Media Freedom, Media Access, and Good Governance: A Cross-National Examination of Influences

TitleMedia Freedom, Media Access, and Good Governance: A Cross-National Examination of Influences
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Starke, C., T. K. Naab, and H. Scherer
Affiliation (1st Author)Department of Communication University of Munster
Section or WGInternational Communication Section
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodeINCF1a
Slot Code (Keyword)INCF1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleMedia freedom, ethics and development
Submission ID6665

Good Governance is a prerequisite for economic, political, and social developments (Huntington, 1968; Lipset, 1960). Scholars argue that free and independent media can play a vital role in the process of democratization. By exercising their normative political functions the media promote key principles of democracy such as responsiveness, transparency, political stability, and participation and contributes to the implementation of Good Governance (McQuail, 1992; Norris, 2004). However, limitations of media freedom prevent the media from informing the public, educating the citizens about political norms, and holding decision makers accountable (Graber, 1986; Stapenhurst, 2000; Strömbäck, 2010). Special attention rests on the growing global expansion of the Internet to contribute to global democratization (Groshek, 2009). Scholars assert that the Internet enables citizens to create and share information and content without having to rely on traditional intermediaries such as the press. Since all citizens and social groups are thought to obtain the opportunity to participate in the political discourse, the Internet can be used to scandalize Bad Governance and generate public pressure (Kulikova & Perlmutter, 2007). This lead to the hypothesis that media freedom has a positive impact on Good Governance (H1). In order to meet their political functions the published content must be accessible to the public. Internet access has received high attention regarding the development of Good Governance. Scholars argue that it strengthens democratic values and norms as well as the demand for democracy (Mattes & Bratton, 2007; Nisbet, Stoycheff, & Pearce, 2012). Thus, it is assumed that media access, and internet access in specific, have a positive impact on Good Governance (H2). To test the hypotheses we conducted a cross-national study based on secondary data for 126 countries and examined to what extent global differences in Good Governance can be explained by the level of media freedom and media access in a country. We employed country-level data on Good Governance from World Bank, on media freedom from Freedom House, on access to television, radio, and the Internet from International Telecommunication Union, and on access to newspapers from World Association of Newspapers. The analyses were controlled for the influence of the level of human development using the UN Human Development Index. The results of multiple regression analyses show that media freedom and media access contribute both individually and collectively to Good Governance. A comparison of the types of media finds proof that Internet access has a positive impact on Good Governance. The access to newspapers and audio-visual media, however, does not contribute to Good Governance. The results suggest that strengthening freedom of media and access to digital media can result in better government and thus a higher level of democratization. Extensive media use will enable the media to exert stronger influence and to be consequential watchdogs of government. The paper elaborates on desiderata for future research and discusses methodological and statistical shortcomings of the study, which for the first time integrated conceptually and empirically media freedom and media access to understand the influence of traditional and new media on Good Governance.

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