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Media Development vs. Communication for Development: Structure vs. Process

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Brothers for LifeMy colleague Shanthi Kalathil is working on a "Toolkit for Independent Media Development," which we have mentioned several times on this blog. One of the points she makes right at the beginning is that donors need to distinguish between media development and communication for development. Communication for development means the use of communication tools - usually in the form of awareness raising campaigns - to achieve development goals. Media development, on the other hand, is about supporting an independent media sector in and of itself, it's a structural approach.

Media development starts from the assumption that the media have an important role in the state as they hold those in power accountable and provide citizens with information that they need to actively participate in the political sphere. Only an independent and free media system can achieve this. Therefore, media development targets the capacity of journalists and other media actors to fulfill their democratic function, the sustainability of independent media markets, and the legal environment that guarantees media freedom and independence. So it's about capacity, sustainability, and legislation. Media development takes a systemic perspective, treating media as a sector.

Communication for development is about process. Many development projects in health and education use communication tools to get their messages across, hoping to raise awareness about issues and, eventually, to change norms and behaviors. South Africa, for instance, has taken advantage of the general attention to the World Cup to drive HIV campaigns. The "Brothers for Life" campaign used international soccer stars to encourage men to take a stance against gender based violence and to get tested for HIV. The campaign used ads on television, radio, and outdoor advertising during the World Cup to drive the message.

While both perspectives are relevant for development, they require different approaches and different skill sets. Media development is about capacity and coalition building on a grand scale, including lobbying for legislation and support for a sustainable market. To do communication for development successfully, a deep understanding of opinion formation and behavior change is necessary. Donors invested in promoting accountability and good governance need both, but should not throw both into one pot and leave it all to their PR departments to deal with.

Picture: Brothers for Life


Submitted by Zeeshan on
Anne, Really like the piece. Especially the distinction between both media and communication for development. Crucial to understand this, if we want to be better as a key player in the field. Thanks!

Submitted by Aramis on
i was reminded of my Communication Development training , very nice.

Submitted by Carla on
"Communication for development" news, public relations that was originally created for an aid worker/donor/policy audience, too often passes for journalistic news within US mainstream media. In this way, donor perspectives on development/int'l issues always dominate. But can this regurgitation of agency PR meet the information needs of ordinary citizens and migrants who in fact contribute more in dollars, time and commitment to their home countries than the aid industry? Can a "communication in development" perspective help those migrants to make better investment (time, remittances, etc) decisions? Glad to read about work that distinguishes between media that can encourage structural change vs. that which is focused on process. Thanks. Carla Editor, Develop Haiti

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