As the stakes rise for media companies, aid grows, but fragmented approaches and short lived projects are impeding full impact. Strategic coordination, referrals, shared gateways and coaches are required.
Europe’s MediaLab reports about numerous media innovation programmes and the need for an overall media sector strategy. The slow progress of the Media Freedom Act (more inside) should not slow down practical help for media , increasingly urgent. There exist multiple ways to do so: let’s address the big picture behind them.
Getting better informed public spaces is key to preventing the ‘parents’ populism, nationalism and their ‘enfant terrible’: warmongering. A healthy press may not stop the current Russian aggression, but perhaps prevent the next war? *.
This, along with many structural factors, is the reason why the philanthropic sector wakes up to its role in the media sector. More foundations can follow these pioneers, as Max von Abendroth wrote in this newsletter’s previous Edito on ‘Philanthropy for Journalism’.
In many countries, and at European level, good public aid schemes do exist. Since the beginning of this EU mandate, notably under the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan, ressources are finally increasing, under the heading NEWS, to support technological uptake and transformation, beyond the usual editorial cooperation for coverage of EU happenings.Corporate programmes are also welcome, such as the large ones financed by Google and Meta. When they are also managed directly by the platforms, additional issues of perception and ulterior motives may arise: media beg for money those accused of neglect for copyright and advertising dominance.
From all three funding categories – philanthropy, public and corporate – such media support programmes are worthwhile, and also trigger goodwill for the funders. However, do they reach the average news publisher, a medium-sized company with no idea about public affairs. Even large media typically have no bid expert, they compete mainly for editorial awards.. If Publishers or Editors ever read calls for proposals, are they not scared by the depth of administrative requirements, the width of expected partnerships and decision times?
There are solutions to these issues, based on goodwill, and a sense of urgency. Notably using non-profit organisation selecting third parties (delegating project selection and monitoring), and independent juries. This cuts the admin burden and decision times while ensuring independence. Public funds and corporate sponsoring, like those co-led by the authors of this piece, and many others indeed, pursue converging aims. They should not be considered competitors, but potential allies for the media sector’s health.
To reach wider impact and transform the media faster, we need at least five joint efforts:
- a mapping of who does what and building a shared vision based on common ethical principles, such as to ensure transparency and respect for the editorial independence of supported media (perhaps updating from past reports of the Journalism Funders’ Forum?)
- strategy coordination, to strengthen complementarity between all funding sources (a special workshop at the next European News Media Forum? building on communication efforts as suggested in this press release)
- a joint gateway, such as a website and newsletter helping navigate the programme maze and self-select, not limited to one type of funding (topic for an ad hoc project?)
- coaches (yes, not more handbooks, but experienced humans, preferably paid), able to steer and critically review draft applications.
- in some cases, moving forward with programme co-fundings or even mergers? (let’s be goal-driven and consolidate our ‘cottage industry’?).
We,from different categories, would love to hear from you, and take such joint initiatives.
In the meantime, enjoy Summer!
Paolo Cesarini Christophe Leclercq @LeclercqEU
Both are former EU Commission officials: Paolo C. until 2020, Christophe L. until 1998
(*Most wars are prepared by a (dis)information escalation. As a Frenchman born in Lorraine, Christophe Leclercq is well aware of the 1870 war (including annexation of a region, like in Crimea), leading to the ‘trench war’ of 1914-1918, and then to the ‘all out’ war of 1939-1945.
Putin now wages his second war against Ukraine: can we try to inform Russian citizens against this aggression, and prevent a third surge of imperialism? And maybe one day achieve mutual understanding – or even friendship – like between France and Germany today?
Press freedom and EU enlargement will make Ukraine a beacon for Russians. Meanwhile, out of 90 media applying for Stars4media funding, statistics show an encouraging 12 are from Ukraine, Russia (exile) and Belarus (exile))