Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Narratives on Migration and Transnational Media

After a week in which immigration has surfaced as one of the key issues dominating election coverage in the UK, Olga Bailey offers an overview of her article on media representations of migration, 'Narratives on Migration and Transnational Media: crises of representation?', which she has co-written with Sonia De Nelson. The article will be published later this year in T. Threadgold, B. Gross and K. Moore (eds), Migration and the Media (New York: Peter Lang).

Debates on issues of migration have had perennial importance in national and international arenas and figure prominently in the political agendas of wealthy nations and in the transnational public media spheres. The migration debate was mainly reframed in the post 9/11 attacks interconnected to a ‘global crisis’, underpinned by economic and political issues, focusing concerns on national security, the threats to western culture and its economic impact on receiving western countries. The mainstream media has predominantly covered these debates echoing these concerns and constructing immigration as a national threat, thereby alienating and making alien populations who do not possess the necessary symbols of national belonging. Since 2008, due to the global economic crises, immigration coverage in the mainstream media has been mainly interlinked to the consequences of the economic crises in western societies. In discussing the effect of the economic crisis for international migration, Castles and Vezzoli point out that the media have widely reported on the visible effects on new migration, migrant employment, remittance flows and on attitudes of destination-country populations (2009: 69). The current rhetoric links migration debate to the economic crises in topics such as reducing recruitment of migrant workers because of growing unemployment, to governments’ actions on immigration management to regulate the borders and wider aspects of the life of immigrants, including access to jobs, welfare services, family reunification, and ultimately integration and the acquisition of citizenship. These measures aim to demonstrate to their political constituency they are acting in minimizing the crisis.

In this chapter we look at coverage of migration issues in the BBC news online services. Our focus is on the ways in which otherness interweaves with migration issues. Our assumption is that stories about immigration form an important arena through which ideas about the immigrant ‘other’ are expressed and reproduced.This in turn forms a wider context to our discussion as it is connected to the debate over the changes of the practices of transnational journalism generated by technological, economic and cultural factors. We have chosen the BBC News and BBC Mundo news online for two reasons: First, for its significant role as a public service in the transnational media landscape and its impact on public opinion and, consequently, on governmental policy processes. Second, for its high journalistic standards - accuracy and impartiality – which are recognised by a global audience. The aim is to provide a snapshot of the ways news on migration is presented in both sites. The paper first discusses the challenges faced by journalists working in transnational outlets, and then presents the BBC journalist’s news practices and its relevance to an understanding of the present production of migration stories. The last part provides examples of the representation of migration in BBC. 
(Photo credit: LoopZilla. Permissions)

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