Foreign policy must recognize the importance of media viability

As media in developing countries face an uncertain economic future, the question of media viability came under intense review at a panel discussion organized by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) on 22 June 2015, alongside the Deutsche Well Global Media Forum currently taking place in the German city of Bonn.

The first place to start such a discussion on media viability is the new assessment framework developed by the IPDC in conjunction with the Deutsche Welle Akademie, observed Laura Schneider, Project Manager responsible for research and evaluation at the DW Akademie.

Earlier in his introductory remarks, Fackson Banda of the IPDC explained that such an assessment tool was represented by the newly developed IPDC Media Viability Indicators, aimed at producing an evidence base for understanding the status of economic and financial viability of media in a given country.

Taking up this point, Schneider, whose organization partnered with the IPDC in developing the toolkit, stressed that it was important to pilot the indicators in order to get a sense of their usefulness and versatility as a diagnostic tool.

Speaking on behalf of the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), Mark Nelson, the centre’s Senior Director, unveiled a study conducted by CIMA to aid understanding of what, how and where media assistance was supported by OECD/DAC (Development Assistance Committee) countries.

He concluded that the IPDC’s Media Viability Indicators could potentially be a game-changer in getting OECD/DAC countries to better target their assistance in support of the larger question of improving free and independent media.

For his part, DW’s Daniel Blank, responsible for global partnerships, challenged the participants to think of how the Media Viability Indicators could be used in training a cadre of future media business strategists.

He expressed concern that business training workshops were sometimes carried out in an environment of insufficient knowledge about the business positioning of media companies, pointing out that the IPDC toolkit could potentially remedy this.

The Media Viability Indicators were developed by Robert Picard of Oxford University in consultation with the IPDC and the DW Akademie. 

Among others, the panel discussion was attended by representatives from the BBC Media Action and Germany’s Catholic Media Council (CAMECO). The panel was one of several organized at the Global Media Forum organized by Deutsche Welle under the theme “Media and Foreign Policy in the Digital Age”.