Social Cohesion on TV

- Political and social pluralism
Social Cohesion on TV

During 2019 CARES-Osservatorio di Pavia carried out, for the second consecutive year, the Monitoring of Social Cohesion in Rai broadcasting, in compliance with the provisions of the 2018-2022 Service Contract which commits Rai “to promote the growth of the quality of its overall offer, to be pursued through the following objectives: reach the various audiences through a variety of overall broadcasting, with particular attention to offers that promote social cohesion and disseminate the values of acceptance and inclusion, respect for the law and of the dignity of the person.”

To implement the provisions of the Service Contract, Rai has defined social cohesion as a “condition that distinguishes national communities characterized by the recognition of a common historical and cultural identity, by common values and interests, by the sense of belonging to the same community, by the presence of an active network of social relations and means of communication which facilitate everyone’s participation in civil, social, political and cultural life”.

To detect the contribution of Rai’s television offer to social cohesion, a monitoring was carried out aimed at detecting respect for the dignity of the person and the degree of social inclusion/diversity.

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, of the three generalist networks, of all time slots from 6:00 to 2:00, of the audience and of thematic relevance. The main results of the 2019 monitoring were compared with those of the 2018 monitoring, to verify any differences, similarities and current trends.


Main results

The results show above all how the Rai broadcasting monitored in 2019 respects the dignity of the person, in line with what was observed in 2018.

Out of 1,100 broadcasts analysed, 1,076 broadcasts, 97.8%, are respectful of human dignity. In 24 broadcasts (equal to 2.2% of the entire sample) there are cases of harm to human dignity, directly or indirectly stigmatized, mostly staged with the main purpose of condemning attitudes, behaviours or social phenomena that harm human dignity. In just 3 transmissions (equal to 0.3% of the total) there is a violation of the dignity of the legitimated person.

The reconstruction of the socio-personal profile of the people and characters present in the broadcasts shows how Rai broadcasting is overall inclusive of all the different social categories considered: women and men; youth, adults and the elderly; male and female professionals in numerous working fields; people of all different socio-economic classes; representatives of the different ethnic groups that populate Italy; believers in different religious faiths; able and disabled people; heterosexual and homosexual or bisexual.

As for social diversity, the population represented by Rai broadcasting is made up of a majority component of men, adults, heterosexuals, of bourgeois extraction, Western ethnicity, Catholic religion and, in appearance, without disabilities. Alongside this more numerous and homogeneous group, there are more limited spaces for expression for women (more adults and younger than older) and young people, people of ethnicity and religion different from the native ones, the white-collar middle classes and the urban petty bourgeoisie, and finally, people with disabilities and homosexuals – almost exclusively male.

The calculation of the Acceptance Index, which is an innovation, returned a very high average value, equal to 0.92, with some variations according to TV genres and social categories: if the Acceptance Index for sexual orientation reaches the value maximum of 0.99, the Adhesion Index of gender representation stops at 0.85, indicating a greater distance of the TV representation of women and men from the real distribution between women and men in the Italian society. A result which, while on the one hand is certainly problematic, because it contributes to cultivating an unequal and not fully inclusive collective imagination, on the other hand reflects a real society not yet capable of fully including women, especially in public life, which is, for obvious reasons, the most visible in the media.

It can certainly be said that Rai complies with the commitments of the Service Contract by helping to promote social cohesion with an overall television offer that respects the dignity of the person and actively promotes respect for diversity. Rai programming is also inclusive of all components of the Italian society and, although concentrated on some traditionally dominant profiles in the traditional TV imagination, it is diversified enough to be substantially consistent with reality, at least where it has been possible to make an assessment in this sense, i.e. by gender, generation, ethnicity, religion, (dis)ability and sexual orientation.


Respect for the dignity of the person

The results show that Rai broadcasting is overall respectful of the dignity of the person: in 24 broadcasts (equal to 2.2% of the overall sample) forms of harm to human dignity are staged, in 21 of which they are more or less clearly stigmatized and mostly staged with the aim of denouncing or opposing attitudes and behaviours harmful to human dignity. 99.7% (1,097) of the 1,100 broadcasts analysed are therefore characterized by a substantial respect for the dignity of people, thus providing a contribution to the creation of social cohesion. There were 3 frames in 3 different broadcasts (equal to 0.3% of the total) in both 2019 and 2018 that are truly critical, directly or indirectly legitimizing the harm to human dignity. In 2019, therefore, the staging of injuries to human dignity resulted functional to the narration and promotion of social cohesion (-0.9%); while the meagre forms of violations remain constant which are configured as truly critical since they are not stigmatized and not functional to denounce a culture, an attitude, an outrageous and/or harmful behaviour to the dignity of the person.


Social inclusion and diversity

The 1,100 broadcasts analysed returned a sample of 18,688 people including presenters, journalists, guests, interviewees, participants in the various kinds of broadcast and Fiction characters, of whom 63.7% were men and 36.3% were women: a value that indicates the under-representation of women compared to men and compared to women residing in Italy, who make up 51.3% of the total population, according to the most recent Istat data. All generations find space for inclusion in Rai programming, even if it is evident that the adult generations predominate: the most active part of the population, which includes young adults (35-49) and adults/elderly (50-64 years), covers in fact 71.8% of the sample compared to 43.4% of the population present in the same age groups, with an Italian population that sees a strong component of over 65s equal to 22.8%. The representation of the various socio-economic classes shows a clear prevalence of the cluster made up of the bourgeoisie of entrepreneurs, freelance professionals and company managers and executives, the socio-economic class with the greatest television visibility (67.6%). The clerical middle class (16.1%) and the urban petty bourgeoisie of small entrepreneurs and self-employed workers in various sectors, commerce and services (8.2%) follow with a strong detachment. The ethnic groups other than the Western one are all represented, albeit within a small share of the sample (equal to 4.3%): among these the most visible are the Eastern European (18.5%), the Latin American (16.3%) and “mixed” (15.5%), compared to the distribution of foreigners residing in Italy by area of origin according to Istat data. The Catholic religion, historically still prevalent in our country, is the most represented, especially for men, in cases where the religious identity of the person/character is explicit. Followed by Judaism (11.6%), Protestant Christianity (5.1%) and Islam (2.4%). People with disabilities are underrepresented on TV compared to their incidence on the real population (1.6% vs 5.2%). The representation of sexual orientation proposed by Rai programming is quite varied: considering the cases of people/characters whose sexual orientation is obvious, heterosexual identities (96.1%) are below the distribution of the real population according to Istat data (97.3%). Homosexual or bisexual identities are 3.9% in the programming analysed.


Index of adherence to reality

The results emerging from the analysis on social inclusion and diversity were compared, when possible, with demographic data on the composition of the Italian population, in order to investigate how closely the population represented by TV adheres to the social reality of the country. The assumption is that the greater the adherence of the composition of the TV population, by gender, generation, ethnicity, religion, etc., the greater the possibility for Rai broadcasting to reach the various components of society and help create social cohesion. An Index of Adherence of TV representation to social reality was constructed, with values between 0 and 1, where 0 indicates the maximum distance of TV representation from the real composition of society and 1 the perfect coincidence between TV representation and reality. The calculation of the Participation Index returned an overall value of 0.92. An average figure that levels out different values by social category and TV genre, but overall stable compared to 0.94 in 2018. As in 2018, the most realistic Rai representation concerns sexual orientation, which for both years has a of Adherence of 0.99, while the furthest from reality is the representation of gender, with an Adherence Index of 0.85 in 2019 and 0.86 in 2018. As regards the degree of inclusion (real or symbolic) of the various social groups in television programming, the presence of all the main components of society and social diversity can be seen in the Rai TV texts and contexts.


Note: the Monitoring of social cohesion in Rai broadcasting was entrusted by Rai following the award of Lot 1, “Quali-quantitative research”, of the negotiated procedure n. 7364271AD. The monitoring of social cohesion was carried out on an experimental basis following the aforementioned tender award, the specific object of which is the “Monitoring of the female figure in Rai programming”, carried out in compliance with the provisions of article 9, paragraph 1 and 2 of the Service Contract, both for the year 2018 and for the year 2019.

The research project was developed and implemented by a research group with at least ten years of experience in the analysis of audio-visual media, the report “Monitoring of social cohesion in Rai programming”, year 2019, was written by Monia Azzalini and Ludovica Cassetta, in collaboration with the Rai Marketing Department.