Only Negative Coverage on Mapuche on Public TV, Study Finds

An undergraduate study has found that Chilean public television could lead to stigmatization of the Mapuche. According to the study, the reporting provokes Chileans to associate negative stories to the group. The study also highlighted an absence of reporting on authentic Mapuche culture.

An undergraduate study at Swansea University in Wales, UK, analyzed six and a half months of TVN’s headline “24 Horas Central” program, focusing on the representation of the Mapuche. TVN was chosen because it is one of the top four news programs in Chile and, by law, it has a public service/interest role, unlike other competing news outlets.

The study also included a survey of nearly 300 Chileans across the country. Participants were presented statements from the news and asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the statements.

The study found that in a sampling of over 25 hours of news spread out over more than six months, just over one hour of coverage was dedicated to the Mapuche. In this same period, news items relating to the Mapuche appeared on less than 60% of broadcasts.

The study also found that, on average, TVN ran more negative stories on the Mapuche than positive ones, with a strong focus on violence, crime, and disorder.

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The more positive coverage attempted to normalize the Mapuche in the context of tourism, often showing their communities as “great weekends away” and such. These stories nevertheless always carried negative elements to them, with mentions of crime, violence, and terror. Thus, while Mapuche involved in “Chilean” activities such as tourism and festivals were presented in a positive light, there was an absence of coverage of authentic Mapuche culture, in effect normalizing Mapuche who adhere to Chilean expectations but marginalizing their own distinct culture.

The negative mentions of the indigenous people were almost always linked to land disputes and acts of violence. There was not one positive mention of Mapuche who sought to have their demands met through the Chilean political system –  the unstated suggestion being that Mapuche who do not actively participate in “Chilean” culture are inherently violent and opposed to “Chile.”

Conversely, the survey revealed that the majority of participants supported the Mapuche and did not consider them terrorists, agreeing with statements in support of the community. Opinions were polarized with mentions of the Chilean state often leading to strong support for the Mapuche. Equally, when specific acts of violence were named, support for the Mapuche dropped in the survey.

When comparing the survey and the news analysis, it demonstrated that many do not agree with the narratives presented in television news. Despite this, the strength of their responses demonstrated that people were very familiar with these narratives, as people generally “strongly” agreed or disagreed with the statements presented to them, taken from the news.

The study’s researchers argue that this combination highlights that while the television news influences public opinion, most people do not trust the television news representation.

These findings reinforce the results of a Chilean study of Bio Bío, in which over 95% of the news on the Mapuche was found to be negative. This study followed a similar model for analysis (Fernando De Haro’s model), looking at the regional television output of a number of television channels, and highlighting the predominant narratives, combined with the importance that their placement in the show suggest (the earlier in the news, the higher the perceived importance, for example).

Within the context of present-day Chile, perhaps these findings are not surprising; tensions between the police and the Mapuche continue to run high. As seen in the “Chile Despertó” protests, lack of trust in the media is a significant problem in current day Chile.

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