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24 / 05 / 2004
Charo Lacalle: It is difficult to change the spanish perception of immigrants

On the first day of the Dialogue “Communication and Cultural Diversity” the speakers Charo Lacalle and Mauro Cerbino explained their thesis about digital journalism and the portrayal of immigrants on television, as part of the session “Creating the difference”.

Professor of Semiotics at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (Autonomous University of Barcelona), Charo Lacalle, has been conducting research into the image that Spanish television portrays of immigrants. To Lacalle, in the news bulletins “it is difficult to find news that is not about ‘illegal’ immigrants”. To him, the gutter television “builds archetypes and perpetuates stereotypes”.

His research has been based on the genre of fiction and the progressive introduction of immigrant characters. He has gone back to the year 2001, when the first immigrant characters appeared and were always related to delinquency and the margins of society. It was not until 2003 that these immigrants continued to appear regularly, but in more normal circumstances.

To Lacalle, the case of the TV3 series El cor de la ciutat (The heart of the city) is a clear example of the “effort to make immigrants appear normal to the viewer”. According to him, the interest of the research into fiction lies in the fact that it is in this area that independent channels get involved and reach a larger audience, and it also shows that young people are less and less interested in the news programs.

Even with the criticism of the communications media and the attention he has drawn to the role that television ought to have in altering people’s perception of immigrants, professor Lacalle commented that “the balance is positive compared to the previous situation”.

For his part, Mauro Cerbino, of the Latin American Faculty of Social Science in Ecuador, presented his thesis on digital journalism and the anonymity of the identities that are created in cyberspace. Cerbino explained that journalistic texts on-line must encourage the reader to read, “if the journalist forgets this responsibility, the text becomes sensationalism”.