MediaAcT will be realized in three consecutive project phases:
Project phase 1: Status quo and potential of media accountability systems in Europe
In the first step, the consortium seeks to analyze the quality of existing structures of MAS in EU member states as indicators for media pluralism via an extensive desk study, combined with explorative interviews with media professionals and media observers from selected states. Which established and innovative forms of MAS have successfully emerged in the different journalism cultures of Western and Eastern Europe, in Northern and Southern Europe? Which MAS have failed in specific journalism cultures, or have not been introduced to national media systems so far? Thus, MediaAcT starts with comparative research on established and innovative instruments of media accountability systems (e.g. media blogs) to identify status quo and potentials of media accountability systems offline and online. Research will also address the quality and potential of media accountability systems in selected states from the Arab World (European-Mediterranean partners). Moreover, the study will include benchmark projects in the United States. The data gathered will be analyzed in the context of a consortium workshop and help produce an innovative theory of media accountability systems as key indicators for media pluralism in Europe and beyond.
Project phase 2: Impact of media accountability systems in Europe
In a second step, MediaAcT will comparatively study the impact of different MAS instruments – offline and online – on key actors involved in the news-making process, using a representative survey of journalists and media managers in the participating countries. Through this large-scale empirical study, the project will provide ground-breaking empirical data on the value of different media accountability systems, after decades of normative discussions about MAS. The comparative data gathered in project phase 2 will be of utmost interest to the scientific community in the field of journalism, mass communication, and media ethics. Thus, phase 2 will culminate in a conference to present the empirical findings to the academic world. Moreover, the scientific data will be used to solve practical problems:
MediaAcT will deduct incentives for more efficient MAS in the age of media concentration and digitalization from the results of the multi-state impact study of MAS. Which established and which innovative MAS will prove most efficient instruments to foster media pluralism in different cultural settings by exerting sufficient sanctioning potential on journalists and media managers?
Research results from phase 1 and phase 2 combined will allow the consortium to develop a model MAS index for EU member states. This index will especially point decision makers in the European Commission to achievements and deficits in the field of MAS in Europe as indicators for media pluralism in EU member states, and thus help decide on its media policy.
Research results from phase 1 and phase 2 will be employed to assemble a MAS "best practice" manual for Europe, to be distributed among decision-makers in media companies and professional organizations in project phase 3. Intercultural aspects will be considered in this context as well: Can MAS be transferred from one journalistic culture to another, e.g. from Western to Eastern Europe, or do Eastern and Western journalists still follow different rationales? Such a manual may also be of high interest in terms of policy recommendation for future EU media policy towards European-Mediterranean partners.
Project phase 3: Dissemination of results to lead users
MediaAcT seeks to actively involve key stakeholders of the media (citizens, media professionals, and policy makers) in holding the news media accountable. Given the particular responsibility of media companies for the promotion of MAS in times of growing media concentration, it will be among the prime goals of this project to foster corporate social responsibility of media companies by involving media managers from Eastern and Western Europe. Therefore, the project will target its lead users with conferences and seminars as well as publications in the mass media and in trade and scientific media. To communicate its research results to key stakeholders and promote MAS, MediaAcT will
provide policy makers on the EU and national level with an MAS index for Europe as well as policy recommendations regarding incentives for MAS especially in the consolidating Eastern European member states and in the autocratic Euro-Mediterranean partner states,
disseminate the knowledge gathered about MAS among journalists by creating an online training tool to be used for the media ethics education of journalism students across Europe,
promote the idea of MAS among media managers via a "best practice" MAS handbook and a "summit" of top decision-makers in the media industry on corporate social responsibility in the media sector via MAS,
encourage citizens to actively participate in MAS online as "media bloggers" and "online media critics" by providing them with a platform, technical know-how and ethical guidelines, and involving well-known public figures in this activity to generate attention for it.