Posts Tagged ‘Media Development’

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.


Read Full Post »

Media Development: Need for a Holistic Look

Media Development in academic research is mostly looked upon as being equivalent to a free or independent press – one which can sustain itself financially and would propagate unbiased information to the populace. Another piece that is widely being focused upon in the media development practice is technological advancement – ensuring communities have more and more access to radio, television, mobile phones and the internet.

While these two pieces of the story are indeed very important in the context of media development, there is something more to it that almost goes un-noticed and unaccounted for, on a larger scale. Before elaborating on them let’s ask ourselves what each of us mean by “Media Development”. To me, media development means a developed media sector that is not a stronghold of any particular player in the society, financially sustainable, technologically updated, reaches beyond the obvious urban educated part of the population and more importanmtly a tool or source of information that can be deciphered by the population at large and used for making decisions.

It is the reach and usability of the media sector that is a missing piece so far. My understanding of this was bolstered by the points brought up Dr. Gerry Powers, Managing Director of Intermedia (London) during his recent seminar. In his presentation “Access to Information, Mobile Telephony, and the MDGs”, Dr. Powers stressed the daunting  discrepancy in the amount of information that reaches and are being used by the urban versus the rural population. While a divide also exist between the educated versus the uneducated, the urban-rural divide was glaring. He used public opinion data for Kenya, Zambia and Ghana from the Audiencescapes research to substantiate his point.

The presentation brought to light the gaps in development initiatives and the challenges to overcome those. Dr. Powers also emphasized a rather important point – access to media does not mean access to “information” and access to information does not imply access to “quality information”. Just by building technological infrastructure one cannot ensure that the intended people will get the information they need from there.

While engaging in the Media Map Project, we are facing challenges very similar to those brought up by Dr. Powers. The quantitative data on “Media Development”, as mentioned earlier, encompasses how free the press is, how safe an environment it is for journalists and the legal and socio-economic framework for the sector in a country. There also exist data on how many TV, radio, telephone, mobile and internet subscriptions a country has per capita. But what it missing altogether is what proportion of those numbers are attributable to the urban population and how much is for the rural households. It does not say anything about how many of the users are educated or are female. There is no information that will help one understand the extent to which the traditional and new media are being used as a source of “information” via-a-vis a source of “entertainment”.

While addressing all the issues under the same umbrella is complicated, they should be addressed nonetheless. It is an important gap that begs to be looked at for the sake of holistic economic development. Without everyone being able to use media for information and for decision making, it can never lead to a trasparent, accountable and low corruption society.

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

Read Full Post »

Media development is yet to find its place in mainstream development agenda. It often comes as a second priority after a poor nation has done “enough” to take care of its poverty, health, nutrition, infrastructure, governance and corruption issues. While it does make sense to prioritize, given limited resources in developing countries, but relegating media development as a secondary agenda looses out on the untapped potential of the changes this sector (if well developed) can bring about. An independent, sustainable and quality media sector is an asset to any economy. Such a media sector has an undeniable role in bringing in an all-inclusive development and transparency into an economy. While the latter is relatively simpler to gauge (thanks to a plethora of governance indicators at our disposal), the former is much more difficult to be quantified. Hence, let me put forward some anecdotal evidence to try and visualize how a free media can help “empower” people.

The country in question is India. India is a very interesting case – despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the developing countries cohort, it is plagued with rampant poverty, illiteracy, corruption and misgovernance (to name a few). It is also a country that leads in the number of deaths by hit and run road accidents (approximately 0.1 million people died in such incidents in 2007). Here I would mention a very interesting case where the government has used the new media to engage the citizens to enhance its responsiveness and public accountability. Very recently, the Delhi Traffic Police (the country’s capital city) has launched a facebook profile where they are interacting with the common man. The purpose of the same is twofold: to update people on the traffic conditions and to get information on traffic rule violations by civilians and traffic cops alike. This is the first time a public department has taken up such an initiative with an intention to improve its service provision. The initiative was greeted with a sweeping response with around 25,000 people already “following” them within a week and the site has been inundated with pictures and information of vehicles and people violating traffic rules in various parts of the city. Interestingly enough, the department has been taking care of the violators irrespective of whether they are civilians or traffic cops alike. Following their success story, the Traffic Department of Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, has launched a similar facebook page.

Initiatives like the above makes involvement and use of media more inclusive and effective. It creates a direct platform where the populace feels engaged in the development process of the country. It gives them a voice and a sense of assurance. Media used responsibly like this does cater to its role of ensuring “Voice and Accountability”.

Cases like this further highlights why media development should not be isolated from economic development – one should be well integrated into the other to derive the desired changes we all want to bring about.

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

Read Full Post »

One of the things we have charged ourselves with doing in this ambitious project called Media Map is empirically demonstrating the impact of media development on the media sector and other development sectors throughout the world.  Not much work has been done yet precisely in this area.  It is difficult to get at the impact of development assistance, as finding reliable figures for donor investments is challenging (and how can you determine impact if you can’t determine exactly what was done?).  We will get to this as a next step.

As a first step, we are looking at what has been done to explore the relationship between the news media sector and development. A half dozen or so studies have looked at the relationship between freedom of the press and development, particularly governance.  Overall they have found a positive relationship between freedom of the press and democratic governance, and indeed, between freedom of the press and other areas of development such as the economy, health, and education.

However, there is much left to be done.  Most of these studies have shown correlations; but is it possible to show causality?  How do these relationships between the press and other sectors differ and change across regions and over time?  It may well be impossible to isolate the impact of the media on other areas, so how can we look at the combination of factors and their various influences in a meaningful way?

Most studies rely heavily on Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press index.  While this has been a valuable measure, it has met with criticism for having an American bias. There may be other, better measures for freedom of the press; also, there are ways to perform more sophisticated analysis using Freedom House data to further test the relationships between freedom of the press and development.

I would like to propose that 1) in examining the degree to which a developed media exists, 2) testing the media sector’s relationship to other development areas, 3) analyzing the extent to which donor investments in media development interventions had any impact in the media and other development sectors… we need to look beyond press freedom.  Yes, press freedom is important, but it is only part of the story.

So beyond press freedom, what are other important areas to explore?  We are interested in:

  • Independence
  • Quality
  • Reach
  • Business strength of the media sector (also called sustainability)
  • Empowerment of the audience / users to have a voice in public life and to make meaningful decisions that impact their own lives

In upcoming posts, we will explore what these terms mean for our purposes and how best to research them.

I’ll end with a starting point.  How are we defining media development?

Media development is the process of improving one or more factors that impact the media’s ability to communicate with the public.  External actors, such as foreign donors and media assistance implementers, can support media development.

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

Read Full Post »