What is Media Development?

The term media development refers to evolution and change in the fields of news media and communications. Such change relates to a range of institutions, practices, and behaviors including the rule of law, freedoms of expression and press, education systems for journalists, business environments, capacities of journalists and managers, as well as support for a diversity of views in society. This evolution can be stimulated by donor support, private investment, or local processes of change led by media owners, managers, journalists, media industry associations, and other collective efforts.

CIMA organizes itself under four intertwined areas that are crucial to outcomes in media development: effectiveness, sustainability, innovation and funding. To find out more about CIMA’s issue areas, read below.

Media development has been shown to play a role in strengthening democracy, economic development, political discourse, and good governance.


What are the best methodologies for helping countries to produce a high-quality, sustainable and independent media? How do we design these programs and measure results? Those are the questions we are trying to answer by looking at the concept of effectiveness. Ensuring the effectiveness and improving outcomes from media development interventions is one of the biggest challenges facing not only donors and program implementers but also country-level activists.


Sustainability is media’s ability to operate independently over time. This means independent of editorial or financial interference or influence, and thus refers to the legal, economic, and political enabling environments for media organizations and journalists. At the societal level, media’s sustainability is ensured by stable legal structures and a healthy marketplace that keep the press free and open, where ownership structures reflect a diversity of opinions.


In the 21st century, new practices, new actors, and new arenas are changing the media landscape. Access to information, and access to the technologies that provide that information, are key to success in the information age. With the breathtaking pace of evolution in new technologies, including the spread of mobile phones throughout the world, media developers are finding new ways to achieve their goals.


Despite the role that media plays in helping to build free and open societies, media development programs are often fragmented and poorly funded, making up a tiny fraction of overall development spending. The estimated $625 million spent on media development each year comes from a variety of sources, however, including governments and private institutions. The funding models for media development projects vary from top-down approaches to grassroots investment.