Review of the Funding Landscape for Media Development Actors in Lebanon
20. February 2022
20. February 2022
The seismic events that have convulsed Lebanon since August 2020 have prompted both donors and implementing agencies to consider new ways of supporting the country’s beleaguered media sector. There have been calls for greater flexibility, increased agility and “thinking outside the project funding box”.
Moreover, across the MENA region, there has been a growing recognition that traditional approaches to media development are struggling to deliver the anticipated results. This acknowledgement has led some donors to conduct far-ranging needs assessments in order to better understand the priorities of their beneficiaries as well as the environmental constraints that have blunted the impact of media development initiatives in the past.
At the same time, the recipients of donor funding are increasingly asking to have a say in determining the kind of support that is provided by the international community. They say that programmes should be driven by demand rather than by donor assumptions or thematic priorities that do not fully reflect the situation on the ground.
The calls for proposals reviewed during this study suggest that donors are responding to these concerns. There is clear evidence of concerted efforts to make funding more accessible to local organisations and to move the centre of gravity away from international partners. Although some programmes remain out of the reach of local players due to the size of their budgets or their regional scope, they often include very significant sub-granting programmes aimed at helping local media to become viable businesses and at supporting the production of public interest content.
The themes embraced by the calls also reflect the urgent need within the media sector to build resilience to economic shocks, political bullying and disinformation campaigns. There is a marked insistence on promoting usable skills such as fact-checking and mobile journalism, accompanied by provisions for ensuring that training is delivered by “media professionals as opposed to professional trainers with minimal or no experience in the media industry”.
These are positive developments which, to a large extent, have been driven by sustained dialogue between stakeholders and far-ranging needs assessments. Of particular note in Lebanon is the unprecedented success of the Media Recovery Fund, initiated by the Samir Kassir Foundation, which marks a dramatic shift in the implementer-donor relationship.
There is a strong possibility that this approach could form the focus of future coordination efforts and could, in time, serve as the cornerstone for a national media development strategy. It could also become a blueprint for other countries in the region.
This report was produced for discussion purposes only. The conclusions expressed herein represent the professional assessment of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisations participating in the Joint Coordination Mechanism in Lebanon, which is implemented by the Global Forum for Media Development in cooperation with the Samir Kassir Foundation’s SKeyes Centre for Media and Cultural Freedom, and supported by International Media Support (IMS).