I promised in the previous post on this topic to offer a way of taking internal political processes seriously as we seek to strengthen media systems around the world. As many of you will know, one major preoccupation of CommGAP's is to seek a deeper understanding of how to tackle some of the people-related or adaptive challenges that often bedevil efforts to improve governance systems in developing countries. Therefore, the starting point of this perspective is the conviction that if you want to strengthen the media system in Gugu Republic as one of the fundamental institutions of that country, your effort is like any other attempt to reform governance systems. You will run into the full gamut of issues: is there political will? what will powerful vested interests do to oppose the reform, that is those who want the media system to stay the way it is? do you have public support? do you have a sufficiently powerful coalition to help you overcome the opposing forces and interests? The point is this: international donors -whether public or private - can help with resources and a tiny bit of influence ( depending on the context) but no donor can really shape the domestic political process in Gugu Republic. That is work for concerned citizens and citizen groups. So, what follows is addressed to activists in each developing country who really want to improve their media systems:
- You need to use the available diagnostic tools to pick out the structural weaknesses in your media system. UNESCO, Irex, Freedom House have good diagnostic tools.
- Pick your reform target (e.g broadcasting regulation). Don't try to do everything all at once.
- You need to conduct rough and ready political economy analysis of your proposed reform. What that means is that you need to understand the underlying drivers of the bad state of affairs that you want to improve. Why are things the way they are? What forces are profiting from the status quo? What forces would benefit from change? And so on. Good political journalists can do this for you. Set up a brainstorming session with a group of media pundits with ears to the ground.
- Then you need a strategy for getting your reform to happen. You will discover that what you will have to do is build a coalition powerful enough to get the reform to happen, in this case, change in the broadcasting regulations of Gugu Republic. Your coalition building has to be both vertical (you need to bring in influential players like legislators in order to secure political will) and horizontal (you need to build public support for the reform you seek).
- You need to frame the issue intelligently. You need to frame the issue in a way that encourages and secures collective action. For instance, why should those whose support you need want to back an effort to reform broadcasting regulation in Gugu Republic? If you don't frame the issue in an inclusive way only a tiny band of in-group members will support your push for reform. You need some careful work here with smart communication influence specialists.
- Finally, you launch the campaign, always keeping in mind the ever-shifting dynamics of domestic politics in Gugu Republic. Keep an eye on that. Keep the effort grounded in reality...always; then push mightily.
My suggestion would be that the NGOs and others in important groups like the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) should, through their regional and domestic chapters, take up this task. They need to add this to the current focus on getting more and more money from donors. Successful and sustainable reform in this as in other areas is shaped by the realities of domestic political processes. Donors alone cannot do much.
Photo Credit: Bill Lyons, 2002 (WB)