Why No East Asians On UK Screens? Maybe African-Caribbean’s Should Be Arguing Diversity Outside of Entertainment?


You would think it’s only African-Americans & British African-Caribbean’s who have issue with the lack of accurate/equal fair representation in the entertainment genres.

Sometimes deep in the recess of my mind, I often wonder why we’re so bothered? Of course, I get it and I’m a strong champion of fair and equal representation of ‘us’ in the one area which penetrates human psyche deeper than any form of inform-education. We are an affected peoples bearing the scars of popular entertainment culture.

But the title of this post is a question I’ve asked myself on numerous occasions ‘Why are there rarely Chinese/Japanese people on our TV screens?’, ‘How come Eastenders has never EVER had a family running a Chinese restaurant and their story, storyline?’  ‘and then I query ‘Do East Asians even give a crap about their on-screen presence?’ And then I swiftly come to the conclusion that they’re too busy dominating the world with their product and business empires to give a damn about whether or not their home away from back home casts them in a stereotypical role in a national TV show, can I get a #MadeinChina!

I found this post by @MissHyeranKim on TV Collectives website:

If you flick through the channels on your TV right now, the chance that you will see a Chinese, Korean, Japanese or any other oriental race on screen is close to nothing. Although  Orientals are one of the most longest residing immigrants in the UK, making up nearly 2% of the whole population, why are East Asians so unrepresented on screen?

So the easy way out of the question would be – discrimination, but that would be a lie. British broadcasters are not avoiding hiring ethnic minorities, in fact they are investing more and more money in diversity departments to expand the spectrum of their workforce. Schemes and communities have been set up to find talent in ethnic minorities, although I cannot say if they have been successful or not. We will probably see the results of these schemes in the future, maybe even in 2013.

The truth is, East Asians are not that interested in the media industry. Take Nottingham University for example. Nottingham University has two other campuses, one in  China and the other in Malaysia. This allows students to easily circulate between the campuses, meaning that every year the UK campus has an influx of over 1000 East Asian students. However hardly any of these students are involved in the three main student media services, NUTS (Nottingham University Television Station), URN (University Radio Nottingham), and Impact Magazine.

East Asians in general are more inclined to move towards the maths and art sectors, so the lack of East Asians working in the media can been seen as an issue we must tackle on both sides. Journalism and broadcasting as a career path should be made more open to consideration, such as the Asian American Journalist Association is an example of the prominence of East Asians on screen. The British media industry has a lot to learn from US broadcasters. I understand that America is larger than the UK but British television has established themselves as an internationally established broadcaster, so they really do have to catch up in terms of diversifying.

What I have noticed while researching for this article, is the prominence of Asian-American female broadcasters and reporters on US news networks  Although East Asians on screen is still uncommon, America had definitely succeeded in breaking that colour barrier. I feel that American broadcasters have encouraged diversity for a long time but at the same time they have maintained their standard of broadcast by selecting young talent and developing skills rather than employing ethnic minorities for company statistics.

Korean-American reporters such as  Julie Chang, Christina Park, Juju Chang and Lee Ann Kim (respectively, as seen in the featured image), have established themselves in their fields and they inspire me constantly that through dedication, time and patience a career can be created in the ever-competitive broadcast industry. I was always taught by my family ‘you have to work 10 times harder than everyone else because you are Korean’. Although I don’t completely agree as I have always viewed everyone as equals, I now understand the truth to that message. As an ethnic minority, I shouldn’t give the employer any excuse NOT to employ me. This message goes out to all ethnic minorities, use your time to skill up and gain as much experience as you can and slowly a more diverse industry can be created.

 What @MissHyeranKim says about the US being more open to having East Asian representatives on the news and in TV shows is correct, I do notice more East Asian newscasters and most of the mainstream US shows have at least one East Asian tech-geek/policeman/karate-chopping baddie in them. The big screen a tad more stereotypical with the East Asian gangster, and Hollywood kinda dropped the ball with Lucy Liu (glad for her that she got that role in Elementary, and we will always love her as the hardcore Ling in Ally McBeal). SoI do wonder what the UK’s problem is?

But overall I wonder, have we as African-Caribbeans missed a very important trick here? While we campaign so strongly to stop being typecast as ‘IC3 male in a hoody’, ‘Thug #no3’, ‘Single mother with four varied fathered kids’, the power of what we own for ourselves, our stake on the global market, our ‘hashtag Made in…’ (without a Fair Trade sticker attached) is highly underrepresented or should I rarely championed. And although East Asians aren’t all over our TV screens, it’s highly likely we’re watching ‘us’ on a TV made by an East Asian corporation!



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