The British Film Institute (BFI) funded research produced a report in 2006 entitled “Media Culture: The Social Organisation of Media Practices in Contemporary Britain” (http://www.bfi.org.uk/about/pdf/social-org-media-practices.pdf).
The report focused on “ the relationships between cultural tastes and knowledge as expressed in film and television preferences, and ethnicity, social class, gender and education” (p 4). I shall be concentrating on the findings relating to how ethnic minorities relate to the English.
The research was based on a ”survey of a nationwide representative sample of adults resident in Britain at the time the survey was administered (November 2003 to March 2004).3 This survey comprised a main sample of 1564 supplemented by an ethnic boost sample of 227 drawn, in roughly equal proportions, from Britain’s three main minority ethnic groups: the Indian, Pakistani and Afro-Caribbean communities” (p 9). The main sample included 7% ethnic minorities.
My observations on the quotes from the report appear in bold.
Rejection of Englishness
“….Eastenders is very popular, more so than with the main sample, and the same is true of the Australian soap Home and Away. There is, however, a marked disinterest in Coronation Street, especially on the part of Indians and Pakistanis.
“(ii) While, in the cases of popular dramas, The Bill is very popular with all three groups, and especially the Indian and Pakistani groups, other popular dramas like Midsomer Murders and A Touch of Frost are strikingly unpopular, and – although this is not shown in the Chart – more so on the part of those born in Britain.
“These findings show, in some cases, a distant relation to programmes that conspicuously embody the values of ‘middle England’ (Midsomer Murders, A Touch of Frost) as well as those of northern working-class culture (Coronation Street) while, in others, suggesting a strong but selective interest in American and Australian imports.” (p26)
Eastenders has significant numbers of ethnic minority characters, Coronation Street does not.
“The members of all three minority ethnic groups go more regularly to the cinema than do the population generally. Indians and Pakistanis are especially fond of cinema-going with 46% and 41% respectively going once a month or more frequently compared to 18% of the main sample. It is notable, too, that members of the ethnic boost file are more likely to have large collections of film on video. Five percent reported collections of 200 or more films compared to 1% of the main sample. Watching film clips on the internet is also more popular with all minority ethnic groups than is true of the British population generally. Eighteen percent of the Indian and Pakistani respondents, and 13% of the Afro-Caribbean respondents, reported this use of the internet compared to 7% of the main sample. Members of the Indian and Pakistani communities are also more likely to use the internet as a means of accessing news and sport. Thirty nine percent of Indian and 35% of Pakistani respondents use the internet for this purpose compared to 22% of the main sample, with Afro-Caribbean usage falling a little below this.” (p19)
“With regard to digital, satellite or cable television, however, each of the three minority ethnic groups accesses this to a greater degree than the population as a whole – around 73% for Indians and Pakistanis and 63% for Afro-Caribbean respondents compared to 55% of the main sample. Internet access is less, however, especially for Pakistanis, 33% of whom reported internet access in contrast to 54% of the main sample and 56% and 45% of the Indian and Afro-Caribbean respondents respectively.” (p20)
“The members of all three minority ethnic groups, and especially Afro-Caribbean respondents, are considerably more likely to have access to digital, cable or satellite television than members of the main sample . The Indian and Pakistani groups show strong preferences for ethnic or overseas channels, but low involvement in popular channels. This interest in overseas channels is especially marked among members of the ethnic file born overseas – 19% compared with 6% of those born in Britain – just as these have relatively little interest in popular channels (1%) compared to their, on the whole, younger British-born counterparts. The use of non-terrestrial movie channels is high on the part of both Afro-Caribbean and Indian respondents…” (p23)
The greater use of the cinema, private film collections and digital, satellite and cable television by blacks and Asians can be plausibly explained by a desire to access media which is not English/British.
“ The Afro-Caribbean members of the sample are pretty disinterested in Channel 4 but highly involved in Channel 5, with Indian and Pakistani respondents also more interested in this channel than the main sample.” (P22)
Channel 5 shows more programmes with black and Asian participation.
“It is notable, too, that, in terms of preferred genres, documentaries are relatively low in the priorities of all three minority ethnic groups which, conversely, show a strong preference for news and current affairs programmes – particularly on the part of the Afro-Caribbean and Pakistani communities. Those born overseas are also much more likely to prefer these kinds of television than are the UK born: 30% in contrast to 13%. Indians and Pakistanis are not much interested in soap operas and all three groups are less interested in dramas than the main sample. Indians and Pakistanis are particularly fond of comedy on television, and Afro-Caribbean people like television quizzes, game shows and television sport, which is also popular with Indians. No member of the ethnic file indicates reality television as their most preferred television genre (and it figures highly in the dislikes of all three groups), and the same is true of programmes centred on the home (cookery, home improvements, gardening) on the part of the Afro-Caribbean and Pakistani respondents. These programmes also figure quite highly in the dislikes of all three groups, especially for Afro-Caribbean respondents who, along with soap operas, rated this as the type of television they liked least after reality television.” (pp24/25)
“Coming, finally, to films, the lack of interest in documentaries that we have seen in relation to television is echoed for all groups except for the Afro-Caribbean, and the marked lack of interest in costume drama and literary adaptations – one of the stable outputs of the British film industry – is striking (Table 1). This is also toward the higher end of the least-liked film genres for the three groups, especially Indian respondents. Indian and Pakistani respondents are, unsurprisingly, strongly interested in ‘Bollywood’ – especially those born overseas (24% compared to 10% of British born) – while Pakistani respondents show a strong liking for science fiction films, although this is almost entirely accounted for in terms of British-born Pakistanis. There is zero interest in art or alternative cinema across the three minority groups and Afro-Caribbean respondents have an especially strong aversion to war films: 19% indicate this as the film they like least – more than twice the rate of the main sample and that for the other minority ethnic groups.” (pp26/27)
Most documentaries shown on British television or in British cinemas concern English/British history and culture and are presented by native Britons.
“The responses reported in Table 2 are a little more puzzling. Discounting the World Cup which, unlike the other television events, is clearly one with a global reach, here the greater likelihood that those born in the UK will know about these events than do those born overseas is not accompanied by a greater liking for them – a tendency that is especially evident in relation to the Queen’s Christmas message. Clearly given the relatively youthfulness of those born in Britain, age is a factor here. But this may also in some cases reflect a rejection of, or distancing from, certain key aspects of the national culture: none of the British born Indian and Afro-Caribbean respondents, for example, are part of the 3% of the UK born who watch the Queen’s Christmas message. This interpretation is all the more plausible when considered in relation to the similar tendency that is evident in the other aspects of film and television choice already discussed: the lack of interest in television programmes with strongly white, middle-England associations (Midsomer Murders, A Touch of Frost, in contrast to The Bill, for example, the differences in responses to Coronation Street and the more multicultural Eastenders, and the strongly negative reaction on the part of minority groups to the classic signature of ‘quality’ British cinema – costume dramas and literary adaptations…” (pp33/34)
This finding shows an active wish to reject native British culture especially that deemed English.
“One striking difference in relation to film – that relating to the genre set in which women have the strongest interest – reflects the inclusion of Bollywood within this set. For while women within the ethnic file like this a good deal more than the men, it recruits far more support from Pakistani and Indian men than any of the other genres in this set do from men as a whole. Perhaps the most consequential finding here, however, is the strong disconnection of black and Asian Britons from ‘respectable film’ – the set with the strongest national associations – and from the war/westerns/musicals set of ‘older popular cinema. But the stronger interest of black and Asian Britons in the ‘younger popular film’ set is equally notable. This is echoed, in the case of television, by the high rate of interest of black and Asian Britons in the ‘younger popular television’ set, and the lower rates of interest in relation to the main sample that are evident for both ‘respectable’ and ‘older popular’ television – again, both groupings with strong national associations (news, current affairs, nature and history documentaries in the case of ‘respectable television’; quiz and game shows, cookery, home improvement and gardening shows, and the more international police and detective series) “(pp 73/74)
The lack of interest in programmes with a strong national, that is, English/British, interest is further evidence of the rejection of British/English culture.
“In the case of visual art, for example, 62% of the ethnic sample had not heard of Turner, the most well known of all the artists we asked about, compared to 27% of the main sample and 22% of the White English group. We see a similar patter for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: 34% of black and Asian Britons had not heard of this compared to 7% of the main sample and 4% of the White English. those born overseas and, in the case of Pride and Prejudice, the respective figures are 17% and 47%.” (pp 73/74)
This lack of knowledge of English culture is probably a consequence of the disproportionate avoidance English broadcasting and films and the failure to teach English/British culture and history in schools.
“In Table 11 we compare things which members of both our ethnic and main samples never do. Here, watching broadcast television and, more dramatically, going to the cinema increase significantly for second- and third-generation migrants, as do eating out, going to the theatre and going to night clubs and, to a lesser extent, of going to pubs. There is a similar tendency in relation to visiting art galleries. There is, however, virtually no change in levels of participation relating to going to museums, art galleries, bingo, orchestral concerts, and a notable decrease so far as visiting stately homes and historic houses – key institutions of national heritage – are concerned. “
This passage shows that native born blacks and Asians are becoming less not more absorbing of English culture, what might be termed passive cultural ghettoization.
“Distinctive forms of taste connected with ethnicity tended, in this sample, to emerge within Indian and Pakistani groups rather than Afro-Caribbean. Chief amongst these were the high level of cinema participation, especially of Bollywood films, which were viewed by families together either at specialist cinemas or at multiplexes, and the high level of satellite television ownership, with forms of participation in the former group being more explicitly connected to diasporic identities.
“Focus groups with Pakistani and Indian middle and working classes revealed the importance of satellite channels, such as Zee TV, the Asian Channel and B4U, which were watched as sources of entertainment, particularly Asian dramas or soaps, sources of information about new cinema (specifically Hindi or ‘Bollywood’ film releases) and sources of news.” (p110)
This shows the active cultural ghettoization which is taking place.
What do we make of all this? It paints a picture of blacks and sub-continental Asians becoming less not more s integrated into the cultural and social life of the country as the years and generations pass. The concentration of black and Asian population in British cities facilitates both cultural and physical ghettoization.
There is an especial failure to engage with English culture, something which is of particular significance because the large majority of black and Asian settlement in the UK is in England and more than four fifths of the UK population reside in England.
Blacks and Asians in Britain show at best no interest in becoming assimilated and at worst an active desire to resist such assimilation.
On the face of it, none of this is surprising because of the doctrine of multiculturalism which has been promoted assiduously by the British elite since the 1970s. But that does not mean multiculturalism was something forced on blacks and Asians (and other minorities). Rather, it is plausibly a response by British politicians in the 1970s as the previous official government policy of integration or assimilation was shown to have failed miserably with ghettoes of black and Asian immigrants and their offspring already formed. Multiculturalism was a response to social development which politicians either could not or would not check. It simply validated what was.
The Coalition Government has made a good deal of noise about the ills of multiculturalism, but have done nothing meaningful to turn back the tide of separatism. Nor are they likely to do so because it is not only natural for human beings to try to live in racial/ethnic groups and to maintain the culture of the group. Mass immigration and its consequences will not go away. In its practical effects it is a form of conquest.