Case Study

Strengthening Media's Role as Public Watchdog

To support good governance, design research uncovers new and better ways to spur sustainable independent journalism.

map of ghana and nigeria within west africa
A strong, independent media ecosystem can be one of the most effective drivers of good governance. In addition to directly holding powerful institutions accountable, media amplifies the work of advocacy organizations, citizen movements, political organizers, and others. The potential for accountability gains are especially high in the burgeoning media landscape in West Africa. To understand how to best support independent media in the region, Omidyar Network engaged Reboot to develop a nuanced, empirically grounded understanding of the factors that enable or constrain media’s ability to hold government to account, and to develop recommendations on how Omidyar should update its investment strategy accordingly. Reboot conducted a landscape analysis, grounded by deep-dive case studies, and revealed the complex dynamics and opportunities in the region, including identifying citizen engagement with journalistic content as a key factor driving both economic sustainability for independent media and effective accountability from government. Reboot’s report on the topic is now guiding Omidyar Network’s West Africa media investments, as well as those of other funders, who are collaborating with Reboot through our Amplifying Accountability program.

After decades of state control of the media in West Africa, citizens have little trust in the fourth estate. But the rise of digital media is transforming the landscape. Citizens have embraced new and social media tools that allow them to seek alternative views, contribute their perspectives, and redefine popular media narratives—and to participate in democracy in ways that were previously impossible. This citizen participation has opened big opportunities for funders interested in supporting good governance in the region through more robust and independent media. In the context of increasing freedom of media from state control and an explosion of media enterprises, the current moment is an urgent opportunity to establish a strong future for independent media in the region.

media changes in credibility

Source: BBC, Reuters, GlobalScan Incorporated, Media Center, 2006. The Media Poll.

Omidyar Network is especially interested in these opportunities, drawing on its work in recent years to support innovations to strengthen independent media around the world. Omidyar Network has worked to improve the volume, quality, and sustainability of independent media, through grantees like Global Voices, Publica, Africa Check, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Sahara Reporters, and the Media Development Investment Fund. To help build a wider understanding, and to further development, of independent media in West Africa, Omidyar Network engaged Reboot to conduct research and analysis on media in the region. The research was to specifically focus on Nigeria and Ghana, countries with especially vibrant media ecosystems, and which operate under comparable constraints that exist across West Africa and thus show how other markets may evolve politically and commercially.

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