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Media capture is a form of governance failure that occurs when the news media advance the commercial or political concerns of state and/or non-state special interest groups controlling the media industry instead of holding those groups accountable and reporting in the public interest. It is a systemic governance problem where political leaders and media owners work together in a symbiotic but mutually corrupting relationship: media owners provide supportive news coverage to political leaders in exchange for favorable government treatment of their businesses and political interests.

The Center for International Media Assistance has conducted and promoted research and discussion of media capture, seeking both to understand and develop solutions for the problem. Learn more about the phenomenon by reading the publications linked on the next tab.

In the Service of Power: Media Capture and the Threat to Democracy, 2017

In this volume of essays edited by Anya Schiffrin, media capture is shown to be a growing phenomenon linked both to the resurgence of authoritarian governments as well as to the structural weaknesses presently afflicting media markets. In this environment, political figures and economic elites are colluding to undermine the independence of privately-owned media, and efforts to stop this collusion by activists, regulators, and the international community have proven to be ineffective.

With essays by Anya Schiffrin, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Maha Rafi Atal, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Mireya Márquez-Ramírez, Manuel Alejandro Guerrero, Jane Madlyn McElhone, Ryan Powell, Martina Vojtěchovská, Yiling Pan, Kamel Labidi, Paul Radu, and Mark Nelson

Chaining the Watchdog: Soft Censorship and Media Capture Stifle Coverage of India’s Prolonged Land Conflict, 2017

By Kate Musgrave

The use of economic development as a pretext to displace local communities in resource-rich areas is a familiar story. How this story is playing out in the world’s largest democracy, however, may be less familiar because India’s media has been unable to cover it effectively. This CIMA blog post describes how the local and national press coverage of land conflict in central India is censored, co-opted, or drowned out, providing a cautionary tale for how otherwise vibrant media systems can be compromised when the stakes are highest.

Captured News Media: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro, 2016

By Marija Šajkaš and Milka Tadić Mijović

Media evolution in the Balkans matters. The region today, as much as in history, has proven a cultural, political, and economic fault line. The success or failure of these countries to create a sustainable environment for independent media could have an influence on surrounding countries and beyond. This report describes Balkan media evolution, and is also a study in how well donor action has performed as a bulwark against the growing forces of media capture from well-financed local and international oligarchs and politicians seeking to influence public opinion in a pivotal region.

Captured News Media: The Case of Turkey, 2015

By Andrew Finkel

This essay analyzes the recent institutional history of the Turkish press and depicts how media has become the handmaiden of the very forces it is intended to hold accountable. The concept of capture is used to examine the media’s shifting role in a country where the relationship between political and economic interests is itself in a process of transformation.

Media Capture: When journalists and journalism and NOT the problem,” International Journalism Festival, 2019

Media capture and advertising in Turkey: The impact of the state on news,” Servet Yanatma, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University, 2016

Inequality and Media Capture,” Maria Petrova, Journal of Public Economics, 2008

Media Ownership Monitor, Reporters Without Borders

Media Influence Matrix, Centre for Media, Data and Society, Central European University

Media Ownership Project, OBC Transeuropa

Media Ownership Transparency, Access Info Europe