Concern over the impact of media decline in deeply divided societies


Traditional journalism has been in decline for years, with major implications for the media’s role in holding political power to account.

But now fresh concerns have been raised over the impact the trend is having on societies that already face deep divisions or conflict.

The Political Settlements Research Programme played a partnership role in an international media conference on the issue, held in Northern Ireland in November 2019. The event was hosted by Social Change Initiative and partnered by Conciliation Resources.

The importance of supporting independent journalism was highlighted at the conference, but it also revealed the impact that a weakened news industry is having in deeply divided societies. PSRP’s Prof Christine Bell and Tim Epple presented new research at the conference on the role of the media in international peace accords, including in Northern Ireland.

News outlets around the world were already under financial pressure due to the loss of advertising revenue to online giants such as Facebook and Google. The Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the crisis.

Social Change Initiative has now produced a package of material drawn from the conference which aims to respond to the crisis in the media, its impact on deeply divided societies, while also featuring media experts discussing how best to chart a way forward.

The special report produced by Social Change Initiative includes an examination of the impact of media decline in Northern Ireland since the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast agreement ended decades of violence.

See the conference article and videos here.

The Media in Deeply Divided Societies from The Social Change Initiative on Vimeo.