Following the appearance last fall of his book Media Ownership and Concentration in America, professor Eli Noam from the New York-based Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI) launched this year a massive research project on media ownership worldwide. Noam put together a team of researchers from 20 or so countries to produce a comparative study, and I hope it will be useful in improving media policy.
Most of these researchers gathered at Columbia University recently to discuss their preliminary findings, the project’s methodology, and the use of this research for policy aims. The study is mapping ownership in a wide array of markets, including broadcasting, print media, ISPs, wireless and wireline telecoms, search engines, music and book publishing industries.
It uses academically established indexes such as the C4 ratio and the HHI to assess the level of concentration in an industry for a given year. On top of that, an index worked out by Noam is used by the project’s researchers to detect the level of concentration in the media as a whole.
Many researchers stressed that they needed to take a step further and analyze the link between concentration and bias in the media. Such a study would be a ground-breaker.
I expect an impressive amount of data and solid economic assessments to come out of this. But I also hope that we can use this study practically. Many civil society organizations and think-tanks have been craving for years solid comparative research on ownership concentration in the media to be able to advocate in an informed matter for more transparent, independent and open media systems. CITI’s initiative could meet this need.