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Research Uptake and the Fourth Estate


Research Uptake and the Fourth Estate

Future Health Systems

By Shibaji Bose, FHS India Policy Influence and Research Uptake Officer

The media is famously called the fourth estate, after the executive, judiciary, and legislature.

My comprehension from the ResUp meet was that many who attended considered the media just one of the many channels that would take forward / upward / downward to the proletariat their ‘silver bullet’ research findings. That is if they choose to, in the words of the research communications professional, ‘invest in the media’.

However, from an Indian / South Asian context, there would have been no structural movements or user voices reclaiming their lost territory if they had not piggybacked on the media storm. The famous Nirbhaya case and the absolute restructuring of the female assault laws in a country with over one billion people is credited to the media. There are scores of other famous examples of the media’s contribution to change, such as the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid, or the role of media as a vehicle for propaganda during Second World War.

Like it or hate it – it is THE MEDIUM. In this age can we think of an issue that could have achieved a high-profile without the fourth estate?

Then why is there this disinclination to embrace it; to talk to it; to make appropriate strategies to engage it; to get the user populace involved? I guess we think of it as a homogeneous mongrel. But it is actually NOT. I can tell you. I was what they termed ‘in industry’ for seven years and still am.

Speaking of uptake, we in Future Health Systems India have found the media to be essential. They are an independent medium with editorial credibility – FHS involvement with media in Uganda and India reflects this. It is not about mere strategizing and utilizing media to the full. It is about developing understanding, trust and an inherent camaraderie to achieve what is good for our parents, sisters/brothers/friends and our children. It is – and I bet – an all win game.