The Media for Democracy Monitor (MDM) is a research project that monitors to what extent the media are fulfilling their democratic role.
Why to monitor the media
The media have been regarded as fundamental agents in democracies. Monitoring must be a regular exercise in order to hold the media accountable to the people and to facilitate the public debate on their performance.
What we monitor
One way to monitor media performance is to observe its content. But we believe that the major focus should be on the structural features within which the content is produced. This project monitors, therefore, the media structures and how they allow for (or not) democratic practices.
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Democracy has freedom, equality and control as its core values. We translate these values into communication functions. The media’s communication function which derives from freedom is the information function; from equality follows what might be called public opinion-making or simply the forum function; and from control follows the function to act as a watchdog against the abuse of all types of power. Hence the democratic media mandate:
From this root concept we derive several features that indicate to what extent the media are contributing to democracy.
How we monitor
We base our monitoring on two pillars: gathering information from already existing sources and from exclusive interviews.
This mixed approach allows us to find out the necessary information about the performance of news media regarding each indicator.
“Monitoring is beyond mirroring what happens in the fourth pillar of society. To monitor the media is to make them transparent, a basic condition for democracy to function.”
The project has already resulted in two major publications. A pilot edition featuring five European countries was published in the book “On Media Monitoring”, edited by Josef Trappel and Werner A. Meier (Peter Lang, 2011).
At the same year, the project presented for the first time its full monitoring in the book “The Media for Democracy Monitor”, edited by Josef Trappel, Hannu Nieminen and Lars Nord (Nordicom, 2011), comprising the findings from ten countries: Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. These reports are also available in this website.
The monitoring was once again expanded and now covers 20 countries in Europe, America and Asia, involving researchers from all over the world. The results are expected to be published in October 2020 in a new book and in this website.