Issue #: 
March 17, 2008

This issue of The Drum Beat includes a summary of a recent meeting hosted by BBC World Service Trust (WST) which brought together international partners of The Communication Initiative with UK-based organisations working on or interested in learning more about issues of democracy, governance, and accountability. The meeting was a relatively informal opportunity for those working in and interested in the role of media and communication in development to hear new (and sometimes challenging) arguments, share their own experiences, and network with each other.

The summary was written by BBC WST staff. Links to the full presentations, where available, have been added to this issue of The Drum Beat as a complement to that summary. For a downloadable PDF of the summary, without the links to the full presentations, please click here.


Please VOTE in our current Democracy and Governance Poll - click here!


Democracy, Governance and Accountability: The Contribution of Media and Communication

On Wednesday, January 16, 2007 over one hundred delegates met at the BBC's Marylebone High Street for a meeting on Democracy, Governance and Accountability: the contribution of media and communication. The meeting was a joint initiative by the BBC World Service Trust, and The Communication Initiative, and was intended to initiate a dialogue.

Welcome and Introduction

Stephen King, Executive Director of the BBC World Service Trust, and Garth Japhet, Executive Director of Soul City and Chair of The Communication Initiative, began the day with introductory remarks.

Mr. Japhet noted that media is not merely a PR tool, and pointed to the critical role the media can play as an agent of change. He cited South Africa as an example of how independent media can bring governments to account.

Reflections on media and democracy in Kenya

Joseph Warungu, Editor of BBC Focus on Africa/ Network Africa and BBC Newsnight said that, in its greatest test since the 1990s, the Kenyan media had failed democracy. He believed that the media had not fulfilled its watchdog role, failing to interrogate politicians properly, reporting rather than analysing events, and choosing to play the political game. He concluded that the Kenyan media was in a fragile state, and needed to be trained to deal with democracy.

Mr. Warungu was followed by Dr. Fredrick Mudhai, lecturer at the University of Coventry, who pointed out the intricacies and linkages between politicians and the media in Kenya. Dr. Mudhai mentioned that, for most media outlets in Kenya, elections are a source of profit. This can result in tension between public and commercial interests. Dr. Mudhai concluded by saying that the media alone cannot credibly consolidate democracy, and must be supported by legislative and judiciary institutions.

The discussion after this session centred on whether or not a strong judiciary increased media freedoms or restricted them, whether the media in Kenya was forced to exercise self-censorship, what the role of the non-mainstream media was, what role the media blackout had played, why connections between the Kenyan media and Academia were weak, and what sources Kenyan journalists could go to for unbiased information.

Two perspectives on media, communication and democracy

Professor Mushtaq Khan, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, presented a "sceptical economist's perspective" on media as part of democratisation. He began his argument from the position that democracy is not about discovering the "popular will." Rather, it is an institutional process where people compete for power, and a method of resolving conflicts between elites. Professor Khan went on to cite structural and economic reasons why elite competition in poor countries is more violent than in rich countries.

For example, in poor countries the owners of assets are not able to protect them, because the assets (by definition) are not very productive. Instead of being about budget redistribution, politics in poor countries is about asset redistribution. Patron-client politics in such contexts is the rational form of political organisation. In order to change this, low-income countries must make the transition to middle income countries. Until that happens, political stability depends on the ability of elites to reach live-and-let-live compromises.
[For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]

The discussion following Professor Khan's speech revealed that a large portion of the delegates broadly agreed with his arguments, and found them compelling.

Mary Kaldor, Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics, focused on the distinction between procedural democracy and substantive democracy, and the importance of situating poor countries in their global context. She posited that the top-down spread of democracy has actually been about global integration, and that substantive democracy, where it exists, has been pushed from below. What is needed, she concluded, is real public debate.
[Mary Kaldor's presentation was based on the Global Civil Society Yearbook 2007/8: Communicative Power and Democracy - please click here.]

The discussion after this session touched on various themes, including: power and how it shapes control of/access to the media, the power of the media to incorporate perspectives from below in public debate, the tension between "realist" and "idealist" perspectives about what media can achieve, and what democracy can achieve, the relationship between procedural and substantive democracy, issues around voter turnout, and the potential for foreign direct investment and the Diaspora to support independent media.

Democracy, Governance, Accountability and the role of the media: a panel discussion

The following panellists led a discussion on Democracy, Governance, Accountability and the role of the media:

  • Lyndall Stein, Executive Director, Concern UK
  • Bjoern Foerde, Director, UNDP Oslo Governance Centre
  • Kaitira Kandjii, Executive Director, Media Institute of Southern Africa
  • Adelaida Trujillo, Executive Director, Communication Initiative Latin America
  • Marta Foresti, Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute

Issues that were touched upon included: the UNDP's two pillars – inclusive participation and responsive institutions, the degree of responsibility the media has in holding the powerful to account and brokering between the powerful, the need to celebrate inspiring journalists, focus on the government's role in providing a supportive environment for community media, the gap between policy and what donors are actually funding, the weaknesses of the advertising market, and the need for accountability in the international media.


Please see our Democracy and Governance Theme Site


Showcase: Perspectives from Communication Initiative partners and on the ground action

The following projects were showcased in the next-to-last session of the day:

  • 'BBC World Service Trust Bangladesh Sanglap (TV/Radio Dialogues)', David Prosser, Project Manager, BBC World Service Trust
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]
  • 'Soul City: The role of political advocacy in a soap opera', Sue Goldstein, Senior Research Manager, Soul City Institute, South Africa
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]
  • 'A Brazilian News Agency for Children's Rights', Veet Vivarta, Executive Secretary, ANDI Brazil
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]

Debate afterwards touched on the potential problem of using 'media' as a catch-all term for both news media and entertainment.

Media and communication: shaping policy, increasing understanding – updates and dialogues on current processes

The final session consisted of updates on the following topics:

  • 'The Communication Initiative and progress since the World Congress on Communication for Development', Warren Feek, Executive Director, The CI
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]
  • 'The African Media Initiative', Anna da Silva, Regional Director, Africa Programmes, BBC World Service Trust
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]
  • ‘The Global Forum for Media Development’, Bettina Peters, Executive Director, GFMD
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]
  • 'Media and the network society: findings from a Ford Foundation consultation', Lisa Horner, Global Partners
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]
  • 'The Global Knowledge Conference', reflections from Patrick Kalas, Swiss Development Cooperation
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]
  • Commonwealth People's Forum/CHOGM, Jenny Richards, Deputy Director, Television Trust for the Environment
    [For the full PowerPoint presentation, please click here.]
  • Polis, Charlie Beckett, Executive Director, Polis

During the final discussion of the day, the topics which came up included how to change the minds of policy makers regarding the importance of the media, the need for more co-ordination in the field, the need to increase recognition for the centrality of media in democracy, governance and accountability, the potential that lies in citizen journalism, and the relative importance of bilateral agencies in the face of the private sector.

James Deane, Head of Policy Development at the BBC World Service Trust, concluded the meeting by saying that it had "touched upon a whole range of tips of icebergs," as it was intended to do. He called for more knowledge sharing among organisations about the work that was being conducted, and ended by saying that although it is not sufficiently recognized, and not as organised as it needs to be, "this is a sector."


For more information on the event "Democracy, Governance and Accountability: The Contribution of Media and Communication", please contact:

James Deane
Director of Policy
BBC World Service Trust


Warren Feek
Executive Director
The Communication Initiative


Please participate in our current Democracy and Governance POLL:

Your reaction?: "Democracy is not about discovering the 'popular will.' Rather, it is an institutional process where people compete for power, and a method of resolving conflicts between elites." [Prof Mushtaq Khan - SOAS - London, The Drum Beat 434]:

* True - essentially correct.
* False - popular will is what democracy is all about.
* Half true - there is a dynamic between popular will and elite conflict resolution.
* Wrong on both counts - democracy is about neither popular will nor elite conflict resolution [please COMMENT in the box provided].

VOTE and COMMENT - click here - see Top Right Side of the site.


Many thanks to James Deane, Pareena Khairdin, and Kirsty Cockburn of BBC WST for their summary and assistance with this issue.


RESULTS of most recent Democracy and Governance Poll:

The most important lesson to be learned for advancing democratic governance from the recent developments in Pakistan, Kenya, and Burma/Myanmar is:

* Better adapt democratic process to national contexts 21%
* Expand ongoing public debate on sensitive issues 14%
* Fuller engagement of minority populations 6%
* Improve electoral legislation 10%
* More independent monitoring 4%
* Prioritise building local community democracies 26%
* Strengthen media independence and plurality 13%
* Stronger international sanctions 4%
* Other 3%



The Drum Beat seeks to cover the full range of communication for development activities. Inclusion of an item does not imply endorsement or support by The Partners.

Please send material for The Drum Beat to the Editor - Deborah Heimann

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