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Mapping Digital Media: News and New Media in Central Africa - Challenges and Opportunities

December 1, 2012

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda and Burundi are among the continent's smallest states. More than just neighbors, these three countries are locked together by overlapping histories and by extreme political and economic challenges. They all score very low on the United Nations' human development index, with DRC and Burundi among the half-dozen poorest and most corrupt countries in the world. They are all recovering uncertainly from conflicts that involved violence on an immense scale, devastating communities and destroying infrastructure. Their populations are overwhelmingly rural and young. In terms of media, radio is by far the most popular source of news. Levels of state capture are high, and media quality is generally poor. Professional journalists face daunting obstacles. The threadbare markets can hardly sustain independent outlets. Amid continuing communal and political tensions, the legacy of "hate media" is insidious, and upholding journalism ethics is not easy when salaries are low. Ownership is non-transparent. Telecoms overheads are exorbitantly high. In these conditions, new and digital media -- which flourish on consumers' disposable income, strategic investment, and vibrant markets -- have made a very slow start. Crucially, connectivity remains low. But change is afoot, led by the growth of mobile internet access. In this report, Marie-Soleil Frère surveys the news landscapes of DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda. Marshaling an impressive range of data, she examines patterns of production and consumption, the often grim realities of law and regulation, the embryonic state of media policy, the role of donors, and the positive impact of online platforms. Most media outlets now have an online presence. SMS has become a basic tool for reporters. Interactivity gives voice to increasing numbers of listeners. The ease of digital archiving makes it possible to create a collective media "memory" for the first time. Chinese businesses are winning tenders for infrastructure projects. Above all, the unstoppable flow of digitized information enables ever more people to learn about current events and available services. "The average news consumer in Central Africa will soon leap to new opportunities," Frère predicts, "without having to pass through the intermediate stages of a personal computer and a fixed telephone line." The report ends with a set of practical recommendations relating to infrastructure, strategies to reduce access costs for journalists and the public, education and professionalization, donor activity, governance, regulation, and media management.

Mapping Digital Media in the European Union

October 23, 2012

Mapping Digital Media (MDM) is a 60-country study by the Open Society Foundations. It surveys the impact of digitisation and digital media on media pluralism, diversity, accessibility and independence, focusing on the core democratic service that any media system should provide: the provision of open, contestable, and diverse information about political, economic and social affairs. The project findings should inform European policy over standards, funding mechanisms, and legislation concerning media plurality and a host of related issues.

Mapping Digital Media: Lebanon

May 8, 2012

Examines trends in Lebanon's digital media consumption, including its impact on public broadcasters, activism, journalism, and plurality; digital technology; digital media ownership, funding, and business models; and policies, laws, and regulations.

Mapping Digital Media: On-Demand Services and Media Diversity

May 8, 2012

Examines trends in the providers of on-demand online video, audio, and other artistic works and creative content; content consumed; and cultural diversity. Outlines regulation issues and implications for questions of copyright, access, and added value.

Mapping Digital Media: Turkey

April 23, 2012

Explores trends in digital media consumption in Turkey, including digital media's impact on public broadcasters, activism, journalism, and social, cultural, and political diversity; digital technology; media ownership; and policies and regulations.

Mapping Digital Media: Japan

March 27, 2012

Examines trends in Japan's media consumption, including the impact of digital media on public broadcasters, user-generated content and activism, and diversification, as well as digital technology, business, and regulations. Makes policy recommendations.

Mapping Digital Media: South Africa

March 22, 2012

Analyzes trends in South Africa's media consumption, including the impact of digital media on the state-owned broadcaster, media preferences, quality of journalism, activism, and social, cultural, and political diversity, technology, and business models.

Mapping Digital Media: Albania

February 23, 2012

Examines trends in media consumption; digital media's effects on public and state broadcasters, journalism, and civic activism; and trends in digital technology, business, and regulation, including copyright and transparency issues. Makes recommendations.

Mapping Digital Media: Digital Media, Conflict and Diasporas in the Horn of Africa

February 23, 2012

Examines how conflicts have shaped the development of Internet, mobile, and other communications technologies and hybrid media in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, and how diasporas have facilitated online political debates both at home and abroad.

Centers for Change: Drop-In Centers Facilitate Sex Worker-Led Human Rights Advocacy

February 1, 2012

Examines the services and support for advocacy movements provided by drop-in centers for sex workers. Calls for funding to engage sex workers in service design, implementation, and leadership; to offer safe environments; and to report abuses.

Mapping Digital Media: Digital Television, the Public Interest, and European Regulation

January 31, 2012

Examines Western European and Central and Eastern European concepts of public interest in television, the benefits and limitations of digital television in advancing public interest obligations and citizenship values, and issues of free market regulation.

Mapping Digital Media: Netherlands

January 24, 2012

Assesses trends in digital media consumption; effects on public broadcasters, journalism, user-generated content, and activism; and changes in digital technology, business, and policies. Makes recommendations for laws, journalism, and media literacy.