Israeli Arab Representation on TV Talk Shows Shot Up in 2016

Compared with their percentage of the population, Israeli Arabs remain significantly underrepresented on television and radio, statistics show.

London and Kirschenbaum
London and Kirschenbaum

More Israeli Arabs appeared on Israeli television talk shows and on radio in 2016 than ever before, based on data from the “Representation Index,” launched about a year ago.

The Representation Index is compiled as a collaboration between the Sikkuy Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, the Seventh Eye media watchdog journal and the Ifat media research institute.

According to the index, the show that gave the biggest platform to Israeli Arabs, by a long shot, was the current affairs show London and Kirschenbaum, which is broadcast nightly on Channel 10. That show alone hosted 154 Israeli Arabs from January 3, 2016 to December 31 that year, constituting nearly 12 percent of all interviewees on the show.

Second place went to the Channel 1 news show Yoman, which had 98 Israeli Arabs, constituting almost 8 percent of all interviewees in 2016. Another Channel 1 news show, Mabat, came third with 336 Israeli Arab interviewees, constituting nearly 5 percent of all its guests.

At the end of the list was “Meet the Press” on Channel 2, hosted by Rina Matzliach, with just 2 percent of all its interviewees coming from the Israeli Arab community over the year, alongside Channel 10’s “Central Headquarters” (2 percent) and Channel 2’s late-night news (1.5 percent).

Although Israeli Arabs number 20 percent of the population, in practice their exposure rates on the chat shows is much less. However, the advent of the index, which is published weekly, may have helped. In January 2016, the index stood at 3 percent and by year-end, at 6 percent.

Moving on from specific television shows to networks, the sampling showed that Channel 1 has the highest representation of Israeli Arabs, with 834 interviewees, constituting 4 percent of all interviewees. Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet channel comes next with 962 interviewees or 2.6 percent of the total, followed by Channel 10 with 849 interviewees or 2.4 percent of the total, and Channel 2 with 734 interviewees or 2.2 percent of all guests. At the end of the list is Army Radio, where only 1.8 percent of interviewees were Israeli Arabs in 2016.

Edan Ring, manager of the Israeli Arab representation project at Sikkuy, commented that a significantly positive and welcome trend was evident in 2016, with more Israeli Arabs appearing on talk shows.

“Even so, the numbers in a lot of shows remain very weak and are far from representing the percentage of Israeli Arabs in the population,” Ring said. “A leading show like Meet the Press, for instance, at the bottom of the representation table with the embarrassing statistic of just 2 percent of interviewees being Arabs, cannot justify that figure. If the decision makers at that network decide they want appropriate representation for the Arab population, they can make the situation better. Other shows and editors demonstrated this year that it’s just a matter of decision.”

Everybody would gain if a serious show like Meet the Press picked up the gauntlet and allowed expression to all citizens, Ring added.