How are black entertainment artists recognised in the media industry?
According to journalism.co.uk the media industry has been dubbed by many as “cut throat” as it is one of the most difficult industries to get into, more so for black and ethnic minorities (Judith Townend June 2010). Many surveys have been conducted and concluded that different media outlets have misused their position of power and wrongfully discriminated against black and ethnic minorities in regards to hiring. Supposedly it seems as though some of the reasons why it is felt that black people are not being represented may be because, “It’s a hard industry to get into, but it is changing and there are lots of routes that may not necessarily involve working for a traditional music label” (Katie Shimmon Apr 2009). When working in the media industry you become the very face of that particular company, black music artists are sometimes labelled as gangster rappers which may deter some companies from wanting to represent them as many people may not ready to accept that we live in a multicultural society.
Music and fashion go hand in hand, according to statistics that have come out and said that black and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the media industries, but there has been some backlash towards this. Many artists have been given the opportunity to have graced magazines such as GQ, VOUGE. The trend of black people being faced in the likes of these magazines has influenced vogue to hire their first black editor since the beginning of its first publications in 1892. Seems there are still breakthrough stories to do with people of colour finally getting recognition for something in particular that definitely should have been acknowledged a long time ago. Furthermore Edward Enningful the Vogue magazines very first black editor, as much as this is an achievement it is actually quite astonishing when you realise that this is happening in 2017, so much so that Enningful has responded to debates that have erupted in light of his new role with making his first cover a mixed race female activist (Jess Cartner-Morley Nov 2017).
There has been much public denial that there is a lack of representation, checking different institutions and what their policies are in regards to hiring people of colour there is definitely an underwhelming responsibility that looks after the issues regarding the lack of representation amongst black people. Researchers have concluded that 0.2% of British journalists are black (Oscar Williams Mar 2016).
There are different rules and regulations put in place from the likes of Ofcom, IPSO, PCC, PRP etc. What we fail to see is whether there have been improvements in increasing black faces in the media industry. Organisations are meant to submit mandatory data that contains the information revealing their diversity data
(Ofcom September 2017). It seems as though more organisations are now being held accountable for their lack of diversity in an Ofcom report released containing information on the media industries diversity levels. They looked at the under-represented in the TV industry. Ofcom announced that they will be taking out a range of measures to help tackle under-representation.
There have been many articles released by different media news outlets such as MBW (RHIAN JONES MAY 2016). Their article titled “How Can the music industry tackle its diversity issues?”
Channel 4 news Invites well known UK rappers to speak on the lack of diversity in the media/creative industry especially in the UK BRIT Awards There was also an interview done by channel 4 news which had UK rappers Krept and Konan talk about the lack of diversity that young black Brits in the entertainment industry were facing. (Channel 4 News Feb 2016).
GRM Daily who supports the predominantly black music scene released an article about the chairman of the BPI (British phonographic industry) talks lack of diversity at
the BRIT Awards. He states that some characterise the problem as a lack of diversity among the nominees but for him it was more about the lack of recognition of emerging music that is a huge impact on the predominantly black community (GRM DAILY FEB 16).
Many black music artists have struggled within the entertainment industry and quite a few have had different experiences within the industry, I took it upon myself to find out. I spoke to rapper Kevin Mills also known as, ‘Gavi Omar’ who had some things to say about his perception on what he himself has witnessed. He claims that there have been changes in the entertainment industry. Asking him a few questions on his personal experiences brought to light why he views the industry the way he does and what this has meant for his career. He mentioned that he believes the industry are fake and that there’s a false portrayal of the people representing the entertainment industry.
Although very controversial Gavi Omar was adamant that he believed that black artists made the industry itself and that without black artists there was no culture because ‘black artists are the culture’. Omar was very direct with his approach and as I had previously heard a podcast of him airing these same views I became intrigued as to what got him to that point. He began to reveal that as a black artist he is often put into one corner of the industry. I asked him where he thought he stood within the industry and whether it was easy for him to be recognised, Omar stated that the music industry has changed and a lot of it is due to the internet as the industry has become saturated with “any Tom and Harry able to become noticed”.
He made it clear that he was not happy in the way the media depicted black people, however he said that the media was making certain topics relevant. Omar was not apprehensive, he mentioned that sometime ago his rap name was ‘Kevin Million’ and when he released new music his music videos had him handling drugs in the background of his videos, these videos would get hundreds of thousands of views. Omar said he was unhappy with the image he was putting across which was extremely harmful and stereotypical of his race Kevin Mills (Gavi Omar).
Recently it has come to the attention of many the way some media outlets present information to their audience there is almost a bias against black entertainment artists that is subtly distributed. For example Michael also known as grime and hip hop artist ‘Stormzy’ has faced much duress by the hands of British media. They have almost created a caricature of him for example a British paper were constantly comparing Stormzy to a footballer Romelu Lukaku when they had no previous relations.
Overall it is fair to say that there is a huge disparity in the representation of black people in the entertainment industry and a lack of diversity amongst the UK scene which does not give a fair representation of everyone within that industry. This could be down to the number of non BAME staff who have control on what is put on mainstream media outlets and who also decide what is ‘hot or not’ due to what is trending on social media. For new artists it will always be harder to be recognised but especially for artists of colour it has become apparent that they do not get the same positive reception within the media as their counterparts.
There have been a number of ongoing investigations that will determine if black artists are being treated fairly within media and what media outlets can do to make sure a certain minority of people are not feeling excluded in any way. Due to this fact many organisations have actively sought after BAME artists or people within the entertainment industry as opposed to just hiring white people. It has made organisations quite aware that there seems to be a noticeable difference in the lack of diversity and the influence these young black artists have in their industry. Many people feels as though the black culture is often imitated however it is also said that the media do not want to accept the black people that bring the culture.
Different media outlets use their resources to show this type of message ie channel 4 who have been active in their role of showcasing the grievances of the minority and many journalists have looked into award shows that do not seem to have a lot of diversity going on. It seems that even though organisations like IPSO (Independent press standards organisation) or the PCC (Press complaints commission) or the PRP (Press recognition panel) all have ways in which they gather their information through investigations it goes to show that more can be done in regards to putting certain regulations in place that actually challenge organisations that do not follow through with increasing the diversity range. So that these organisation’s are made aware that they need to be more inclusive and that they are not exempt from facing consequences.
Judith Townend 17 June 2010
Katie Shimmon Apr 2009
Jess Cartner-Morley Nov 2017
Oscar Williams Mar 2016
Ofcom September 2017
RHIAN JONES MAY 2016
Channel 4 News Published Feb 2016
GRM DAILY FEB 16
Kevin Mills (Gavi Omar)