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Finland, satirical tv programme sparks controversy among finnish Roma

27 Giugno 2007 Commenti chiusi


The Finnish Roma Forum has asked the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) to suspend broadcasts of the summer comedy series Manne-TV. In an appeal sent to the YLE, the series, which aired its first programme on June 2nd, is denounced as demeaning to the Roma, or Gipsy population.

The organisation claims that it is racist, that it underscores prejudices, and that it could undermine the results of years of work to change attitudes. Other fears include a prospect of increased violence between the Roma community and other Finns, as well as an increase in ethnically based school bullying.

YLE Programme Director Harri Virtanen stands behind the show, most of whose producers and actors are Roma themselves. He says that Manne-TV will not be cancelled, and that it would continue to air on Saturday and Sunday evenings. “If the series really increases school bullying, for instance, I would naturally be very sorry, but it is not the purpose of the series”, Virtanen says.

“The target of the series is the population at large and its prejudices. If someone watching the series thinks ?is that how I think?’, or ?do I have attitudes like that?’, then we will be fairly close to the aim of the series”. Nevertheless, changes are planned in the content of Manne-TV.

In the future there will be a greater effort to specifically deal with prejudices of the majority population toward the Roma. “Finland is said to be a tolerant society, but this series has again raised the racism of the majority population. If the topic is this big, it is good that it has been raised, and is being debated”, Virtanen says.

The Roma Forum, which called for the cancellation of the show, is an umbrella organisation of Finnish Roma organisations, focusing on equal treatment under the law for the Roma population. According to the group’s vice president Mertsi Lindgren, Manne-TV contains overt incitement against a population group. The Roma Forum is actually considering the possibility of submitting a criminal complaint on the matter.

“First we need to meet with the Minority Affairs Ombudsman and to discuss it with [YLE Director-General] Mikael Jungner.” Minority Affairs Ombudsman Mikko Puumalainen has not yet studied the appeal of the Roma Forum. “I want to discuss the matter with representatives of the forum before I form an opinion on the matter”, Puumalainen says. Lindgren says that the Roma Forum took action on the basis of negative feedback from the Roma community.

“We have also heard from the majority population that the programme does not work”, Lindgren adds. Response received by YLE on the programme has been more negative than positive. “We get feedback from all programmes, but it dies not shake our decisions”, Harri Virtanen says.

© Helsingin Sanomat