This is Undignified! Comparing the Representation of Human Dignity on Cheaters and Uyajola 9/9




global media ethics, human dignity, reality television, multimodal critical discourse analysis, Ubuntu, audiences, participation, Global South


Calls have resonated within media scholarship and practice for more ethical oversight in the production and distribution of media content by producers through ethical frameworks. This article intervenes in the literature on the global debate around media ethics frameworks by focusing on the underexplored
value of human dignity in the context of television reality shows. The article makes two interventions in relation to the value of dignity, one theoretical and another applied. The theoretical intervention, contrary to the tendency to rely on Western cultures and theories to conceptualise human dignity, draws from a Global South perspective, specifically from the African ethical idea of Ubuntu that proffers a relational (as opposed to an individualist) conception of human dignity. The applied ethics intervention responds to the scant literature focusing on the representation of human dignity in media ethics. The article uses Ubuntu’s theory of human dignity to compare the representation of participants on similar factual television shows from the United States of America (USA) and South Africa depicting relational infidelity. Multimodal critical discourse analysis from three episodes of Cheaters and three episodes of South Africa’s Uyajola 9/9 (n=6) reveal that human dignity in the representation of the participants in these two shows is often neglected in the media production process, leaving many questions about the global and local media ethics of these two reality shows.


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