Volume 4, No. 2
Special issue: International Media Assistance: Experiences and Prospects
Guest Editors: Mary Myers, Christoph Dietz & Marie-Soleil Frère
Mary Myers, Christoph Dietz & Marie-Soleil Frère
International Media Assistance: Experiences and Prospects
Peer Reviewed Articles
Media Development with Chinese Characteristics
Evaluating the Impacts of Media Assistance: Problems and Principles
Benjamin A. J. Pearson
Media Aid Beyond the Factual: Culture, Development, and Audiovisual Assistance
Kristina Irion & Tarik Jusic
International Assistance and Media Democratization in the Western Balkans: A Cross-National Comparison
The Western Way: Democracy and the Media Assistance Model
Does Sustainability Require Transparency? The UN Divide Over Freedom of Information & Media in the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Results-Oriented Evaluations: Their Uses, Their Limits and How They are Driving Implementers‘ Coping Strategies
Media and Development: The Dysfunctional Alliance
From the Field
In Search of Evidence: Media and Governance in Fragile States
Sanne van den Berg
Assessing the Impact of TMF on the Tanzanian Media: A Practical Approach
Jan Lublinski, Erik Albrecht, Petra Berner, Laura Schneider, Merjam Wakili & Jackie Wilson
Windows of Opportunity – The Transformation of State Media to Public Service Media in Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Moldova and Serbia
The Failure of a Success Story: Reforming Georgia’s Public Service Broadcaster
The Link between ICT4D and Modernization Theory
Ajaya Kumar Sahoo and Johannes G. De Kruijf (eds.) (2014): Indian Transnationalism Online: New Perspectives on Diaspora (review in English)
Carter, Cynthia; Steiner, Linda; McLaughlin, Lisa (eds.) (2014): The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender (review in English)
As an introduction to this special issue this article deals firstly with defining and clarifying terms and concepts which are used in the context of international media assistance. Secondly, the themes of the different articles in this collection are enumerated: these are broadly the how to of media assistance, evaluation and the ongoing debate about proving impact of media assistance project; negotiating the tensions between the state and the media and finally, the fundamental question of why and to what purpose is assistance to the media sector given in the first place. The first two of these themes are developed in slightly more depth. The piece is rounded off with some further reflections on the history both of the idea of media assistance and of the way it has been practiced in recent decades. It finally looks at the ways research in this field may develop in the future.
Chinese authorities often frame their activities in the development sector as distinctive from those pursued by Western donors by stressing that they are not seeking to export a specific model but simply to help countries reach their potential. This demand-driven approach has applied to old and new development areas, from education to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and has appeared fairly consistent across countries. This pledge, however, has not meant that Chinese aid is neutral or without significant political implications. China’s concessionary loans and support to development projects have tended to shift balances of power by favouring certain actors over others and have challenged existing development paradigms, revitalizing ideas of the developmental state. Building on fieldwork conducted in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya this article explains to which extent China’s entrance in the media and telecommunication sector actually challenges the dominant, Western-driven approaches to media development, promoting a state centred vision of the information society.
While some form of evaluation has always been a requirement of development projects, in the media assistance field this has predominantly been limited to very basic modes of counting outputs, such as the number of journalists trained or the number of articles produced on a topic. Few media assistance evaluations manage to provide sound evidence of impacts on governance and social change. So far, most responses to the problem of media assistance impact evaluation collate evaluation methodologies and methods into toolkits. This paper suggests that the problem of impact evaluation of media assistance is understood to be more than a simple issue of methods, and outlines three underlying tensions and challenges that stifle implementation of effective practices in media assistance evaluation. First, there are serious conceptual ambiguities that affect evaluation design. Second, bureaucratic systems and imperatives often drive evaluation practices, which reduces their utility and richness. Third, the search for the ultimate method or toolkit of methods for media assistance evaluation tends to overlook the complex epistemological and political undercurrents in the evaluation discipline, which can lead to methods being used without consideration of the ontological implications. Only if these contextual factors are known and understood can effective evaluations be designed that meets all stakeholders’ needs.
This paper discusses audiovisual assistance, a form of development aid that focuses on the production and distribution of cultural and entertainment media such as fictional films and TV shows. While the first audiovisual assistance program dates back to UNESCO’s International Fund for the Promotion of Culture in the 1970s, the past two decades have seen a proliferation of audiovisual assistance that, I argue, is related to a growing concern for culture in post-2015 global development agendas. In this paper, I examine the aims and motivations behind the EU’s audiovisual assistance programs to countries in the Global South, using data from policy documents and semi-structured, in-depth interviews with Program Managers and administrative staff in Brussels. These programs prioritize forms of audiovisual content that are locally specific, yet globally tradable. Furthermore, I argue that they have an ambivalent relationship with traditional notions of international development, one that conceptualizes media not only as a means to achieve economic development and human rights aims, but as a form of development itself.
International media assistance programs accompanied the democratic media transition in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia with varying intensity. These countries untertook a range of media reforms to conform with accession requirements of the European Union (EU) and the standards of the Council of Europe, among others. This article explores the nexus between the democratic transformation of the media and international media assistance (IMA) as constrained by the local political conditions in the five countries of the Western Balkans. It aims to enhance the understanding of conditions and factors that influence media institution building in the region and evaluates the role of international assistance programs and conditionality mechanisms herein.
The cross-national analysis concludes that the effects of IMA are highly constrained by the local context. A decade of IMA of varying intensity is not sufficient to construct media institutions when, in order to function properly, they have to outperform their local context. From today’s vantage point it becomes obvious, that in the short-term scaling-up IMA does not necessarily improve outcomes. The experiences in the region suggest that imported solutions have not been sufficiently cognitive of all aspects of local conditions and international strategies have tended to be rather schematic and have lacked strategic approaches to promote media policy stability, credible media reform and implementation. To a certain extent, the loss of IMA effectiveness is also self-inflicted
International media assistance took off during a time where the ideological extremes of USA vs. USSR were set to disappear. Following the Cold War, international relations focused on democracy building, and nurturing independent media was embraced as a key part of this strategy. Fukayama called it the ‘End of History’, the fact that all other ideologies had fallen and Western style democracy was set to become the one common ideology. The US and UK led the way in media assistance, with their liberal ideas of a free press, bolstered by free market capitalism. America was the superpower, and forged the way around the globe with its beacon of democracy. Under that guiding light they would bring truth, accuracy, freedom of expression and independent reporting to the countries which had so long lived under the shadow of communism, or authoritarian media systems. This is what propelled and justified American foreign policy, and their media assistance, for many years. Much work was thus carried out in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet satellites, but many now question the impact and legacy of these projects. When the US and UK spoke of media assistance they seemed to mean ‘free market’. These days, the ‘democracy promoters’ focus has turned more to Africa and the Middle East. The ideology is apparently the same: to help establish and support democracy with a stronger and more independent media. But with Western economies, and their media systems, in crisis, the relevance of this media assistance model is questioned. This essay looks at the history of media assistance and the ongoing debate on the impact of media assistance over the long term, its motives and the new balance of power appearing in international media development.
In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly will adopt a new set of global development objectives to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, which expire at the end of the year. A General Assembly working group has proposed 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” with 169 associated “targets,” including one committing all UN member states to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” The UN Secretary-General and his many prominent “post-2015” advisors also advocate guarantees for freedom of information in the new global goals. The inclusion of a clear commitment to access to information in the SDGs – including factual “indicators” to monitor compliance – could have a profound impact on freedom of expression and media globally, advocates contend. Yet it remains uncertain whether any provision on access to information will survive the remaining months of negotiations before the final set of SDGs is agreed at the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. Some developing countries oppose an access to information target, along with other proposed commitments to human rights and democratic governance in the SDGs. But others are strongly supportive, and UN debates on the new goals are likely to continue until the September deadline.
While the use of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) by media development implementers is well documented, organizations’ coping strategies to adapt to new environments in media and development still remain a relatively unexplored area. The article aims at showing how the theoretical lessons learnt by the industry have been put into practice and how a successful change can be driven within an organization using outside experts.
A results-oriented culture of performance and service has been enforced since the 1990s in the EU. Evaluation systems have been a powerful catalyst in driving the transition from media support to media development and in making the latter more independent from broadcasters and donors. In recent years, changes in media assistance procedures and aims have profoundly modified the traditional landscape. This article will not question these changes, their origin and motivations. It will focus on implementers’ coping strategies to adapt (or not) to these new procedures and aims and how results-oriented evaluations can drive the shift from outputs to outcomes in a changing media development sector.
Can capitalizing on experience be considered a learning process that prepares for change and improves the design and implementation of projects? To what extent can it help to empower the operator as an organization? Referring to various concrete case studies from British, French and German media assistance, the article will focus on virtuous change – the circumstances that encourage structures, as well as donors who fund them, to better define and operationalize their strategies.
This essay looks at the dysfunctional relationship between overall international development assistance and more specific support to the media sector. While the international donor community sees the potential of independent media in developing countries to contribute to societies’ economic and social progress, international development policies rarely have a coherent, integrated approach to the media sector, and foreign assistance often fails to achieve its goal of helping countries create a sustainable, independent media that acts in the interests of society as a whole. Indeed, leaders of many countries have decided that media—and especially unfettered, independent media—is more likely to be an obstacle, at least to their political fortunes, than a support.
The author proposes three ways that the international community could improve its work on media development and build stronger political commitment for independent media. First is strengthening country leadership and ownership of media development initiatives. This requires building local knowledge about the role of media in open societies and about how to manage a strong, independent media system. Second is integration of media development work within the broader development agenda, leveraging more of the $135 billion that donors spend annually on official development assistance. Third is improving data, diagnostics, and learning on the media sector, particularly in developing countries, and creating a better understanding of how country-level media sectors are evolving, and how they can be best supported.
This article reflects on efforts to identify evidence about the role of media in fragile states. It explores and compares findings from two research projects and focuses on some of the lessons that have emerged from these exercises as well as on the relevance of the findings for media development. While we know that media matters in areas such as conflict, reconciliation and peacebuilding, neither of the reviews of the literature found substantial evidence supporting some of the widespread claims about the importance of media, suggesting how elusive this evidence can be.
The Tanzania Media Fund (TMF) supports individual journalists and media institutions to produce quality public interest and investigative journalism content that better informs the public, contributes to debate and thereby increases public demand for greater accountability in Tanzania. TMF has used lessons learned from its first phase (2008- 2012) to develop a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework that captures TMF’s achievements in phase 2 (2012-2015) and beyond. This article provides an overview of the practical implementation of the M&E framework, and challenges encountered during implementation.
The transformation of state media to public service media (PSM) is one of the most ambitious endeavors in the field of media development. Not many efforts to free the national media from government control have succeeded in the past decades. In this paper the comparatively promising cases of Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Moldova and Serbia are discussed. The PSM in these countries all have a new legal basis, including a public service remit and a relatively independent governing body in which civil society is represented. The services delivered to the public by these media are analyzed according to a number of societal functions which are assembled under two general headings: “creating a public sphere” and “supporting integration”. Based on this analysis, a differentiation between “PSM in initial transformation” and “PSM in advanced transformation” is suggested. In all cases studied, different actors successfully used windows of opportunity: general political agendas to reform the media, a specific engagement from the management as well as support from the population and civil society. Media development actors here helped to advance the processes of change in different ways. Recommendations for future media development include strategic planning, inclusion of local actors, the pooling of legal expertise as well as structured processes of organizational development and capacity building.
Georgia’s “Law on Broadcasting” was passed in 2004 to provide, among other things, a legal framework for the transformation of the country’s state broadcaster into the public service media provider. The law itself has been praised internationally for its progressive nature and presented as an example for other post-Soviet countries to follow. A decade later, and after a number of amendments, it is no longer seen as effective in ensuring that public service broadcasting in Georgia provides the expected quality and range of services, or can be immune to political interference. Since its birth, GPB has suffered from continuous crises and scandals, and has never been a major player in the Georgian media. There have been several attempts involving international organisations and institutions to reform and improve GPB, to elevate its status and increase its market share, but none of them have succeeded. Most of those efforts have been supported by the European Commission and the OSCE, with participation from such media organisations as the BBC, which had run a series of training and monitoring programmes until 2011. A comprehensive programme of editorial, managerial and structural reform at the Georgian broadcaster developed in 2011-12 was shelved ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, and GPB has been in a state of semi-paralysis ever since. The article examines the state of public service broadcasting in Georgia and what could be done to improve it.
For some decades western institutions have shared an enormous enthusiasm for Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D). Nevertheless, despite the field’s ever-increasing importance, research on it remains fragmented and lacks a theoretical foundation. By establishing a link between ICT4D and Modernization theory as one of the major development models, this paper aims to add some theoretical reflections to the body of existing research. Initially, a literature review of the most significant authors of Modernization theory serves as a theoretical base. Subsequently, empirical findings are systematized and embedded in the theoretical framework. The leading question is, whether ICT4D is connected to Modernization theory’s main lines of thought, both in theory and in the field. Modernization theory was chosen as a reference point, as even though it has frequently been marked as outdated, some argue that ICT4D has brought about its revival: Led by a technocratic mindset, actors in the field have indeed assumed ICTs to be context-free tools, which is one of the reasons why ICT4D has so far not been an unmitigated success. As there is a lack of systematic research on ICT4D, this paper is explorative in nature. It is certainly beyond the author’s scope to make any definite statements on how development cooperation has hitherto handled ICT4D, as the field is too complex. Instead, light will be shed on some trends that can be identified in the field of ICT4D to date.