Dr. Lee B. Becker at conference.

University of Georgia Researchers make Case for Measure of Media Freedom Combining Elite and Public Assessments

Indicators of media freedom in a country should include both an elite evaluation as well as a measure of how the public views the media, a University of Georgia researcher told a small group of experts assembled at the University of Pennsylvania in November to examine the status of media indicators

Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, said he had reached that conclusion after examining both the qualities of existing elite evaluations as well as their relationship with measures of how the public feels about the media.

In advance of the meeting, Dr. Becker and his research colleague Dr. Tudor Vlad had prepared a memorandum summarizing nearly a decade of research in the Cox International Center on media indicators, including those of Freedom House in Washington, Reporters Without Borders in Paris, and IREX, also in Washington.

The indicators are used by both governments, funding organizations and academics interested in media freedom issues, and the conference in November was designed to assess the value of those indicators.

Drs. Becker and Vlad said they have found that the evaluations of Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and IREX are highly correlated and stable over time. These evaluations are conducted by panels of experts.

The Georgia researchers said they also have found that the evaluations of these nongovernmental organizations are correlated with what the general public reports on media freedom in their countries in public opinion polls.

The pair said the public opinion data are limited, but the case for the link between the elite and public evaluations had strengthened as they have found additional archived data on the issue. They also said that the differences between elite and public assessments suggest that an ideal measure would include both.


The conference, held on Nov. 8 and 9, was organized by the American Political Science Association and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and took place at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

The eighteen scholars and practitioners, invited to the conference by the organizers, came from government and nongovernmental organizations as well as from other universities, such as the University of Wisconsin, the University of California, Harvard University and the University of Oxford.

The Cox Center is the international outreach unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.