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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is MOM?

The “Media Ownership Monitor” (MOM) has been developed as a mapping tool in order to create a publicly available, continuously updated database that lists owners of all relevant mass media outlets - press, radio, television and online media.

MOM aims to shed light on the risks to media pluralism caused by media ownership concentration (for more information: Methodology. In order to grasp the national characteristics and detect risk-enhancing or risk-reducing factors for media concentration, MOM also qualitatively assesses the market conditions and legal environment.

2. Who is behind MOM?

MOM has been proposed and launched by Reporter ohne Grenzen e. V. – the German section of the international human rights organization Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), that aims to defend freedom of the press and the right to inform and be informed anywhere in the world.

In each country, RSF cooperates with a local partner organization. In Sri Lanka, RSF worked with Verité Research. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ).

3. Where can I download this report?

The website affords a PDF download containing all website content. The PDF is automatically generated and thus updated on a daily base. It exists for all website languages. In order to generate the PDF, scroll down to the website footer, choose your preferred language and “Download complete website as PDF”.

4. Why is transparency of media ownership important?

Media pluralism is a key aspect of democratic societies as free, independent, and diverse media reflect divergent viewpoints and allow criticism of people in power. Risks to diversity of ideas are caused by media market concentration, when only a few players exert dominant influence on public opinion and raise entrance barriers for other players and perspectives (media ownership concentration). The biggest obstacle to fight it is lack of transparency of media ownership: How can people evaluate the reliability of information, if they don´t know who provides it? How can journalists work properly, if they don´t know who controls the company they work for? And how can media authorities address excessive media concentration, if they don´t know who is behind the media´s steering wheel?

MOM thus aims to create transparency and to answer the question “who eventually controls media content?” in order to raise public awareness, to create a fact base for advocacy to hold political and economic players accountable for the existing conditions.

As we consider ownership transparency as a crucial precondition to enforce media pluralism, we document the openness of media companies/outlets to provide information on their ownership structure. Considering their answers, we distinguish different levels of transparency – which is indicated for each media outlet and media company on their profile.

Media owner’s motivation to remain hidden or even actively disguise their investments can vary from legitimate to illegal and be rooted in personal, legal or business-related reasons – or a mix thereof, in extreme cases even including criminal offenses like tax evasion or breaches of anti-trust laws.

Some of those reasons include the following:

  • In several countries, media ownership is restricted by law in order to avoid concentration. So, if one individual wants to extend his or her media empire beyond these limits, proxy owners and/or shell companies registered abroad, even off-shore, are frequently being used.
  • Sometimes, media owners receive personal threats or face other dangers either originating from governments or competing businesses and therefore decide to remain unknown to protect themselves.
  • In many cases, media ownership is intertwined with undue political and / or economic interests, even more so if individuals involved hold public office and do not want to disclose such a conflict of interests.
  • In rare cases, the disguise of media ownership happens unintentionally because over time and through mergers and acquisitions, corporate structures become so complex that the original beneficial owner is difficult to identify.
  • Last but not least, there are ‘normal’ – i. e. non-media-related reasons for owners to hide, such as tax avoidance.

5. What kind of concentration regulation does MOM suggest?

MOM doesn’t make normative statements – it does not suggest how to regulate media ownership. Which form of media concentration regulation can work, depends on the country context, the existing legal and market conditions and the ownership landscape.

MOM provides a transparency tool to enforce a democratic discussion on that issue as well as good governance: decisions are likely to be of higher quality and able to better reflect the needs and wishes of the people if they have access to adequate information and broad consultations, with views and opinions freely shared. 

6. How is data collected and validated?

Preferably, official data sources, and / or sources with a high level of reliability and trust are used. Whenever not publicly available, information was directly requested of media companies, political representatives and research institutes. All sources are thoroughly documented and archived. Further information is available upon request at Verité Research.

Audience data was purchased from the Kantar Lanka Market Research Bureau (TV, Radio, Print) for 2017.

Information on ownership structures and shareholders of media companies and related individual owners were obtained from the Department of Registrar of Companies. The Registrar’s database is only accessible in person at their premises for a consultation fee of LKR 1150 (USD 6.71). Only a blank sheet of paper and a pencil were allowed to be used for taking down notes on the files which were mainly in English language. Certified copies of Annual Returns of these companies revealing information on shareholder structures and board of directors were purchased from the Department of Registrar and archived in MOM Library.

MOM also sent information requests to all investigated media companies by registered mail and email in July / August 2018. 

In order to guarantee and verify the objective evaluation, MOM worked with an advisory group that commented and consulted throughout the research process. It was composed of national specialists with a substantial knowledge and experience in the media and communications fields. 

7. How is “most relevant media” defined?

The main question is: which media outlets influence the opinion-forming process? In order to scan all relevant media, we included all media types (Print, Radio, TV, Online).

The media were selected according to the following criteria:

  • MOM focused mostly on media with the highest reach, measured by audience share. Basis for selection was audience research data for the most recent period available provided by the Kantar LMRB (Print, Radio, TV for 2017).
  • The news worthiness and opinion content. The study focuses on general information with a national focus. As such, media with specific thematic focus (music, sport), social networks, search engines and advertisement were excluded.
  • The selection based on these criteria initially consisted of plus/minus eleven media outlets per media type (TV, print, radio, online). Shedding light on these most relevant media outlets already allows revealing tendencies in media concentration. More media outlets were and will be added – if they prove to be relevant in terms of their owner or of their influence on public opinion (read more - “How are media outlets selected?”).

8. How are the media outlets selected?

TV stations were selected according to their audience share nationwide, based on Kantar LMRB data for 2017. Kantar LMRB uses Peoplemeter system (PMS) in rural and urban Sri Lanka and captures both analogue terrestrial and digital signals in cable and satellite broadcasts. Kantar LMRB Peoplemeter (RapidMeterTM) is a new development by Kantar Media Audiences in UK. Kantar LMRB PMS consists of a representative sample of approximately 2,350 individuals aged 4 years & over from 650 metered homes across the Island.

12 Television outlets were selected based on audience share and informative content production. 2 outlets were selected regardless of audience share, Dan TV and TV 1, because these were considered important: DanTV – because it is viewed primarily in the North, TV 1 – because it is a news-only channel which tends to be lower in share but important in content they provide since it broadcasts programmes such as Face the Nation based on current events/issues and news which are telecast in English.

The audience data for Print sector was purchased also from Kantar LMRB. Kantar LMRB’s National Demographic and Media Survey (NDMS) for 2017 uses Computer Aided Personal Interviews (CAPI) provide the Average Issue Readership (AIR) for about 110 publications. AIR is the number of people who have read or looked at an average issue of a publication. The definition is based on those who say they have last read a publication within its publication interval (for dailies – read yesterday, for weeklies – read in the last 7 days). The size of the sample is 12,000 and includes the entire island. The universe is comprised of both adults, aged 15 and above, and children, aged between 6 and 14 years. Fieldworks were conducted between September and December 2017.

Kantar LMRB uses Radio Audience Points (RAP) to measure radio listenership (percentage of hours listened to a station based on total hours listened to all stations) in Sri Lanka. RAP is based on the listenership habits of individuals aged 10 years and above, from radio owning households in Sri Lanka, who record their actual time of listenership of radio programs in a diary.The current Radio Audience Points (RAP) system comprises a representative panel of approximately 3,300 individuals.

11 Radio stations were selected based on availability of informative content relevant to socio-political and economic issues and audience share from the Sinhala, Tamil and English medium outlets. The number of outlets also represents the linguistic markets. Our sample is based on the Kantar LMRB data for January to November 2017 showing linguistic preferences in the market: 79% of Sinhala listenership, 19% Tamil listenership and 2% English listenership. Therefore, our sample has 7 Sinhala radio stations, 3 Tamil radio stations and 1 English Radio station. 

12 Print outlets were selected which cover national and regional, daily and weekly print media publications with relevant informative content. The print market in Sri Lanka is divided into three linguistic markets: Sinhala (79%), Tamil (14%), and English (7%). Our sample of print media includes publications in all three languages based on reach: 6 outlets in Sinhala, 4 in Tamil and 2 in English. Most publications have daily and Sunday editions – the latter are the most read (46,3%), whereas dailies are read by 8.9% of readers. 

The greatest challenge for MOM was the selection of internet media. There is no market nor audience data on online media in Sri Lanka. In addition, there is ambiguity with regards to defining online media, or even equating it to social media, as they seem to be more prominent than anything else in Sri Lanka. The research agencies currently operating in Sri Lanka don’t have data on online audience, only information on social media use. Most of the newspapers, radio and television broadcasters have presence in Facebook, but there is also a multitude of platforms and pages which have presence only on Facebook and no independent website to refer to.

Through various consultations with journalists and experts we have established that gossip websites are the most read media online. However, we face a dilemma in identifying them as news media because of the kind of information they provide and the quality of their reporting falling short of journalistic standards. Since MOM looks into media outlets that have potential influence on opinion formation excluding the gossip websites might mean excluding a medium that is very popular and possibly does influence people’s opinion on political, economic and social developments in their country.

Based on several listings of most important online news websites in Sri Lanka, we have selected the sample of online media outlets. The existing rankings do not have clear methodology, that’s why we decided not to base our selection only on one source. Our preselected online media are based on sources such as: Social bakers, allyoucanread, Feedspot and Alexa. Social bakers looks at the most popular online news website’s by their Facebook followership. Bestweb.lk is a competition hosted by the Sri Lanka Domain Registry. Allyoucanread.com lists top 30 newspapers and online news websites but does not provide any information about their methodology. MOM team sent an email to Allyoucanread.com requesting such information but there was no reply. Feedspot looks at presence of online media in social platforms such as Facebook and twitter and google reputation and google search ranking, quality and consistency of posts and expert views of the Feedspot editorial team. Alexa’s free ranking includes top 50 most popular websites regardless of content type.  Our sample of online media includes 11 media outlets among which one most popular gossip website called Gossiplankanews.com.

9. Why Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka ranks 131 (out of 180 countries) in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders, which positions nations according to indicators such as media independence, self-censorship, rule of law, transparency, and abuses. The media landscape in Sri Lanka is transitioning after a nearly thirty year armed conflict. The current government has conveyed it's recognition of media freedom and greater public access to information.

Lastly, a strong local partner organisation, such as Verité Research, is one of RSF’s most relevant selection criteria as it presents the basis for a successful implementation. 

10. Does the MOM only exist for Sri Lanka?

MOM was developed as a generic methodology that can be universally applied – and potentially will be. Notwithstanding that media concentration trends are observable worldwide; implementation and analysis will first take place in developing countries. MOM has been implemented in around 20 countries over the course of three years. All country projects can be found on the global website.

11. What are the main limitations of the study?

  • No economic data: Market concentration based on market share could not be calculated for any of the media sectors since financial statements were not always available or were outlet specific, i.e. had general revenues from other businesses.
  • Official audience measurement data is not publicly available; it is being sold by research companies, and the data provided is contested by some media owners and experts.
  • Some investigations, particularly into the diverse local markets as well as into more hidden ownership structures would require more time and resources.
  • Public spending / advertising for media is not transparent. It is impossible to identify public funds spent on media, because this information is not made available to public or not always clearly labelled as advertising.

12. Who do we target?

The data base

  • allows each citizen to get informed on the media system in general;
  • creates a fact base for civil society’s advocacy efforts to further promote public consciousness on media ownership and concentration;
  • serves as a point of reference for consulting competition authorities or governmental bodies when establishing suitable regulatory measures to safeguard media pluralism.

13. What happens next?

The database is a snapshot of the current situation, contextualized by historical facts. It will be updated regularly by Verité Research.

14. Are there similar projects?

The Media Ownership Monitor is mainly inspired by two similar projects. Especially the indicators for a later ranking rely heavily on the EU-funded Media Pluralism Monitor of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI, Florence). Moreover, Media Pedia, an ownership database developed by investigative journalists in Macedonia served as inspiration for the Media Ownership Monitor. An overview over other similar projects can be found in the table below. 

ORGANIZATION

DESCRIPTION

Acess Info 

A Spanish NGO that works in the field of media ownership transparency in several European countries.

Article 19

An NGO which works in the field of press freedom. It implements media concentration projects.

Deutsche Welle

The Media Freedom Navigator of Deutsche Welle provides an overview of different media freedom indices.

European Audiovisual Observatory

A database of television and audiovisual services in Europe.

European Journalism Center

 

The Website provides a summary and analysis of the state of the media in Europe and neighbouring countries.

 

European University Institute in Florence

The Media Pluralism Monitor assesses risks for media pluralism in the EU Member States.

IFEX

The network provides information of the state of the media in many countries.

IREX

The Media Sustainability Index (MSI) provides analyses of the conditions for independent media in 80 countries.

Media Pedia

A project that is monitoring the media ownership in Macedonia.

mediaUk

The Website provides information about media ownership in Great Britain.

Pew Research Center

The organisation publishes an interactive database about media in the United States.

SEENPM

Monitors media ownership and the impact on media pluralism in southeastern Europe and EU member states.

The Columbia Institute for Tele-Information at Columbia Business School

A research that works with authors from 30 countries in the world about media concentration using a common methodology.

The Institute for Media and Communication Policy

A database of international corporations of the world´s biggest media.

UNESCO

Media Development Indicators - A framework for assessing media development.

  • Project by
    Verité Research
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    Reporters without borders
  • Funded by
    BMZ