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Media development work hindered by sector's own shortcomings

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Media development work hindered by sector's own shortcomings

“We've made a difference. A significant difference, sometimes yes, but sometimes no,” says Marguerite Sullivan, director of the Center for International Media Assistance. “But we don't know well enough what we're doing and we don't speak the same language.”

For example, there's no single number that best explains the extent of support coming out of the United States, the largest funder for independent media projects worldwide. Last year, US$107 million was spent in two categories: media freedom and freedom of information. However, there are many more more media projects not captured in this number, explained Sullivan. Without uniform language, media assistance programs are often buried beneath other categories of international aid projects.

Worldwide, 16% of the world's population live in a country with a free press, 44% in a partially free country, and 40% in a not free country. In Africa and Asia, there have been substantial strides over the past twenty years.

Concurrently, there's been an uptick in draconian press measures and repression of journalists in Latin America. But there's still a dearth of data that comprehensively shows how global independent media is really doing. For example, the majority of numbers are quantitative – such as how many journalists have been trained – rather than qualitative.

“If we don't use the same terms to say what we do or in measuring how we're doing, how are we ever going to make our case to donors on how important media development is,” says Sullivan.

Sullivan urges an overhaul of the media development sector, involving using the same vocabulary, an increased practice of sharing data, and more emphasis on collaboration among media development partners.


Alexandra Waldhorn


2011-10-12 12:59

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