In an era where information flows freely and the media wields substantial influence in shaping public discourse, the demand for a mechanism that efficiently and effectively resolves disputes within the media sector is paramount.
Such a system not only upholds the principles of a free, independent and professional media but also lays the foundation for socio-economic progress.
The success of any mediation process is not a matter of chance but the outcome of a meticulously planned strategy that guides the efforts.
These fundamental principles include preparedness, consent, impartiality, inclusivity, party ownership, a robust legal framework, coherence, coordination, complementarity and cost considerations.
Preparedness serves as the foundation of any credible mediation effort. It necessitates that mediators possess the requisite knowledge and skills for the task at hand. Consent is another pivotal element of mediation.
It’s a voluntary process that hinges on the agreement of all parties involved. Without consent, it's improbable that parties will negotiate in good faith or remain committed to the process.
Impartiality is the linchpin of any mediation process. Any hint of bias can erode progress. Hence, a mediator must oversee a balanced process that treats all parties fairly and refrains from having a vested interest in the outcome.
Inclusivity ensures that the needs of all parties are integrated into the process. An inclusive process is better positioned to pinpoint and address the root causes of the complaint and thoroughly attend to the needs of the affected parties.
Party ownership signifies that both parties and their wider organisational leadership commit to the mediation process, the agreements reached and their implementation.
This commitment shields the organisation from reputational harm in cases where complaints aren’t addressed effectively.
Coherence, coordination and complementarity in mediation efforts are crucial, particularly considering the growing number and variety of complaints within the media sector. Coherence involves agreed and coordinated approaches, while complementarity underscores the necessity of a clear division of labour based on comparative advantages among mediation actors operating at different levels.
The Complaints Commission has been at the forefront in promoting mediation as a means to address complaints from media consumers in a swift and cost-effective manner, resulting in the publication of formal apologies, corrections and clarifications.
The success of the Commission in employing mediation to resolve media complaints is a testament to a well-rounded approach that encompasses the essential principles of preparedness, consent, impartiality, inclusivity, and parties’ ownership.
A solid legal framework, coherence, coordination, complementarity and cost considerations provide a practical roadmap for achieving effective mediation and dispute resolution.
Moreover, they underscore the significance of a supportive external environment for the mediation process and emphasise the need for collaboration among entities involved in mediation.
Mr Oketch is the immediate former Chairperson of the Complaints Commission. email@example.com