Monitoring on Social Pluralism: Rai fiction

- Political and social pluralism
Monitoring on Social Pluralism: Rai fiction

The monitoring of the ‘Pluralism of themes, subjects and narration in Rai programming’, carried out by CARES-Osservatorio di Pavia in 2019, was also interested in the fiction produced by Rai, with the aim of assessing the ability of the public service to return an articulated image of the country, from a social, gender, generational, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and attention to disability point of view. Furthermore, we wanted to verify the adherence of these narratives to some general principles set out in the 2018-2022 Service Contract, such as respect for the diversity present in a plural society, the promotion of the values of acceptance and inclusion, the enhancement of equal opportunities and civil coexistence, respect for the law and the dignity of the person.

Six television series produced by Rai, broadcast in 2019, were then subjected to analysis:

Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratore (Rai 1)

Ognuno è perfetto (Rai 1)

Pezzi unici (Rai 1)

Rocco Schiavone (Rai 2)

Un posto al sole (Rai 3)

Volevo fare la rockstar (Rai 2)


The main results

Gender pluralism

Among the characters in the series analysed, a figure close to parity was found: 44.9% of women against 55.1% of men, with a female prevalence in Pezzi unici and Volevo fare la rockstar. The female presence is lower among the background actors, stronger among the protagonists and co-stars. Beyond the numerical data, some series have demonstrated the ability to create innovative and unconventional female characters and to propose varied and diversified models of the feminine. The series Imma Tataranniand Volevo fare la rockstar stand out in particular, both with a female protagonist.


Generational pluralism

The 19-34 age group is favoured because it combines high percentages of presence (27.2%) and a prominent role (in 69% of cases they are protagonists or co-protagonists). The following age groups (35-49 years and 50-64 years) are present to a similar extent, but with gradually decreasing levels of prominence. Despite less visibility among the characters (12.4%), minors very often play important roles. The least visible are the over 65s (8.8%), for which, however, there are some significant parts. In the series Volevo fare la rockstar, the child/adolescent component is very high and over 70% of the characters are under 35 years old. A young profile also characterizes the Pezzi unici andOgnuno è perfetto series. Regardless of the composition by age group, in almost all the titles a positive tendency was observed to represent a broad generational spectrum, also attributing key roles to very young or, on the contrary, to very elderly characters, and exploring their relationships. The common thread that crosses and unites generations is often the family.


Socio-economic pluralism

In the titles analysed, there is a prevalence of a professional category, generally secondary in information programmes, that of traders, craftsmen and workers. The strong presence of students also stands out. In fiction, as elsewhere, managerial professional positions prevail, but the gap in visibility between the latter and the employees (35% vs28.7%) is less accentuated than in other program genres. None of the dramas analysed focuses primarily on socio-economic disparities, but several episodes widen the view on job insecurity, unemployment, economic instability, social differences, difficulties of disadvantaged categories, social hardship and poverty.


Ethnic Pluralism

In the fictional series analysed, characters of non-Western ethnic origin are underrepresented (only 4.8%) and are mostly Eastern European. The other ethnic groups are very rare. Furthermore, these characters mostly play the marginal roles of background actors. The only title that includes non-Western subjects (precisely Albanians and Kosovars) among the protagonists is Ognuno è perfetto. There is no shortage of episodes in the various fictions that positively address the condition of migrants in our country and that promote inclusion. However, it must be said that some stereotyped traits have been identified in the representation of ethnic minorities.


Religious pluralism

In the titles analysed, there is little centrality of the religious element in the characterization of the characters. In the vast majority of cases (96%), religious faith cannot be determined, therefore it does not appear significant in the definition of identity and in the narrative evolution. Added to this is a 1.6% of cases in which the character is openly atheist or agnostic. Only in 2.1% of cases does a Catholic faith emerge, while Islamic and Hindu faiths are decidedly residual.


Attention given to the diversity of sexual orientations

An appreciable openness to orientations other than heterosexual emerges in the Rai fiction, with the presence of some homosexuals and a bisexual among the characters. Generally, these subjects play important narrative roles, being among the co-protagonists of the episode or even, in two cases, members of the fixed cast (Volevo fare la rockstar and Un posto al sole). In four titles – out of the six analysed – homosexuality is thematized and located in a story that “sanctions” persistent prejudice and discrimination in certain environments of our society, or “rewards” their overcoming.


Attention given to disabilities

The Rai fiction analysed shows significant attention to disability: 8.8% of the characters suffer from some form of disability and the topic is discussed in detail. This result is essentially attributable to the presence in the champion of the series Ognuno è perfetto, who manages to win a difficult challenge: to treat the theme of disability seriously but also lightly, without slipping into rhetorical stretching, trying to show the different gaze on the world of disabled people and, above all, entrusting the scene to a good group of actors with Down syndrome.


Index of Inclusivity in fiction

Fiction was evaluated through a specific index, the Inclusiveness Index, aimed at verifying the presence of positive models of inclusion of the diversities present in a plural society. This index is made up of five different dimensions that combine to define it: 1) adequate contextualization of current events and respect for the diversity present in a plural society; 2) sanctioning behaviour harmful to personal dignity or discriminatory; 3) sanction for unlawful conduct; 4) proposal of positive models of inclusion and integration of diversity/disability/minorities; 5) absence of stereotypes in the characterization of characters with diversity/disabilities, belonging to ethnic minorities or to particular Italian regions or localities.

Since, for some of the questions proposed, it was not always possible to determine a positive or negative answer, the relevance level was also detected, which measures the percentage of valid answers to the questions that make up the index. The general result is illustrated in the graph below.

As evidenced by the high values of the index, the Rai fiction analysed represents overall a positive space of inclusion, pluralism, respect for the diversity existing in society, promotion of the dignity of the person and the values of civil coexistence.

The series Imma Tataranni Sostituto procuratoreand the soap Un posto al soleboth have an Inclusivity Index of 1, a sign of a positive approach and a total absence of critical issues, but with a significant difference between the two cases: the first series has allowed an evaluation on most of the parameters, often thematizing the concepts defined by the five dimensions. For the soap opera, focused mainly on private dynamics, the plot often did not provide relevant elements to evaluate these aspects. This is reflected in a different degree of relevance.

The other series also have a high index, which fluctuates between 0.93 and 0.89 and therefore testifies of a global positivity, with some sporadic weakness on individual aspects.

All the dramas in question sanction, on one or more occasions, discriminatory behaviour or behaviour harmful to personal dignity, which targets the disabled, homosexuals, the homeless, ethnic minorities or other vulnerable categories. Furthermore, each series in its own way presents positive models of diversity/disability/minority inclusion and integration.

The lowest values are instead observed on the dimension relating to the sanction of unlawful conduct: on various occasions, more or less serious unlawful acts are not accompanied by an explicit or implicit condemnation in the course of the narration, but rather appear “justified” by the circumstances.