The link between governance and media systems is now widely acknowledged in the donor community. However, many governance advisors are unfamiliar with why, when, and how to provide support to an independent media sector, and as a result, this crucial piece of the governance reform agenda is sometimes neglected. CommGAP is working toward bridging this gap with our newest publication: Developing Independent Media as an Institution of Accountable Governance: A How-To Guide. (You can read the full text here and order the book here). Author Shanthi Kalathil provides hands-on advice for donors, foundations, and others who are interested in media development, but don't quite know how to go about it.
In this toolkit, Shanthi does not repeat yet again why the media is important for governance - by now this mutually reinforcing relationship should be clear to people working in development. Rather, Shanthi presents a step-by-step tool for analyzing the media landscape and for setting up a project that accounts for the overarching environment - and your budget. The toolkit first explains briefly the building blocks of an independent media sector: infrastructure, professional skills and editorial independence, sustainability and business development, an enabling environment, and media literacy. Next is a simple 9-step framework for a political economy analysis assessing relevant institutions, arenas, and actors of the media system. This analysis helps the user understand what drives or blocks reform in the media sector and identify the most promising entry points for an independent media development program.
The core of the how-to guide is a tool with suggested program components and checklists for different kinds of political environments (permissive, semi-permissive, nonpermissive) and different kinds of complexity. For instance, in a permissive environment, training of journalists is a relatively simple activity, while within a nonpermissive environment the development of a local advertising sector would be relatively complex, since it requires political will, money, and time. After following the assessment process, governance advisors can pick and choose activities that fit their expertise, budget, and local circumstances. Suggestions for monitoring and evaluation conclude the guide.
The toolkit is the result of a long process of consultations with experts from international organizations, bilateral donors, and media development organizations. CommGAP is grateful to everybody who contributed their valuable experience to this guide and hopes that it will provide users with clear and simple tools to support accountable governance by assisting independent media.