Form and function of othering in western media

Othering in the western media has taken various forms and function in the modern society. This can be shown by use of various examples. Discussions of multiculturalism in Germany’s media landscape had been on the representation of immigrants in and by German ‘mainstream’ media up to the 1990’s. This had been mainly on German-language print publications and public service commercial television and radio channels.

In the course of the 1990s, however, the growing availability of foreign-language mass media in Germany, produced in the former home countries of immigrants attracted increased attention and prompted some analysts to speak of an ethnicization of the German broadcasting landscape. They feared the emergence of parallel public spheres for minorities which might hinder their integration into the society in Germany. A number of German public-service corporations started radio and television projects with a deliberately multicultural agenda during the 1990s partly in response to such worries.

They did this by trying to that trying to educate a non-immigrant German public and simultaneously reach immigrant audiences with the aim of promoting inter-ethic harmony. (Kosnick, 2004) The fear of possible dissociation from German society as a result of transnational media improvements has also increased political support for local radio and television projects produced by immigrants themselves in the domain of commercial broadcasting.

The hope is that locally produced programs for ethnic minorities will address issues of concern to immigrants as members of their community of residence and theory promote integration. However there is a range of radio and television programs produced by immigrants that does not seem to fulfill this expectation. ( Kosnick, 2004) At the open channel Berlin (OKB), Turkish language productions have reached peaks to up to a quarter of all OKB broadcasting while immigrants from Turkey make up about 8% of Berlin’s population as a whole.

The OKB is proud of the strong immigrant presence. In a self-description included in a brochure published by the working group on open channels in Germany, the OKB claims; “it is precisely in the great interest of foreign groups to broadcast in their native language that the idea of open channels is most impressively realized, here all those who do not have a voice in the other media can articulate themselves. ” Despite this endorsement, the foreign language programs also create problems for the OKB.

Since 2000, the Berlin parliament has repeatedly debated whether to abolish the open channel, with politicians charging that the programs offered were highly problematic, and at best “of no interest to consumers”. (Kosnick, 2004) While open channels claim to make important contributions to a democratic culture of local public debate, the actual broadcasts have little to offer, according to its critics. Instead of grassroots commitment, they diagnose egocentric banalities or, even worse, the articulation of fundamentalist and extremist positions.

The latter in particular, do not seem to fit the democratic profile of open channels. And it is above all the Islamic programs that evoke the charges of extremism. The state media council Berlin Brandenburg, responsible for supervising the open chant1, receives complains from German viewers on a regular basis. ( Kosnick, 2004) Given the language of presentation in Islamic programs, most often Turkish or Arabic, German viewers have very limited possibilities to get a sense of program contents.

It is the public expression of Muslim religiosity in itself that raises concerns, given dominant perceptions of Islam within German society, particularly since the September 11 terror attacks in the US. For German critics, religion and politics are inextricably fused in the case of Islamic programs and this is seen as problematic. This perception finds support in the complaints of Turkish-speakers as well with regard to the Islamic programs shown on the open channel Berlin, the state Media Council registers just as many complaints from Turkish views, who argue much along the same lives.

Again, the programs are perceived as antidemocratic militant and politically motivated. According to the council and the open channel management, it is not so much the concrete content of programs that is criticized, but the fact of these ‘people’ being given a public voice. This shows German’s views on people expressing themselves in other languages. This is a very strong form of othering. ( Kosnick, 2004)

Different from public-service media projects such as Radio Multikuli, the open channel cannot ensure that migrant producers and here to its version of appropriately multiculturalists representation of immigrant life made possible by the rule of non-interference with program contents, the open channel offers the rare example of a disjunction between an institutional logic of broadcasting and the actual programs that are produced and broadcast in this institutional context. ( Kosnick, 2004)

The current unprecedented level of concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few transnational conglomerates and the existence of a military-industrial-media-entertainment network further facilitates the implementation of a cold war logic of “ US” against “them” in the context of the Manichean theory of good news evil (doers). Although a great deal of media attention was given to criticism by Hollywood celebrities of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the film divisions of the major media conglomerates expressed their eagerness to become part of the war effort from the outset.

(Castonguay, 2004) The film industry in U. S has been known practice othering when it comes to Muslims and Islam. In the wake of 9/11, Valenti announced that Hollywood would not be make films that portrayed Islamic terrorists so as to prevent a backlash against the decent hardworking, law abiding Muslim community in the US Hollywood had already done its ideological work in this regard by showing racist, essentialist, and orientalist representations of Arabs and Islam for decades.

Indeed, the limited repertoire of images of and narratives about Arabs and Islam before and during the war on terror has served to keep much of the US public ignorant about Arab and Islamic culture, thus paving the way for the dehumanizing and demonizing of the enemy as part of the inexorable march toward the hot and cold wars on terror. (Castonguay, 2004) The above examples show the extent of othering in the western media.

Reference: James Castonguay. 2004. Conglomeration, New Media, and the Cultural Production of the “War on Terror”. Cinema Journal, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Summer, 2004), pp. 102-108. Kiva Kosnick. 2004. “Extreme by Definition. ” Open Channel Television and Islamic Migrant Producers in Berlin. New German Critique, No. 92. Special Issue on: Multicultural Germany: Performance, Art and Media. (Spring- Summer, 2004), pp. 21-38.