Journalism funding is in crisis. As GFMD stressed in our issue paper on Internet governance and media development, total global newspaper advertising revenue is on course to lose about US$23.8 billion in annual revenues from 2012 and 2021. It is estimated that more than 10% of this decline, around US$3 billion, will be a loss of annual revenue for local news media, mostly local newspapers that used to be the main source of community and public service information around the world. This is happening at the time when Google and Facebook have created a duopoly over the global digital advertising market. In 2017, for instance, the two companies accounted for more than 63% of all U.S. digital advertising investment – around US$52.17 billion – and this figure is expected to increase by more than US$10 billion in 2018. According to a new report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), those figures are even higher on the other side of the Pacific.

It is abundantly clear that new, innovative media funding models that facilitate media sustainability are desperately needed. The Ariadne Network, which brings European donors and staff together to work in support of human rights, social change, and justice, is dedicated to furthering journalism funding. Earlier this year, they released a seminal guide in collaboration with the Transparency and Accountability Initiative. Written by Sameer Padania, An Introduction to Funding Journalism and Media, offers clear and detailed advice to guide those wishing to venture into funding journalism and media projects with the right tools necessary to navigate the funding landscape.

The document details the importance of funding high-quality, fact-based journalism and media, with one funder stressing,

“Journalism is fundamental to open societies. It is vital for building well-informed and critical thinking communities, a basic building block of democratic regimes.”

The Ariadne Network seeks to promote and encourage the spread of journalism and media’s positive influence as well, highlighting the work of strong investigative reporting, such as by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), Forbidden Stores, Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) – three of which are GFMD members – in order to shine a light on some of the world’s most challenging issues. All of this has helped establish more interest with donors to support such projects, and increase the overall appetite for funding quality journalism.

This guide also aims to provide funders with a framework to help them support their own individual projects. It addresses the key reasons for funding projects, and separates them between an intrinsic approach, which takes the view that media is positive and needs support because it serves as a benefit to society, and an instrumental approach, where the media is seen as a trusted vehicle for thematic messages. With regards to knowing who is funding what and where, the data, Ariadne says, is a little more challenging to gauge accurately. Where it is published, it is often uneven, incomplete, or inaccurate, with different donors using different sources to find out this information. That said, based on the available evidence, philanthropic funding to the media and civil society in Europe is still low, particularly compared to the U.S. This is further compounded by the fact that, according to a September reportpublished by researchers from the University of East Anglia, only a small percentage of foundations support international, non-profit journalism.

The Ariadne Network report further provides advice from experienced funders encouraging new funders to think about which types of journalism is relevant to their cause and if the funding for the project is successful, impactful, and can be used to promote social change. The interviews that Ariadne conducted with donors and funders for this project raised concerns that fighting against disinformation and misinformation undermines funding for quality information that news organisations are producing. As a result, Ariadne Network is working to promote the sustainability of quality news and truthful information to their donors. Moreover, they are actively working with funders, donors, partners, and other like-minded organisation to address key issues in the journalism and media ecosystems.

We applaud them for their endeavor to promote sustainability within the media industry, and encourage you to check out their website for additional information and resources.

A key priority for GFMD is promoting media sustainability and viability. We recognise that this crosscutting issue is fundamental to journalists, news media, and media development organisations, but is also intrinsically connected to many of the current discussions around topics that range from disinformation and hate speech, to content regulation and media pluralism. In our inaugural blog series, we’ll be highlighting hot topic issues related to media sustainability, as well as featuring commentary, research, and resources. In the meantime, we encourage you to engage with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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