Media Development


Sustainability is the media’s capacity to operate effectively under sound political, legal, and economic conditions. In a sustainable environment, journalists operate without interference or fear of violence, and media organizations enjoy stable legal and business conditions that pay decent salaries, discourage media corruption, and promote sector-wide integrity. Ownership structures in the media sector reflect a diversity of views, and citizens trust that the media represent the full range of society’s interests, including the information needs of minority or repressed groups. Donor support is sustainable when it creates conditions that persist after the termination of outside support.

What is the legal and political enabling environment for media? How do media organizations achieve financial independence? How do media development programs create a standard of professionalism?

Sustainability in Media Development

Tracking the sustainability of media systems is difficult because the issue crosses political, economic, and social factors. In countries that lack a robust market economy, advertising-supported news media is difficult to establish or sustain. In some countries, money-losing media houses are supported or “captured” by businessmen with other commercial interests, or politicians with an agenda other than providing independent news and information. The Media Sustainability Index has created a methodology to measure sustainability and to compare results across countries and over time.


New digital and mobile technologies are disrupting the traditional media business model, so the issue of media sustainability naturally intersects with another of CIMA’s core areas of inquiry: innovation.

Over the years, CIMA has tackled the issue of sustainability in a variety of ways, with subject matter ranging from the role of audience measurement to business coverage as a means to avoid government censorship or control of media.


CIMA has published several reports and held discussions that address media sustainability: Calling the Shots: How Ownership Structures Affect the Independence of News Media; Breathing Life into Freedom of Information Laws: The Challenges of Implementation in the Democratizing World; Measuring the Audience: Why It Matters to Independent News Media and How It Can Contribute to Media Development, Business Journalism Thrives— Even Under Repressive Regimes, Advancing Independent Journalism While Building a Modern News Business: The Case of Malaysiakini.


How are media development programs designed and implemented? What are the tools used for diagnostics and evaluation? What is the impact of media development interventions?


What are the new practices for media in the twenty-first century? How is the media landscape changing? How can media development donors and implementers embrace new trends?


What are the funding models for media development? Who funds media development and how much do they provide? How can we better track funding for media development programs?