Writing Matters Archives

Improve Policy: Some Ideas
3 April 2017
Essential Principles for Contemporary Media and Communications Policymaking proposes principles to guide contemporary media and communications policymaking in democratic countries seeking to improve the contributions those operations and systems make to society. It articulates statements of principles to inform the development of policy objectives and policy mechanisms and to provide consistency across varying issues, technologies, and actions by defining fundamental criteria that can be used to inform discussion and guide policy decisions.
Beyond the Article
1 March 2017
In a new Reuters Institute report, Kevin Anderson examines how news organisations are moving “beyond the article” and use distributed publishing, chat bots and messaging apps, as well as visual journalism including mobile-first video and virtual reality to develop forms of journalistic storytelling and revenue streams that go beyond traditional formats.
The report, Beyond the Article, Frontiers of Editorial and Commercial Innovation, examines how news organisations across the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Spain, Turkey, and the Philippines are adapting to the fast-changing digital landscape. Anderson has interviewed high-profile digital innovators, including the New York Times, Quartz and the Guardian, smaller digital-born start-ups like 140journos in Turkey, and legacy media outlets including El Pais in Spain and Helsingin Sanomat in Finland.
Donors and Media: Same Beds, Different Dreams?
20 February 2017
Private charities are directing more funding towards media organizations as a way to achieve their philanthropic goals. Media houses, in need of resources and in many cases supportive of broad donor objectives, are taking the money. What happens in that relationship is the subject of our new report by Anya Schiffrin, Same Beds, Different Dreams? Charitable Foundations and Newsroom Independence in the Global South.
The growing trend of non-profit journalism has received much attention of late, but this report takes a unique look at how non-profit funding is affecting journalism in the Global South. See a Mediapowermonitor story on this topic.
Post-Snowden Journalism
9 February 2017
In the age of heightened surveillance, the need for—and threat to—watchdog journalism has intensified, with Edward Snowden’s 2013 leak of classified documents signaling what may become a new norm in national security coverage. The impact of surveillance on investigative journalism is among the topics explored in the anthology “Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State,” edited by Emily Bell and Taylor Owen and published by Columbia University Press today. It includes a conversation between Bell and Snowden and an essay by former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald who in 2013 broke the news of the Snowden revelations.
Funding Models in Public Media
10 January 2017
The position of public service broadcasters in the media systems of the countries of South East Europe gives them, in theory, the best vantage from which to protect public service values in media operations and journalism. Since the end of 2012 the regional partnership of civil society organisations established under the name “South East European Media Observatory” has promoted this broad set of values, capturing them in the concept of media integrity.
Now, the Observatory has produced as part of a four-year project a regional overview of the funding and governing models of public service broadcasters/media in nine countries of South East Europe, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
Private Power, Internet and EU Law
12 December 2016
This monograph examines how European Union law and regulation address concentrations of private economic power which impede free information flows on the Internet to the detriment of Internet users' autonomy. In particular, competition law, sector specific regulation (if it exists), data protection and human rights law are considered and assessed to the extent they can tackle such concentrations of power for the benefit of users. Using a series of illustrative case studies, of Internet provision, search, mobile devices and app stores, and the cloud, the work demonstrates the gaps that currently exist in EU law and regulation.
Media Ownership and Agenda Control
5 December 2016
This is a new book that tackles the complexities of media power and concentration in the information age, from the resurgence of press barons to the gatekeeping roles played by tech giants. The discussion weaves through inter-connected issues including privacy and surveillance, press regulation reform, the copyright battles between intermediaries and publishers, and net neutrality, bringing the study of media political economy into sharp contemporary relief.
Above all, it explores the web of connections and interdependencies that bind old and new media gatekeepers, and result in a mainstream agenda still very much vulnerable to hegemonic control, despite the rise of grassroots and participatory platforms, and despite ubiquitous displays of adversarial journalism. 
Digital Media in Cuba
3 September 2016
The Cuban government’s heavy-handed censorship practices are well documented, and evident in the virtual absence of independent print and broadcast journalism. Yet recently, many Cubans have shown themselves remarkably well informed about the outside world, in ways that cannot be explained by their traditional media offerings. This newfound benefit is the result of a parallel world of digital media, supported by ingenious Cuban workarounds.
In “Cuba’s Parallel Worlds: Digital Media Crosses the Divide,” Anne Nelson analyzes the findings of two years of research, including extensive field work and on-the-ground surveys across the island.
Trust in Media and Public Broadcasting
16 August 2016
Evaluating citizens' sentiments about trustworthiness of the media is undoubtedly an important task. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an organization of European public broadcasters, has recently published two reports: Trust in Media in Europe 2016, and PSM Correlations: Links between public service media and societal well-being. The reports indicate that broadcast media is seen more trustworthy than the press, the internet, let alone social media.  Yet, merely one half of European citizens “tend to trust” the most popular outlets, TV and radio. Read more in Public Media/Trends on Mediapowermonitor.
When Media Oligarchs Go Shopping
8 August 2016
Entitled Media: when oligarchs go shopping, RSF’s latest report describes a world in which journalism and freedom of information run up against an invisible wall consisting of money and conflicts of interest. From now on, RSF intends to keep addressing these new threats to journalistic independence, which constitute a major challenge for democracy.
Coinciding with the report’s publication, RSF is launching a communication campaign together with the advertising agency BETC. Called “How oligarchs kill freedom of information,” it takes the form of a “quick manual for the good oligarch.”
Tech Giants and Civic Power
17 June 2016
In this prescient and important paper Tech Giants and Civic Power, Dr Martin Moore carefully dismantles the thesis that the market will be a corrective to the extraordinary concentration of both economic power and civic influence within a small number of technology behemoths. Furthermore he does what few scholars or politicians have managed thus far, and advances the proposition that we ought to think about new mechanisms of oversight and regulation for a new type of power.
In the past twenty years the proliferation of internet technologies has radically transformed almost every aspect of life; how we buy products, discuss politics, form relationships and conduct our work. At the heart of this change sit a small number of companies who grasped the early possibilities of a widely available internet and turned them into vast generators of wealth and insight. Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon between them control and collect unprecedented amounts of data about human activity and turn it into products and services that have fuelled stunning commercial growth.
Freedom of Expression and Media in Transition
5 June 2016
In 2009, Nordicom published Freedom of Speech Abridged? Cultural, legal and philosophical challenges, and a few years later Freedom of Expression Revisited. Citizenship and journalism in the digital era. The current publication may be seen as a follow-up to these earlier titles. It is based  on research in the Nordic countries, but many of the studies are global in nature and the result of collaborations between researchers from many parts of the world. It is hoped that this collection will contribute to knowledge development in the field as well as to global and regional discussions  about freedom of expression, press freedom, and communication rights in contemporary societies.
Journalism in Conflict Conditions
30 May 2016
Journalism in Conflict and Post-Conflict Conditions: Worldwide Perspectives is a most important book in our time of uncertainty. It adds to our knowledge base and understanding concerning the role of journalism and media in the complexities of post-conflict processes and peace building – a role that is often ignored in contemporary discussions. The aim of the book is “... to provide both empirical and theoretical input to the discussions of the role of journalism and media in conflict and post-conflict situations and in the o en rather muddy waters between them.”
Community Media: Where Are Their Programs?
1 April 2016
The Centre for Media, Data and Society (CMDS) at Central European University (CEU) produced a research report, authored by Joost van Beek with contributions from Kate Coyer, which explores some of the challenges, obstacles, opportunities and prospects for online community media archiving. It highlights best practices and lessons learned that can be used to help improve the ways programming is shared, exchanged, and archived online. The report is available here. The report is the result of research carried out in the framework of the CAPTCHA projecta partnership of three community media organizations (Radio Corax, Germany; the Near Media Co-op, Ireland; Radio FRO, Austria) and the CMDS that ran from September 2013 to August 2015.
Bulgaria: Curbing Media, Crippling Debate
1 April 2016
Bulgarian authorities are increasingly employing tools of “soft censorship” to dominate the country’s media and narrow public access to information and informed policy debate. This analysis defines official “soft censorship” or indirect censorship as any of an array of official actions intended to influence media output, short of legal or extra-legal bans, direct censorship of specific content, or physical attacks on media outlets or media practitioners.
This report, based on a series of interviews with journalists and media experts from Bulgaria as well as other research, provides an overview of soft censorship in Bulgaria and suggests actions to reverse what is a steadily rising and already very damaging tide of repression.
Contradictions of Media: An Analysis of Power Structures
1 March 2016
As the media – legacy, digital, or social – shift through different transformations and disruptions, the issues of media power and the power over media remain highly relevant. The topics of disintermediation and decentralization – as close relatives of the term 'disruption' – are often brought up in the discussion and research on the new media environment. However the question remains whether media power and the power over media have really changed or are we merely seeing a small redistribution within the old patterns of power relations.
The Contradictions of Media by Des Freedman is an excellent place to start looking for these answers: a complex in-depth analysis of the modern framework of different power structures in media and from media. This book reflects this duality, with a combination of an academic approach on one side and activist approach on the other side. Freedman starts with the theoretical analysis of key conceptual approaches to the concept of power and uses four paradigms that provide the organizational foundation for the book: chaos, consensus, control, and contradiction. (By Marko Milosavljevic)
How to Use Media Metrics
23 February 2016
News organisations are increasingly embracing the use of analytics and metrics as part of editorial decision making, but what constitutes a sophisticated analytics strategy? And why are so many media organisations still using such a rudimentary approach to analytics?
A new report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism looks at which organisations are building a competitive advantage over less advanced competitors through a better understanding of their audience, and what lessons others can take from their approaches.
Based on over 30 interviews with senior figures involved in developing analytics in news organisations, the report, authored by Federica Cherubini and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, examines analytics at leading organisations, provides a review of current trends – and looks at where others are falling behind.
Indian Public TV Most Challenged by Digital
15 February 2016
In a country with few channels occupying the terrestrial space – all of which are owned by the public broadcaster – what is the rationale behind the expensive and mandatory transition to digital terrestrial television? This paper, written by Vibodh Parthasarathi, undertakes a hard look at the incorporation of this transition in the wider moves towards digitization by Doordarshan, India’s public broadcaster. Drawing on approaches in institutionalism that aid unraveling why certain interests get prioritized over others, the paper unmasks the official reasoning justifying the digital switchover in India.
The paper infers that the marginal sections of society, for whom Doordarshan is the sole affordable TV outlet, will be the most challenged by this mandatory transition. Moreover, the move to terrestrial digital broadcasting is not guided by public interest values like enhancing diverse content, which could be the key mechanism for Doordarshan to regain the viewership it has lost to private satellite channels.
Media Policy Reform in Latin America
11 February 2016
More than ever before, social movements throughout contemporary Latin America are successfully influencing and shaping media policy and reform. Beginning at the turn of the twenty-first century, these powerful movements—using marches, occupation of space, social media organization, and more—have given voice to marginalized citizens of Latin America whose lives have been upset by the falsity of a globalized economy, and provide hope in the continued fight for reform and civic justice.
In their highly detailed study, María Soledad Segura and Silvio Waisbord scrutinize the goals, tactics, and impacts of civic movements across the region. Offering both a historical perspective and an in-depth analysis of the contemporary situation, Media Movements transcends simple conceptions of "the national" versus "the global" to reveal complicated processes of media policy-making and to evaluate the significance of local politicians and citizens, global figures, and legal frameworks.
World Bank Takes a New Look at the Digital World
3 February 2016
Digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the world. Digital dividends—that is, the broader development benefits from using these technologies—have lagged behind. In many instances, digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery.
Yet their aggregate impact has fallen short and is unevenly distributed. For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access. But greater digital adoption will not be enough. To get the most out of the digital revolution, countries also need to work on the “analog complements”—by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses, by adapting workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy, and by ensuring that institutions are accountable. Read more in World Bank’s report.
Media in Fragile Contexts
1 February 2016
BBC Media Action believes in the power of media to play an important role in bringing people together and providing platforms for resolving difference peacefully. BBC Media Action supports national debate and discussion shows in both Kenya and Nigeria that broadcast regularly to regular audiences of nearly 13 million people. These shows support inclusive, balanced, moderated discussion that incorporates multiple viewpoints in robust debate.
A new report from BBC Media Action uses data from nationally representative surveys gathered around those programmes to contribute to the small but growing evidence base on media and conflict. At the centre of the analysis is an examination of discussion. The report explores how discussion programmes – where a diverse audience, representing the whole of society, is engaged in fair and balanced debate – can stimulate both private/interpersonal discussion and public discussion in either a community setting or one hosted by local government. It then goes on to examine whether discussion can, in turn, affect conflict-related attitudes at scale, whether attitudes towards other groups in society or attitudes towards violence.
How to Support Media in Latin America
21 January 2016
CIMA and Deutsche Welle Akademie have launched a series of regional consultations with media stakeholders–civil society and media watchdog NGOs, broadcast regulators, academics, media industry representatives, government officials, and others in the media and development sectors–to diagnose the problems facing independent media in the world today.
The first of these conferences took place in Bogota, Colombia, in November 2015. CIMA and DW Akademie published "Media in Latin America: A Path Forward", a summary of the discussion and the findings. It hopes that the publication will serve to foster more discussion about how independent media around the world can best be supported.
A Decade of Debates on Public Media in Seven Books
20 January 2016
RIPE is an on-going initiative devoted to strengthening collaborative relations between media scholars and researchers studying PSB in historic, contemporary and comparative terms, and (mainly) strategic managers who are accountable for the operations and responsible for the development of public service media institutions.
The RIPE publications grow out from the RIPE conferences. Nordicom has until now published six books in the series and a seventh is forthcoming. Some of the published books include The Value of Public Service Media and Cultural Dilemmas in Public Service Broadcasting. The 7th RIPE publication, from the RIPE conference in Tokyo, 27-29 of August 2014 and edited by Greg Ferrell Lowe & Nobuto Yamamoto, will be released by Nordicom in 2016.
Macedonia’s Media: Only Bad Things
17 December 2015
“Soft Censorship in Macedonia: Bad Practices, Bad Faith” is a new report released by CIMA as part of its soft censorship research series. Country reports on Hungary, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro and Serbia were issued in 2013-2015. In Macedonia today, official financial incentives and pointedly partisan influence have resulted in “media capture” by the state, diminishing the industry’s professionalism and credibility, curtailing its rightful role in fostering democratic development by providing impartial information and a venue for public discussion and debate. […]
Soft censorship is also practiced through ownership structures. There are clear connections between politicians and owners of many media outlets. This new report from CIMA researches the practice and prevalence of soft censorship in Macedonia.
Eroding Freedoms in Montenegro
24 November 2015
"In Montenegro, soft censorship is exercised primarily through politicised, discretionary and non-transparent distribution of public money and subsidies to media. Lack of transparency and standard and equitable procedures in allocation of public funding seriously distorts the media market, improving business prospects of some outlets and endangering the existence of others. This is directly related to how favourably or critically media outlets report on governmental activities."
A new report from CIMA, “Eroding Freedoms: Media and Soft Censorship in Montenegro” catalogues the forms and maps the extent of soft censorship by Montenegro’s state and public institutions against media outlets and media practitioners. "This is done primarily through the lens of finances, which is the dominant means of soft censorship in the country. Included is an overview of instruments that facilitate or limit official financial support: allocation of advertising services by public institutions to favoured media; selective distribution of subsidies and other state aid; paid content; and other forms of administrative and technical assistance or obstruction."
Pentagon’s Information War
23 Novermber 2015
CIMA released a new report, “The Pentagon, Information Operations, and Media Development”, by Peter Cary, a veteran journalist with extensive experience reporting about the U.S. military. As part of its post-9/11 strategy, the Department of Defense has launched a multi-front information war, both to support its troops on the ground and to counter the propaganda of radical Muslim extremists. The DoD’s global public relations war, however, has fostered criticism that the department has over-reached and tarred the efforts of non-DoD Americans doing media development work abroad.
While the DoD cannot be criticized for trying to protect the lives of its soldiers, it has spent vast amounts of money on media operations–which can tend to be conducted in secrecy and whose effectiveness often cannot be measured. This report examines the impact of DoD information operations on international media development efforts and offers recommendations, including that the DoD leave media activities that could be considered public diplomacy to the State Department.


Secret Sources and Whistleblowers
9 November 2015
Drawing on interviews with leakers, lawyers, scholars, journalists, and government representatives, "Secret Sources: Whistleblowers, National Security, and Free Expression" reveals massive holes in the laws and regulations covering whistleblowing by intelligence workers, particularly when raising valid constitutional or ethical issues about a government action that has been previously authorized by an agency head or Congress as legal.
PEN’s report demonstrates how these gaps in the existing scheme of protections pose high risks for national security workers wishing to expose alleged wrongdoing, undercut the ability of journalists to report on information in the public interest and to protect sources, and largely exclude the national security sphere from the crucial check on abuses that whistleblowers provide in other areas of the U.S. government.
Soft Censorship in Hungary, Serbia and Mexico
25 October 2015
CIMA and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) have been cooperating in a campaign to raise awareness around the world of the insidious practice known as “soft” (or indirect) censorship of news media.
Soft censorship is used to promote positive coverage of officials or their actions–and to punish media outlets that criticize them. It is the practice of influencing news coverage of state bodies and officials and their policies and activities through allocation or withholding of state media spending (subsidies, advertising, and other media contracts), or selective application of licensing, permits, or regulations, to shape the broad media landscape; promote or diminish the economic viability of specific media houses or outlets; and reward or punish individual media workers.
WAN-IFRA and CIMA have launched a series of reports examining the problem of soft censorship in several countries. The first three of them, looking at Serbia, Hungary, and Mexico, were published in 2014. In late October 2015, CIMA and WAN-IFRA released Articles of Asphyxiation: Soft Censorship in Hungary; Media Reform Stalled in The Slow Lane: Soft Censorship in Serbia; and Breaking Promises. Blocking Reform: Soft Censorship in Mexico (in both English and Spanish).
Turkey and Its Captured Media
23 October 2015
Why are so many countries failing to create independent media that contribute to democracy and economic progress?  That is a big and complex question, but we at the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) suggest that one piece of the answer may be found in a concept known as media capture. Media capture is a systemic governance problem where political leaders and media owners work together in a symbiotic but mutually corrupting relationship: media owners provide supportive news coverage to political leaders in exchange for favorable government treatment of their businesses and political interests.
CIMA published in October 2015 Captured News Media: The Case of Turkey by Andrew Finkel, a veteran journalist based in Turkey. His paper is part of CIMA’s ongoing research into the phenomenon of media capture through which CIMA hopes to contribute to a greater awareness of this type of media system, to understand how it operates, and to ascertain what the media development community can do about it.
Journalists About Journalism Under Threat
10 October 2015
Is journalism under threat? Censorship, political pressure, intimidation, job insecurity and attacks on the protection of journalists’ sources - how can these threats be tackled? "Journalism at Risk" is a new book from the Council of Europe, in which ten experts from different backgrounds examine the role of journalism in democratic societies.
Is journalism under threat? The image of journalists, as helmeted war correspondents protected by bullet-proof vests and armed only with cameras and microphones, springs to mind. Physical threats are only the most visible dangers, however. Journalists and journalism itself are facing other threats such as censorship, political and economic pressure, intimidation, job insecurity and attacks on the protection of journalists’ sources. Social media and digital photography mean that anyone can now publish information, which is also upsetting the ethics of journalism. In this book, 10 experts from different backgrounds analyse the situation from various angles. At a time when high-quality, independent journalism is more necessary than ever – and yet when the profession is facing many different challenges – they explore the issues surrounding the role of journalism in democratic societies.
What Are Public Media Doing Online?
8 October 2015
The difficulty in deciding which online services receive public funding due to a public service remit is one of the major issues currently being tackled by EU governments. The European Audiovisual Observatory published on 8 October 2015 a new report giving background reading on the subject of "Online activities of public service media: remit and financing".
This latest IRIS Special was prepared by the Saarbrücken-based Institute of European Media Law and brings together contributions from various authors. This new publication tackles issues such as the definition of a public service media, current funding models for broadcasting or indeed the pertinence and practicability of a public value test for New Media services of public service media.
The Men Who Bit the (Watch)Dogs
10 September 2015
The London-based Centre for Media Transparency published in September a report by Manuela Preoteasa and Andrei Schwartz on media ownership patterns in Romania. The center is a new think tank whose mission is to examine patterns of media wnership and control and how that impacts on civil society and governments. The organization wants to expose the hidden influence wielded by the owners of multiple media outlets.
The study of Ms Preoteasa and Mr Schwartz follows three stages of development in Romania's media: the 1990s when foreign investment in the media was quasi-absent, the 2000s characterized by lack of transparency and the years after 2011 characterized by a slew of criminal investigations into the businesses of several leading owners.
The Digital Gap Widens
9 September 2015
“The digital divide has evolved to mean much more than whether someone can or cannot get online. It now incorporates wider issues such as the speed and quality of access. In the world’s most advanced mobile markets those on high-speed fourth generation (4G) networks can consume twice as much data every month as non-4G users. This means that, however fast developing countries race to catch up, those in front continue to accelerate away.”
“To assess what people in different regions can do in reality with each device, we analysed 172 countries — home to 96 per cent of the world’s population — to estimate the number of telecommunication subscriptions, such as a contract for a mobile phone or broadband internet. We also analysed communication capacity, that is, the amount of data each device can process. Combining the two data sets provides an estimate of average internet capacity per person, or how much data each person can exchange through their device in each country at a given point in time. As a final step, we tracked how this capacity changed over time for four sets of countries grouped by their average national income.”
Advice to Media Developers: Change
4 September 2015
The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) at the Washington, D.C.-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) published in September 2015 a new report by Paul Rothman. The author analyzes trends in the politics of media development worldwide.
He argues that the media development community must rethink its approaches to public sector engagement to improve the environment in which media operate. In other words, he says that investors of media outlets have to find ways to work with governments because media are reliant on state authorities because of how they devise policies and rules.
“Although governments do frequently pervert and capture media sectors in countries around the globe, the enabling conditions under which media can achieve and maintain independence are nevertheless reliant on institutions of government,” Mr Rothmans wrote. The report can be accessed here.
On 30 September 2015, CIMA organized a panel discussion on the topic covered by Mr Rothman’s paper, moderated by Shanthi Kalathil.