A cross national study of leading news media


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 do 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.


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:

Freedom / Information

The media must serve as a guardian of the flow of information

Equality / Interest mediation

The media must provide a forum for public discussion of diverse, often conflicting ideas

Control / Watchdog

The media must act as a public watchdog against the abuse of power in its various forms

From this root concept we derive several features that indicate to what extent the media are contributing to democracy.


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We base our monitoring on two pillars: gathering information from already existing sources and from exclusive interviews.

Desk research

We gather data from international sources like Digital News Report, V-Dem, Freedom House and Reporters without Frontiers, as well as from national data sets on the economics of media companies, journalism surveys, and academic research on the media landscape


We talk personally to local media executives, journalists, bloggers and other persons active in the publication of news and current affairs

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“.

J. Galtung


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 on this website.

The monitoring was once again expanded and now covers 18 countries in Europe, America and Asia, involving researchers from all over the world. Final results are to be published in early 2021 in two books and on this website, but initial findings of the Edition 2020 are already available. The Dutch Journalism Fund supports this edition.