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Hannah Arendt

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Upcoming events


'So Then Its Farewell': Sir Christopher Meyer in Conversation with Raymond Snoddy
6.30 - 8 London College of Communications, Elephant and Castle 12 Jan, 2009
POLIS, in parternship with The Media Society a... read more

Dr Damian Tambini

Financial Journalism and the Economic Crisis
2 - 4 pm E 171, First Floor, East Building 20 Jan, 2009
On Monday 20th of January from 2 - 4 , Dr Damia... read more

Robin Mansell

The Internet and Its Myriad Ways: An Asian Perspective
6.30 - 8 Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House 10 Feb, 2009
Chaired by Professor Robin Mansell , POLIS Adv... read more


Why did nobody tell us? Reporting the Global Crash of ‘08
6.30 - 8 Old Theatre, Old Building, London School of Economics 23 Feb, 2009
On Monday 23rd February from 6.30 - 8 , POL... read more


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London School of Economics POLIS Conference

Development Governance and the Media: The Role of Media in Building African Society
Remarks by
Paul Mitchell, Manager Development Communication, World Bank
March 22, 2007

We know the media plays an important role both in development and governance. In development the media, particularly radio, carries information and can encourage commerce in geographically isolated markets. The global media can move currency markets and international trade. The media can provide information on political markets exposing corrupt and unethical politicians and giving people a platform to voice diverse opinions on governance and reform. It can inform poor and marginalized people, giving them a voice.

In terms of development the media can act as the disseminator of information about government services, expenditures, laws, the rights and obligations of citizens and can make transparent the information government puts out. It can act as a watchdog on government.

When we look at governance and anti-corruption we have relied on legal and financial institutions – the judiciary, police, financial auditors to enforce and enhance accountability in the public sector. However, in many poor countries, these institutions are weak and among the most corrupt. A complimentary approach takes the users of public services as a starting point. Rather than attempt to increase service provider accountability to policy makers alone, the idea is to also engage citizens at the bottom of the public service delivery chain by providing them with easy access to information on the workings of public programs intended for their benefit. In this way citizens will be empowered to demand certain standards and monitor the abuses by officials. Improving public access to information is a crucial part of this bottom up complimentary approach and media have a crucial role to play.

But without downgrading the importance of the media in development and governance the focus that the international community puts on media is simply too exclusive. At best it defines the issue too narrowly and at worst it can be counterproductive. Usually resources are put only into media development usually at best media training and without thinking about the broader communication environment. After these inputs the problems is solved!

The Bank does not believe in intellectual copyright related to development and you can for example find everything our group has ever produced available on the Bank Web site. So I want to borrow a phrase that James Deane used while at Panos the “empowered communication environment” to describe how we believe communication should be viewed to make it a critical component in improving governance and economic development.

I want to take as the unit of reference the country level. Also note that every African country moves at a different speed so these elements will play out differently in each country.

The empowered communication environment includes:

  1. Reforms of Ministries of Information – looking at communication like any other sector in government – seeing how it can deliver better services to people; developing national communication and media policy; getting government out of the business of owning media; turning state broadcasters into public broadcasters; making them less a regulator and more of a development communicator; decentralizing communication; focus on core services etc. From our work in many countries we have found that the main reasons the state continues to own media is because it knows that it cannot compete in a free information environment. We also see lots of calls for Freedom of Information Acts. These may be useful but unless governments can deliver information – many do not even know what information they have and there little government record documentation, and unless people know how to access it these laws will be extremely limited in scope. By reforming MOIs we help give governments this ability and confidence.
  2.  Decentralization of communications – taking communication beyond the capitals both physically and in terms of language. National communication done at the local levels. But also as governments decentralize how do you assess and build capacity of regional and local governments.
  3.  Improving the functioning of private media – what are the problems and issues with the private media and how to improve capacity. Interestingly enough we find that one of the main request and needs is how to build financial sustainability, develop business plans and mange a business. Another issue in many African countries is power – not enough or irregular.
  4.  How do people receive information – studies that define the entire media market; research that explores how people receive information and whom do they trust so there is an empirical basis for the work.
  5. The legal environment for communication – all the laws related to communications. These include not only those related to regulatory and licensing environments; but taxation and import regimes; freedom of information laws; public order acts; and criminal liable acts. We have in some countries found for example that even if a Freedom of Information law was passed it could not be carried out because it contradicts an Official Secrets Act or a Public Order Act. In Sierra Leone for example the taxation laws would tax the profits of an media organization at 232% of the profits!
  6. The market – how can the media be made sustainable – what are the market conditions and laws. In Sierra Leone for example, and I am using Sierra Leone a lot as we done the most comprehensive work there, it is estimated that the advertising market is about $25 million per year, more than enough to sustain a strong media market yet most of this goes to outdoor advertising. There is no advertising industry, there are no private printing presses. How to develop a market for the ancillary services to media – advertising and creative agencies, Web content providers. We often forget that media is a large economic driver in many countries.
  7. Civil Society related to communication – not only are there many NGOs, foundations etc, directly related to the media but civil society can act as watchdog in governance and the markets. What is in a country? What roles do they play? Where are the capacity gaps?
  8. Academia – are there course in the universities? What is the pipeline to develop journalists and media practitioners in a country? How to improve this sector.
  9. The impact of new media – what role does new media play. In Liberia for example they have the opportunity because everything has been destroyed to leap whole decade of technology and install new satellite delivered information to electronic kiosks across the country. When I went to Nairobi and was talking to the owner of the Nation group of companies which owns a substantial part of the newspaper, radio and television market in East Africa and I asked him what gives him nightmares, what keeps him wake at night when he thinks about the competition to that might drive him out of business. Any guesses? It is this (hold up a cell phone). There are 8 million cell phone user in Kenya most in urban Nairobi and the ability to receive headline news and television and radio on the cell I has already arrived.

Why do we believe in this “empowered communication environment?” One reason is because most development interventions in the media area are too singular, supply driven by donors who want to give what they want to give, not sustainable and most one off efforts have very little impact. If we want to fully develop the communication environments in countries we must take both a systems and a systematic approach to the sector. We must empower the client. These services must be demand and not supply driven and by giving the client a blueprint of what needs to be done they can demand from donors where the interventions should take place. These agendas must be owned by the clients and we have found strong demand for them.

The last point I want to make is that in development terms and this is most relevant to the funding organizations, we must get governments, policy makers and donors to see communication as a sector equal to health, the environment, finance for example. We must get rid of the tyranny of the economists in development who blocked this view for decades. Unless communication is seen as a ‘sector” is not seen to have substance. Because of this it is not part of the many strategy discussion that take place in the development world – the UNDAF strategies of the UN; the CAS strategies of the Bank; and the PRSP where they apply in the developing countries. Unless this happens there will not be the investment or the funding mechanisms that are needed to develop the communication sector and truly let it take its place in the making governance and development work.