Media & pluralism

The 'Media and pluralism' programme, which tackles the issues of democratic governance by strengthening legislative frameworks, promoting diversity in the media landscape, clearly reporting political discourse and ethically producing high-quality, pluralistic news programmes. The media industry lies at the centre of the relationship between civil society and those in charge, and must always give explanations, provide analysis and offer every individual forming part of a society, including the most vulnerable members, the opportunity to have their voice heard.

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Projects

Radio Dialogue: radio stations for peace

Radio Dialogue: radio stations for peace

Helping to strengthen national unity and contributing to reconciliation between communities across Côte d'Ivoire through the medium of local radio.

4M Caucasus

4M Caucasus

Support for the professional growth and the development of a number of online media in the South Caucasus and Belarus.

Faso Media

Faso Media

Project for the support of Burkina Faso media in the field of civic education and socially relevant treatment of political information.

See more projects

1.General context

In the media sector, the concept of pluralism describes the freedom of speech values that are enshrined in the fundamental democratic principles. Since 1789, Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen has stated that "the free expression of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man; every citizen may thus freely speak, write and publish, provided that he is accountable for abuse of this liberty in cases determined by law".

"The free expression of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man; every citizen may thus freely speak, write and publish, provided that he is accountable for abuse of this liberty in cases determined by law"

Stable democracies are all based on such precepts, which protect a vast area of information and debates, where anyone is free to interact and express themselves. The freedom of expression and the freedom of the press are closely linked with this concept of media pluralism as an indicator of the level of development of a country

Against the power of rulers and those elected officials, journalists fuel the debate and contribute to densify the social link

Pluralism – a democratic indicator

The introduction of media pluralism accompanies the governance reforms of countries. This pluralism is not decreed a priori and its translation into everyday reality follows the pace of the political, economic and social developments of its environment. In this respect, media pluralism is not a determining factor for development, but rather a condition that enables the emergence of a sector of activities that has to find a balance in its diversity and in the way it responds to the expectations of the public that keeps it alive.

Pluralism also constitutes a component of credibility that reinforces democracies.Pluralism also constitutes a component of credibility that reinforces democracies. Proper governance can take root when the journalists are both free and responsible, able to observe, investigate and critique.

The influence, power and responsibilities given to the media are at the heart of building democratic States. All the phases of modernisation create areas of fragility; via explanation, debate and critique, the media enables a democracy to live by allowing the weakest to acquire information and form their own opinion. Thus, every citizen is an actor in the rule of law.

Taken in its entirety, the economic dimension (addressed in the Media and business programme) constitutes one of the foundations of pluralism, which stems from both the diversity of the media landscape and its consistency over time. Every media organisation is a marker, an element in the global debate that reinforces the fragile balance of the sector.

Pluralism is not simply decreed

The development aid approach is clearly distinct from the rationale used in emergency or postconflict situations, both generally speaking and in the media sector.
Media organisations are amplification mechanisms, the effectiveness of which is built on a foundation of trust that is progressively gained through the rigorous and ethical practices of this profession.

Media organisations are amplification mechanisms, the effectiveness of which is built on a foundation of trust that is progressively gained through the rigorous and ethical practices of this profession.

Several examples of massive postconflict (Iraq, Afghanistan) mobilisation, which aimed to impose pluralist systems in a pre-existing context, were largely unsuccessful, despite the inundation of resources. In contrast, development aid actions that aim to increase the density of a country's media pluralism involve the implementation, over time, of principles and tools of which the local actors take ownership in the long term.

2.Priority issues in relation to pluralism

Media pluralism finds expression in multiple issues that can be categorised into four main priorities:

Priority issues in relation to pluralism

The fourth estate relies on the credibility of its actors

The role of the media in democratic processes is not an acquired right but a contract of trust that is patiently put together between the population and the media. The role of the media in democratic processes is not an acquired right but a contract of trust that is patiently put together between the population and the media.Faced with the power of governments and the elected, journalists feed the debate and contribute towards increasing the density of the social bond. The foundations for this exchange reside in the quality and ethics of the media and its ability to provide information free of any temptation to produce propaganda or manipulate.

This relationship of trust takes all the more time to build when it is based on the practices of State media, which is still very influential in many countries. Pluralism is not decreed by creating the media, but is established by measuring, over time, the credibility that the public accords it.

Whatever the medium – print, radio, television or Internet – the news is both the most expensive media content to produce and the least profitable in relation to other genres. Credibility comes at a price

Dealing with political news is at the heart of media independence

The coverage of political news, particularly on a national scale, is often the primary mission of the media. However, democratic processes are generally perceived as destabilising factors that bring both uncertainty and hopes that are often exaggerated. The coverage of political subjects scares leaders who fear that the often fragile balances with which they have to contend in order to lead or legislate will become destabilised.

It goes without saying that the political dimension of the news is controlled by neither the media nor the general public, particularly when political discourse has been subject to strict rules for many years and there is a lack of journalistic training.

The issue is complex: initially, none of the actors (politicians, journalists and the public) generally control the dynamics of democratic political discourse in the media.

The issue is complex: initially, none of the actors (politicians, journalists and the public) generally control the dynamics of democratic political discourse in the media. The acquisition and creation of a relationship of trust can therefore only be empirical and progressive.

Controlling these practices requires a culture of politics that must take root progressively and outside electoral periods in order to fuel public debate. The promotion of debating ideas, questioning accepted ideas or confronting diverging opinions enriches news coverage and makes it possible to address the elections on the basis of a shared experience, where everyone can find their place.

This search for political maturity and social cohesion subsequently provides better conditions under which the general public can form opinions and exercise its democratic right in an informed manner.

Pluralism is based on the diversity of the media actors

Pluralism becomes coherent through a certain degree of hindsight, which makes it possible to build on a balance between the public operators, the private groups and the actors of civil society, particularly in the emerging sector of online media.

A harmonious, consensual and regulated balance between the powers and constraints of all sides contributes towards strengthening the unity of the country and easing tensions. Democracy can only be exercised if the media landscape is independent, pluralist and free of any governmental control and any political or economic pressure, and if the media has access to material resources and the infrastructure required to produce and broadcast news.

According to the general report by UNESCO, plurality is reflected through a combination of public, private, commercial, mainstream, alternative, national, and community media with diverse content and possibilities for various segments of the society to engage with different media.

A healthy balance between these actors allows rulers to explain their policies (raising awareness) and be held to account (accountability). The people expect the local media to translate the key principles into community realities (proximity) and strengthen national cohesion around its diversity.

The public must be able to distinguish between journalists and activists on the basis of a relationship of trust, which is reinforced by a respect for principles that everyone understands and by professional techniques that are recognised (and protected by law). This concept is crucial at a time when digital media is developing at a greater rate than journalists can be trained.

Simply providing an alternative to traditional media that has been discredited by years of control opens the door to activism and potentially further manipulation. Development aid in the media sector is becoming, in this context, even more urgent and even more of a priority so that the centrifugal and nihilistic forces do not prevail over the objective of structuring the sector around common values that bring diversity.

Transparent legislative frameworks and effective regulatory bodies

The State must produce adapted and balanced laws that are updated according to the evolution of market conditions and technological evolutions and that promote the diversity of the sector. Good practices are laid down in laws created by professionals in order to avoid abuses and jurisprudence based on custom. Such laws make it possible to guarantee social responsibility on the part of the media.

In addition to principles, the credibility of the sector relies on an independent regulatory body that observes, reports and, if necessary, sanctions. This actor plays the role of a guarantor that establishes a framework, builds confidence among the public and provides protection against abuses. It has five powers attributed to it:

  • Supervisory power to ensure compliance with the principles laid down
  • Normative power to draft regulations or amend certain regulations
  • Decision-making power to issue licences and authorisations and, if necessary, nominate leaders for the public enterprises of the sector
  • Advisory power (to give an opinion on the laws in relation to communication or public service obligations)
  • Sanctioning power to ensure compliance with the rules on the part of the actors of the sector

The principles of freedom of the press do not provide any further recourse against operators claming to defend the freedom of expression if not for the professional neutrality of one body that defends the interests of everyone when it takes action against failures. This is the price of building a relationship of trust with the general public.

3.CFI’s responses in relation to pluralism

Media pluralism is broken down into multiple issues in relation to which CFI has chosen four possible areas of intervention:

  • Pluralism via the quality of the news
  • Pluralism via the treatment of political discourse
  • Pluralism via the diversity of the media landscapes
  • Pluralism via the legislative framework and regulation

CFI’s responses in relation to pluralism

Pluralism via the quality of the news

News programmes constitute the backbone of generalist media organisations. In many countries, they are still the most watched programmes. Opening up the sector to competition means that the news becomes an indicator of credibility. A reshaping of the news desks constitutes a structuring act for a media company that acknowledges the need to modernise in order to continue its development and retain and increase its audience.

Long-term issues from the perspective of the recipient countries

  • Regular production of information and programmes with balanced discussions
  • Dealing with subjects that provide a fair representation of minorities
  • Access to information regarding investigations, transparency or accountability
  • Media credibility as a result of its professionalism

Key objectives of projects intended to promote the quality of information

  • Implement codes of conduct and news charters in media groups and apply them
  • Support the creation of new programme formats
  • Train dedicated teams for tackling and dealing with investigative themes (at their own pace, long production dynamics, recurrent themes, increased cost)
  • Learn to use public information to supply programmes (independence and verification of information)
  • Investigate the economic conditions for investigative programme productions and organise their broadcasting conditions
  • Work the schedules using audience studies and organise the programming
  • Create interactive programmes to obtain the opinions of the people and contribute towards the adoption of governance processes

Requirements of the recipient media

  • Develop an information policy (charter of work)
  • Advice on management organisation and news desk management
  • Train teams: mastery of production techniques, modernisation of formats, adoption of procedures and new practices
  • Develop strategies to organise, over time, the way in which complex subjects (politics, religion) are dealt with
  • Receive support for the production of highquality subjects in order to contribute towards the democratic vitality of the country and consolidate the professional confidence of the journalists

CFI's responses

  • define newsroom management procedures
  • train teams (technical and editorial)
  • draw up organisation charts (job descriptions and team organisation)
  • create a model for the conditions of a new production (schedule, HR, material requirements, allocation of roles, planning and validation phase, launch)
  • increase the number of possible ways of handling information (new formats, combined use of several media)
  • systematise interactivity and organise exchanges between the general public and guests (tools to use, moderation, use of live television, etc.)
  • manage crises (chain of responsibility, transparency visà-vis the public)

Measures of impact

  • Launching of new formats for news and debate
  • Involvement of the people in the programmes
  • Diversity of the news topics
  • Credibility of the media, measured in terms of audiences

In Burma, a blank page is being written on before our very eyes

A recurrent obstacle for news projects resides in the inertia caused by habits inherited from the past. In Burma, on the other hand, the junta that had been in power for 50 years never used its media as a tool of propaganda to legitimise its authority. As a result, when the group Forever approached CFI in order to create a television report, ex nihilo, the challenge was to write history on a blank page.

Forever employed 115 people, rented dedicated premises, bought production equipment and co-financed the programme with 135 weeks of training. For 18 months, 15 experts trained these neo-journalists using practical exercises until they covered, as the host media organisation, the South-East Asian Games in Nay Pyi Taw.

The experts found themselves explaining to the incredulous parents of the young professionals that news and journalism were professions. This exchange enabled them to shape their ambitions in relation to expectations and the people's ability to accept. This example demonstrates that an ambitious project is assessed over time: cooperation lays down principles that are validated by further democratic advancements without which the project is temporarily brought to a standstill.

Pluralism via the treatment of political discourse

Political discourse constitutes the most complex subject for news desks due to the relationship of complicity between power and the media, and a local situation in which the opposition is not necessarily accepted or recognised by statute.

This complexity is at the heart of all programmes intending to open up democracy, however. This is because the media constitutes the obligatory link between any reform and the people. The media's coverage of politics has long frightened the rulers of countries that do not have a very democratic tradition, who see it as a risk of destabilisation, which they avoid by controlling their media. With the emergence of online media, control has become impossible and it is only by training the actors of the sector that processes can be consolidated.

Long-term issues from the perspective of the recipient countries

  • Rigorously and transparently holding democratic events that mark the rhythm of life in the countries
  • Transparency in the implementation of policies
  • Existence of a means of interaction (spaces for dialogue and co-construction) between leaders and civil society
  • Reasoned debate between the political parties so that they can explain their respective policies
  • Equal amount of speaking time between the majority parties in power and the opposition parties

Key objectives of projects relating to the treatment of political discourse

  • Advise teams so that they can produce content, which is both educational and informative, concerning general issues of political life
  • Train the media to cover political issues outside electoral periods (education and outreach)
  • Prepare for the coverage of the electoral periods in several phases: electoral timetable, presentation of programmes, debates, responses to the people's questions, talk shows, interactive programmes, results.

Requirements of the recipient media

  • Advice on management organisation and news desk management
  • Train teams: mastery of production techniques, modernisation of formats, adoption of procedures, integration of new practices, interview and political debate techniques
  • Develop strategies to organise the way in which political subjects are dealt with
  • Receive support for the production of highquality subjects in order to contribute towards the democratic vitality of the country and consolidate the professional confidence of the journalists

CFI's responses

  • define newsroom management procedures that are adapted to political subjects
  • train teams (technical and editorial)
  • create a model for the conditions of a new production (schedule, HR, material requirements, allocation of roles, planning and validation phase, launch)
  • increase the number of possible ways of handling political information (new formats, combined use of several media)
  • systematise interactivity and organise the management of exchanges between the general public and guests (tools to use, moderation, use of live television, etc.)
  • manage crises (chain of responsibility, transparency visà-vis the public)

Measures of impact

  • Recognition of the media and its role by the election organisation means (particularly electoral commissions)
  • Existence of protective measures for journalists during the electoral period
  • Launching of new formats for news and debate
  • Recognition by the observers of the balance in the media coverage of campaign activities
  • Involvement of the people in electoral debate

African elections under the watchful eye of the media

France's political influence in Sub-Saharan Africa largely explains why the African broadcasters and authorities are naturally turning to CFI in order to tackle electoral issues from the perspective of media coverage.

In recent years, CFI has intervened in Mali, Ghana, Madagascar and Guinea Conakry in order to train reporters tasked with following the elections and reporting the results. Around fifteen experts supervised 110 journalists from 5 countries with a view to familiarising them with interview techniques, balanced political commentary, presenting programmes and many other formats for televised content.

An independent evaluation commissioned in 2013 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in relation to French support for successfully carrying out electoral processes reveals that the journalists trained by CFI "believe that they have acquired new skills" and appreciate "the practical nature of the training carried out in specific production situations". Overall, the objective of improving coverage in the context of each country was therefore achieved.

The textbook case of the Ivorian election

At the height of the tensions between Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivorian National Council for Audiovisual Communication asked CFI to evaluate the possibility of RTI organising a televised debate before the second round.

CFI commissioned the TV5 Monde news presenter Philippe Dessaint to support the RTI journalist, who ultimately convinced both camps of how such an exercise would be in their interest. The debate delivered on all its promises and was of an unexpected standard considering how specific the context was.

The second round of the election was followed by a 5-month regime crisis, which proves that the media cannot impose democracy. This programme nonetheless instilled the foundations of the culture with media-led confrontation among an ever more demanding population.

Issue: covering the first free elections in Tunisia

In light of the democratic expectations created by the perspective of a free election, CFI redeployed substantial resources to help the national media (radio and television) to inform the public and present the candidates.

In 6 months, CFI carried out 28 interventions – 250 days of editorial and technical work. Given the status quo, this programme was unable to embed a culture and political hindsight in such little time. CFI therefore undertook to restore some form of credibility on the part of the public media newscasts, which nobody was watching any more.

CFI resisted the request to produce programmes instead of the Tunisians and took the risk of obligating them to acquire techniques, which achieved a very good result. The short-term outcome (coverage of the elections) was achieved but it failed to initiate a long-term process of modernising the Tunisian Television Establishment.

Pluralism via the diversity of the media landscapes

Pluralism relies on the diversity of the media landscapes. Whereas the countries of the North regularly redefine the parameters in line with technological advances, the same cannot be said of the countries with a low degree of democratic openness. When there is an opening to competition, new entrants have to confront access conditions that are often subjective and aim to restrict the effects of this liberalisation.

Even if the credibility of the traditional media is greatly affected by state control, young media organisations cannot be confined to militant productions. The requirements of the profession also apply to the new entrepreneurs that lay claim to a journalistic identity.

This diversity cannot be confined to opening the market to a greater number of operators; it is also concerned with – and perhaps even more so – the diversity of voices and the public. The development of the countries of the South has long been measured through the prism of the capital cities, which is most naturally reflected by the national media. The issues of reconciliation, recognition of minorities and integration of certain regions must be supported by media reporting.

Long-term issues from the perspective of the recipient countries

  • Existence of private media organisations whose development contributes towards the balance, diversity and general economy of the national audiovisual landscape
  • Access to diverse offerings built around local productions and complemented by national and international offerings
  • Development of local media
  • Community representation in national debate

Key objectives of projects aiming to increase the diversity of media landscapes

  • Regularly modernise the legal framework in order to take account of new technological opportunities and regional expectations
  • Share the French experience with regard to media group shareholding and frequency allocation management (during the digital explosion)
  • Train the actors that obtain local licences in order that content is not restricted to the community context alone

Requirements of the recipient States

  • Prepare for the period of opening of the audiovisual landscape during the digital switchover
  • Implement balanced market conditions on the basis of existing rules
  • Creation of an economic model that makes it possible to finance local production
  • Increase the amount of local offerings in order to reinforce the proximity with the people, the minorities and the communities

CFI's responses

  • Orient the traditional media to open certain spaces to voices that are often not heard so that there can be a debate that is representative of all the realities of the country
  • Bring together and train the media organisations that are emerging online
  • Suggest opportunities to exchange feedback in order to be able to benefit from experience and stimulate the creation of new projects
  • Train trainers who are aware of the minority and community issues to address a large number of operators
  • During the DTT implementation periods, orient the editorial choices of new entrants towards local productions

Measures of impact

  • Opening of the sector
  • Increase in the number of programmes that open up to minorities and communities
  • Clarity (and feasibility) of the conditions for obtaining a licence
  • Online media audience

4M: projects benefiting online actors

CFI launched its 4M programme in 2011, making reference to the fourth form of media, the power of which cannot be ignored by any government. Until then, the promises of opening the sector progressed slowly and were rarely realised at the standard referred to in the initial promises.

The 4M projects are intended for the actors of the South that wish to contribute to pluralism by developing offerings that meet the expectations of the public to the greatest extent possible.

CFI directly contributes to the diversity of the media landscapes by fostering professionalism among the players in the Mashriq, by training the players of the Caucasus in data journalism or by supporting Arab newspapers in their digital transition.

Pilot platform in Tunisia since the fall of Ben Ali

The Arab Spring took the world by surprise, including media cooperation agencies, which were not working with the media of these democracies under surveillance.

The Tunisian Revolution singled out a thirst for information that was largely supplied by the digital networks when Ben Ali's regime fell. As this centralised country offered little in the way of a solution for interacting with the provinces, CFI and the NGO Nawaat obtained the support of the Tunisian Ministry of Youth in launching a citizen incentive programme at youth centres in 12 major provincial towns and cities (Sidi Bouzid, Kebili, Gafsa, Makthar, Kasserine, Tozeur, Medenine, Djerba, Tataouine, Oueslatia, Bizerte and El Krib ).

Nine training sessions gave tools and a methodology to the organisers of the centres, who gave rise to a form of citizen journalism throughout the country.

The interventions at the youth centres made it possible to implement the Jaridati platform, one of the country's leading forums for exchange at community level.

Pluralism via the legislative framework and regulation

The legal framework constitutes the backbone of pluralism. Media organisations are actors in a regulated environment in which licences, specifications and common rules constitute markers that enable the public to decrypt what is being offered to them. The diversity of the offering is linked to this framework, the credibility of which depends on the regulatory body and on its powers.

Most countries that open their media landscapes consider the legal context of this opening and the issue of compliance therewith. The denser the landscape, the more detailed the regulations have to be and the greater the number of controls that have to be developed.

Governments must not ignore the economic consequence of adopting a policy of steering this sector (by means of the digital dividend, for example) when they are planning all their structural investments.

Long-term issues from the perspective of the recipient countries

  • Recognition of a piece of legislation that governs and allows media activity
  • Implementation of independent regulatory authorities that are endowed with powers and means and that have to answer to review procedures
  • Guaranteeing the freedom of the press and the recognition of diversity of circumstances and opinion
  • Reshaping State media into public service media

Key objectives of projects intended to strengthen the legislative framework

  • Define the mandate of public service media and its independence vis-à-vis rulers
  • Set the conditions for granting new licences (by defining their specifications) or of a digital dividend befitting the local situation
  • Strengthen the regulatory authorities, guarantee their independence and give them monitoring tools and means of action
  • Promote the emergence of professional players (journalist associations, media cooperatives, trade unions) or players from civil society (cooperatives of judges or lawyers)

Requirements of the recipient States

  • Drafting of laws to regulate the market
  • Create or reform an independent and credible regulatory body endowed with means of monitoring and action (advice, warning, sanction)
  • Create negotiating bodies between the government and civil society to prepare reforms and propose laws that meet everyone's expectations

CFI's responses

  • Advise the authorities so that the legal framework ensures a fair balance that itself guarantees a form of plurality
  • Advise public media so that it can regain credibility in the face of competition
  • Facilitate reflection on the creation of new legal texts
  • Support the profession's initiatives for creating professional forums or organisations

Measures of impact

  • Consistency between the rules imposed on public media and those intended for other operators (creation of legislative texts)
  • Modernisation of media laws – new texts
  • Publication of implementing decrees for the new laws
  • Clarity (and feasibility) of the conditions for obtaining a licence
  • Recognition of the regulatory authorities by the actors of the sector
  • Recognition of professional cooperatives

In contrast with other issues, CFI has never had to launch a project whose primary objective related to working on the media laws. Some experts in this sector (primarily in the Ministry of Culture) have been called upon to share their experience, as took place when the Burmese market was opened at the beginning of 2012. More recently, CFI supervised several consultancy sessions with the Syrian Union of Independent Journalists. This work, which was led under the expertise of the SNJ (French National Union of Journalists), could lead to a future project as soon as the conditions are right.

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