Suggestions for improving the support

Support should be predictable and flexible

Participants agreed that in order to help media navigate through difficult time assistance programmes should be:

  • institutional,

  • long-term,

  • and flexible

It would enable them to cover for the core expenses and invest additional time and efforts in the development.

“During the previous 20 years, donors leaving on several occasions made us aware that we need to be self-reliant and we had to learn to make revenue. However we have not been able to become fully sustainable. Donor support comes and goes, comes and goes, there is no continuity and that is a major problem.” -Local media representative

Administrative limitations

At the moment there are numerous administrative limitations to this approach - when local offices receive funds to distribute they have many binding conditions:

  • length of funding cycles,

  • grant schemes,

  • fiscal year and others.

Additionally, some donors still see institutional core support for media outlets as intervention on the market, while media representatives feel that donors are reluctant to support content production because it may be politically sensitive.

“There is a difference in perspectives…what media here needs is the financial support to sustain their operations, while it is very difficult on the other hand to explain it to Parliaments of countries from which money is coming; they see it as that the international assistance is used (to) interfere (in) the market. No matter (if) that market is as problematic as ours, local media are in crisis everywhere.” - Donor representative.

Expectations should be realistic and benefit the media

At the moment, many assistance programmes are focused on business development with the idea that this will enable media outlets to generate revenue and become sustainable.

The majority of participants felt that this expectation is not realistic due to the fact that the market is broken, and that this approach benefits donor strategies more than the authentic needs of the media outlets.

“Sometimes, as donors or implementers, we impose too much on a media and they don't all have the capacity to cope. They answer the call, they want it, they think they can and suddenly, it is clear that they can't do something. You need to be flexible here, you can't make that one call and now everyone needs to do the same… sometimes I really feel uncomfortable, but we also have to fulfil our projects, what has been written to us.” - Representative of the international media development organisation/implementer.

While it can be beneficial for a very limited number of media outlets that are sufficiently staffed and developed, for all the others this type of assistance is having negative consequences.

For example, in understaffed media outlets, journalists become managers, and their focus is taken away from content production, which is their primary function.

Participants also mentioned developing several services at donors’ initiative that are not profitable and have become a burden for media organisations, such as podcasts, online shops, and crowdfunding platforms.

“We cannot develop with the same number of people, with the same capacities, because we burden those people. And then, in the end, even if we stretch and make a new product we don't know what to do with it anymore because it cannot be sustained, monetized.” Local media representative.

“Projects that supported business development required us to invest heavily in terms of organising new sectors, hiring new people, doing a different kind of administration, management in newsrooms, and then we have some external factors, and although these people, these sectors give good results and do their job, in the end we cannot earn enough to keep it going.” - Local media representative.

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