Interface between media, democracy and development.
The history of mass communication media is full of social and political utopias and, in particular, of technological utopias. The questions of access and participation are, in fact, a crucial element of a utopia which is below labelled as democratisation of communication. Today, the democratic utopia of communication is again actualised by the recent development of technology like interactive television and computerised communication networks. Media and democratisation are closely related. The presence of a vibrant media is a sine qua non for democracy to survive, grow and flourish. The way and manner, the media perform their roles are a function of the character of the media and the cultural and historical values of the society- which could either strengthen or endanger democracy. It is therefore vital for leaders and citizens alike to continuously work to strengthen the media in other to enhance good governance, transparency and accountability in our democratic experiment.
Media can foster open public debate and information exchange which is vital for a democracy to flourish, and a democratic environment, in turn, can lead to the development of better media structures that respond to the concerns of people. However, the path towards democratisation and media development is rocky, and obstacles can include continued interventions by traditional (often governmental) or new (often commercial) power structures. In practice, there are usually powerful forces for and against it. Whatever stages the democratisation of any society may have reached; it is a result of the interplay of conflicts and resolution of such conflicts in society. Democratisation leads to more equity especially in the laws which govern human relations. It also leads to the elimination of conditions which promote, or allow, the exploitation of persons or groups of people by others.
Is change in the media landscape part of a process of democratisation? Variations on this question have been addressed by countless conference speakers, columnists, specialists and non-specialists in recent years. In some answers to it, new media technologies, such as satellite television and the Internet, are seen as promoting democratic practices. In others, an increase in the voicing of dissent via the media is seen as merely reflecting a wider process of democratisation. A yet further response holds that change in the media landscape is either illusory or superficial and that democratisation has not yet begun. In principle, all that is needed to answer the question is to calibrate the relationship between developments in the media on one hand and political moves towards democracy on the other. It is true that peculiarities of media economics--notably the unusual potential for economies of scale and scope, and the short shelf-life of much media output--create an inbuilt tendency everywhere towards undemocratic levels of concentration in media ownership. It is also true that what passes for democracy in some settings is little more than passive consent to an inegalitarian system with which major media organisations are complicit. Nevertheless, under certain conditions, the media can provide a forum for the expression of public opinion: they can tell governments what choices people want them to make.
Similarly, the better the information available through the media and the more that citizens are empowered to make informed choices, the better the media serve democracy. The media can enable diverse groups in society to interact openly, and clash if necessary, to establish a consensus or middle ground. They can expose corruption and poor governance. They are also implicated in ordinary people's engagement in, or disengagement from, the political process. Low voter turnout in recent elections in some democracies has been blamed on a combination of trends in media coverage of politics and the communication methods adopted by politicians. If the media help to stimulate citizens' involvement in the political process, democracy is served. By assessing the extent to which changes in media have expanded the space for freedom of expression, promoted public debate, helped mobilise democrats and prompted authoritarian governments to become less authoritarian, it should be possible to gauge the democratising impact of new media institutions.
Media and Democracy
Do mass media, inherently, serve democracy? Does the rapid evolution of ever more advance communications technology foster the dissemination and exchange of information and ideas in a tolerant spirit? The fast and conventional answer to these questions is yes. Today, despite the mass media's propensity for sleaze, sensationalism and superficiality, the notion of the media as watchdog, as guardian of the public interest, and as a conduit between governors and the governed remains deeply ingrained. The reality, however, is that the media in new and restored democracy do not always live up to the ideal. They are hobbled by stringent laws, monopolistic ownership, and sometimes, the threat of brute force. State controls are not the only constraints.
Serious reporting is difficult to sustain in competitive media markets that put a premium on the shallow and sensational. Moreover, the media are sometimes used as proxies in the battle between rival political groups, in the process sowing divisiveness rather than consensus, hate speech instead of sober debate, and suspicion rather than social trust. In these cases, the media contribute to public cynicism and democratic decay.
Still, in many fledgling democracies, the media have been able to assert their role in buttressing and deepening democracy. Investigative reporting, which in some cases has led to the ouster of presidents and the fall of corrupt governments, has made the media an effective and credible watchdog and boosted its credibility among the public. Investigative reporting has also helped accustom officials to an inquisitive press and helped build a culture of openness and disclosure that has made democratically elected governments more accountable. Training for journalists, manuals that arm reporters with research tools, and awards for investigative reporting have helped create a corps of independent investigative journalists in several new and restored democracies.
The mass media in its various forms has played an important role in the democratic process for centuries, but with the inception of new electronic networks the possibility for media influence on the way in which we govern ourselves has greatly increased. First the printing press, then radio, then television facilitated the communication necessary for democracy to be realised. While there are diverse definitions of what constitutes democracy and what type of media system is best placed to promote democracy, there is general agreement that a media system, where it is free, independent pluralist and inclusive does make a contribution to democratic development. Thanks to technological progress, economic realities and more flexible legal and regulatory systems the world over, the role of media in democracy came to mean not just the traditional mean of communication, but the domain of cyberspace as well. Defining the role of the media in democracy now requires hard thought and new formulations. Old assumptions are no longer enough to explain what is happening in so many different societies, all saying they are democratic, but carrying out their social compact in quite different way. In such a time, there is value in revisiting Media and Democracy by searching for new definitions, examining the special mandate of journalism and public affairs coverage in this new era and considering the special place of new media.
Media development groups and media professionals may not have comprehensive data and theoretical models to define media freedom, but they do have their own experience. They know when they are not free. If there is censorship, if publications get far too many visits by the tax authorities, if they are threatened, harassed, imprisoned or even killed for doing their work, if rich businessmen can buy influence; they know the impact on media quality. They also know when they fall short of their own standards, when they lack accountability and when they fail to open themselves to marginalised groups. There are many elements to the puzzle of making media fit for democracy and the media development community is aware that that measuring the impact of their work requires looking at a vast array of data from a number of different perspectives. There are many elements to the puzzle of making media fit for democracy and the media development community is aware that that measuring the impact of their work requires looking at a vast array of data from a number of different perspectives. Do media freedom and journalistic independence really make a contribution to creating democratic societies? There is a wider recognition of an urgent need for a collaborative effort by media development practitioners and researchers to measure the impact of media development on democracy. But how can this be done? There is a wider recognition of an urgent need for a collaborative effort by media development practitioners and researchers to measure the impact of media development on democracy.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the media and democracy. Many things have been written and said about the role of media for democracies. The best known of these is the Liberal media approach, which argues that the role of the media is to supervise the power of the law making (parliament), law enforcement (government) and judiciary, and thus, is to act as the guardian of public interests. This approach also advocates that the media should be exempt of all regulations and control so that it can fulfil this duty and act independent of the government and political power. This approach also says that the functioning of the media should be shaped by the dynamics of the market. However, with the monopolisation of the national and international media, and the transformation of media corporations into important national/ international capital corporations, the media is no longer a watchdog of the public interest, but its own interests, since it has become a political as well as an economical power/interest center (Curran, 2002). Exactly for this reason, a commercial media organisation can only be expected to support democratisation, as long as this does not impede on its own interests, and chiefly to reproduce status quo. Still, global policymakers rarely recognise independent media as a critical component in fostering democracy and development. Moreover, they continue to question the international development community about whether aid to developing nations has worked. With the revolutionary power of media catching the world's attention, it is a good time to examine the evidence on media, technology, and development. Do media matter? The media are supplying the political information that voters base their decisions on. They identify problems in our society and serve as a medium for deliberation. They are also the watchdogs that we rely on for uncovering errors and wrongdoings by those who have power. It is therefore reasonable to require that the media perform to certain standards with respect to these functions, and our democratic society rests on the assumption that they do (Venturelli, 1998; Kellner, 2004; McQuail, 1993; Skogerbo, 1996). The most important democratic functions that we can expect the media to serve are listed in an often-cited article by Gurevitch and Blumler (1990). These functions include surveillance of socio-political developments, identifying the most relevant issues, providing a platform for debate across a diverse range of views, holding officials to account for the way they exercise power, provide incentives for citizens to learn, choose, and become involved in the political process, and resist efforts of forces outside the media to subvert their independence.
However, according to a second group of theoretical discussion, the public sphere, emerged in the West with bourgeoisie and then disappeared or turned to be a "pseudo" public sphere, was never a homogenous, comprehensive space where everyone had equal opportunity to express themselves and where everyone participated in without being discriminated based on his/her differences and inequalities. It is neither the ideal that has to be sought. Public sphere, even in its most "ideal" form in the 18th century, was a space, where the voices of the hegemonic were dominant at the expense of the appeasement of the voices of others. As a matter of fact, therefore, even the democracies that are believed to be the most advanced are "white and wealthy male" centered. Therefore, the "consensus" which is believed to be reached through public negotiations, or the "social consent," the mainstream media reproduces, all tell about a hegemony that has been established at the expense of those who have been excluded from the public sphere. This approach is problematic as long as it envisages a "monolithic" and "unique" public sphere cleared of agonisms, after looking at the existing democracies and seeing there only a fragmented/cacophonic sphere created by the counter-publics and their media by which everybody speaks and nobody listens. While media is considered to be a part of the civil society arena, it is well known that media overlaps other functional areas of democracy and governance. For example, support for media may yield results in governance activities, particularly those related to decentralisation, anti-corruption, and citizen participation in the policy process. The rule of law may be further institutionalised by support for an independent media that keeps a check on the judiciary, reports on the courts, and promotes a legal enabling environment suitable for press freedom. Free and fair elections conducted through transparent processes require a media sector which gives candidates equal access, and reports the relevant issues in a timely, objective manner. However, there is a growing concern that the mass media are not fulfilling these functions properly. Media critics claim that commercial mass media controlled by a few multinational conglomerates have become an antidemocratic force supporting the status quo (Kellner, 2004; Herman, and Chomsky, 1988; Herman and McChesney, 1997; Alger, 1998; McChesney, 1999; Keane, 1991). The news is more entertaining than informing, supplying mostly gossip, scandals, sex, and violence. Political news is more about personalities than about their ideologies. In the absence of serious debate, voters are left with paid political propaganda containing only meaningless slogans making them disinterested and cynical about politics (Bagdikian, 1983; Fallows, 1996; Capella and Jamieson, 1997; Bennett and Entman, 2001; Barnett, 2002). It is also claimed that the watchdogs are barking of the wrong things. The media hunt for scandals in the private lives of politicians and their families, but ignore much more serious consequences of their policies. They go after wounded politicians like sharks in a feeding frenzy (Sabato, 1991). All too often, the media make us afraid of the wrong things. Minor dangers are hysterically blown out of proportions, while much more serious dangers in our society go largely unnoticed (Glassner, 1999). The exaggerated fears often lead to unnecessary measures and legislation and "gonzo justice" (Altheide, 1995, 2002; Altheide and Michalowski, 1999).
To be sure the role of media in democracy cannot be taken for granted, whether in the highly developed democracies of the West or in more fragile system. As a form of government that embraces diversity and plurality in the society, guaranteeing equality of the citizens and their involvement in how they are governed, democracy remains the best system which accommodates development. Democracy has its own problems, but society must not relent at improving on them. Here, the famous saying that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" becomes highly apposite. Within the context of supporting democratic transitions, the goal of media development generally should be to move the media from one that is directed or even overtly controlled by government or private interests to one that is more open and has a degree of editorial independence that serves the public interest. If the media is to have any meaningful role in democracy, then the ultimate goal of media assistance should be to develop a range of diverse mediums and voices that are credible, and to create and strengthen a sector that promotes such outlets. Credible outlets enable citizens to have access to information that they need to make informed decisions and to participate in society. Critics also complain that the media fail to report wrongdoings in the industry. For example, many media have suppressed information about the health hazards of smoking due to pressure from advertisers (Cirino, 1973). Even more alarming is the claim that certain mass media (especially women's magazines) are promoting worthless alternative health products, thereby effectively conspiring with the industry to defraud consumers of billions of dollars every year (Barrett and Jarvis, 1993; Jarvis, 1992). If all these claims have any merit at all, then we have to drastically revise our view of the way our democracy works. The Concise Encyclopedia of Democracy (Dehsen, 2000) makes only brief mentioning of the possibility of political, commercial or other influences on the mass media. Most other treatises on the theory of democracy make no mentioning at all of any such problems (Key, 1961).
So far, this article has examined democracy and its undeniably delicate complexities. It has made efforts to show that no form of government comes without challenges, but that democracy as of yet, has the best of prospects in strive for development. It has equally shown that democracy can only be meaningful if anchored on a leadership with the requisite character and competence to deal with the continent's teething problems. This in turn can be easily achieved when the people are allowed to have inputs into the emergence and direction of leadership, when the rule of law is firmly established to ensure justice, fairness and equality, and when democratic structures are institutionalised and made to function accordingly. What are the effects of the commercialisation of news on the democratic process? Which way does this influence push the development of our society? The study of these questions is difficult because it must integrate findings from many different scientific disciplines. The purpose of the present article is to scan a number of relevant scientific disciplines for what they might be able to contribute to a study of these problems. In the following sections, the relevant knowledge from each area of research is summarised and commented, and some uncertainties and lacunas of knowledge are pointed out.
Finally, it is attempted to integrate these findings into a coherent model that can throw light on the problems mentioned above. In the construction of this tentative model, I have borrowed heavily from general selection theories, and especially evolutionary economics. This paradigm provides an excellent integrating framework for three reasons: (1) its emphasis on non-equilibrium phenomena as an important factor in socioeconomic change, (2) its population-based focus on selection events as an explanation of emergent phenomena, and (3) its ability to describe the co-evolution of institutions and their social environment (Saviotti, 2003; Murmann, 2003). The strengths and weaknesses of the model are discussed in an appendix, and some of the predictions of the model are tested on statistical data.
Like many other social and political systems, media systems do offer us a substantial range of democratic possibilities. In more traditional liberal approaches (linked to competitive-elitist variations of democracy) the informational role of media--facilitating citizens' informed choices--is emphasised. Public sphere theory, in close connection with deliberative democracy and pluralism tend to stress the more collective character of this informational exchange. Extensions of the public sphere model also allow focusing more on representational aspects of the media, again broadening the scope of the media's democratic possibilities, this time by looking the ideological constructions on politics, on the political as such, and on the political media can produce for its audiences. Finally, invoking Brecht's dream of making every receiver into a transmitter, more radical models of (media) democracy emphasise the importance of more direct forms of participation, point to the empowering role media can play, and criticise the power imbalances that prevent media from playing this empowering role.
These different approaches, with their very different focal points, do not necessarily exclude each other when suggesting building blocks for the media-democracy relationship. Information, representation and participation can all contribute to the workings of democracy. At the same time, care should be taken not to become trapped in the reductive definitions of these three concepts, as different approaches unavoidably suggest different articulations of these key concepts. Especially the meaning of participation has been softened-down (through the imposed synergy with notions as access and interaction). As participation is the second structuring key concept of this book, care is taken not to unnecessarily reduce its significant span and to use non-exclusive definitions of participation.
Democracy and Development
Democracy is a set of societal arrangements, structures, social values and practices that has developed and evolved over centuries, and takes a variety of forms in states across the world. The formal democratic system has a potential of bringing just and equitable rights and possibilities for all citizens to freely express their opinions and to participate in, shape and influence the political direction of their nations, by casting their votes in regular general, regional and local elections. However, extending democracy and its structures and practices to societies in the developing world and to post-colonial states is not a simple process, which decades of international development cooperation has demonstrated.
There is overwhelming evidence that development and democracy are intrinsically intertwined and are two highly contentious issues in the development study. Economic freedom helps to establish the conditions for political freedom by promoting the growth of prosperous middle and working classes. Also, successful market economies require political freedom to provide a barrier against economic cronyism and other anticompetitive and inefficient practices (Karatnycky, 1999). Even the comprehension of economic needs requires the exercise of political rights, especially those guaranteeing freedom of expression and discussion, without which informed and considered choices are impossible (Sen, 1999). The promotion of democracy within the broader framework of international cooperation has become a heavily disputed subject both in academic and policy-making circles. Many complicated issues have been raised and not a few of them seem to point to devilish
policy dilemmas that cause uneasiness among politicians and policy makers in the field of international relations. Some of the questions involved already have a history, like those related to what comes first, democracy or development? Is democracy a precondition for economic growth and social development or will democracy only be viable and sustainable when a certain level of development has been attained? Is economic development sustainable without political development and vice versa? Then there is the dilemma of democracy versus stability. Do they go together or do stability, law and order, rule of law, and security really come first? Should societies be made fit for democracy or do they become fit through democracy? Is there a case for the need of a dictatorial-development state in certain stages of economic growth because necessary but unpopular changes will not be produced via elected governments (cf. Korea or Malaysia)? And is democracy sustainable in societies characterised by huge social inequalities or income disparities?
There is the fundamental question, whether democracy promotion from outside is possible; is it legitimate, and can it work? How to avoid its counterproductive effects, which are heavily looming, to the extent that the cure (aid for democracy) might become the poison? On an even more practical note, there is the structure culture debate. There is a broad recognition of the fact that outside assistance on hardware and institutional make-up will not produce sustainable outcomes without effective change in the political culture; but can culture really be changed through outside intervention? If democracy promotion is to be seen as essential, how should it then relate to existing development cooperation practice? Is it just another sector, next to education or drinking water; or does it require a new approach, a new professionalism? Should democracy promotion be mainstreamed in the whole of international cooperation? As any outside intervention produces effects on the parameters for political development, mainstreaming seems desirable or even unavoidable, first in order to avoid negative or even destructive effects, secondly to steer and optimise the positive effects of the whole of development cooperation on democratic-political development. Does this imply a new concept and another institutional set-up for international cooperation?
In general, democracy is a political system that is based on the right of all individuals to participate in the government, and often includes electing representatives of the people (Mansbach & Rafferty, 2008). They are said to be complementary to each other and the link between them is all the stronger because it originates in the aspirations of individuals and peoples and in the rights they enjoy. Indeed, history shows that cases where democracy and development have been dissociated have mostly resulted in failure. Conversely, 'the interlinking of democratisation and development helps both of them to take root durably' (Boutros-Ghali, 2003). For political democracy, in order to consolidate itself, needs to be complemented by economic and social measures that encourage development, similarly any development strategy needs to be ratified and reinforced by democratic participation in order to be implemented. Democracy and development can together contribute to the consolidation of peace. Most of the time democracies settle their domestic disputes by peaceful means. Moreover, in addition to this preventive role, the democratic framework has often proved effective in settling international conflicts peacefully.
Democracy is a factor of peace and therefore encourages development, which itself tends to consolidate the state of domestic peace and, consequently, international peace, since many wars originate from domestic conflicts. To avoid misunderstanding, it is important to note that the term 'development' has been adapted to mean many things. More often than not, the term has been confusingly used in literature, that its true meaning has become problematic. It has been used interchangeably with synonyms or adjectives like 'transformation', 'growth', 'modernisation', advancement', etc. Granting individuals with opportunity to choose, decide, or influence any decision taken by governments or organisations which directly or indirectly have an impact on their lives is an important aspect of development. The process of democratisation entails not only a transition to formal democracy, but also the consolidation of such a democratic system. As analysts have found, relying on a minimalist definition of democracy cannot quite capture the challenges besetting regimes that have undergone a transition but have yet to consolidate their incipient democratic structures. As a result, a growing number of democratisation experts are turning towards a more substantive definition of democracy, one that gives greater prominence to the role and importance of accountability. The issue of a possible link between development and democracy has been the preoccupation of scholars for many years now. The central question has been and continues to be, whether democracy is possible without development, and vice versa. Can a democracy thrive and become sustainable without development? Is democracy inherently a good thing? Do democratic institutions help facilitate development or hinder it? Some of the questions involved already have a history, like those related to what comes first, democracy or development? Is democracy a precondition for economic growth and social development or will democracy only be viable and sustainable when a certain level of development has been attained? Is economic development sustainable without political development and vice versa? Then there is the dilemma of democracy versus stability. Do they go together or do stability, law and order, rule of law, and security really come first? Should societies be made fit for democracy or do they become fit through democracy? Is there a case for the need of a dictatorial-development state in certain stages of economic growth because necessary but unpopular changes will not be produced via elected governments? And is democracy sustainable in societies characterised by huge social inequalities or income disparities?
There is the fundamental question, whether democracy promotion from outside is possible; is it legitimate, and can it work? How to avoid its counterproductive effects, which are heavily looming, to the extent that the cure (aid for democracy) might become the poison? On an even more practical note, there is the structure culture debate. There is a broad recognition of the fact that outside assistance on hardware and institutional make-up will not produce sustainable outcomes without effective change in the political culture; but can culture really be changed through outside intervention? If democracy promotion is to be seen as essential, how should it then relate to existing development cooperation practice? Is it just another sector, next to education or drinking water; or does it require a new approach, a new professionalism? Should democracy promotion be mainstreamed in the whole of international cooperation? As any outside intervention produces effects on the parameters for political development mainstreaming seems desirable or even unavoidable, first in order to avoid negative or even destructive effects, secondly to steer and optimise the positive effects of the whole of development cooperation on democratic-political development. Does this imply a new concept and another institutional set-up for international cooperation? Development is defined as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy which encompass political freedom, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees and protective security (Development as Freedom by A. Sen, 1999). Sen further suggests that development is not just about economic growth but rather as means to expand the aforementioned freedoms.
India has been the crucible to test the argument about democracy versus development. The two have proved largely compatible, despite underlying tensions. Peaceful and constructive social change can more readily be attained in a democracy because of the confidence the masses repose in the responsiveness of their governments. But that calls for leaders with credibility and a concern for the masses, in general.
Development and the Media
Media is development--since in modern societies anything that is not communicated does not "exist" and it embodies the ultimate truth that there can be no democracy and anticipatory development unless the voices of all sectors, including beneficiaries, are reported objectively, accurately, and disseminated on time in all parts of the country. Free and accessible media is a key element in the chain linking policy with the people--the ultimate beneficiaries of development. Whether building a democracy or growing a sustainable economy, timely and effective media reporting fosters governance, accountability, interaction, participation, the mobilisation human resources and a sense of common purpose and identity. It is from this perspective that we say, that rather than a complement to development, media is development itself. Media is a key driver and plays a major role in increasing awareness and stirring national dialogue and debate on key development priorities. The media has emerged as the driving force responsible for accurately documenting and developing societal trends. A diverse media landscape is of vital importance for developing countries. It allows people to have their say, engage in de bate and find out what is going on in their country. Free information conveyed by independent media is an essential condition for democracy and development. The sustainable economic and social development of states not only requires a solid democracy but also an enlightened and free debate on the future in which all opinions can be expressed. The independence of the media is therefore one of the important elements in a global development policy for our societies. In addition to the question of the role of the media in governance, the relationship between the media and development is especially important in countries where the vectors of education, training in citizenship or quite simply entertainment, are rare and often limited to urban elites. The role of the media as cultural, educational, social, political and economic relays must be strengthened, in particular through support for their creation and strengthened viability.
The development sector is full of contested concepts, but a discussion on the relationship between media and democracy demands a particularly close attention to conceptual clarity and definitions. There is no denying that the media plays a central role in the creation and success of a strong civil society sector, in terms of creating an enabling environment for civil society organisations to raise public awareness of social challenges. However, for development media to become a partner in the development process, as opposed to mere middlemen, they have to play a three-fold function: serve as a communication channel between civil society and governmental institutions, act as advocate for social development and public participation in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring, and become an active partner in the development debate. The media plays diverse and overlapping roles in any society: it is, among other things, an arena for debate, a disseminator of information, a vehicle for cultural expression, a public watchdog, and a constituent in the democratic process. Media outlets may also, especially in non-pluralistic media ecology, serve to reinforce the power of vested interests, exacerbate social inequalities or even promote conflict. The key question for those concerned with promoting good governance and human development, then, is how to nurture a media framework and practice which contributes to these overarching goals. This is a particularly acute concern in new or restored democracies, where media systems have been warped or shattered by oppression, corruption or the effects of war and underdevelopment.
The media's contribution to development occurs simultaneously along five closely intermingled influences: plurality and transparency, behavioural, infrastructure and platform, economic, and trade. We start by briefly looking at the issue of the development process and the role of the media in it. Development is a consciously planned and coordinated process for the speedy socio-economic advancement of society with clearly defined objectives and goals. As a process, it proceeds through set stages and targets. This is irrespective of whether a country is following socialist or capitalist paths to development. The role of government in post-colonial societies in the planning and coordination of development is, therefore, vital and decisive (Chimutengwende, 1986). It follows that for speedy and planned development, mass mobilisation of the population becomes essential, and the educational, motivational, agitational, and organisational roles of the mass media are unavoidably crucial (Aldeman, 1967; Apter, 1965; Tinbergen, 1967; Mboya, 1970).
Even in more established democracies, the role of the media is a live issue because of the increasingly converged world of modern communications. The combination of cheap electronic devices linked to digital communications networks opens new opportunities for citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression. However, the advance of this communications revolution is uneven within and between countries, and new communications platforms can be used to oppress, as well as to liberate. This article (following Norris and Zinnbauer, 2002) argues that any attempt to measure media development must embrace issues of both independence and access. It is not just the absence of restrictions on the media that matters, but the extent to which all sectors of society, especially those which are most marginalised, can access the media and make their voices heard. The corollary of this analysis is the need for state intervention to promote a media environment characterised by pluralism and diversity. This requires provisions for public broadcasting, commercial broadcast and print media, and community-based media. Also vital is investment in human resources, specifically in building the professional capacity of media workers, both journalists and media managers, through academic and vocational training, 'on-the-job' development and the development of professional associations. Infrastructural capacity is also crucial: promoting a diverse media environment requires investment in the means of communication, including the reception of broadcasts, the provision of electricity supplies and access to telephones and the Internet. Finally, any analysis of the media's contribution to human development must also be situated in the context of the dizzying growth in some regions of new technologies (Internet, SMS, mobile telephony). Assessment tools must consider incorporating these new communications platforms, and embrace the dynamism of the media sector itself.
Although the law prohibits but still the media can be criminally abused and manipulated by an oppressive regime. Those who advocate Western models of communication media for developing countries have not given convincing answers to the question of media relevance to development. Even those developing countries which originally attempted to adopt the Western economic and political theories and strategies of socio-economic development had to abandon many other basic Western principles of evolutionary advancement. This necessity has tremendous implications for the organisation, structure, control, and the role of the media and it equally affects the content and pace of communication training, education and research. Adhering to the Western evolutionary approach with an unplanned economy guided by the principles of private enterprise would produce a different communication media whose purpose would not be to serve the development needs of the country as generally understood in the Third World. For in such Western societies governments do not directly get involved in the media (Schramm, 1964; Lerner, 1963; Golding, 1974).
In a Third World country trying to develop rapidly, the government has to be involved in the establishment and organisation of the media and also in defining communication policies. Where certain media structures do not exist, the government has a duty to establish them. After establishing them, the government cannot easily give them away to a commercial enterprise not dedicated to national development and the consolidation of independence. Besides, acceptance of the government's duty to define national communication policies implies compliance by the media institutions. One is not normally expected to plan a policy for something one does not own or control. But government control and guidance should not mean the suffocation of responsible criticism. Debate should be allowed on all issues through the mass media before major decisions are made. Without that, there is neither socialist nor capitalist democracy. It will simply be crude dictatorship based on populism.
Media Roles and Democratisation
The democratisation process is often uneven and rocky as the power dynamic shifts between governments and their respective constituencies. In practically all cases, however, governments hostile to citizens' civil and political rights have both the resources and power to withhold these rights. It is therefore imperative that support be channelled to governments to deepen their awareness of citizen's rights and the processes needed to ensure they have access to these rights. Equally important is support to civil society groups so that they can demand their civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights from their governments. There is ample evidence of the importance of "demand side" approaches for ensuring the longevity of a human rights culture.
In the cases of young and emerging democracies, it is essential that institutions, processes and mechanisms be installed to support and underscore national efforts to strengthen democracies. Evidence over the last three decades suggests that strides made towards democracy can be reversed, and countries can revert to less democratic practices and cultures. Failure to support efforts to install and/or deepen democracy in countries with little experience of how to nurture such processes is to leave democracy to chance, or in many cases at the mercy of unchecked and rampant abuse by the very governments who might profess respect for its citizens' civil and political, as well as their economic, social and cultural rights.
The democratisation process is not a linear, one-way process from an authoritarian to a democratic system. Instead, the process is often uneven and needs ongoing nurturing and support. Democratisation is hard to avoid as it seems to be exceedingly difficult to sustain authoritarian regimes for long. Waves of democratisation are contagious. The successful example of one country's transition establishes it as a model for other countries to imitate. Once a region is sufficiently saturated with democratic political regimes, pressure will mount, compelling the remaining autocracies to conform to the newly established norm (Schmitter, 1995). Modernisation theory pre-supposed that a robust media would facilitate a robust democracy. In the ensuing decades, literature on the links between media and democratisation has become increasingly sophisticated. Media are becoming democratised, and a global conversation is emerging. The democratisation of media is also, fundamentally, about the people we once called mere consumers. Their role is evolving from a passive one to something much more interactive, but they are blessed (or cursed, depending on one's viewpoint) with an unprecedented variety of voices and services. The democratisation of media creation, distribution and access does not necessarily foretell that traditional media are dinosaurs of a new variety. If we are fortunate, we'll end up with a more diverse media ecosystem in which many forms--including the traditional organisations--can thrive. It is fair to say, though, that the challenges to existing businesses will be enormous. Civil society has been portrayed as the prime catalyst for promoting democratisation process in developing countries. Like Civil society, the definition of democratisation has consistently been subjected to analytical scrutiny by social scientists, in particular, the political scientists. In his definition, Conteh-Morgan (1998) argues that democratisation is an increase in political equality and a decrease in coercive rule; although, he fails to say how. To him, democratisation is above all a matter of power. He contends that it is power relations that most importantly determine whether democratisation can emerge, stabilise and then maintain itself in the face of adverse economic conditions. Instead of calling it power relation, for Manor, the success of any democratisation process to a large extent depends on government commitment (Manor, J., 2004). In their analysis of the distinction between democracy and civil rule, Levy and Bruhn (1995) argues that democratisation is the transition towards democratic government; a movement from authoritarian to a democratic government. Others argue that democratisation is synonymous to democratic consolidation and or the deepening of democratic practices (Diamond et al; 1995,; Makun and Ihonvbere, 1998; Clark John F, 1998).
What is the role of media freedom in democratisation? This question is important both theoretically and in public policy. In modern democracies, free and independent media (i.e. liberal media) are seen as a critical check on the power of central government (O'Neil, 1998). Alternatively, when media are repressed or centrally controlled, public deliberation suffers (Lichtenberg, 1990). As countries become more democratic, media come to assume this critical role. How, exactly, media freedom interacts with the democratisation process remains an elusive question. Many believe that liberalising the media leads to democracy. Scholarly analysis, however, rarely supports this popular notion. Instead, a small but growing academic literature on media and democratisation questions both the direction and existence of this relationship.
In an effort to shift away from the modernity paradigm a number of scholars have looked at the relationship between media and democracy across different models of governance. McConnell and Becker (2002) identify six possible overarching relationships between media and democratic transition. Some argue that unrestricted media can help topple authoritarian regimes and encourage the creation of democratic institutions (Fox, 1998; Jones, 2002; Kumar, 2006; Nye, 2002). Others regard media as a democratic institution. Like elections, a constitution, and a legal system, media reform is implemented as part of the democratic process (Price and Rozumilowicz, 2002). Yet another theory holds that liberal and free media are products of democratisation. That is: media reform may only be effective or useful in the context of an established democracy (McQuail, 1994).
Three other possibilities identified by McConnell and Becker (2002) do not involve positive relationships between media and democratisation. Some have argued that no direct relationship exists between media and democracy. This could be the case either because media encourage both democratic and undemocratic reform, or because media plays an effective role in toppling authoritarian regimes, but not in furthering subsequent democratisation (Bennett, 1998). Despite little academic support, McConnell and Becker (2002) argue that we cannot ignore the possibility of a negative relationship between liberal media and democratic transition. It is possible that either free media hinder democratic development or democratic development undermines free media.
Democratic transition commonly corresponds to a flurry of media development efforts. Thus, it is no surprise that a body of literature focuses on the influence of media development on the successful transition to fully-fledged democracy. While there are good theoretical pieces, we lack a consistent, overarching model that determines and predicts mechanisms relating media liberalisation and democratisation. Case studies form the bulk of current analyses. Though useful, case studies cannot distinguish between general patterns and unique occurrences. No work examines whether the relationship between free media and democratic transition is consistent across regions or across time. The media has three key roles in contributing to democratisation and good governance, namely, as a watchdog over the powerful, promoting accountability, transparency and public scrutiny; as a civic forum for political debate, facilitating informed electoral choices and actions; and as an agenda-setter for policy makers, strengthening government responsiveness to social problems and to exclusion. These stages are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they can be thought of as appearing on a continuum in the movement toward democratisation. This is not meant to suggest that the process is linear. Interventions, ruptures and reversals are serious and constant threats to the democratisation process.
In another quantitative attempt at understanding the relationship between democracy and media social change and media roles are interdependent (Jakubowicz, 1995). While media roles are predicated on the existence of favourable social conditions, social change can give rise to media actions to influence society. By the same token, democratisation and media constitute a chicken and egg relationship. On the one hand, the extent to which a society is democratised defines the mode of media control and the roles they perform. On the other hand, the media are neither totally autonomous from, nor totally subservient to, the established power. They can play an instrumental role in effecting democratisation or de-democratisation as the case may be. Media and democratisation are mutually reinforcing, one being constituted by the other.
Democratisation is a political struggle among and within the ruling elites and various socio-political forces. In the developing world, democratisation is also a process by which democracy is transculturated. As a rule, all the parties concerned in democratisation will try to seek the endorsement of the media in order to strengthen their positions at the expense of the opponents. The ways the media frame the issues and render their sympathy will affect the balance of power in a public debate. Essentially, the media represent resources that can be mobilised to demote or promote democracy. The democratic cause will be served if they can help spread democratic ideals, reflect the voices of contending parties, provide the public with quality and relevant information articulate the social choices, and facilitate public deliberation. Failing all these functions, democracy will be undermined. In such a case, the media will be maintaining the status quo by legitimating the power centre, marginalising the contending voices, diluting critical information, precluding genuine options, short-circuiting public debates, and demobilising collective behaviours.
While some studies focus on developing domestic media systems, others focus on how external media might influence democracy and development. What contributions mass media can make towards democratisation varies with a host of determinants such as the power structure, political culture, media configuration, market pressure, organisational constraints, press ideology and personal inclinations. It is beyond the scope of this paper to give a comprehensive review of how all these determinants may interact in defining the roles of media. I would rather concentrate on how they are shaped by the mode of media control that, in turn, is determined by the pattern of power distribution in a given society. It is my contention that the power structure and the location of the media in it are the most important variables that account for various democratic media roles.
Media and Social Change
In recent decades media anthropologists have built a substantial ethnographic record on media and social change around the world. However, we have yet to systematically compare and theorise our findings under the rubric of media and social change. Change, as we all know and experience in everyday life, affects all states and stages of existence, no matter how determined or defiant we may pose to be. Even a very well-knit society may not be able to withstand the tremors of change, which are natural and nuanced. Earlier, the print media exercised its potential of change in attitude and approach of such people as were literate and were fond of the 'printed word' in newspapers, journals and magazines. With the onset--rather the onslaught of electronic or visual media as represented by countless channels, both national as well as foreign, the change in thought and outlook of most sections of society has undergone a sea change. It is not only the fads and fashions, beliefs and values that have been undergoing dramatic and drastic changes, but also the contours and contents of social structure. In recent years, the most decisive agent of this palpable and perceptible change has been the media, both print and visual. In what ways has media spurred and facilitated social change? In what ways have new media forms made organising for social change more difficult? These questions are of particular relevance to the humanities as we move further into the digital age. While much of what fuels the digital revolution may be considered technology (cell phones, algorithms, software, apps), the content of new social media--tweets, Facebook updates, emails, Google searches, the talk produced by talking heads--this content demands new kinds of analysis from humanists. Those of us who are trained to understand language, narrative, and the relationship between content and form are uniquely equipped to think about how these new media forms are making (and/or inhibiting) new kinds of relationships between people. With its vast range and reach, scope and spectacle, media enjoys the privilege of such influence and impact as no individual and society can escape. That the old taboos and inhibitions have been discarded by the upcoming generation of yuppies and upwardly mobile professionals is a proof enough of media's power over people's susceptibilities and sensibilities. As a result of media's robust role in the making and moulding of a social fabric, one can see arid scan the most discernible change in the Indian middle class and other urban segments (including, of course, to a lesser degree, the slum/shanty dwellers and persons living below the poverty line) and feel convinced that media is not only a cogent catalyst but also an agent of most telling transformation. It is due to media's message that the concept of small/nuclear family has become a reality, although this development has given rise to some other irritants as well. Unlike the gaping gap between generations in the past, there seems better understanding and communication between parents and their siblings now Media has a great deal to contribute to study of media and social change and there is no denying that the pace and parameters of change varies in tone and tenor between urban and rural areas. Whereas the social change is much faster in urban areas, for obvious reasons it takes longer to become apparent in the villages. It is a matter of some satisfaction that some Indian villages, like a few islands in the midst of sea, are exploring and experimenting with new modes and methods of awareness. The coming together of village folk (both men and women) to form societies/groups to harness their labour and resources, is a healthy and hopeful sign of change that promises to usher in a new era of progress and prosperity in their lives. The exemplary courage and conviction shown by some would-be-brides in rejecting the greedy grooms and getting them sent behind the bars speaks volumes about the shape of things to come. By infusing social movement theories with media materiality theories, new approaches to studying social movements and social media begin to emerge. Examples of insights gained from this approach include the concept of single parenthood is another offshoot of the changed social scenario that the media has brought into focus. The strong desire on the part of both males and females to assert their presence and fight for their individual identity is the hallmark of the social change. The role of media in respect of these changing trends and tendencies is writ large on the social milieu. The social change most visible is represented or manifested in the way both men and women are taking in their strides the emerging realities concerning their physical as well as mental horizon. While women in the West have always been conscious of their bodies, thanks to the media, it is only now becoming a priority in India, irrespective of the age, place and colour to which the fair sex belongs. Earlier, periodic body check-up, both by males and females, used to be an exception. But now the media has so changed that people's perceptions on body fitness and health care have almost become a rule.
Setting these theoretical bodies next to one another enables a different kind of discussion to emerge; a discussion which offers a new lens through which to see social movements when some years back, most patients were in the upper middle class group who visited their family doctor for routine check-up. Now we find people in the lower strata of society also caring for their physical and mental health. A change in mindset, a growing awareness of disease, as well as the economic benefits of the packages (extensively advertised through the media) have been attributed to this change. Tastes and trends are changing every passing moment. Fast life and fast food have overtaken earlier concepts of 'slow and steady wins the race'. The obsession to go abroad by hook or by crook in search of the golden pot is again the result of media hype about the glitter and glamour of life beyond national borders. It is not only in matters of individual inclinations and social behaviour that the changes are appearing manifest on the surface, but also in the celebration of fairs and festivals, where the emphasis has been gradually shifting from solemnity to sound, from purpose to pomp.
More ostentation and less observance of rituals has been gaining ground over the years. Since change is the rigorous law of nature, no progressive and forward looking society can afford to ignore this fact, nor can it allow itself to drift on the fast moving current of time and tide. With diligence and discretion a healthy balance between the two extremes has to be maintained.
We have found that the combination of media, development and democracy provides new opportunities and have a positive effect on both development and democratisation. Essentially, all three processes are interlinked with each other and tend to correlate positively. Among many other arguments with regard to the linkage between democracy and development, we have seen that there is compelling quantitative evidence that the level of economic development powerfully shapes the survival prospects of democracy, and affluent democracies survive without fail. I have argued that media hold plenty of potentials for developing countries. There are some impressive examples of developing countries coming up with cheap and innovative technology that, against all odds, connects the poor and provides them with important practical information, thus immediately improving efficiencies. A digital divide exists, but so does a digital opportunity, as catch-up by the lagging economies is possible and there may even be an advantage for latecomers (Sidorenko & Findlay, 2001).
Lastly, I have argued for a more determinist perspective as the media's unique decentred structure makes it extremely difficult to comprehensively instrumentalise the technology. Technological progress can be painful. When humans first learned to make fire, some undoubtedly got burnt. And the Industrial Revolution involved huge economic and social dislocations, though most people (apart from Luddites and some others) would agree that the gains in human welfare were worth the cost. It is axiomatic that technology is good for development. For those, who are less convinced by our determinist perspective, it is important to note that if they accept the arguments that (a) there is a linkage between development and democracy, and (b) there is a linkage between the media and development, then it follows that the process of democracatisation is intrinsic to the media.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that the "new technologies that are changing our world are not a panacea or a magic bullet. But they are without doubt enormously powerful tools for development" (Reuters, 2001). Indeed, IT is not a panacea that allows governments to avoid pursuing sound policies, which are necessary to reap the full benefits from IT. Some of these policies would include: stable fiscal and monetary policies; deregulation; free trade--opening up markets to foreign trade and investment; liberalising telecommunications; protecting intellectual property rights; improving education; ensuring an effective legal system; and ensuring efficient financial markets.
Those economies that get left behind should blame themselves, not technology. And, taken as a whole, the developing world has one great competitive advantage that rich countries can never match. They can call on five times as many brains, and the gap is getting wider.
'Media is development--since in modern societies anything that is not communicated does not "exist" and it embodies the ultimate truth that there can be no democracy and anticipatory development unless the voices of all sectors, including beneficiaries, are reported objectively, accurately, and disseminated on time in all parts of the country. Free and accessible media is a key element in the chain linking policy with the people--the ultimate beneficiaries of development.
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Vineet Kaul holds a MA, M.Phil- English Literature and MBA, all with first classes. He is pursuing a PhD. A freelance teacher mostly visiting B Schools and a professional content writer and a freelance journalist. Vineet has written quite a number of prize winning poetries, management & language articles published in national and international journals.
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|Publication:||Journal of Development Communication|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2012|
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