Protecting Independent Media for Effective Development (PRIMED)

PRIMED is a 3-year programme to support the provision of public interest media in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, beginning in October 2020.  It is implemented by a consortium of media support organisations with expertise in different aspects of media and development. Led by BBC Media Action, other core consortium members are Article 19, Free Press Unlimited, International Media Support and Media Development Investment Fund. Other specialist organisations will provide support in specific areas, including DW Akademie, Global Forum for Media Development, Global Voices and The Communications Initiative.

What is the problem it addresses?

Public interest media are vital to open, just societies. They provide citizens with reliable news and information, hold the powerful to account and provide a platform for debate. Trusted, inclusive, free and pluralistic media are a critical part of healthy information ecosystems that support effective and inclusive governance. They are essential to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet in many parts of the world, public interest media are in retreat, under threat at both the individual outlet level and at the media environment level.

At the individual outlet level, public interest media are subject to intense financial pressure. Globally, business models have been eroded by digital disruption, which has seen changing consumption patterns and advertising revenues migrate away from traditional print and broadcast media. The economic impact of COVID-19 has intensified this pressure, particularly in the Global South. Challenges at the environmental level include government pressure through restrictive legislation and regulation, violence against journalists and diminishing trust in media.

How will PRIMED tackle these challenges?

PRIMED will address the challenges to public interest media at both outlet and environment level. It seeks to build the resilience of media to political and economic pressures that are undermining viability. It supports the development of information ecosystems that enable a better flow of trusted public interest media content in three countries with different media environments: Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. Gender equality and inclusion will be integrated across the programme.

The programme has three main objectives:

  1. Improve the capacity of participating media outlets to manage their organisations and deliver public interest content

Through a capacity building package of business and management support tailored to each media partner and production support that strengthens audience engagement, relevance and trust, media will be better able to manage their organisations and deliver public interest content to their audiences. PRIMED will focus on building media capacity in areas such as audience development, revenue development, digital development and organisational management to help them to optimise revenues and improve their resilience to economic challenges, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Better coordinated and more impactful support for and defence of media freedom

PRIMED will provide technical assistance to local partners from across the media sector to strengthen their ability to advocate for change in the media environment and better defend media freedom. It will help them to identify priorities and opportunities for media reform and seek to strengthen their ability to work together and so magnify the impact of their advocacy in areas such as legal reform and improving regulatory standards. PRIMED will help build coalitions of individuals and organisations, including those representing the interests of disadvantaged groups, who have a common interest in supporting the viability of public interest media.

  1. Create and share learning about what media support works and what doesn’t in different country contexts

There is a shortage of evidence of what types of media support are most effective in different environments. PRIMED will generate and disseminate learnings from its interventions in the three target countries and share them across the programme and with the wider media development community. By sharing insights into the effectiveness of different types of intervention, PRIMED will contribute to a more impactful and targeted global approach to media support. Its findings will be further informed by the experiences of existing media support projects in Iraq and Zambia, where different approaches to media development have been adopted by consortium partners.

Why Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone?

Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone were selected for the diversity of their media environments. They represent different market sizes and face varying degrees of challenges around media restrictions, political will and economic conditions. This will enable PRIMED to apply a wide range of interventions, both well-established and innovative, in different contexts.

Not all consortium partners’ approaches are relevant in all countries. Consequently, different combinations of partners will work in each country providing only the most relevant type of support.

The project will prioritise support to media outlets that are “independent” and already have a clear public interest remit. However, if few such media can be identified in a country, the programme will identify media organisations providing some public interest content and seek to strengthen and expand that element within the larger organisation.

Each country has developed its own targeted approach and programme implementation will be led by local teams.