Media Development

Media development interventions include support to communication structures to promote social change processes and facilitate the vertical and horizontal flow of communication country wise, in specific geographic areas, or sectors. The overall purpose of support to media development programs is to empower people to take action either individually or collectively through access to information and a voice. The design of this kind of support rests on a thorough assessment of existing communication channels.

Example: Newspapers and Magazines

In this situation, the DMFA offers the following sample questions:

  1. How many newspapers circulate regularly?
  2. Are they government owned or private?
  3. What are the different kinds of readership?
  4. What sectors of the population do they reach?
  5. What is the knowledge, assumptions, and skill levels of reporters?

Interventions will be designed to either support existing structures or establish new and relevant communication structures that facilitate a two way communication between participants at all levels.

This type of intervention will normally be measured against the initial assessments and baseline data. In media development programs, the indicators will normally be related to:

  • Media coverage (reach?)
  • Style (interactive vs. non-interactive)
  • Contents
  • Effects

Good Governance

Good governence programs concern awareness and good practice of citizens at all levels whether they are duty beareres or rights holders, and the latter’s ability to hold duty beareres accountable. Awareness raising, advocacy training, and transparency are part and parcel of good overnence programs.

Media Development Case Study #1: Internews Development of Community Radio Stations

Between 2003 and 2004, Internews set up fifteen community radio stations in Afghanistan as part of a $4 million grant. Between 2004 and 2005, Internews set up 14 additional stations, bringing the total to 29. Due to formative research findings of social and cultural factors including low literacy rates, high auditory retention, and technological considerations, it was concluded that radio was the most suited media to reach a wide Afghan audience in both rural and urban areas.

Internews’ development of community radio stations has been guided by a communications for social change model for development, in the sense that they are intended to facilitate community-driven dialogue; the ownership of the stations is Afghan; and the goal of the communications to take place on the stations is to promote positive social change.

In order to facilitate Afghan control of the stations, Internews trained over 800 Afghan media professionals in a variety of subjects related to journalism, and provided them with the skills necessary to maintain and run the various radio stations. In order to avoid questions regarding leadership, Internews placed heavy emphasis on insuring that the trainings were conducted by Afghani professionals. According to a David Rohde (2005) interview with David Trilling, Program Associate of Internews Afghanistan, and Sanjar Qiam, Radio Network Coordinator of Internews Afghanistan, all of the trainers and teachers were Afghan.

Between September 2004 and March 2005, Altai Consulting carried out a general assessment of the media landscape in Afghanistan with special focus on the Internews initiative. Their main goals were to analyze the knowledge, attitude, and practices of Afghans concerning media; and to assess the current state of the Internews-supported community radio stations. They used a variety of research methods to conduct this analysis including open-ended interviews, focus groups, content testing, ethnographic studies, and surveying. For the general survey, Internews used a purposive sampling methodology (Altai, 2005) that used gender and economic class as key sampling variables.

For the Internews-specific research, Altai used a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods. The quantitative method used a questionnaire that examined audience perceptions of the radio stations; the qualitative methods included ethnographic studies and open-ended interviews. In general, the findings were positive and indicated that the radio staff was generally optimistic about the role that the stations could play to improve social conditions (Altai, 2005).

Many of the outcome indicators from the quantitative studies were positive. Of people living in Internews broadcast zones, 80% were aware of the Internews-supported stations (Altai, 2005). The Altai research also indicates that the sample population responded positively to the quality of programming on the community radio stations in comparison with the quality of programming of other major radio stations including the BBC, Radio Azadi, and Radio Afghanistan. Perhaps most important, 71% of the sample population viewed the Internews-supported radio stations as being independent; and 49% of respondents affirmed their trust in the Internews-supported stations, which ranked second only to the BBC.

Media Development Case Study #2: Tolo TV

The second largest USAID grant was $2.2 million provided to two Afghan-Australian brothers for the development of a private radio station and television station, Tolo TV. The strategy can be interpreted to have been guided by a participatory model of development. According to press materials found on Tolo TV’s Web site (2005b), this initial financial support is the only external assistance or guidance that Tolo TV has received. They claim to derive all income from advertising sales and production of programming content, which if true, is a remarkable accomplishment in this media market.

Tolo TV was launched in October 2004, offering a variety of programming including news, sports, movies, serials, and children’s programming. The programs on Tolo TV have pushed the cultural envelope. One Afghan media outlet referred to Tolo TV as “Afghanistan’s Answer to MTV” (Afghan Mania 2005). One of its more controversial programs is a nightly one-hour music video program called “Hop,” which regularly plays Indian and American-produced music videos that often display images of women considered indecent by many Afghans.

Tolo TV’s edginess has helped it become an influential media outlet. On August 23, 2005, they launched in Jalalabad, and estimated their overall reach to be 15 million (Tolo TV 2005a) but their overnight success has not come without loss. In May of 2005, Shaima Rezayee, a VJ who had been dismissed from Tolo TV earlier in the year due to her “on-air demeanor” (Arnoldy 2005) was found murdered in her house. A second staff member fled to Sweden as a result of death threats and Saad Mohseni, the head of Tolo TV, has admitted that he has received numerous death threats (Gardesh 2005).

In January 2005, Tolo TV posted a press release to their Web site proclaiming their domination of Kabul’s airwaves (Tolo TV 2005c). The release was based on a “comprehensive survey” of 336 individuals located in Kabul’s 16 districts. The survey examined viewing tendencies among audiences and reportedly found that Tolo TV was the most popular station, with 81% of respondents reporting they watch Tolo TV compared to 30% for Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) and 5% for Afghan TV.

There may be reason to doubt the validity of these results. No information regarding the studies’ methodology could be retrieved. Furthermore, in a 16 December 2005 e-mail exchange with Saad Mohseni, he reported that the research was conducted by an “inhouse entity,” but would not reveal any further information about the study.

The only other available findings are strictly qualitative and courtesy of Altai Consulting, who conducted open-ended interviews with 10 families in Kabul. Altai attempted to target a diversity of social and ethnic groups in their methodology. Their findings actually somewhat triangulate with the Tolo findings, in the sense that they validated the popularity of the programming on Tolo TV, and found it to be “fun and entertaining.”