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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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BBC World Service Trust report: Media and development - a policy priority

Media should be a stronger priority in development strategies, says an independent policy opinion survey from the BBC World Service Trust.

The report, Governance And The Media – A Survey Of Policy Opinion, concludes that the role of media in the democratic and development processes of developing countries is poorly researched, insufficiently understood and inappropriately prioritised within the development system.

Independently conducted interviews were undertaken with a range of development figures including John Githongo, the former anti-corruption Czar in Kenya, Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University and Professor Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The report further observed that there is an "engagement gap" between the importance of media in development, and its actual prioritisation in development strategies.

As it states, "the importance of supporting free and pluralistic media in relation to governance – and development outcomes – is thought to be increasingly recognised by a wide range of policy makers, academics and practitioners". Despite this, "there is an 'engagement gap' between the value assigned to its role... and the practical provision made for it in development planning, thinking and spending".

James Deane, Head of Policy at the BBC World Service Trust, explains the motivation for commissioning the policy opinion survey.

"Our aim... was not to reinforce our own analysis but to get a genuine independent perspective on the role of media in democratic development here and now in 2009," he says.

"This is a survey mainly of development policy experts, rather than media specialists, some of whom were selected explicitly because they were expected to have challenging and perhaps sceptical perspectives," he adds.

Consensus was not universal, but the overwhelming conclusion from the report was that the role of media is especially poorly understood in development strategies.

"Shifting trends in media and communication in most developing countries are rapid and dramatic and are having profound political and social impacts," observes Deane.

"When development organisations think of media, they generally focus on how to get more coverage of the issues they care about – the time has come for development organisations to reflect just how critical media has become to the democratic fabric of developing countries."

Notes to Editors

James Deane, Head of Policy, is available for interview.

The full report (PDF) is published on the BBC World Service Trust website.

The BBC World Service Trust is the BBC's international development charity. It aims to reduce poverty and promote human rights in developing countries through the innovative and creative use of the media. Access to information, empowerment and "voice" are at the heart of what the trust does.

The BBC World Service Trust is an independent charity funded by external grants and voluntary contributions, mainly from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the European Union, UN agencies and charitable foundations. Registered charity number: 1076235.

To receive regular updates on the work of the BBC World Service Trust please register for the monthly newsletter on the trust's website.

The BBC World Service Trust's Research and Learning Group (R&L) is an international team of research professionals with expertise in international development, media communications and audience insight. R&L has an established network of research teams operating in some of the most challenging areas of the world. As well as evaluating the impact of Trust related projects, the group provides independent media research to the development community.

The BBC World Service Trust has produced two Policy Briefings that can be downloaded from its website: The Kenyan 2007 Elections And Their Aftermath: The Role Of Media And Communication and Left In The Dark: The Unmet Need For Information In Humanitarian Responses.


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