Center for International Media Assistance.

Center Director Says Measurement of Media Systems Should be Treated as Routine

Measuring the characteristics of countries, as Freedom House, Reporters without Boders and IREX do in their evaluations of country media systems, is a routine social science measurement undertaking, Dr. Lee B. Becker from the University of Georgia told a gathering at the Center for International Media Assistance in Washington on Sept. 21.

The audience of about 60 came together to discuss the release of the CIMA publication, Evaluating the Evaluators: Media Freedom Indexes and What They Measure.

"There is nothing unusual or innovative about creating a classification scheme for a population of objects of analysis and then placing the individual objects in the categories of that scheme," Dr. Becker said.

This is routinely done in the social sciences. The Freedom House, Reporters without Borders and IREX measures become controversial, the Georgia researcher said, because of political implications of the findings, not because of the measurement strategy or techniques.

"A lot of the criticism of the measures fails to recognize how basic the enterprise actually is," he added.

Dr. Becker said measures can be evaluated in terms of their reliability, or repeatability, and their validity, or the ability of the measure to actually measure the concept.

Together with Dr. Tudor Vlad, Dr. Becker has been using various techniques to assess the reliability and validity of the measures and has concluded that the measures are reliable and that there is evidence of validity as well.

The research team is based at the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and research, a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Dr. Becker is director of the Cox Center and Dr. Vlad is the associate director.

The Center for International Media Assistance is part of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The report on the evaluation indices was authored by John Burgess, a Washington-based writer specializing in international affairs and technology.

The report was a collaboration between CIMA and the Center for Global Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Libby Morgan from the Annenberg School joined Dr. Becker as a panelist at the Sept. 21 meeting, held at NED.

The meeting started at noon with a summary of the report findings by Burgess. Dr. Becker and Ms. Morgan offered their comments following that summary.