Media Development Theory
Media theory refers to the complex of social-political-philosophical principles which organize ideas about the relationship between media and society. Within this is a type of theory called `normative theory', which is concerned with what the media ought to be doing in society rather than what they actually do. In general, the dominant ideas about the obligations of mass media will be consistent with other values and arrangements in a given society.
Conceptualizing Media Development Theory according to different scholars
According to Siebert et al (1956) in their book Four Theories of the Press, "the press takes on the form and coloration of the social and political structures within which it operates". The press and other media, in their view, will reflect the "basic beliefs and assumptions that the society holds". In the western liberal tradition, this refers to matters such as freedom, equality before the law, social solidarity and cohesion, cultural diversity, active participation, and social responsibility. Different cultures may have different principles and priorities.
Although normative theory of the press is now in a considerable state of uncertainty, not least because of changes in the media and the rise of new media forms, we can still identify certain broad traditions of thought about the rights and responsibilities of media in society and the degree to which a “society” may legitimately intervene to protect the public interest.
Development media theory is applying in countries at lower levels of economic development and with limited resources that takes various forms but essentially proposes
· Media freedom under desirable conditions favoring the ones in power
· It demands that most institutes should be subordinated of necessity to the requirements of economic, social and political development.
The need for introducing Media Development Theory
The limited application of the four established theories of the press to a vast majority of the third World countries, which are vastly different from each other and Western countries in control of media, and with fast changing economic and political conditions, has led to the birth of a new approach whereby communication is used to carry out development tasks in line with nationally established policy hence the formulation of development communication theory.
Certain unique characteristics of developing countries limited the applicability of other theories to these countries. Some of these features were absence of communication infrastructure, dependence on the developed world for hard ware and software, the commitment of these societies to economic, political and social development as a primary national task and the developing countries awareness of their similar identity and interest in international politics.
As a result the developing countries overriding concern was how to use mass media for nation building. Therefore, in the interest of this task of national development, the freedom of the media and of journalist needs to be curbed to an extent under the concept of Media Development Theory that outlined a new form of control in the society.
Development media theory was intended to recognize the fact that societies undergoing a transition from underdevelopment and colonialism to independence and better material conditions often lack the infrastructure, the money, the traditions, the professional skills and even the audiences needed to sustain media institutions comparable to those of the First world or Second world , in which the four theories could take root.
Goals of development media theory
It emphasizes the following goals:
· The primacy of the national development task.
· The pursuit of cultural and informational autonomy.
· Support for democracy
· Solidarity with other developing countries.
This theory advocates media support for an existing political regime and its efforts to bring about national economic development. By supporting government development efforts , media aid society at large. This theory argues that unless a nation is well-established and its economic development well underway, media must be supportive rather than critical of government. Journalists must not pick apart government efforts to promote development but rather assist government in implementing such policies. This theory recognizes the need for some form of government intervention into the operation of media. It envisions setting up:
· Government agencies.
· Monitor training and licensing of media practitioners.
· Control development of media institutions.
· Regularly censor-media content before distribution.
· Issue regular guidelines for day-to-day operation of media
Although different degree of self regulation is encouraged, media practitioners are not trusted by government officials to carry out their responsibilities without guidance and constant monitoring.
Criticism on the Media Development Theory
The Media Development Theory is considered an updated version of authoritarian theory as it allows that media should never surrender its powers to criticize government policies even if it risks causing the policies to fail.
Media is no doubt given power but there is no check kept upon it and instead of being led by the government it may be led by another ideology that may be business minded which would have nothing to do with the betterment of the society as for the sake of business it would always be in favor of keeping the business profitable rather than paying attention to the duties and accountability issues of the media.
This can only prevail in a society with a weaker judiciary as the shift of power from government goes into the hands of the bureaucrats and the rich.
For this reason it is more vulnerable for the third world countries rather than the more developed ones yet they were introduced and created by the developed countries.
The need of Media Development Theory
The underlying fact behind the genesis of this theory was that there can be no development without communication. Under the four classical theories, capitalism was legitimized, but under the Development communication theory, or Development Support Communication as it is otherwise called, the media undertook the role of carrying out positive developmental programmes, accepting restrictions and instructions from the State.
The media subordinated themselves to political, economic, social and cultural needs. Hence the stress on “development communication” and “development journalism” There was tacit support from the UNESCO for this theory. The weakness of this theory is that "development" is often equated with government propaganda.