What are media development donors funding?

Never has the question of media development funding seemed more urgent. Not only is the media going through baffling changes in business models and technologies, but authoritarian governments around the world are cracking down on media freedoms, imprisoning journalists and trying to control the Internet. Money is short. Media organizations around the world are looking to donors to help them meet these challenges and come up with new ways to build workable independent media institutions and ensure their survival.

Anyone who works in media development knows that it can be difficult to get a clear picture of what donor organizations are funding. Because media development is a cross-cutting theme and is subsumed under democracy and governance funding schemes, donors have not always explicitly tracked media development projects. To make matters more complicated, media can be both a tool and an end in development projects and media-focused programming has been obfuscated within other types of democracy programs.

Screenshot of CIMA’s media development donor profiles webpage.

Last year, CIMA decided to address this information gap. We launched a project to survey media development donors, and in the process, encourage them to distinguish and report their media development funding efforts.  The project has sought to gain a better picture of what types of media development activities are the top priorities for each donor, how much money they are putting into media development, and where in the world this work is being done. We have developed profiles for each donor organization, which include background information and, in most cases, examples that illustrate the types of media development projects they fund. Taken together, the profiles will give the media development community more data to work with and a better sense of the state of funding for the field.

Last month, CIMA presented the results of the first phase of this project, Profiles in Media Development Funding, an online resource for practitioners, academics, experts and policymakers. The process of surveying the donors has taken considerable time and effort and we have only completed a handful of key donor profiles. We are in the process of assembling more profiles and are committed to updating these profiles regularly so that the media development community will have a go-to place to find data on media development funding and donors’ priorities.

In a rapidly changing phase for media around the world, with new governance questions related to the Internet, it is exceedingly important to reevaluate our media development resources and priorities. As more data becomes available, we hope we can better gauge impact and devise of effective media development priorities and strategies to address new challenges at the intersection of media, governance and technology.

Mark Nelson is the Senior Director at the Center for International Media Assistance. Follow him on Twitter @MarkNelsonCIMA.

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