For those of us who care about the media and its role in society and politics, the recent events surrounding News Corp in the UK have provided plenty of fodder for conversation. While there are many ways to analyze the situation, one aspect which has proved interesting to follow from a CommGAP perspective is the debate over how competing media outlets (or even the ones owned by News Corp) are and should be covering the story. This Washington Post article unpacks some of the ownership ties and potential (or perceived) conflicts of interest behind the coverage, noting that corporate affiliations have raised suspicions about the independence and objectivity of coverage.
A few weeks I had a chance to return to Nicaragua for a brief visit. The Fundacion Chamorro invited me to talk about the role of the state in processes of media reform. As usual, I learned a great deal by talking to old colleagues and new friends about ongoing efforts to strengthen media democracy in the country.
What’s going on in contemporary Nicaragua shows the potential of smart media aid to be effective, if it dovetails with local needs and promotes wide-ranging efforts. It’s not just what donors think is important. It is what local activists with vast experience believe is necessary (and Nicaragua, to put it mildly, does have substantive experience with reform). It’s not simply about targeting one set of challenges. It is taking a broad, multilevel perspective on the challenges of media systems.
There is a fascinating story in this week's edition of The Economist ('Calling the shots' May 3rd 2008 page 72). It is about the media in India. Apparently, some top Indian newspapers are signing 'private treaties' with businesses. According to the story, the newspapers accept payment for ads in the form of shares in the advertiser's firm. The magazines very legitimate concern is that this increasingly popular practice is exposing Indian newspapers to growing conflict of interest... The magazine also quotes an India media activist , Sevanti Ninan, and he says this practice will "grow and grow in a media which anyway has little notion of conflict of interest." The great danger in a situation like that is that headlines will be bought and paid for without the public knowing who is doing the paying. The integrity of the newspapers in question will be greatly damaged if this is revealed, but the real problem is that the public will not know the truth and public opinion will be manipulated by hidden puppet masters.