Unesco – Plenary on Media Viability

Published:

10.05.21

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Published:

10.05.21

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Independent media the world over are under threat and need additional support to strengthen their viability.

That was a central message from the plenary session on media viability at UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day conference in Windhoek, Namibia, on Friday (30 April), where media experts called for a variety of innovative mechanisms to strengthen media freedom, independence and pluralism.

The context is one of media houses cutting jobs and even having to close. Diversity of media sources has been drastically reduced.

 

“When there is no free and independent news media, citizens lose their primary source of the information they need to make decisions. History tells us that media viability, without press freedom, does not deliver independent journalism. On the other hand, press freedom without media viability risks being just an empty shell.”

Ambassador Anna Brandt of Sweden, the Chair of the Council of UNESCO’s IPDC

 

Ambassador Brandt described how IPDC is rising to the challenge of viability by supporting a focused push at UNESCO. The initiative is in partnership with the World News Publishers Assocation, and includes:

  • Research, led by the Economist Intelligence Unit and drawing on the IPDC’s draft media viability indicators.
  • The research results feeding into knowledge exchanges and wider consultations these 10 countries, to be organized by the NGO, Free Press Unlimited. “These experiences will help identify best practices and innovations for an IPDC handbook of case studies on viability,” said the Ambassador.
  • With experts from the International Center for Journalists and Columbia University, UNESCO will build on all this to develop concrete policy recommendations for Member States and other stakeholders.
  •  The knowledge gained throughout the initiative will inform the next global edition of UNESCO’s World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, which will be released at UNESCO’s General Conference.

 

During the panel, speakers recommended a variety of new ways to strengthening media viability. Among them: direct taxation to fund media enterprises; revenue sharing mechanisms to ensure media are adequately compensated for third party use of their content; increasing development assistance to media; collaboration among media; and support for non-profit media.

But such proposals would only work, the panellists agreed, if accompanied by mechanisms to ensure media independence, and with campaigns to increase societal understanding of the value that independent news media provides.

If journalism is defined as “a trusted third party for societies, then this function justifies a specific effort by societies to ensure their sustainability,” said panellist Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters without Borders (RSF).

Beth Costa, Secretary General of the Brazilian Journalists’ Union FENA, said: “In this pandemic, journalists have become a public services, and a public service needs public funds, even if they go to a private organization.”

The other panellists included: Warren Fernandez, Chair, World Editors Forum; Sheetal Vyas, Founding Executive Director International Fund for Public Interest Media; Kiran Maharaj, President, Media Institute of the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network. The moderator was Mira Milosevic, Executive Director of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD).

The panel was preceded by an opening dialogue between Zukiswa Potye, CEO of the South African Media Development and Diversity Agency, and Rod Sims, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman, moderated by Guy Berger of UNESCO.

 

You can watch the full panel below:

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