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In only 2 decades, changes in the political, technological, social, and business environment have compromised sustainability and, thus, the independence of journalism and news media globally. With the COVID-19 pandemic amplifying the crisis, the coming years will be decisive for the future of journalism.
One of the main pillars of financial stability for many newsrooms—advertising revenue—is fast disappearing. Audiences are increasingly accessing news through their phones and mobile devices. Quality news and journalism is disadvantaged by the incentives and economies-of-scale model that digital platforms are pursuing.
While still an essential part of the revenue mix, digital circulation revenue will not address the gap left by the advertising decline. Existing subsidies and support mechanisms are considered insufficient to address market failure and the lack of local reporting and to preserve journalism as a public good. These trends are the most pronounced in less developed parts of the world and resource-poor settings. At present, there are no firmly established market mechanisms that transform the social value of professional, accountability journalism into an equivalent monetary return for news media. Without new public funding, regulation of digital markets, and international support systems for non-profit media, independent professional journalism is in danger of becoming an expensive luxury rather than a universal public good.
In the lead-up to the second Global Conference for Media Freedom, Canada commissioned a set of independent policy papers on media freedom. The aim of these policy papers was to engage in a broader discussion with experts on challenges facing media freedom; stimulate debate and discussion on policy recommendations; and help inform the Media Freedom Coalition’s future work. GFMD Executive Director, Mira Milosevic, wrote a policy paper on Media Independence and Sustainability.