As Canadians we’re proud of diversity, so why is multicultural media being left in the dark about COVID-19

While I agree that more can and should be done, one of my observations from tracking ethnic media coverage of the 2019 election campaign was that much of their coverage reflected articles in the mainstream media, and those who relied on ethnic media would be reasonable informed on the electoral platforms and choices.

It may be more a matter of resources than anything else but would be nice to know what governments are doing to publicize COVID health related information on ethnic media:

After writing my last op-ed on the underutilization of multicultural media to disseminate clear COVID-19 information, I’ve received an overwhelming response.

Some messages were from physicians and public health officials interested in utilizing these platforms to inform communities on how to stay safe. Others were a nod of acknowledgment from the Canadian public who finally felt seen and heard. And a lot of them were questions regarding why such important platforms remained underutilized when they could have been important tools to disseminate critical life saving information.

One of the things we are most proud of as Canadians is multiculturalism, yet, there’s a divide: a lack of ethnic and linguistic diversity on mainstream media. This is why multicultural and ethnic media is a much needed voice for minority communities across Canada. Along with providing language and culturally sensitive critical health information and public communication, these mediums foster a sense of culture, and community for the minority and immigrant Canadians.

While these media outlets can be very important for people with no knowledge of English or French, these platforms do more than address language barriers. For many Canadians, it’s a platform to help stay connected to one’s culture and heritage and is a heavily relied upon source of information.

The problem? These platforms can play a substantial role in sharing life-saving critical health information, and have proven to do so with information around cancer pre-pandemic. So why aren’t they getting the clear COVID-19 precaution information now?

Firstly, there is a lack of awareness. What emerged from my discussions with many physician colleagues is that many were unaware these channels existed. At the medical school education level, there needs to be better knowledge dissemination about the importance of these community platforms and how multicultural media can be leveraged to provide health related information to the public.

Secondly, there isn’t a clear bridge between mainstream and multicultural media. Mainstream media needs to do a better job at supporting and amplifying the voices of multicultural media platforms. This could be done by hosting multicultural media representatives on mainstream shows and vice versa. Moreover, government and public health bodies need to develop two-way streets with multicultural media outlets and have an ongoing regular communication with these media representatives.

Thirdly, after speaking to various multicultural media spokespersons, I learned that there is a lack of funding and financial support, particularly for the radio show channels. Their hands are tied and they have to heavily rely on advertisements to cover their expenses and are unable to afford the latest technology or means to be on par with popular mainstream outlets. Their sole profit sometimes is from advertisements; some of these advertisements can be alternative care providers or various sources in radio, TV, and print media. As part of the advertisement package, it’s hard for media channels to control knowledge dissemination. This as one can imagine then can be a source of misinformation on top of an already existing information vacuum due to underutilization of the media platforms which is exponentially dangerous.

We as Canadians are proud of our multiculturalism and public health care system and therefore it is heartbreaking to hear that multicultural media struggles to thrive. It’s an important vehicle to deliver health related and public communication to all Canadians. It is critical for us to engage multicultural and ethnic media to ensure pandemic messaging reaches to everyone nationally.

As we combat the second wave, develop an inclusive vaccination strategy, and disseminate vaccine and COVID-19 related information, it’s still not too late to incorporate linguistic and culturally sensitive print, radio and TV media outlets in our armamentarium to deliver critical health related information.

Source: As Canadians we’re proud of diversity, so why is multicultural media being left in the dark about COVID-19

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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