How can civil society organisations working in conflict prevention and peacebuilding improve their interactions with the media? Why and when should they use the media? This paper from the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict argues that different types of media can bring about different types of change. Information programming can encourage cognitive change by increasing knowledge and framing public discussion. Entertainment programming and advertising encourage attitudinal change. The media rarely directly affects behaviour, but it influences attitudes and opinions that shape behaviour. Behavioural change happens through the cumulative impact of the media and other social institutions; an integrated strategy is important.
The media can play positive roles in conflict prevention and peacebuilding – as information provider, watchdog, diplomat, and bridge builder. It can help change attitudes and behaviours away from violence and toward peace, and from polarisation to positive relationships. Conflict prevention and peacebuilding practitioners need to identify their specific goals and target audiences, and use the media to ‘sell’ new ideas and behaviours.
Key approaches to bringing about social change are: engaging large numbers of people; engaging opinion leaders; changing individuals’ attitudes, and changing socio-political structures. A combination of these is most effective, but the media has a vital role to play in reaching large numbers of people.
- Social marketing is never aimed at the ‘general public.’ A sophisticated and strategic use of the media will focus on particular target and segment audiences.
- Helping to change people’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours requires in-depth knowledge about the conditions that enable people to make changes.
- Types of entertainment programming and advertising that can promote peace through attitudinal change include: billboards, posters, leaflets; audio, video and print advertisements; and radio drama or soap-operas.
- Media audiences are primarily affected by powerful stories that engage the emotions, told in first-person narratives by people directly involved. Simple stories work the best.
- Behavioral change is most likely to be achieved through congruence between the repetition of a peace message via different media channels and an environment which creates space for people to thoughtfully consider change.
- Peacebuilding professionals need to know when, why, and how to use the media to ensure strategic impact in lessoning polarisation between groups.
- Media professionals need to learn about why and when their work can contribute to preventing conflict and building peace.
The media’s role in contributing to large scale cognitive, attitudinal and behavioural change must be recognised as an integral and important segment of peace development. Cumulative impact and the organisation of media is important.
- The media’s contribution to peacebuilding should be considered during peace negotiations. Unfortunately, no recent peace agreements (Dayton Peace Agreement, Oslo Peace Agreement, Good Friday Peace Agreement) mention the media as a possible contributor to peacebuilding.
- Cooperation between agencies, donors, civil society, peacebuilding organisations and media practitioners is essential. Using media in peacebuilding is new, and meetings, seminars and work groups are needed for sharing models and best practice.
- Peace messages should be incorporated into the majority of media, not just isolated projects, and supported by wider public structures and social institutions.