Media development

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Why media development matters

The media can be a powerful force for change in both developed and developing countries. In developing countries, it can have an important role in advancing a pro-poor development agenda, as well as supporting economic growth by stimulating consumer markets. Where it is able to effectively fulfill the roles of watchdog, gatekeeper and agenda-setter, it can improve governance by raising citizen awareness of social issues, enabling citizens to hold their governments to account, curbing corruption, and creating a civic forum for debate. It can also amplify the voice of marginalised and excluded groups Recent research has shown that the media (particularly radio) is serving a growing population of young, rural, and non-literate demographic groups in Africa (BBC, 2006).

In most countries the media sector is diverse, usually consisting of a combination of the following:

  • Community media: These are small-scale, non-profit enterprises (e.g. community-based radio stations) that aim to reflect and service the interests of their local community. Some argue that community media play a special role in giving a voice to rural and/or marginalised and poor communities and those without access to mainstream media, and often deliver content that is part of a development agenda. The financial sustainability of community media is often a major challenge.
  • State-owned media, especially broadcasting services: these have the broadest reach but are often criticised for government-bias (or susceptibility to political pressure), a focus on urban issues, lack of professional journalism, and poor quality programming as a result of under-resourcing.
  • Private media: Whilst private media are largely viewed as independent, they are driven by profit and usually reliant on revenues from advertising. They can also be influenced by business interests or government, for instance through government advertising or tax cuts. Moreover, a focus on financial returns can lead to the homogenisation of programmes and a bias towards entertainment rather than education content.
  • Public Service Broadcasting (PSB): In contrast to both state-owned and commercial media, Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) operates within a clear legislative framework, and enjoys substantial autonomy over programming and content. Programming is driven by public interests and is often funded by public subscriptions and fees (sometimes supplemented by state funding and advertising).

Servaes, J., 2009, ‘Communication Policies, Good Governance and Development Journalism’, COMMUNICATIO, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 50-80
How can communication support sustainable development? This article assesses different communication strategies in terms of short- and long-term development objectives. It outlines media performance indicators, and refers to recent events in Kenya to argue for a communication for development perspective that focuses on the self-development of local communities.
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Challenges for media development

In practice, media development often faces obstacles in the form of low professional journalistic standards, a lack of financial resources, weak technical skills, fragmented legal frameworks and an undemocratic political system. There is also a risk that in patronage societies, the media may not be able to break free from its political constraints and may operate according to clientelism or be captured by private interests (‘media capture’). Under these circumstances, there are questions about how and whether donors can ensure that supporting the media will benefit the public interest. Specifically, can and should donors choose to support some types of media, and media organisations, over others?

Changes in the media landscape, in particular the rise of information and communication technologies, also require changes to the way in which media development is conceptualised. Donors can no longer conceive of conventional media as a stand-alone platform for communication, but need to integrate both ICT and traditional platforms in media development discourse and practice.

Norris, P. and Odugbemi, S., 2010, ‘Assessing the Extent to Which the News Media Act as Watchdogs, Agenda Setters and Gatekeepers’, ch. 15 in Public Sentinel: News Media and Governance Reform ed. P. Norris, CommGAP, World Bank, Washington DC
This review finds that news media are important in furthering democratic governance, provided they are set up in a way that allows them to act as effective watchdogs, agenda setters and gatekeepers. Barriers to the fulfilment of these roles include restrictions on press freedom, market failures, lack of professional standards, weak civil society, and limitations in media literacy and public access to the media. Further research is required to fully determine the relationship between a free media and democratic governance.
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Berger, G., 2010, ‘Problematizing ‘Media Development’ As a Bandwagon Gets Rolling’, International Communication Gazette, vol. 72, no. 7, pp. 547-565
What does ‘media development’ mean? This article argues that the concept of media development is marred by lack of definition and conflation of means and ends. A better understanding involves the concepts of ‘media density’ and ‘media mobilisation’ and consideration of new media. If media development interventions are to impact journalism, democracy and development, clarity is essential.
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Minnie, J., 2007, ‘Ideological, Legal, Economic and Professional Obstacles to Media Development in Africa’, in Section 3 of ed. Harvey, ‘Media Matters: Perspectives on Advancing Governance and Development from the Global Forum for Media Development’, Internews Europe
What are the obstacles to media development in Africa, and how might they be addressed? This chapter considers issues such as a lack of technical and financial resources, contradictory legal frameworks and disagreement about the role and professional standards of the media. Privately owned media is frequently perceived by governments as “the opposition” and not as an independent “fourth estate”. Media development in Africa ultimately requires ideological change through citizen-led promotion of freedom of speech. Long-term measures such as public awareness campaigns and legal reforms are needed, making sustained support to the media sector crucial.
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Besley, T and Prat, A. 2006, ‘Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability’, American Economic Review, Vol. 96, no. 3, pp. 720-736
How does media capture influence government accountability? This article argues that even in the absence of censorship, the government may influence news content by maintaining a ‘cozy’ relationship with the media. It concludes that media capture is endogenous to democratic politics, and several features of the ‘media market’ determine the ability of the government to exercise such capture and hence to influence political outcomes.
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The full text of a 2005 working paper version of this article is also available.

For further discussion on ICTs, see the social media section of this guide.

Supporting independent news media

Media development aims to create a media sector that is both independent and pluralistic. Activities include developing legislative frameworks, training and curriculum development for media, content development and audience research. Recent research has called for donors to adopt a more strategic and coherent approach to these activities across the media sector.

BBC World Service Trust, 2006, ‘African Media Development Initiative: Research Summary Report’, BBC World Service Trust, London
How can donors, investors, media and media development organisations collaborate to strengthen Africa’s media sector? This report outlines the findings of a survey of media in 17 sub-Saharan countries. The sector is growing and becoming increasingly diverse, but faces challenges such as state control and lack of investment. Donors underestimate the media’s potential to contribute to development and governance. Support for media development in Africa must be strategic, holistic, collaborative and driven by local needs. Initiatives should be better coordinated and expanded in scale and duration.
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Wood, A. and Barnes, J., 2007, ‘Making Poverty the Story: Time to Involve the Media in Poverty Reduction’, Panos Institute, London
This report argues that all policy actors need to recognise and support the mass media’s potentially crucial contribution to poverty reduction. In particular, high-quality public service and public interest journalism should be supported as public goods in their own right. It is crucial to promote media development in order to realise the media’s scrutiny role. While specific initiatives to tackle problems and seize opportunities are valuable, a structural approach is called for, including support for comprehensive public policies on the media.
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Supporting Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)

A key concern for donors is promoting Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) and creating the necessary legislative and regulatory environment to ensure media independence. PSB should be available and accessible to all with broad programming diversity, impartiality of reporting and protection from both political and commercial interests. PSB can contribute to good governance where it provides unbiased information to the public, gives voice to all and is obliged to promote alternative views which is critical for democracy. It can also play a role in fostering a common national identity, promoting tolerance and facilitating discussion around governance-related issues, for example PRSPs and Peace Agreements.

UNDP, 2004, ‘Supporting Public Service Broadcasting: Learning from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Experience’, Democratic Governance Group, United Nations Development Programme, New York
How can the reform of broadcasting media help to promote democratic governance, conflict prevention and poverty reduction? What can be learned from the implementation of such reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina? This paper argues that public service broadcasting (PSB) can play a key role in promoting democratic governance and reducing poverty. However, broadcasting reform can only produce results at the same pace as democratic evolution in a given country, and should be integrated into broader democratic governance reform. Reformers need a strategic plan and a focus on the enabling legislative and regulatory framework.
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Community media

Some argue that because of the particular role community media can play in advancing a pro-poor development agenda, raising awareness of social struggles, and reaching marginalised groups, donors should provide greater support for community media.

Milan, S., 2009, ‘Four Steps to Community Media as a Development Tool’, Development in Practice, vol. 9, nos. 4 & 5, pp. 598–609
What is the link between community communication and human development? How can donors support community media? This article argues that community media represent a crucial input in development processes, playing an important role in democratisation, social struggles, and awareness raising. But they often face financial and legal difficulties due to the constraints created by national media laws. It concludes with suggestions for development advocates and communities regarding advocacy for a policy environment supportive of community media, drawing on case studies from the UK, where the communication regulator has opened a process to license community radios; and Brazil, where thousands of ‘illegal’ community stations are facing repression, but where the regulator has inaugurated a consultation process with practitioners.
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Regulatory reform

Regulatory reform – for example, the creation of independent broadcasting regulatory bodies and the passing of freedom of information legislation – is often required to develop media independence. In many developing countries progress in this area is slow, with laws taking too long to be passed and, even where they have been passed, the government continuing to exert undue influence over the media sector.

Price, M. and Krug, P., 2007, ‘The Enabling Environment for Free and Independent Media’, in Section 3 of Media Matters: Perspectives on Advancing Governance and Development from the Global Forum for Media Development, ed. M. Harvey, Internews Europe, Paris, pp 95-103
What steps enable the development of free and independent media? This chapter examines the relationship between free and independent media and democratic institutions. Each step in political and legal transitions contributes to an enabling environment for independent media, which in turn promotes achievement of broader political goals. It is not only laws themselves that must be addressed, but the institutional structures administering them.
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Support to media around elections

The media can be an influential force around elections. Impartiality of the media during electoral campaigns and after elections is difficult to achieve, even in well-established democracies. Where election outcomes are contested, media can either exacerbate or resolve disputes, playing a significant role in determining the likelihood of post-election violence.

Semetko, H., 2010, ‘Election Campaigns, Partisan Balance, and the News Media’ ch. 7 in ed. P. Norris, Public Sentinel: News Media and Governance Reform, CommGAP, World Bank, Washington DC
What is the impact of partisan balance in the news media during elections in democracies and societies in transition? This chapter examines the impact of balance and bias in the news media on public opinions, political behaviour and, ultimately, election outcomes. Drawing on case studies of recent elections in Kenya, Russia, Mexico and Turkey, it argues that the media, particularly television, plays a key role in influencing election processes.
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Stremlau, N., and Price, M., 2009, ‘Media, Elections and Political Violence in Eastern Africa: Towards a Comparative Framework’, An Annenberg-Oxford Occasional Paper in Communications Policy Research, University of Oxford / University of Pennsylvania
What is the role of the media in exacerbating or resolving post-election disputes? This report presents the findings of a workshop which explored why election violence occurred after some elections and not others, drawing on experiences in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Somaliland, Tanzania and Sudan. The report suggests three ways of analysing the role of the media in post-election violence: 1) as an amplifier, facilitating and accelerating the spread of messages that both encourage violence or appeal for peaceful resolutions; 2) as a mirror, offering either an accurate or somewhat distorted reflection of the state- and nation-building process; and 3) as an enabler, contributing to the process of nation-building.
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Lloyd, L., 2009, ‘Media and Elections in the SADC Region: Protocols and Policies’, fesmedia Africa Series, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Windhoek, Namibia
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Kalathil, S., 2011, ‘Developing Independent Media as an Institution of Accountable Governance: A How-To-Guide’, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGAP), World Bank, Washington DC
How can programmes be designed to effectively support independent media? This handbook provides guidance on supporting media development programmes. It introduces the fundamentals of media development, provide ways to conceptualize and analyze the sector, and helps guide programming based on political economy analysis as well as individual country context. It also includes ideas on monitoring and evaluation of media development programs, suggestions for conflict environments and new media, and links to further resources.
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Puddephatt, A., 2010, ‘Sida’s Guidelines for Media Development’, Stockholm Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Stockholm
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Professionalising journalism

Research has shown that professional and ethical journalism standards tend to be poor in developing countries, and that this results in little credibility and trust in the media as a source of objective information. Although there are some cases of good-quality training institutions and professionalism in the sector, both are generally lacking. Low salaries and social status also create difficulties in retaining staff and preventing bribery-based journalism.

Wahl-Jorgensen, K. and Cole, B., 2008, ‘Newspapers in Sierra Leone: A Case Study of Conditions for Print Journalism in a Postconflict Society’, Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, vol. 29, no. 1, pp 1-20
What are the challenges of democratic communication in developing countries? What can be learned from print journalism in Sierra Leone? This article analyses the conditions of the newspaper industry in Sierra Leone since the end of civil war. It highlights key difficulties including a lack of financial, technological and human resources. Resource constraints affect every level of society, however; the challenges facing the press must be viewed within the broader social context. Despite its difficulties, the press in Sierra Leone is emerging as an important watchdog.
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Yusha’u, M., 2009, ‘Investigative Journalism and Scandal Reporting in the Nigerian Press’, Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 155-174
To what extent is investigative journalism used to uncover allegations of corruption in Nigeria? What are its key challenges? This article uses interviews with journalists to explore the use of investigative journalism in Nigeria. While the press can help to strengthen government institutions, especially through its watchdog role, significant reform is needed to strengthen media organisations, to limit corruption and to restore public confidence in the press. Investigative journalism in Nigeria is limited by low salaries, bad working conditions, corrupt practices by journalists, and clientelism.
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Panos, 2010, ‘Reporting Tax Research: Connecting Researchers and Journalists for Improved Media Coverage and Debate in Kenya’, Panos Institute, London
The Kenyan media has played an important role in generating debate around government activities and the acquisition and spending of public money. It has yet, however, to sufficiently scrutinise and debate the relationship between public spending and taxation.  Debating these issues is considered important for the country’s democratic process. This case study describes the work of Relay, a media and research communication programme, in providing training for journalists and researchers on the issue of tax and governance; and in facilitating relationship-building between research, media and civil society actors.
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Berger, G., 2008, ‘Toward Defining “Potential Centres of Excellence” in African Journalism Training’, Journalism Practice, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 147-162
What are the particular needs of journalism education in developing countries? This paper describes a UNESCO programme which aimed to identify the journalism schools in Africa with the greatest potential to be “centres of excellence”. It presents a set of criteria and indicators that constitute a home-grown and relatively legitimated system of journalism training which could serve as a model within African countries and beyond.
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See also: UNESCO’s report on this programme.

Media literacy

Media literacy can be defined as citizens’ ability to access, analyse, evaluate and create media content. Several authors argue that media literacy should be a central component of donor media assistance. They suggest that working directly with citizens to engage them in the media, helping citizens to understand the role of the media in democratic processes, and empowering them to become critical consumers of news media is essential if the media is to fulfill its potential role in improving democratic governance. Moreover, it is argued that developing media literacy is key to enabling equitable public access to information.

A variety of activities can support media literacy, including:

  • Establishing media watchdog groups to raise citizens’ awareness about how the media covers different issues
  • Creating public spaces and forums where people can freely discuss current affairs and educate themselves
  • Developing mechanisms for people to actively provide feedback on the media e.g.  News Ombudsmen
  • Publishing and promoting media monitoring results to heighten citizen awareness of media practices and processes
  • Civic education
  • Media literacy education in schools.

Moeller, S., 2009, ‘Media Literacy: Understanding the News’, Center for International Media Assistance, National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC
What is the relevance of media literacy for the development sector? This study examines efforts to promote understanding of media’s role in a democracy and to equip citizens to analyse and participate in the news process. Without independent media, citizens lack accurate information and so are less able to foster democracy and hold duty-bearers accountable. Media literacy training creates demand for accurate and fair news on both traditional and digital media platforms. This encourages checks and balances and democratic debate.
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Martinsson, J., 2009, ‘The Role of Media Literacy in the Governance Reform Agenda’, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
How does media literacy contribute to governance reform? This paper argues that media literacy helps citizens to become informed, to engage in the public sphere to effect change, and to demand good governance and accountability. In an increasingly complex media landscape, citizens need to be able to access, analyse, evaluate and develop media content. Donors should therefore promote media literacy as an integral part of the development process.
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Monitoring and evaluating media development

The growth in media assistance programmes during the 1990s has led to an increased demand for robust media indicators and strong monitoring and evaluation (M&E) methodologies. Several sources discuss the difficulty of establishing clear media indicators and highlight the diversity of the ways in which different organisations monitor and evaluate media assistance programmes. There is a need to move away from output-based evaluations of media assistance (e.g. number of journalists trained) to measuring the actual impact of assistance programmes.

Mosher, A., 2009, ‘Good, But How Good? Monitoring and Evaluation of Media Assistance Projects’, Center for International Media Assistance, National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC
How are media assistance programmes being monitored and evaluated? How can such M&E be improved? This report finds that useful tools include: gathering baseline data; content analysis; balancing quantitative and qualitative data; and employing outside evaluators to conduct impact assessments. Donors should increase funding for the M&E of media assistance projects and should help to develop a shared but adaptable approach to M&E. Organisations could save money by exchanging non-competitive information (such as baseline data) and should ensure that time spent on project M&E is costed.
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Price, M. E., 2011, ‘Press Freedom Measures: An Introduction’, in Measures of Press Freedom and Media Contributions to Development, eds. M. E. Price, S. Abbott, and L. Morgan, Mass Communication and Journalism Series, vol. 4
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Tools for evaluating media development

Myers, M., Woods, N. and Odugbemi, S., 2005, ‘Monitoring and Evaluating Information and Communication for Development (ICD) Programmes: Guidelines’, Department for International Development (DFID), London
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UNESCO, 2008, ‘Media Development Indicators: A Framework for Assessing Media Development’, the International Programme for the Development of Communication, UNESCO, Paris
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Lessons learned in media assistance

What can be learned from a decade of donor support to the media? Recent studies and evaluations emphasise the difficulty of building media capacity without creating dependency, especially given the financial instability of independent media and community media initiatives. Other lessons include the need to improve donor coordination, to take a long-term view and to find good local partners. Some studies stress the need to respect editorial independence, both from local political pressure, and from donor interests.

DFID, 2008, ‘Media and Good Governance: A DFID Practice Paper’, Department for International Development, London
Why and how is the media a critical sector in shaping governance relationships? This paper summarises the key global media trends which are leading to changes in country-level governance. It also explains some of the incentives and disincentives driving the sector which can lead the media to play either a positive or negative role in strengthening democratic politics. Donors need to better understand how the media can enable or hinder citizen engagement, to analyse the political implications of support to the media, and to promote an enabling communication environment.
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Kumar, K., 2004, ‘USAID’s Media Assistance: Policy and Programmatic Lessons’, PPC Evaluation Working Paper no. 16, Bureau for Policy and Program Coordination, USAID, Washington DC
What can be learned from USAID’s media assistance programmes? This paper outlines the results of USAID’s 2002-2003 assessment of such programmes. The assessment included workshops and a literature review plus fieldwork in Bosnia, Serbia, Central America and Russia. Key success factors were identified as: (1) a long-term perspective; (2) major resource commitments that facilitated comprehensive, multifaceted, mutually reinforcing interventions; and (3) a context of political transformation that encouraged acceptance of media assistance among political leaders and civil society. Different media development strategies are needed in different types of political system.
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CIMA, 2008, ‘Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster Free and Independent News Around the World’, Center for International Media Assistance, National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC
What can be learned from US media assistance? This report examines eight key areas: funding, professional development, higher education, the legal environment, sustainability, media literacy, new media, and monitoring and evaluation. The report asserts that a free media can impact critical areas in society – including education, government accountability, health, and the empowerment of women and minorities. However, it is important to address obstacles such as insufficient funding, unstable legal environments, lack of donor coordination, and problems in sustainability and evaluation.
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Rhodes, A., 2007, ‘Ten Years of Media Support to the Balkans: An Assessment’, Media Task Force of the Stability Pact for South East Europe and Press Now, Amsterdam
What has been the impact of ten years of the international community’s support to media in the Western Balkans? This report  analyses 37 evaluations of media support projects, and makes recommendations for the future. In spite of mixed results, the impact of media assistance has been substantial. Donors should consider the development of the wider media market instead of sustaining too many individual media outlets. Projects should help NGOs to work with lawyers in order to understand and use new laws once reforms have been passed.
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Gender and media development

Research has shown that women are dramatically underrepresented as news subjects or news deliverers in the media. A key area of media development should therefore be to provide gender training to journalists to reduce the invisibility of women in the media.

Gallagher, M., 2005, ‘Who Makes the News? Global Media Monitoring Project 2005′, World Association for Christian Communication, London and Media Monitoring Project, South Africa
What messages do news media convey about who and what is important? This report analyses the results of extensive research into gender representation in news media – the third Global Media Monitoring Project (2005). It matters profoundly who and what is selected (or not selected) to appear in news coverage, and how individuals and events are portrayed. Most news is at best gender blind, at worst gender biased. Media monitoring facilitates advocacy, and skills in media analysis are important for informed citizenship.
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Further resources

BBC World Service Trust

ØRECOMM – Consortium for Media and Glocal change

UNESCO Portal on Media Development

Media Map Project