Data for Democracy TV

What Is Data For Democracy (DfD) And What Are Its Principal Benefits?

 

In transforming countries people have little idea of the real opinions of most of their fellow citizens. Relevant polling shows that often they can agree on more things than they think: a populace as a whole, regardless of ethnicity or religion, tends to be more flexible, tolerant and willing to compromise than their political leadership. Giving the existing consensus in many areas force, can help reduce conflict, misinformation and myth Where political classes are failing their people by injecting divisive rhetoric and misrepresentations into public debates the ‘silent majority’ needs a voice

 

In volatile or divided societies, scientific polling and TV broadcasting can help the 'silent majority' to get its voice heard. A powerful tool for disintermediation: taking information from power brokers and placing it directly in the hand of the people

 

By enfranchising ordinary people, DfD follows a bottom-up approach: it inverts current public diplomacy practice by using a mass audience to influence elites. Elites are likely to closely monitor DfD for a good take on the themes that are critically important to the population

 

James Surowiecki said in his 2004 book on the WISDOM OF CROWDS, "Under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them". DfD taps into the wisdom of crowds. Following the principles of scientific research, DfD gathers collective wisdom (in data format) from an entire nation and presents the unedited results in national print and on inter/national TV. The intended outcome is the launch of a nation-wide discussion about what people really want for their country. DfD thus strives to stimulate public debate reengaging (perhaps engaging) people in the political life of their country

 

DfD culminates in a 90-minute live TV show to get the data to the population in a widely distributed, easy-to-understand format: a format that bypasses the filter of media and political middlemen.  In this flagship programme, some 15-30 randomly selected participants from among the survey respondents will hold a moderated discussion of the results they collectively provided.  Apart from the moderator, a data presenter and a technical expert (who would answer questions about the reliability of the data), these discussants would be the only live participants

 

Most developed democracies have data shows (e.g. ABC News, ZDF Politbarometer, BBC2 Newsnight Special, NHK, etc.). In many transition democracies data shows are unknown, while their benefits for deliberation and civic engagement are virtually undisputed. This provides a gap in the market, ready to be filled by an attractive format

 

This programme is replicable in any country with a generally free press. The principle is to develop a portable democracy-building instrument which can be used in conflictive places where fact-fighting-fiction may help bring back people from disengagement. It is hard to think of a more effective and sustainable way to reach out to people and give them an opportunity to participate in decision-making

 

In 2004 Oxford Research International partnered with Alhurra TV in Springfield, Virginia USA to produce a similar but less-refined prototype data show for Iraq. The institute further supported a similar show featuring the first national survey in Libya in February 2012

 
How it Works

DfD requires a national survey which generates around 2,000 – 4,000 interviews with voters chosen by a multi-stage random probability sampling design. Irrespective of age, gender, religion, ethnicity or opinion, all eligible adults have a relatively equal chance of being invited to respond to the survey: nobody is systematically excluded

 

Oxford Research International will verify the data and assemble the analysis for publication and discussion. Broadcasters will handle technical production and present the programme for local and international (re-)broadcast

 

This programme aims for the broadest possible audience: adults of both sexes even minimally concerned about the future of the country. A live TV programme in which a small number of randomly-selected poll respondents (the studio panel) discuss the results they collectively provided. They have the last word on the interpretation of the data. A moderator of unquestioned impartiality is complemented with a ‘data-man’, the presenter who goes through the graphics of results.  Out of concern that in live studio appearances they may attempt to seize the show rhetorically, political figures might be brought in, in short excerpts of pre-recorded interviews

 

A staggered release is most effective: a group of respectable newspapers publish the data, without editorial elaboration, in a 2-4-page centrefold and advertise the TV show prime-time that evening. Young people are likely to watch this too. It is mission-critical that embargoes are strictly observed: that the print media running the poll results before the broadcast agree not editorialise or interpret the data beforehand

 

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