Media in Emerging Markets May Outstrip Economic Resources

Print and broadcast media in emerging markets may actually have too much competition in relation to the economic resources available, according to preliminary research findings by a research team in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The imbalance is made worse by the existence of subsidized media in many of these markets, the researchers said. Consequently, media industry consolidation in these markets should not only be expected but is, from an organizational standpoint, desirable. This is true even though media pluralism remains important as a goal of media development.

"With careful strategic management, it may be possible that consolidation will contribute to the development of economically viable independent media firms capable of producing high-quality news and information products that serve the public interest," the researchers argued.

The researchers presented preliminary findings from their research at a conference in October on Strategic Responses to Media Market Changes at the Media Management and Transformation Centre. The Centre is part of the Jonkoping International Business School in Jonkoping, Sweden.

The research team consists of Dr. C. Ann Hollifield, a faculty member in the Department of Telecommunications at the University of Georgia, Dr. Tudor Vlad and Dr. Lee B. Becker. Dr. Vlad is assistant director and Dr. Becker is director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College at the University of Georgia. Dr. Hollifield is coordinator of the Michael J. Faherty Broadcast Management Laboratory in the Grady College.

Included in the first phase of the project were two newspapers from an African nation, one daily and one weekly, and four newspapers from a former Soviet bloc nation, one daily and three weeklies. Data come from interviews with the editors of the papers, from questionnaires they completed after the interview, and from available data on the media markets in those countries.

The project is ongoing, and the goal is to learn what market characteristics and which management techniques predict to success in emerging media markets.

The data so far suggest that vestiges of a command economy and geographical features of the market had impact on market success of the properties. At the same time, management decisions were important. Product differentiation in the markets was not fully developed. None of the newspapers owned its own press. Each had limited control over circulation.

Drs. Hollifield and Becker attended the conference in Jonkoping, which was organized to launch the Media Management and Transformation Centre.

Prior to traveling to Sweden, Dr. Becker visited media training centers in the UK and Denmark. In the UK, he met with journalism trainers at the Thomson Foundation in Cardiff, Wales, at the BBC World Service Trust, and at the Reuters Foundation. He toured the facilities of the Danish School of Journalism in Aarhus and met with faculty members there.

While in Jonkoping, he also discussed media training with representatives of press organizations from the Netherlands who were attending the Jonkoping conference.

Dr. Becker discussed with each of these training organizations the ways in which their work is evaluated. The Cox Center is conducting a preliminary study for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami of ways of assessing the impact of media training throughout the world.