CSR Analytics

How should media cover social responsibility?

The media have an enormous influence on the public conscience; they are forming our world perception and encourage us to make decisions.

We can find a lot of examples when huge companies turned bankrupt only on the reason that media published information about their activity. During the financial crisis American enterprises addressed mass media a request not to force the situation because the negative information could be the reason why financial and insurance markets could not normalize their work. Understanding the importance of the effective collaboration of mass media and business, especially in relations of the new tendencies, the Center organized a seminar: «Social responsibility: new topic for business mass media. Anna Peaters (CSR-coordinator, Bertelsmann Foundation, Fund of one of the largest media-groups of Germany), Pavlo Moiseyev, Interview (TBC), Bart Slob (international expert, Netherlands) and Lenka Surotchak (director of Pontis Foundation, Slovakia) participated in the discussion.

The discussion participants drew their attention to two aspects:

  1. Social responsibility of media-companies.
  2. Role of media-companies in promotion and coverage of CSR (the technologies, the mediacompanies may use to allocate targets of the CSR issues, methods of coverage of these positions).

There is a very interesting situation in the world today: on the one side the mass media have an enormous influence on people, and their conscience, but on the other side – mass media are the institution being less trusted to and having no social weight. The financial crisis was called a crisis of confidence and mass media were included into the list of the institutions being lest trusted to. Nowadays, the leading mediacorporations are trying to get back the reputation and respect once lost. That is why the integration of CSR into the activity of media-companies is of the last importance. Low level of transparency and accountability was among the other negative factors favoring the prestige loss. These are the unique problems of the body which is an information provider and public opinion creator. In this context the main accent is made on the management, and exactly on the provision of the balance between social interests and commercial benefits. And as to the problem of transparency, the mass media should bring into the open the information about their lobbystic activity. The society wants to know who the owner of the business is and who forms the information policy of the whole countries. There are large corporation in the world owning a number of mass media around the world and have powerful leverages influencing the public. In Ukraine the mass media are also divided on the ground of their political affiliation. Pavlo Moiseyev paid his attention to the problem of corruption of mass-media in Ukraine. The primary earnings of TV are, for example, from advertising. But there are limits of advertising on TV, so there appears another source of earnings – specially-ordered material. Very often such information can be heard in the news. It means that media-companies are corrupted and accept bribes from business and government. Under such conditions it is impossible to speak about respect and trust. If mass media want to get back respect of the public they must become transparent and demonstrate strong editorial policy, ethic code of the journalists and editors and prove the nonexistence of corruption etc. Having objective to become successful as every businessstructure does, mass media should become a corporate citizen. If to speak about promotion of the corporate social responsibility by mass media, then the task of mass media is to inform, and their main power – is an intellectual power. That is the media cannot save the environment abut they can favor this process through large-scale provision of information, through working out of the need and motivation.

In the situation with CSR the media can do a lot to make more companies, governmental institutions and public organizations adhere to the principles of social responsibility. But from the point of view of importance and public reaction, CSR is not interesting for mass media and such materials are not placed on the front pages. This problem was originally solved in the USA and European Union countries. The public organizations initiated lobbying of the CSR issues and factually influence the mass media, making them pay more attention to such problems.

In the course of the discussion Anna Peaters noted that German mass media also do not accumulate their attention of CSR problems. There are 10 daily newspapers which sometimes publish information about social responsibility but more often such materials appears in various additions and inserts. Besides, negative examples of the functioning of the companies prevail (bankruptcy, employees layoff), especially in the context of the financial crisis. Of course the companies want mass media to publish more positive information, and examples of effective CSRstrategies.

Lenka Surotchak told about experience of Slovak mass media in CSR promotion. Some newspapers, for example began to place on their pages special columns dedicated to the social responsibility. The journalists analyzed CSR; wrote about corruption, state purchase contracts, collaboration with suppliers, communicated with top-managers on the issues of ethics. They described the programs of the companies designed for the protection of consumers’ rights, opportunities for continuing education etc. So the readers have an opportunity for the formation of the independent opinion while assessing how much the company is socially responsible. One more barrier on the way to effective coverage of CSRactivity is a low level of understanding by the journalists of the social responsibility concept. Today, charity activity of the company is often confused with its CSR. That is why the necessity of the creation of the CSR notions glossary arose. The glossary was specially meant for mass media. It is necessary to note that high-quality one shots containing detailed explanations have already been published in different countries. But while their usage there may appear the problem of understanding of the terms. Every country has its own policy of definition of the terms (especially of the new notions). In Slovakia, for example, the term «Corporate social responsibility » was translated as «responsible entrepreneurship». Thus it is useful to use different sources but under such conditions it is advisable to develop own glossary serving a uniform source of information for the journalists. The Centre is planning to develop such as glossary in the nearest future.  There were also the proposals on the necessity of the holding of the educational seminars and among the students too as well as the proposals on the possibility to invite the journalists from abroad who are the professional in CSR coverage. According to Lenka Surotchak in Slovakia there is a tradition to invite journalists from BBC to teach master-classes. Another major barrier is absence of the transparent criteria differentiating advertisement or PR-article from the information about socially-responsible activity of the company. The home companies do not provide the journalists with qualitative and full information. It often happens that the information about common tree planting or charity is interpreted to the journalists as the socially-responsible activity of the company to be written about. The journalists have no impetus to get to heart of the notion and principles of CSR. Insufficiency of the qualitative and detailed information about CSR-policy serving an example and basis for further work of journalists is another fact intensifying the problem. Maryna Saprykina, head of the Centre «CSR development» presented her book «Best practices of CSR in Ukraine» which may be considered as one of the ways of the problem solving. The book included 43 businesscases of the Ukrainian companies. The book may be of use by the journalists in the preparation of the materials. The book contains specific examples helping to structure the information about social responsibility. Summarizing the results of the meeting it is possible to state that the problem of effective collaboration of business and mass media in the process of CSR coverage really exists. But what is more important is that the Ukrainian consumers have no generated need for such information. The community in Europe or in the USA first of all pays attention to the reputation of the company, its sociallyresponsible practices and demands such information distribution. The Ukrainian society, at the same time, is not very much interested in CSR-policy of the home companies. But this is a matter of time and development of the society. We hope that in several years’ time our society and mass media will become a barometer of the quality of sustainable development of the companies.

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