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World Bank Study On Broadcasting And Development

World Bank Marks World Press Freedom Day With Study On Broadcasting And Development

Maputo, May 2, 2008 -- The World Bank marked World Press Freedom Day by launching a study outlining conditions under which radio, television and online broadcasting can fulfil a vital role in development by making governments accountable, and giving voice to the world's poor.

"Huge numbers of people, including those who can't read, have access to broadcast media," said Kreszentia Duer, of the World Bank Institute (WBI), who presented the study, Broadcasting, Voice and Accountability, at a conference here on freedom of expression hosted by UNESCO. "In countries with strong oral traditions, community broadcasting can enable people to share information and raise issues with a large audience, and hold government officials to account. This makes broadcasting a powerful tool for enhancing governance and promoting development."

The 400-page study, subtitled A Public Interest Approach to Policy, Law and Regulation, is the result of five years of research by six media experts, including Ms. Duer, Steve Buckley, president of the World Association of Community Broadcasters; Toby Mendel, ARTICLE 19, Global Campaign for Free Expression; Seán Ó Siochrú, founder of the Campaign for Communication Rights in the Information Society; Monroe E. Price, of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania; and Marc Raboy, of Canada's McGill University.

The study reviews broadcasting practices and regulations around the world, and identifies those which produce an "enabling environment" for broadcasting that is free, independent and pluralistic. These characteristics are essential, the report says, for broadcasting to perform an effective role in giving people voice, and ensuring government accountability.

Drawing from their research, the authors propose standards on freedom of expression, access to information, use and misuses of defamation law, content rules and limits to free speech, and the regulation of journalists. The study also offers guidelines on best practice for broadcast regulators, as well as the respective roles of public service, community non-profit, and commercial private sector broadcasters, all of which, it argues, should be present in a healthy media environment.

Co-author Steve Buckley notes that increased movement towards democracy in developing countries opens the way to build broadcasting that serves the public interest.

"Countries that are opening their economies, democratizing, and decentralizing public service delivery are looking for guidance on how to involve citizens in decisions that affect them," he said. "Broadcasting, enabled by the right regulation and conditions, can empower groups through bottom-up participation."

The book cites countries that have developed systems to enhance the quality and diversity of media content, while fully respecting freedom of expression, and identifies ways in which government regulation can expand access to broadcast media. Community broadcasting, for example, can be encouraged through special licensing arrangements that guarantee fair and equitable access to radio frequencies and financial support.

"This book focuses on useful proactive approaches to setting up, sustaining, and governing broadcasting systems across the world," said Ruth Teer-Tomaselli, UNESCO Chair in Communication for Southern Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. "It's based on sound scholarship and provides practical advice for policymakers, media scholars and broadcasters alike."


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