Strategic principles for media assistance

  • 1. Incorporate media assistance into a larger framework of development aid. Access to information is crucial for domestic accountability. Media institutions in particular provide tools and channels for accountability that can complement and enhance other accountability mechanisms, but also add new instruments that may be at least as powerful and efficient as the more commonly supported accountability measures. A weak and/or highly constrained media can undermine domestic accountability. The risk of not considering and supporting the media as part of broader accountability programmes is significant.
  • 2. Incorporate media indicators and audits into governance diagnostics and needs analysis. The state of the media is inseparable from the state of governance in general. For instance,
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the UNESCO standard media development indicators (UNESCO, 2008) could usefully be incorporated into governance needs assessments to more effectively guide interventions for improving media as an accountability mechanism.

  • 3. Co-operate with media development CSOs and determine media objectives and outcomes, not methodologies. Given a lack of specific expertise on media development within the majority of donor organisations and local media beneficiaries, there is a strong argument for developing media support strategies and specific interventions in partnership with media development CSOs. Some donors are already taking this approach. Media development organisations, along with local partners, are often best positioned to assess context and needs and to develop effective interventions to address these. While there is a clear need to ensure that media strategies complement overarching accountability objectives, there is a strong argument for providing CSO implementers with substantial scope - and the ability to propose creative solutions - as opposed to highly prescriptive requirements.
  • 4. Focus on building public demand for inclusive policy dialogue.

The Accra Agenda for Action calls for “broadening country-level policy dialogue on development” (OECD, 2005/2008). One concern is a paucity of “evidence from which to systematically assess progress in implementing these commitments”. There is clear potential for media support that enables and fosters policy dialogue to contribute to this goal; research incorporated into such support can assist in building a body of evidence and understanding of effective strategies for stimulating policy dialogue. [1] [2]

directly with issues and politicians - there exists a clear sense of trust and ownership of media programmes.

  • 7. Promote citizen access to the media and mobile technologies as well as citizens’ media literacy. The media can only be an effective accountability mechanism only if citizens are able to use them. This includes access to media products and infrastructure as well as the ability to make sense of information.
  • 8. Encourage links between media institutions and the rest of civil society. Media and civil society organisations together can form a formidable coalition for accountability and good governance. Donors should consider joining support for several accountability mechanisms, including media support, in appropriate situations.
  • 9. Support systematic research on the effects of media and information access on domestic accountability. As outlined in this discussion paper, there is empirical evidence of the media’s impact on domestic accountability, but it is not integrated into a larger theoretical framework. Research, including monitoring and evaluation, should be part of any media support project, but should also be supported in its own right to advance our understanding of the role of the media in domestic accountability in different political, economic, and social contexts.
  • 10. Learn about and harness new technologies. Internet and mobile-focused support is not appropriate in all contexts. Needs analyses must properly assess media and communications environments to determine the most appropriate media platforms for supporting accountability. Where interventions do focus on new technologies, research should be incorporated to build a body of policy-relevant evidence to guide subsequent support.

  • [1] Support independent, sustainable, and capable local media indeveloping countries. Local media in developing countries oftenenjoy significant reach and audience interest, but lack the resources,skills and support to better understand the needs of populations andeffectively hold government to account. In supporting theseorganisations to improve their watchdog role, donors can effectivelyenhance non-media accountability interventions, build people’sdemand for domestic accountability, and strengthen local media asan accountability institution.
  • [2] Foster ownership as a central component of support. The natureof productive relationships between the media and audiences is onethat engenders a sense of ownership. Where people see the mediaacting on their behalf and critically - enabling them to engage
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