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International Media Development

Historical Perspectives and New Frontiers


Edited By Nicholas Benequista, Susan Abbott, Paul Rothman and Winston Mano

This collection is the first of its kind on the topic of media development. It brings together luminary thinkers in the field—both researchers and practitioners—to reflect on how advocacy groups, researchers, the international community and others can work to ensure that media can continue to serve as a force of democracy and development. But that mission faces considerable challenges. Media development paradigms are still too frequently associated with Western prejudices, or out of touch with the digital age. As we move past Western blueprints and into an uncertain digital future, what does media development mean? If we are to act meaningfully to shape the future of our increasingly mediated societies, we must answer this question.

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Chapter Twenty-Two: Media Development and Media Reform: Time for Change (Des Freedman / Jonathan A. Obar)


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Media Development and Media Reform

Time for Change


The “Stickiness” of the Development Frame

Media development theory is plagued by definitional confusion. In what ways is it different to “media for development” and does it refer exclusively to structural rather than behavioral issues? To what extent should media development be understood in relation to external interventions to assist capacity-building in specific countries or to internal pressure to democratize media systems? Does it refer to a developmental process or to a desired state of development, an outcome or “as activities towards that outcome” (Berger 2010, 551)? Who sets the parameters for what is considered “developed” and does this apply to all countries that lack a fully independent and pluralistic media system underpinned by legal guarantees of freedom of expression (in which case we are talking about most countries in the world)? Little wonder that Martin Scott (2014, 75) argues that defining media development is like “nailing jelly to a wall” and that unless we resolve this conceptual turbulence, both the status and the effectiveness of the field will be undermined.

That may be true but we believe that it is nothing compared to a more fundamental problem: that media development remains intimately, and unhelpfully, associated with the modernizing paradigm in which it was originally conceived. This relates not just to how it is understood, but how...

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