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Archive for the ‘Media and Development’ Category

The trials and tribulations of finding reliable proxies for media development continues! As I discussed in my last post, I’ve been searching for some way to quantify media development, by combing through data that other, larger organizations have already collected. I’ve been using the Media Sustainability Index’s 5 criteria as a template. The unfortunate problem with the MSI is that it only covers a limited number of countries, and for a limited number of years. I discussed in my previous post, this makes conducting statistical analysis difficult.

I thought it would be interesting to share some of the information that I’ve been gathering. I’m very receptive to your comments or ideas, and it might be useful for you to know exactly how hard we are working to get good data! I drew from a variety of datasets, most notably the World Bank Development Indicators, the Global Competitive Survey, the Global Integrity Report, and the Institutional Profiles Database. So, without further ado, I present some tentative proxies that may get at media development.

MSI Criteria 1: Legal and social norms protect and promote free speech and access to public information.

This may be one of the easier criteria to satisfy, as several organizations are interested in measuring legal and social norms. Reliable measurement is always an issue when trying measure something as amorphous as ‘norms'; however, survey data and expert opinion is really the only feasible way to get at some of these issues. Most notably, the Freedom House Freedom of the Press index covers most countries for several years, which clearly gets right to the heart of free speech. Additionally, their Freedom in the World data analyzes civil and political liberties, which are tied to social norms promoting freedom of speech.

The Global Competitiveness Report measures indicators that may serve as a proxy: intellectual property rights, antimonopoly policy, burden of regulation, and auditing and reporting standards. Some of these may also fit into MSI Criteria 4 and 5, but having variables overlap doesn’t it lend itself to rigorous analysis, so I keep them here.

The Institutional Profiles Database also covers some of the MSI 1. They have measures for freedom of association, freedom of movement and peoples, and emulation of neighboring countries.

The Global Integrity Report quantifies Rule of Law.

MSI Criteria 2: Journalism meets professional standards of quality.

Unfortunately, I have yet to come across anything that I think even begins to address this criteria. Journalist salaries may be one way of looking at this issue, though this data can be difficult to obtain as well. I have some leads on websites relevant to this area, so stay tuned. Ultimately this area may be the most difficult of the 5 to approximate using other sources.

MSI Criteria 3: Multiple news sources provide citizens with reliable, objective news.

Global Integrity Report has some interesting data here. They ask about ‘credible media sources’ and ‘public access to information.’

The World Bank Development Indicators look at how many newspapers there are per 1000 people, which at least gives us an idea that there are newspapers. It also looks at internet, radio and television use. It sadly does not tell us about the quality, nor even the number of news sources.

MSI Criteria 4: Independent media are well-managed businesses, allowing editorial independence.

There’s a lot of information about businesses in general, but less about media as a business. So most of the proxies I found deal with business as a whole, and so by extension, good business environment may also mean good media business environment, although that may be stretching a little bit. Perhaps a good way to put fears to rest is to see if there is a correlation between business environment and freedom of speech.

The Global Competitiveness Report asks about ethical behavior of firms, and the procedure to start a business. Additionally, Institutional Profiles Database also asks about the ease of starting a business, and the World Bank Development Indicators has data on the number of new businesses registered and the ease of starting a business. The Global Integrity Report also examines business and regulation.

MSI Criteria 5: Supporting institutions function in the professional interests of independent media

This last criteria can be taken extremely broadly. I included the Global Competitiveness Report’s ‘Electricity supply’ and the World Bank’s ‘Energy Use’ into this category, because I felt that stable electricity is an important asset for media development. As most communication is done using radio waves or televisions (and the internet!), a steady source of electricity may be an important variable. What may be interesting to look at is how electricity supplies actually affect media development, because there may be no causal relation at all.

The Global Competitiveness Report also includes a ‘Technological readiness’ measure, and the World Bank has a measure for Science and Tech Research and Development spending. Again, this may be stretching the idea a bit too far, but there will be time to refine the variables as the project moves along.

Another important institution that supports media development is education. The World Bank has data on literacy rates per country, which may be a useful proxy for the quality of education. Likewise, the Global Competitiveness Survey measures a ‘Quality of Education.’ One would hope that high levels of education help lead to professional standards, quality media reporting AND an interested audience.

More work should be done on finding other supporting institutions. Rule of Law and fair judiciaries may also be proxies to include in this section. As the project develops, some indicators may switch around, and we may throw some out altogether. It’s about the process, right?

Each of these datasets have their own unique benefits and drawbacks. Like the MSI, most of them do not span each country, and the country-years are generally low, meaning that the datasets only cover a few years. However, by compiling this list, we’re getting a little bit closer to having a wide range of data that help us to better measure media development. Unfortuantely, large scale, reliable datasets spanning 30 years are hard to find (and if they exist, they may not even cover the necessary areas!), so trying to piece together something useful is a challenging endeavor.

Kim Johnson is a Master’s Student at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.

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A democracy is undoubtedly the best form of government. It is considered to be the primary precondition for economic development. There are many different ways in which the condition of democracy is quantified. The key indicators in this regard are:

1) Polity IV Project: This “examines concomitant qualities of democratic and autocratic authority in governing institutions, rather than discreet and mutually exclusive forms of governance”.
2) Vanhanen’s Democratization Index: The VDI is based on two dimensions, public contestation and the right to participate, which are named as competition and participation, respectively.
3) EIU Democracy Index: The index is based on five categories namely, electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.

The above list in indicative. There are many more indicators that quantify the extent of democracy in countries in various different ways.

Interestingly however, no clear consensus exist for the causal connection between economic development and democracy in the academic literature. Further, in dire issues like that of terrorism, democracies are deemed to be the most vulnerable. This brings us to the very important question that what are then the required factors that would make a democracy perform to its full potential ? A democracy can only perform to its full potential when empowered by other complementary institutions. A key institution in this regard is Media. A strong, independent and vibrant media sector would help reduce information asymmetry in a society and elucidate the flaws in the same. It is only when the people of a country be aware of the holes in a system and demand remedy would a government feel the pressure for accountability. And it is this constant process of checks and balances that would ensure a country’s journey from being a weak and “flawed” democracy to a strong and “functional” one.

This can be reiterated in simple terms as propounded by Persson and Tabellini (2000):

Free Press —> Voters’ State of Knowledge —> Democracy —> Selection of Political Parties —> Government Responsiveness

Thus to ensure economic development, a democracy and a strong media sector need to function in unison, empowering each other in the way. Any one of them without the other is not the solution.

Hence, it is time that while the extent of democracy has been scrutinized quantitatively in multiple ways, the effectiveness and performance of the media sector of a country be also evaluated in various different ways. We have been relying overtly on Freedom of the Press for a long time. It is time we have other ways of quantifying the strength of the media sector – in multiple different ways and in a cross-country framework.

Sanjukta Roy is the Data Analyst for The Media Map Project.

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This week the Media Map Project team is in Brussels, where we organized a special event for the World Bank Institute’s Strengthening Responsible Business and Governance in Africa program.  We had some interesting discussions leading up to the event on the Bank’s online platform, where participants were quite passionate about the importance of the media in these areas.  And the importance of the role of the media in driving responsible business was a theme that ran throughout several of the events.  It still remains to be seen, though, whether the Bank will take media seriously, both as a development driver, and as a sector needing development attention in many countries.  Without functioning well as a business, the media cannot fulfill its potential to drive development.  There needs to be a lot more serious and concerted thought, at a strategic level and not as an afterthought, about what the Bank can do to improve the development of media, so that it is sustainable as a business and can perform the various roles of

  • watchdog of government, industry, civil society, and indeed the media itself
  • driver of development
  • space for the public to get vital information and communicate their needs and desires to decision-makers

The special session on the role of media came up with these recommendations to support media’s role in responsible business and governance, and to support the sustainability of media as a business.

  • Plan an event together with World Bank private sector and governance stakeholders, and the African Media Leaders’ Forum to bridge the gap between governance and business initiatives and media leaders’ concerns
  • Construct a multi-stakeholder platform for discussion and strategy on media, governance, and business, to include representatives from governments, private sector, the media, and civil society
  • Create opportunities for South-South and North-South learning on this topic
  • Plan regional forums in Africa to address these issues and contextualize them according to the specifics of each African region and country
  • Identify gaps in data that measures media freedom, strength, quality, reach, and independence (connect to organizations and initiatives already working on this, like PAMRO, Audiencescapes)
  • Create independent institutions to use consistent methods to measure the audience of each type of media and advertising expenditure for all countries in Africa. This data is the building block for independent media, without consistent, reliable data that tracks these issues over time, investors will not enter into the market.

We look forward to progress in this area!

Tara Susman-Peña is the Director of Research of The Media Map Project.

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There was a great article this week about The Media Map Project and Internews on Fortune.com.  We’re pleased that Fortune is interested in media development!   Will this help to elevate awareness of media development amongst those interested in alleviating poverty, strengthening economies, helping to ensure good governance, and empowering people?

Tara Susman-Peña is the Director of Research of The Media Map Project.

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