The Media Representation of Roma /Gypsy Communities

Funding: OTKA
Duration: November 1, 2014 — June 30, 2017 (32 months)

Social scientists and public policy officials generally consider education, the labor market, and social services to be tools of minority inclusion. This project sees the media as being equally important. Media constructs and re-constructs the image—a “selfie” of society. Discovering how groups are included in (or excluded from) this “selfie” is the focus of this project, led by Vera Messing. 

How are minority groups, particularly the Roma community, visually represented by the media? To find out the answer, the project applied a multi-method approach: content analysis of the main topical frames within news, and also of actors and voices within media coverage. In Messing's analysis, also using data from previous research, she analyzed the longitudinal trends and changes in the representation of Roma in the news since the early 90s. Using qualitative methodology, she sought to identify visual elements that support social exclusion and represent existing stereotypes. A historic analysis of public policy and police documents demonstrates that some of the existing stereotypical representations have very old roots, derived from the official language of state institutions from the 1950s-70s.

An equally important element of this project was to investigate how Roma people feel about how they are portrayed by mass media. The research have found that media coverage of Roma is defined by those themes and actors who are considered to be important to majority Hungarians, such as current policies, political issues, and the subject of criminality. The representation of Roma-specific interests are decidedly lacking.

The average Hungarian watches over 4 hours of television per day; the messages conveyed through this media have an impact on how we perceive groups within society. Led by Messing and Gábor Bernáth, two of the most-cited scholars on the Hungarian Roma and their media representation, this project sought to empower the community by sharing its findings directly with Roma activists as a means to use the media as a tool for their own societal inclusion.

Principal investigator (PI):

Vera Messing

Senior Research Fellow
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