Bridging Theory and Practice Working Paper

Josephine Casserly
Sara Elias
Zoe Fortune
Publication Date
September 1, 2014

BBC Media Action

This BBC Media Action working paper offers some early stage qualitative and quantitative research data results and conclusions on their governance programming in ten countries, including the role played by country contexts and gender on local knowledge levels and individual political participation. It also highlights what the "research is, and is not, telling us." The research is supported by a five-year grant from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) to achieve governance outcomes in countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

BBC Media Action's governance programming is intended to create access to information through platforms that enable people to interact directly with decisionmakers. In seven countries, this comprises broadcast political debate, bringing together a panel of decisionmakers, from politicians to service providers, with members of the public from diverse social, ethnic, and religious groups (See related summaries below). Magazine-style programming on governance issues in four countries and dramas constructed around governance issues in two countries are also produced and broadcast.

From the document: "The paper synthesises findings from quantitative and qualitative data from across African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. The second section draws on baseline data from Bangladesh, Burma, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Palestinian Territories and Sierra Leone to explore the media and governance contexts in the countries where we work. The third part then summarises what we are learning about who is being reached by BBC Media Action interventions. The fourth section, firstly, reports regression analysis conducted on baseline data from Sierra Leone and midline data from Kenya to build up evidence on the impact of debate and discussion programmes on audiences' political knowledge and participation. Then findings are presented from a qualitative study assessing how Nigerian drama Story Story [a radio drama that uses what are intended to be dynamic storylines and true-to-life characters to encourage debate amongst its listeners about local and global issues] is promoting dialogue as a means of reducing conflict"

Conclusions include the following:

  • Country contexts play a central role in shaping "how political knowledge, discursive participation, political participation and interest in politics relate to each other." The next step is to study the pathways of these individual-level drivers of accountability.
  • Demographic disaggregation for wealth, for example, showed that the thinking that those with more resources are more likely to participate is not applicable. However, gender disaggregation showed lower levels of knowledge and interest in participation and discussion among women, raising the issue of how to represent women in programming and "mainstream a gender perspective into the governance issues" addressed.
  • Using the population level data from individual attitudes and behaviour may be enhanced by "audience level data with insights gained from interviews with governance and media experts to gain a more holistic view of the contexts in which our interventions operate."
  • While the research shows that the debate programmes impact audience knowledge of governance issues and gives mixed results on behaviours like political participation (possibly due to contextual factors like freedom or opportunity to participate), the drama format of Story Story resulted in application of its lessons on conflict resolution in people's personal interactions. More reflection on engaging and empowering citizenry is needed.
  • "Finally, as the governance work progresses the overarching conceptual model, outlined in the introduction, will be developed, and informed by research and practical experience, to capture the nuances of programming and contextual factors in different countries."

BBC Media Action website, October 22 2014.