Immigrants in Finland

26.3.2010

Finnish television programmes do not touch on immigrants

Programmes are often produced without taking into account that a viewer might be a refugee or an asylum seeker who has come from elsewhere and might feel hurt by the way that the television programme presents his or her culture, according to a study published here this month by the University of Tampere.

According to the study, the way a television programme is presented could also make an immigrant feel an outsider. Immigrant viewers also find it offensive that they are lumped together as a single category without bringing out the differences between them.

The research was conducted by the department of Journalism at the University of Tampere on the television experience of immigrants. The survey interviewed 54 immigrants and 18 native in groups.

“For instance immigrants from other European countries feel that issues touching them are not brought out in Finnish television at all, rather immigration is connected to only non-Europeans and refugees”, says author of the report, Mari Maasilta.

However, immigrants are interested in Finnish television even though they do not view it all the time. Television is seen as a tool which can open the door into a new culture. According to the research, participants wish to have programmes which would give an insight into daily life experience of ordinary people.

A great majority of the participants watch Finnish television as well as that of their home countries. Such programmes complement each other because Finnish television news coverage does not provide sufficient news of events back in their home countries. On the other hand Finnish television news enables them understand issues connected with their daily lives. Television viewing is also useful because it helps them to learn the Finnish language, says the research.

Immigrants and native Finns both wish to see more of immigrants and people from different cultural backgrounds appear on television as actors, journalists and entertainers and not just as immigrants.

The participants would wish to have people from all sectors of the population appear as actors and television presenters in television series and entertainment programmes.

According to the research, the results support the programming policy adopted in many European countries which emphasizes cultural diversity whereby immigrants are not offered their own separate television programmes but rather there is an attempt provide programmes that would interest everyone equally. Technical solutions such as providing Finnish language subtitles would lower the reception threshold among immigrants.

Finland’s immigrant population is still small compared to other European countries or its Nordic neighbours. In 2006, the immigrant population accounted for 2.3 % of the total Finnish population of 5 million but the number of immigrants has been growing rapidly since 1997.

It was only in 1990s with the arrival of Somali refugees that there has been a significant increase in the number of immigrants. However, the largest number of immigrants are from other from European countries