Background

The Media Development Indicators were developed through a broad international consultation launched by the IPDC Intergovernmental Council at its 25th session in 2006. A detailed mapping of the main existing initiatives to define indicators of media development was carried out, in order to analyze their respective methodologies as well as their value and relevance to the priorities of the IPDC.

On the basis of this mapping, a set of indicators aimed at covering all aspects of media development was elaborated and finalized after a two-year consultation process. The indicators were endorsed by the Council at its subsequent session in 2008 as an “important diagnostic tool for all stakeholders to assess media development in a given country and to thereby determine the areas in which assistance is most needed”. The Council adopted a Decision inviting the IPDC Bureau and other stakeholders working in the area of media development to take the Media Development Indicators into account when determining, in tandem with national authorities, communication development strategies within the overall context of national development.

Since 2008, the MDIs have been widely acknowledged by major actors in the media development field, including UNDP, the World Bank, the Council of Europe (see Resolution 1636, 2008), the International Federation of Journalists, International Media Support, the Media Foundation for West Africa and the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.  

The MDIs: a framework for assessing media development

The Media Development Indicators define a framework within which the media can best contribute to, and benefit from, good governance and democratic development. The MDIs look at all aspects of the media environment and are structured around the five following categories:

  1. A system of regulation conducive to freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity of the media
  2. Plurality and diversity of media, a level economic playing field and transparency of ownership 
  3. Media as a platform for democratic discourse 
  4. Professional capacity building and supporting institutions that underpins freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity 
  5. Infrastructural capacity is sufficient to support independent and pluralistic media

Taken as a whole, they provide an aspirational picture of the media ecology to be constructed in order to ensure freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity of the media.

By indicator, one should understand a quantitative or qualitative factor or variable, measured over time, that provides a simple and reliable basis for assessing achievements, change or performance in a country’s media landscape. For each indicator, the MDI framework suggests various means of verification as well as potential data sources.

Applying Media Development Indicators

The Media Development Indicators framework is currently being applied in countries across all regions to carry out in-depth assessments of their media environment. Until now, UNESCO has completed MDI-based assessments in the following countries:

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