During 2019 CARES-Osservatorio di Pavia carried out the monitoring of the ‘Pluralism of themes, subjects and narration in Rai broadcasting’ in compliance with the provisions of the 2018-2022 Service Contract which sets out the general principles on which the public service offer must be based; among others: making available […] a plurality of contents, of different formats and genres, which respect the principles of impartiality, independence and pluralism, referring to all the different social, cultural and political conditions and options [… ]; take care to reach the different components of the society, paying attention to its articulated composition in terms of gender, generations, ethnic, cultural and religious identity, as well as minorities and people with disabilities […].
To detect the contribution of the Rai television offer to respecting social pluralism, a monitoring was carried out aimed at detecting, describing and evaluating: the plurality of topics covered and the valorisation of local realities; the adherence to reality in the representation of the country, from a social, gender, generational, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation point of view, and the attention paid to disabilities; the quality of information and the compliance with the main ethical obligations. The monitoring, with the consequent qualitative-quantitative content analysis, involved 1,100 Rai 1, Rai 2 and Rai 3 programs broadcast in 2019 from 06:00 to 02:00 and selected on the basis of representation criteria of the different TV genres, audience and thematic relevance.
The main results
Plurality of topics covered
The programs analysed, taken as a whole, present a fairly complete and balanced treatment of the various macro-themes. Alongside the considerable attention dedicated to the macro theme relating to art and entertainment (28.3%), a significant space is reserved for issues of economy and work (18.7%) and science and health news (17.6%). A more limited space is dedicated to political activities (7.6%).
A more in-depth analysis of the 10 most frequently treated sub-themes in all the broadcasts highlights, in addition to the space dedicated to art and culture in general, the attention dedicated to the themes of health, the environment, sport, crime, to the various dimensions of the economy, in particular economic policies and the issue of work, national and foreign policy and religion. There was significant attention paid to issues related to the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development: around 15% of the topics covered concerned at least one of its 17 goals. Several goals were often dealt with simultaneously within a single news item/topic, thus helping to promote the idea that sustainability is not just an environmental issue, and affirming an integrated vision of the various dimensions of development. A representation of local realities was also noted, i.e. the attention to traditions, aspects or events closely linked to a specific territory. Attention to this reality was found in 30% of the topics covered; in 18% if we exclude all broadcasts by their very nature linked to the local sphere (TGRand TGR Buongiorno Regione).
Among the people involved in various capacities in broadcasting, young people aged between 18 and 35 are under-represented: compared to a percentage of about 17% in the real population, they are represented for just over 11%. Minors make up less than 3% of guests/interviewees, even though they represent around 17% of the Italian population. Young people (18-35 age range) rarely play the role of protagonists (only in 5.3% of the total number of their presences), while in the vast majority of cases their presence is secondary (40.2%) or entirely marginal (34.4%), and are consulted on a very limited range of topics. The over 65 age group is also underrepresented (15.5%, compared to 22.6% in the real population). In particular, women belonging to this age group are not very visible.
The representation of professions reflects a typical media bias: on the one hand, the self-referentiality of the television medium leads to an over-representation of celebrities (13.9%) and media professionals (8.2%). On the other hand, the frequent use of experts in the programmes, in addition to putting figures such as politicians, representatives of civil society and academics in the foreground, favours top social positions: 55% of the people involved in the programs play a primary/managerial role within one’s own profession and only in 17% of cases a secondary/employee role. The image that emerges, dominated by well-known or “important” characters, is quite distant from the professional and social composition prevailing in reality, and offers limited visibility to the weaker social classes. However, it has been noted that, albeit less frequently, even traders, artisans, workers, employees, farmers and health professionals are consulted as experts, a sign of enhancement of their profession and specific competence.
From the comparison between the ISTAT data and the data relating to guests and interviewees in the entire sample of broadcasts, a significant adherence to the reality of the country is evident: 8.5% of the people interviewed or hosted are of non-Italian citizenship, in line with the ISTAT data on foreign citizens residing in Italy (8.7% of the resident population). The theme “Migrations, refugees, asylum seekers, ethnic conflicts, integration, racism, xenophobia” is placed in a medium-high position in the ranking of attention (14th position, 2.2% of the total) highlighting interest in problems of inclusion, racism and multicultural experiences. With the exception of guests/interviewees from Eastern Europe, who often have a medium-high social profile (sportsmen, journalists or celebrities), the socio-professional categories in which non-Italian nationals have a more significant presence are those most modest: minors, health workers or social workers, religious, unemployed or farmers.
It should be noted that the Rai program schedule is open to various religious denominations, thanks to the presence of thematic sections: A sua immagineand Sulla via di Damasco(Catholic faith), Protestantesimo(Protestant faith) and Sorgente di vita(Judaism). These are spaces where not only religion is talked about, but multiple current topics are seen through the filter of faith. However, it should be noted that the Islamic religion, which concerns a considerable part of foreign citizens residing in Italy, receives little attention compared to the other major religions.
Attention given to the diversity of sexual orientations
The sexual orientation of the participants appears to be very rarely made explicit (3.5% of the people interviewed and guests of the programmes) and the subject is little thematized. In any case, it should be emphasized that the data relating to sexual orientation in television programs are to be considered indicative and not directly comparable with the ISTAT data on the population, since this characteristic is not always identifiable or known, and making it known would represent a violation of individual privacy.
Attention given to disabilities
The presence of subjects who, thanks to their disability, can sensitize viewers on the issue is marginal (1.5%). There are few news reports or thematic parentheses that can be directly traced back to the theme, which however is explored in its various dimensions: social inclusion, job placement, access to cultural and sporting practices, medical-health aspects.