Special Issue 2009 Measuring Change II

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5th Symposium Forum Medien und Entwicklung (FoME):

Measuring Change II

Expanding Knowledge on Monitoring and Evaluation in Media Development

Inspiring presentations and lively discussions marked the 5th symposium of the Forum Medien und Entwicklung (FoME) that took place in Bad Honnef, from 12-14 October. The nearly 70 participants - among them representatives from donor organisations, media implementing organisations and the academic community - created a stimulating atmosphere, proving that "monitoring and evaluation in media development" is not in the least a "dry" academic topic.

The symposium was also the occasion to launch the mediaME-Wiki. mediaME - media development Monitoring and Evaluation - is a participatory platform for sharing tools and approaches in monitoring and evaluation, initiated during the previous symposium Measuring Change, organised two years ago.

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The four thematic blocks followed up earlier discussions (Measuring Change: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in 2007) on assessing media landscapes, experiences in evaluating the quality and impact of training, and how the media's contribution to social and political change is assessed. Donor and media assistance organisations presented their approaches to M&E and shared their experiences with existing frameworks. A publication of the presentations and recommendations will soon be available.

Assessing Media Landscapes

The strengths and weaknesses of existing indices to assess media landscapes were examined during the first part of the symposium. Andrew Puddephatt from London based Global Partners noted, that very little attention is being paid to sustainability in media assistance. At the same time, new media usage is not being taken sufficiently into consideration by existing indices: Journalistic information coverage is losing ground, being replaced by peer-to-peer communication. The rapid proliferation of mobile devices is bringing about the collapse of traditional media business models, especially for newspapers.

Helge Ronning, Professor of Media Studies of the University of Oslo, discussed paradigms for assessing and evaluating the development of media in relation to social and political change from a comparative perspective. The background was provided by a study of the media situation in Mozambique, carried out as a test of the UNESCO's media development indicators framework.

"Perceptions and Realities - The African (Asian) Media Barometer in practice" was presented by Rolf Paasch, Director of fesmedia Africa in Windhoek, Namibia. The Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation's media barometer, the range of which was recently extended to Asia, aims to assess the media landscape of a country over time and provide civil society with a strategic advocacy tool for media reform.

The question, "What are we measuring?" was more closely analysed by Prof. Fackson Banda, UNESCO Chair of Media & Democracy at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, in his "critical review of media development measurements". Banda sought to unravel the methodological assumptions that underpin existing indices, setting out advice around clarifying the assessor's focus, and how this impacts upon choosing, creating and using the best tools for assessing some aspects of the media landscape.

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Assessing Training

Marie-Soleil Frère, a Research Associate at the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research, provided the participants with an insight into what lay "beyond the Unesco Indicators", while assessing journalism schools in francophone Africa. The research project, commissioned by UNESCO, aimed to build indicators with and for journalism schools in Africa and to identify potential centres of excellence in journalism training in Africa. With regard to the journalism schools in francophone Africa, her experiences sounded rather deflating, since most of the centres seem to suffer from a lack of teaching equipment and staff. At the same time, a rigid administrative rule together with a lack of financial autonomy further diminishes the opportunities to improve the management capacities. In addition there was the struggle to convince the centres to participate in this self-assessment exercise.

Helmut Osang, Head of the Asia Division of the Deutsche Welle Akademie, presented another example of how to work "between the request to know and budget constraints". Exemplified by the cooperation in Laos, he demonstrated how the Academy shifted priorities from offering training to the broader institutional capacity building of partners. He also demonstrated how existing research on media usage and journalistic role concepts facilitated the planning of new programmes. While an ex post evaluation had been budgeted to justify the Academy's work in the past, support was not received to evaluate the project outcomes, results that could directly be fed into the process of improving the present work.

Approaches to M&E in Media Development

According to Mark Koenig, Senior Advisor for Independent Media Development at the USAID Office of Democracy and Governance, 34 countries currently receive support from USAID for media development and communications programmes. These activities supported by USAID can be divided into three basic types: (1) programs developing independent and professional media as the primary objective, or "media-as-an-end" activities; (2) programs using media to communicate other development objectives, or "media-as-a-means"; and, in some cases, (3) activities concurrently accomplishing both objectives, i.e., assistance that builds media-as-an-end while also conveying other development message(s). Worldwide support for "media-as-an-end" projects has totalled over $50 million annually in recent years, while approximately $100 million are annually spent solely to health-related communications. USAID undertakes evaluations of media environments and media sector programs on at least three levels of analysis: global, national, and program levels.

With "Spheres of Influence", A. S. Panneerselvan, the Executive Director of Panos South Asia, presented "a practitioner's model". He underlined that the media should not be instrumentalised and be seen as an agent of change, an assumption implicit in any model to measure the impact of media. "Media can be catalysts for change but not an agent of change." He pointed out that not only the so-called new media but also the traditional media are thriving in Asia and in some places are making a clear contribution to reducing conflict and maintaining peace.

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Measuring the Role of Media in Societies

Good Governance & Democratisation and the Media

Ann-Katrin Arnold of the Worldbank's CommGAP provided an overview of the research done, to assess the normative roles of news media in society: as watchdogs, agenda-setters, and civic forums. Although correlations can be stated in all three functions related to governance and democratisation and the media, it is still not possible to measure indirect and long-term media impact on societies. Evidence is often to be found on an anecdotal level. But would the equation work: anecdote + anecdote = anecdata?

An approach putting information and communication needs of disempowered and marginalized groups at the centre of support to channels of communication and information was presented by Birgitte Jallov, Danish Communication Expert: The Communication for Empowerment (C4E) framework of the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre. In three African and two Asian countries needs assessment methodology was tested and key recommendations formulated. The studies in Mozambique, Ghana and Madagascar have shown that radio is the privileged medium, that people show a great interest in "having a voice" and that the local radio is considered to be an intermediary, that the prevalence of radio sets in families rises sharply upon arrival of community radio and that radio listening - and thus the purchase of batteries or electricity - is considered as important as buying rice.

Media in Conflict and Crises

"Evaluating What?" asked Sheldon Himmelfarb, Associate Vice President of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). He presented an approach to determine clear objectives through rigorous assessment in conflict areas. The institute has initiated a two-year project to develop a strategic framework for media interventions throughout the conflict cycle. It has also commenced a project to produce guidelines and a template for Assessment of the Media Landscape in Conflict Situations.

Nick Oatley, Director of Institutional Learning at Search for Common Ground (SFCG) shared the experiences of SFCG in measuring the effects of TV soap operas on peacebuilding.  The methodologies, developed in cooperation with different universities, have been focusing on measuring how media affect the attitudes of audiences. The results showed that viewers of "The Station", broadcast in Nigeria, reinforced attitudes implied by the show: acceptance of the other, social responsibility, youth empowerment, gender empowerment, and preference of dialogue over violence were increased. 

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mediaME-Wiki launched

Discussions and recommendations from the subsequent workshops were directly fed into the further development of the mediaME-Wiki. As reported in previous issues, mediaME - media development monitoring and evaluation - grew from the recognition amongst the participants of a two-day conference - Measuring Change: Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation in Media Development hosted by FoME, the German Forum Medien und Entwicklung (Media and Development) in 2007 - that there is a need for collaborative sharing of M&E tools and experiences in media development.

The Wiki platform was officially launched during the conference, with first contributions of content fed in by Jackie Davies, Communication for Development Consulting, Rebecca Horsewell, Global Partners & Associates, Birgitte Jallov, Communication Partners, Sofie Jannusch, CAMECO, Thomas R. Lansner, Columbia University, Jan Lublinski, World Federation of Science Journalists,  and Leon Willems, Press Now.  

In the previous two years the number of experts attached to the initiative has steadily been growing. The initiative as a whole is managed by CAMECO. Each section is supervised by a ‘facilitating partner'. The Deutsche Welle Akademie, Global Partners & Associates, Internews, Press Now, and CAMECO, have taken responsibility for the further development of different sections of the Wiki. These partners draw from networks of partners and experts in their respective focus areas. Funding provided, the forthcoming two years will be marked by a project phase during which a significant amount of content will be produced.

Organisations and individuals who wish to engage in the development of the initiative are very welcome; these include content contributors, ‘experts' and partner organisations. To find out more about being involved in mediaME please contact Sofie Jannusch: sofie.jannusch@cameco.org