Still from 'The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.' Photo by Ilze Kitshoff, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The 'Africa In the Media' Study Shows How Africans are Misrepresented in American Television

The new report from the Africa Narrative Project found that Africans are still grossly underrepresented in American television programming.

What does it mean for Africans to be fully and truly represented in the media? For many folks of African decent that question remains painfully unanswered.

An extensive new report from the Africa Narrative project, from the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center, seeks to provide understanding around the current state of African representation in US media, and identify ways to ensure a "richer telling of Africa's story."

The groups' "Africa in the Media" report is a thorough and timely study that confirms a lack of meaningful storytelling in television news and entertainment, which reflect the ways many Africans see themselves. Their findings show that Africa continues to be both underrepresented and misrepresented in the American media landscape.


For the report, a group of researchers analyzed over 700,000 hours of programming, as well as a whopping 1.6 million tweets related to the African continent and its people. They found that despite the appearance of progress—with major motion pictures such as Black Panther rocking the film industry—there is still a long way to go to in ensuring that Africa is portrayed in the media in a way that is reflective of reality.

The study revealed several concerning details about Africa's presence in the media. According to the report, television viewers are seven times more likely to hear references to Europe than to Africa, and when Africa is mentioned, it is only done so in a positive light 14 percent of the time. Narratives centered on Africans are commonly centered on trauma and crime.

African actors are also generally reduced to minor roles on television, even when a story line is primarily focused on Africa, and on top of that, only 31 percent of African characters on television are women.

Researchers found that diverse country representation is also severely lacking. The study shows that out of the continent's 54 countries, just five nations "grab the bulk of attention" in American television programming. They are: Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Seychelles, and Congo, which account for 49 percent of all mentions of Africa.

Perhaps more unsettling is that in many television portrayals, Africans are often hyper-sexualized, Johanna Blakley, the Managing Director of the Norman Lear Center, tells OkayAfrica. "We monitored every genre of TV programming, but I focused mostly on entertainment depictions of Africa and I was most unsettled by the way Africa and African people were associated with primal sexuality, says Blakley. "We had created a coding sheet with 32 topics to track: it never occurred to us that these sexual stereotypes would appear so frequently in both dramatic and comedic contexts."

Despite the bleak outlook, the Africa Narrative Project has offered detailed suggestions on how these major discrepancies in African representation can be offset. One way is by "increasing the number of stories that mine the rich and diverse cultures and histories of Africa—including in children's programming—and develop more scripted content that doesn't focus on crime," another is by "collaborating with content creators from Africa and the diaspora."

For Blakely, the report provides accuracy and vital data that can be used to help build stronger, more culturally-minded narratives. "I believe that it's very difficult to solve a problem unless you can describe it accurately," says Blakely. "With this research, we've provided scholars and activists and storytellers the evidence they need to argue for more and better stories about Africa. We've also set a baseline against which we can measure the progress of initiatives like The Africa Narrative, which will work with educators, advocates, government agencies and the media industry to elevate African stories and storytellers."

There is much work to be done in ensuring that Africans are afforded representation that we can be proud of. Equipping ourselves with information on the current media climate is vital, and the "African in the Media" report is a valuable place to start.

If you'd like to learn more about how Africans are depicted in mass media, read the full report here.

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Photos: How La Sunday Became Abidjan's Favorite Party

Faced with a lack of party options, a group of friends in Côte d'Ivoire sought to revolutionize the way their city turns up.

The opening line of DJ Arafat's hit song "Maman Sery" plays and the people on stage scream it as loudly as the crowd facing them below. Lighted phones are up in the air. Where some strangers embrace one another, others clutch their chests. The setting? A garden in Abidjan's commune of Cocody on a Sunday night.

Sundays in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire had always been reserved for beach trips and family time. All of this changed dramatically in December of 2018 when Fayçal Lazraq, Lionel Obam, Aurore Aoussi, Charles Tanoh-Boutchoue, and Aziz Doumbia, better known as Bain de Foule Creative Studio created La Sunday and it took Abidan by storm.

According to Charles Tanoh-Boutchoue, co-founder of La Sunday, "The idea was to create an alternative event for fun amongst friends." The differentiating factor here was these "friends" weren't just anyone; they were trendsetters at the epicenter of Abidjan's bustling creative scene. Shares from these creatives were instrumental in creating the engagement surrounding La Sunday and its subsequent expansion.

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Image courtesy of Riveriswild

#BuyBlack: The 8 Black-Owned Brands To Shop For On Black Friday

It's that time of year again, here is OkayAfrica's 2019 gift guide for you to #BuyBlack this Friday.

You know we're near the end of 2019 once the holiday season comes back around. Thanksgiving is upon us and the bargain shopping and gift-giving is set to commence thereafter. While this American "holiday" being questionable in of itself, Black Friday is a prime occasion to highlight, support and spend exclusively with black-owned businesses.

Just like we mentioned last year, let's keep the 'for us, by us' energy going. Even beyond the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, tap into the businesses that continue to contribute to wealth-building, development and employment in Black communities around the world.

Here is OkayAfrica's curated shortlist of black-owned brands to take note of this Black Friday, including some standout home decor, fashion, skincare and beauty brands you should know.

Take a look below.

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Stormzy, Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy in "Own It" (Youtube)

Stormzy Recruits Burna Boy & Ed Sheeran For 'Own It'

Watch the new music video from Stormzy's upcoming new album.

Stormzy is readying the release of his second album, Heavy Is the Head, due December 13.

He's now come through with the new music video and single for "Own It," an electronic head-nodder collaboration with the Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran.

The addictive new song is accompanied by a new music video, directed by Nathan James Tettey. It follows Stormzy, Burna Boy, and Ed Sheeran as they perform on rainy London rooftops, warehouses and club dance floors—simply put, it looks like a fun time.

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(Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

#SayNoToSocialMediaBill: Nigerians Protest Proposed Law Allowing Government to Block the Internet

Nigerians are saying no to the 'Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill' that they say will give the government the power to silence them.

A bill that could limit democratic expression amongst social media users in Nigeria, has been proposed in the senate for the second time this year, Techcabal reports. Several Nigerians are now speaking out against it.

The bill, called the "Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019 (SB 132)," would essentially allow the government to shutdown the internet whenever it sees fit. It was proposed by Senator Muhammadu Sani Musa of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who claimed that the measure was necessary to prevent the spread of "hate speech" and extremist ideologies through online channels. "Individuals and groups influenced by ideologies and deep-seated prejudices in different countries are using internet falsehood to surreptitiously promote their causes, as we have seen in Nigeria with the insurgency of Boko haram," he said.

A clip of Senator Elisha Abbo another vocal supporter of the bill, who is currently under investigation for an alleged assault after being caught on video slapping a woman at a sex shop in July—shows him passionately defending the bill on the floor and condemning what he calls "fake news" from being spread to different countries. "It is a cancer waiting to consume all of us," said Abbo.

A similar bill was proposed back in 2015, but was widely criticized and never passed.

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