The project is related to publishing of data on project-based co-financing of media in Serbia from 2015 to 2022. This project has been active for 3 years. Its aim is to provide the data on media financing in Serbia since 2015, and shows complete transparency and reproducibility from the data available, methodology explanations, code and analysis. This project also promotes cooperation related to open data in the media field. The web application has been launched in January 2021, and updated in May 2022, and January 2023.Our submission is related to work and publication done in January 2022.
Researchers, journalists , universities in Serbia are using the data from this application. We believe that this also sparked several organizations such as BIRN to develop their own open databases and finally the data from this web application has also been used by the government to fulfill the measure from the Media Strategy Action Plan thus assisting institutions in building better transparency of media financing process.
The web application has been developed in R programming language with support of predominantly Shiny package. We provided the code for both web application and online analysis that uses same data on github. We also used google sheets to upload the decisions in pdf format so that journalists and researchers can download them and use them for their own analyses. The data is provided in both excel and csv format. The goal was to show complete transparency and reproducibility with both the data and the analysis in order to initiate future collaboration with other journalists, media organizations or faculties that teach journalism.
Context about the project:
Our goal is to support and assist with our recommendations the important task
of the authorities in the process of European integration – to develop and make accessible and functional the data they “produce”. The goal is also to provide researchers, media outlets and other stakeholders with access to systematized data and their functional use. The most challenging thing was to gather and verify the data and also the fact that this web aplication only shows trends. A more in-depth evaluation of projects that were financed throughout this process is needed in order to really show whether public interest was fulfilled or not. And this is actually the challenge because sometimes institutions are not willing to provide these projects according to which the media received funding to be evaluated. And finally, sustainability of the project is another challenge as this project needs to receive funding every year in order for data to be regularly updated. For the time being the donors recognize the value of this project and we hope it will continue in the future as well. More information about the project can be found at the following link for the publication that was published in May 2022 that refers to data until December 2021:https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/a/4/476872_1.pdf
What can other journalists learn from this project?
That using digital tools can be very helpful and that transparency and openess of not only data but of entire work can improve the web application we created on one side and initiate collaboration and ideas for the future on the other. We also wanted to show them that one organization can make the effort of submitting Free Access to Information Requests and receive answers and then make them available to others so they don’t need to go through entire process again and again. One place can be used as a knowledge hub for a specific topic. Considering that Centre for Sustainable Communities keeps being asked for help from journalists on various topics related to open data, using of various digital tools, developing methodologies for building similar databases for several years now, it appears that this knowledge hub does provide impact in the area of transparency and openess in media sector in Serbia and we are more than happy to help.