Recognizing the pivotal role of media in shaping perceptions of Africa, The Africa Narrative seeks a deeper understanding of their impact and a richer telling of Africa’s story.
Combining opinion research as well as analysis of news and entertainment programming and social media conversations, Africa in the Media is the Narrative’s inaugural research project conducted in partnership with the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg School of Communications. Focused on illuminating how Africa is depicted in media and entertainment, it aims to generate a deeper understanding of the impact on opinions and attitudes toward Africa, and more broadly, on the world’s engagement with the continent.
For the Africa in the Media’s first study focused on the United States, The Lear Center’s Media Impact Project conducted a content analysis of some 700,000 hours of US television news and entertainment and 1.6 million tweets. The findings put in stark relief how Africa and Africans barely register on US television and depictions of Africa are broadly negative. Among some of the top line findings:
Stories about Africa appear infrequently on U.S. television: a mention appears once in every five hours of TV programming. Viewers are seven times more likely to see references to Europe.
Only 14% of references to Africa on US TV are positive
Out of almost 700,000 hours of programming over the course of one month, there were only 25 major scripted storylines about Africa, and over half centered on crime. Many of these stories were told on America’s most popular shows such as Law & Order: SVU and the NCIS franchises.
Only 13% of entertainment storylines that mention Africa include an African character, and 80% of the roles are minor. When African characters do appear, 46% speak 10 words or less.
Only 31% of African characters on US TV are women.
44% of TV shows and movies only mention “Africa”, with no reference to a particular country.
Out of a Continent of 54 countries, 5 nations grab the bulk of attention on US TV: Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Seychelles, and Congo account for almost half (49%) of all mentions of any African nation.
Africa In the Media: Part II
Amplifying and building on the TV analysis conducted in the first phase of Africa in the Media research in which 700,00 of hours of US television news and entertainment were analyzed over the course of one month, a similar analysis will be singularly focused on entertainment media over a 5-Year period (2016-2020). This study will provide a definitive baseline measurement of how Africa and Africans are depicted in US entertainment and allow us to track trends over time.