Media Credibility Index: Methodology needs to be revised, agree participants

Journalists gather to discuss ethics, demand PEMRA’s autonomy.

Our Correspondent November 29, 2013
The six “indicators” used in the analysis are timeliness, balance, accuracy, ethics, professional competence and fairness. PHOTO: FILE


The government’s efforts to introduce direct-to-home (DTH) distribution and improve administrative affairs of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) will deliver results very soon, said Information Secretary Nazir Saeed on Friday.

The secretary’s comments came after an intense discussion by journalists on credibility and ethics at the launch of the Media Credibility Index (MCI) by Mishal Pakistan at a local hotel.

Saeed said a framework for DTH distribution systems, which allow end users to bypassable operators and receive satellite signals directly, will be presented within the next two months.

The secretary also said the government is working to introduce administrative changes in Pemra, such as an impartial board of governors.

Earlier, during his closing remarks at the launch ceremony, senior journalist M Ziauddin, founder of the Pakistan Coalition for Ethical Journalism (PCEJ), had stressed that Pemra should be made an autonomous body to ensure its independence in regulating private media.

Journalists acknowledged the importance of Mishal Pakistan’s work, but at the same time voiced their scepticism about the methodology, language and subject matter of the index.

The credibility index was prepared by the “CredibilityLab” at Mishal, a partner institute of Global Competitiveness and Benchmarking Networks, World Economic Forum — in collaboration with the PCEJ, universities and research institutions.

The final output of the index is a total score for a news anchorperson for one week prepared by a content analysis of talk shows aired on Pakistani news channels. The following six indicators are used in the analysis: timeliness, balance, accuracy, ethics, professional competence and fairness.

Amir Jahangir, chief executive officer and founder of Mishal, said the six areas were agreed upon after a research team reviewed 34 principles of journalism and codes of conduct for journalists.

Jahangir said the six areas are further sub-divided into 20 sub-indices altogether. Evaluators, mostly faculty members and students at journalism schools at 1o partner universities, assign a score (on a scale from 1-5) against each sub-index to the content they have viewed. The overall result is a score out of 100 for each anchor whose show is analysed.

Each programme is viewed by three evaluators, Jahangir told The Express Tribune, and the results are vetted by senior faculty members and Mishal research fellows, before being published weekly on Mishal’s website.

Jahangir said the MCI is an attempt to benchmark Pakistani content according to international codes of conduct and improve media content.

But some journalists in the audience took offence at what they felt was a vague use of subjective terms such as credibility, competence and balance.

They also tried to bring attention to ideological, agenda-pushing elements that manifest in some talk shows and raised concerns that some of those elements might not be reflected in the index at all.

During a panel discussion, Ejaz Haider, an analyst, said whenever qualitative content is rendered into quantitative values, there is always some limitation on the measurements because of the vagueness of the qualitative language on which the quantitative measures are based.

However, Haider and other panellists appreciated the MCI as a stepping stone in gathering data about media content and said it could be further refined.

Addressing participants through video link, founder and director of the Ethical Journalism Network, Aidan White, said MCI can help Pakistanis  judge for themselves how well they are performing the job they have professed to do.

White said ethics and accountability need to be made central to media responsibility.

Ziauddin, during the closing remarks, said such efforts should continued so “we can come to some agreed framework to assess our own credibility.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2013.


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