MAPPING DIGITAL MEDIA. JOURNALISM, DEMOCRACY AND VALUES

Written by Център за развитие на медиите. Posted in Projects

А project of the Open Society Media Program and the Open Society Information Program
This project will assess the global opportunities and risks that are being created for media around the world by the following developments:
• the switchover from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting
• the emergence and growth of new media platforms, especially on the internet, as sources of news, the ever closer convergence of traditional broadcasting with telecommunications Opportunities and risks with an impact on the values espoused by OSF appear to include the following:
Opportunities:
– Better public access to all kinds of content services
– Reduced media start-up and distribution costs
– More efficient use of spectrum, multiplying the media outlets that can use the bandwidth
– Collaboration, easier production flow, cheaper equipment, etc., driving down production costs (such as shared media content on various platforms)
– Improved listener/audience/reader interaction and participation
– Greater transparency of information (leading to better journalism)
– Social and peer-to-peer networking, enabling prioritization of news sources and topics, and helping to disseminate edited content
– Availability of more spectrum for local and community media
– Existence of increased number of platforms for civil society groups and activists to spread their message

Risks:
– Extension/replication of monopolistic positions and controls of political speech on new media platforms
– Dilution of public-interest journalism available free-to-air for a broad public
– Audience fragmentation, undermining business models that have funded quality journalism/media, and also undermining social cohesion by attenuating shared media experiences
– Difficulties in monetizing new platforms in sustainable ways to support quality production
– Weakening of lobbying/advocacy efforts by civil society groups due to confusion about the new techno-political nexus
– Potential loss of local programming due to prohibitive costs for both switch-over and maintenance of broadcasting costs for smaller, private (regional) stations
– Prohibitive costs for the consumer (set-top boxes, pay-per-view, etc.)
– ‘Digital divide’ affecting equal access to news
– Social and peer-to-peer networking potentially narrowing the agenda of available information.

In order to make the project manageable, this survey is restricted to the television news output in sixty really diverse countries. Some of them are fully ‘networked societies’ which have completed digital switchover, others are part-way through the process, and others again have yet to start. This diversity will add to the value of the country reports in two ways: firstly, by isolating the factors that lead to such varied rates of technological take-up around the world; and secondly, by revealing how new media are being adapted for use in different political, economic and cultural contexts.

Media Development Center is conducting the research for Bulgaria. The project is envisaged to be completed by the end of October 2011.