The Media for Democracy Monitor (MDM) is a research project that monitors to what extent the media are fulfilling their democratic role.
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.
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:
The media must serve as a guardian of the flow of information
The media must provide a forum for public discussion of diverse, often conflicting ideas
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.
We base our monitoring on two pillars: gathering information from already existing sources and from exclusive interviews.
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“.
Besides a pilot edition featuring five European countries (book “On Media Monitoring”, edited by Josef Trappel and Werner A. Meier (Peter Lang, 2011)), the project has already resulted in two major publications:
Reports of both full monitoring editions are available in this website.