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February 23, 2017

"Politics is made of people. We need to be able to question our leaders so that we can hold them to account. How can media play a role in helping people improve governance and accountability?"

This event, held at London, United Kingdom (UK)'s BBC Broadcasting House, brought together a broad range of governance policymakers, practitioners, and researchers to discuss the role of media and communication in empowerment and accountability – to understand what works and why and the implications for future empowerment and accountability strategies. Panellists hailed from Oxfam GB, Article 19, the Omidyar Network, the World Bank, and BBC Media Action; the discussion was chaired by the BBC's Ritula Shah. The discussion was built around the insights from BBC Media Action's research and learning under its 2011-17 UK Department for International Development (DFID)-funded global grant. (See Related Summaries, below).

In brief, as part of the research conducted under this governance programme, BBC Media Action partnered with 135 media and civil society organisations in 14 countries to create platforms for public dialogue, debate, and conversation on public accountability. These platforms, broadcast on radio and television with the goal of translating discussion into lasting empowerment of people from different sections of society and accountability of those who make the big decisions that affect their lives, reached 190 million people.

At the February 23 2017 event, BBC Media Action shared what they have learned from some of these projects and showed the impact they have had. For instance, evidence shared supports their claim that: "Exposure to BBC Media Action's governance programmes is strongly and positively associated with increased political participation." Among other topics, participants learned that the understanding of "information ecosystems" is essential. This concept entails 8 dimensions: information needs, information landscape, production and movement, dynamic of access, use of information, impact of information, social trust, and influencers. They also discussed the impact of "fake news" and control of media. There was consensus that change takes time; media is not a linear process of information provision to political participation. It is narratives that are communicated over the long term that can change attitudes.

Participants explored the question(s): How can media development organisations improve sustainability, and how can they strengthen research? One idea floated was to take lessons from other fields, such as psychology.


Email from Will Taylor to The Communication Initiative on March 10 2017; and BBC Media Action website and Governance and accountability: What role for media? summary on Storify, both accessed on March 10 2017. Image credit: BBC Media Action