime time, 600 newspaper articles and 1,652 TV ads.

‘French TV hasn’t addressed changing demographics,’ says CRI president Patricia Rimok, referring to the increasing number of non-Europeans that immigrated to Quebec in the last few decades. ‘If you are a second-generation Italian, chances are you will see yourself on Quebec TV, but if you are from Latin America or the Caribbean you won’t.’

Rimok says unlike their English counterparts, most French networks haven’t introduced affirmative action programs to hire more visible and cultural minorities. ‘If there are cultural minorities in-house, there is usually more of a connection with different ethnic communities in the city,’ she says.

The report noted that only about 20% of visible minorities on Montreal Island have jobs in the arts, culture, sports or leisure industries. On TV, ethnic and cultural minorities were seen in only 16.8% of commercials, and they were extras nearly 70% of the time.

SRC has publicly endorsed the CRI’s call for greater representation of minorities. TVA did not return calls for comment on this article, though spokeswoman Nicole Tardif recently told Montreal’s La Presse that she disputes the study’s methodology.

An online poll included in the study found that 69% of blacks and over half of Arabs, Asians and Latin Americans believe they are underrepresented on TV.

‘The stories about them are usually about their immigrant status and their capacity to integrate or not,’ says Rimok. ‘A solution might be to cover these communities without focusing on their ethnicity or immigrant status.’

From Playback Daily