Media capture: how toxic mix of money and power undermines journalism




What kind of media, political parties and politicians do we need to re-connect with citizens? political scientist Georgios Kolliarakis and Open Democracy’s Rosemary Bechler ask. Is the problem fake news or fake democracy? they write for Open Democracy. Partnering with the World Forum for Democracy 2017, they invite us to consider “a growing disconnect between citizens and political elites and dramatic changes in the media ecosystem [that] are a challenge for democracy as we know it.” RTWT

Media censorship is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes, notes Stanford University researcher David Yang. He conducted a field experiment in China to examine whether access to an uncensored Internet leads citizens to acquire politically sensitive information, and whether they are affected by the information. After tracking subjects’ media consumption, beliefs regarding the media, economic beliefs, political attitudes, and behaviors, his team found 4 main results:

  • free access alone does not induce subjects to acquire politically sensitive information;
  • temporary encouragement leads to a persistent increase in acquisition, indicating that demand is not permanently low;
  • acquisition brings broad, substantial, and persistent changes to knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and intended behaviors; and
  • social transmission of information is statistically significant but small in magnitude.

“We calibrate a simple model to show that China’s censorship apparatus may remain robust for a large number of citizens receiving unencouraged access to an uncensored Internet, given the low demand for, and moderate social transmission of, uncensored information,” he writes. RTWT

A growing phenomenon linked to both the resurgence of authoritarian governments and the breakdown of traditional media markets, media capture is the topic of a new book published by the Center for International Media Assistance and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs:

The threats to independent journalism no longer come only from direct forms of state control. Where advocates of a vibrant sphere once mobilized against the suppression and censorship of news, they now must contend with the more complex challenge of media capture – a challenge that threatens not just independent media outlets, but the voices and audiences that depend upon them.

The National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) holds a discussion on “Media Capture: How the Mix of Money and Power Undermines Journalism,” featuring Andrea Prat, professor at the Columbia Business School; Anya Schiffrin, director of technology, media and advocacy at Columbia University; Olaf Steenfadt, project manager of media ownership monitor projects at Reporters Without Borders; Jeanne Bourgault, president and CEO of Internews; and Mark Nelson, senior director of CIMA.

5 p.m. October 23, 2017. Venue: NED, 1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C.

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