Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type


Date of this Version

February 2002

Publication Source

The Programme in Comparative Media Law & Policy, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford


Although it has roots in earlier decades, media assistance emerged as a significant aspect of development work in the 1980s and the 1990s, particularly following the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. Media aid has evolved from relatively modest programs with minor donations of equipment and training tours for journalists to long-term, multi-faceted projects with multi-million dollar budgets.

In official policy documents describing the goals and objectives of foreign aid to developing countries or territories, the European Commission, the United States government, and other donor governments and foundations identify media freedom as crucial to building democratic, prosperous societies. These donor governments view efforts to promote democratic governance and assist media as a fundamental element of international development work, along with more established efforts to provide emergency food or material aid.

Development strategies for states or regions usually include assistance designed to promote a free flow of information and independent, free media that hold elected representatives accountable. Donor governments tend to place media assistance within broader categories of international development and often do not create separate departments focusing exclusively on media initiatives. Instead, media assistance programs usually fall under governance, civil society, democratisation, or similar departments. Media assistance programs can also be found under the umbrella of humanitarian assistance. During the conflict in former Yugoslavia, the import of newsprint was initially prohibited under the international sanctions imposed on Serbia and Montenegro. This prohibition was lifted when paper supplies were classified as humanitarian assistance.


NOTE: At the time of publication, author Monroe Price was affiliated with Yeshiva University. Currently (February, 2008), he is a faculty member of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.



Date Posted: 15 February 2008