2016: Volume 9, Issue 1, pp. 5-21

Understanding the Donor-Driven Practice of Development Communication: 
From Media Engagement to a Politics of Mediation

Florencia Enghel



It is a paradox of communication and media studies that while media are widely seen as key institutions in the “project of time, space and life management” (Silverstone, 2005), not enough attention is given to the ways in which mediation is socially produced and becomes politically effective. Although rarely taken into account as an analytical variable in studies of international development communication, mediation is implicit in donor-driven practice. In the act of framing a problem and favouring a solution, and of communicating about a problem and solution in particular ways, donors seek to mediate their complex relationships with recipient countries and with citizens at both ends of the donor-recipient equation. But which forms of media engagement do they propose to these ends? How is mediated communication aimed at doing good for the citizens of recipient countries? How is it used to communicate do-gooding to the citizens of donor countries? Which media technologies are foregrounded and which media-driven practices are favoured to promote one and the other? Which perceptions of media engagement influence donors’ strategic choices, and how are citizens understood in those choices? Based on a qualitative study of a large-scale mediated communication intervention mandated by the British Foreign Commonwealth Office and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote reconciliation and democratize media systems in the successor states to the former Yugoslavia in 2005 (Enghel, 2014), this paper examines forms of media engagement at work in donor-driven international development communication and considers their uses as components of a politics of mediation.


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