Find out the answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Fund, how it will operate, who it will support and more.
About the Fund
The mission of an International Fund for Public Interest Media would be to support the development, sustainability and independence of public interest media, especially in resource-poor and fragile settings.
Independent media plays a critical role in our democracies: it ensures we have insight into the decisions that affect our lives and holds power to account. Yet, journalism faces an existential crisis. Today, just 13 per cent of the world’s population enjoy access to free media. The advertising model of the internet has eroded the business model of journalism, while mis- and dis- information are widespread, reducing trust in media.
Meanwhile, politically motivated attacks on journalists and investigative reporters that speak the truth are growing. In 2018 alone, 99 journalists were killed and another 348 imprisoned and 60 held hostage. Impunity for crimes against journalists remains the norm, with just outcomes for only one in ten cases. And yet only 0.3 per cent of overseas development assistance (ODA) – around £350m – goes to supporting media globally, and funders conclude that their commitments are inadequate and they do not currently have the systems or mechanisms necessary to create impact.
This situation cannot continue. We need immediate action to ensure not just the survival – but the growth – of independent, public interest journalism.
Public interest media is defined as media that is free and independent, that exists to inform publics on the issues that shape their lives in ways which serve the public’s rather than any political, commercial or factional interest, to enable public debate and dialogue across society, and to hold those in power to account on behalf of the public interest. It implies a focus on ethical and credible media working in the interests of all people across all of society, not just those who have the power or money to pay for or influence media. Public interest media can be commercial, public service or community media and distributed online, broadcast, through print or other channels.
The Fund aims to open its call for grant applications in 2022.
Funding is expected to be secured from government bilateral development agencies, technology and other corporate entities, philanthropic foundations and other donors, and private individuals. It could also accept funding from International Financial Institutions.
To ensure the legitimacy and credibility of the Fund, only bilateral development agencies (or similar entities) of governments in the top 70 of the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index would be eligible to provide funding.
Funding will not be accepted if it is accompanied by conditions that the Fund’s Board considers will compromise its editorial independence or undermines the legitimacy or reputation of the Fund.
Government development agencies, philanthropic donors and social media platforms in particular, should provide capital for this fund. For democratic governments, weak media ecosystems around the world threaten the balance of our societies, especially in and around elections. For philanthropic donors whose mission it is to solve the hardest problems in the world, the need to invest in independent journalism as a public good has never been more urgent. And for the social media platforms that have done a huge amount of damage to the business model of journalism: now is the time to support the rebuilding of the industry through their corporate social responsibility efforts.
Who will the fund support?
Funding will generally be long term and structural and be designed to meet the gap between what the market or other sources of funding can provide and what the institution needs to generate public interest journalism.
The Fund will support public interest media institutions in low- and middle- income countries. It will also fund investigative journalism both nationally and internationally and other efforts (such as citizen journalism) networks where alternative viable business models don’t exist and which require funding to sustain their public interest media output.
The specific institutions to be funded will be determined principally by regional offices on the basis of an outstanding knowledge of national media dynamics, the political economy of the media and founded in a long term approach.
The Fund is principally focused on low- and middle- income countries where market and other conditions make it extremely difficult or impossible to sustain public interest media. Funding will only be disbursed where it is legally allowable. The prioritisation of countries will be determined by need, by an assessment of how effective over the long term the Fund’s support is likely to prove, and to some extent by the priorities of donors to the Fund.
In addition to making our own assessments of whether recipients have abided by professional journalism ethics such as accuracy and fairness, we will substantially be guided by the public’s own judgements of whether they consider coverage is of relevance to them and is trustworthy. More details can be found in the Feasibility Study.
The Fund will only directly fund media where it is legally allowable to do so. Where legal conditions are more complex, it will explore alternative means of media support including through regional or international media support organisations.
Structure and governance
It is recommended that there should be a corporate, nine-person Executive Board that will meet every six months, and a 16-person Advisory Council that will meet annually. The Chair of the Advisory Council will sit on the Executive Board. The Board will set policy, strategy, and will hire and hold the Fund’s Executive Director to account.
The Advisory Council will represent a range of stakeholders and inform the Board’s policy and strategy, but will not have any direct role in decision-making.
To guard against corruption, a Head of Integrity would have the power to investigate any potential wrongdoing, carry out inspection visits, and monitor and assure systems to protect against corruption. They would report directly to the Board.
The choice of outlets to invest in will be made at the regional level under the overall guidance of the highly expert independent board who will be accountable for the impact of donors’ investments. The Fund will make it easy and efficient for donors to channel money into this complex but vital area.
Press freedom is increasingly threatened by the erosion of the business models capable of supporting free and independent media. Attacks on press freedom increasingly take the form of attacks on the finances of independent media institutions. Lack of institutional funding undermines the capacity of media organisations to invest in journalism safety and other measures that can enable journalists to carry out their profession without risk to life or liberty. However, the Fund is designed as a fund and will confine itself to issues where funding is the solution and will not expand its mission to areas beyond this remit.
The governance structure of the Fund is designed to combine maximum legitimacy with organisational effectiveness. The governing board will be substantially made up of experts drawn from countries typical of or credible to those likely to receive support from the Fund. An Advisory Council has been designed to be representative of the key stakeholders of the Fund, especially different stakeholders from countries typical of those likely to receive funding. While this can never immunise the Fund from potential criticism, it makes it much less likely to be seen as being valid or credible.