The United States government has long been a supporter of international media development efforts. This is done with the belief that a strong and independent press is essential for democracy to flourish. US government media development efforts are primarily channeled through the United States Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Together, they accounted for roughly $65 million in media development support in 2015. This profile focuses on their donor efforts.
This profile does not include information about media assistance provided by the United State Department of Defense. For more on this topic please see our recent report “The Pentagon and Independent Media.” Likewise, it does not include information about media development supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is a non-profit foundation, not a part of the US government, but which was created by an act of Congress and receives funding via a yearly Congressional appropriation. For more on NED’s media development efforts, see our profile of NED’s media development work.
In the CIMA survey, each donor was asked to rate from high to low in terms of priority the types of media interventions it supports.
The US government supports a broad array of media development efforts in virtually every region worldwide. The overarching theme connecting these efforts is that their ultimate goal is to help promote democracy and poverty alleviation
In response to questions about its media development themes and priorities, USAID provided this background on the connection between media development and the broader development agenda:
How Media Development Fits into USAID’s Mission:
USAID’s Media Development Approach:
Since the 1980s in Latin America, during the post-Communist transitions in Eastern Europe and Eurasia during the 1990s, and also in Africa, Asia, and more recently in the Middle East, USAID has increasingly promoted the development of independent media and media enabling environments. This “media as an end” approach enhances the professionalism, editorial autonomy, breadth of coverage, production and distribution capacities, legal grounding, and financial self-sustainability of media outlets and mass communications systems. The general subcategories of assistance include:
In the past decade, USAID independent media programs have assisted over 50 country systems in a variety of ways, tailored to national and local needs. USAID also funds limited research on media and information through assistance to the Media Sustainability Index for Europe & Eurasia. While USAID has funded the E&E report since 2001, it has also provided assistance, at times, for the Africa, Asia, and Middle East/ North Africa reports.
The US government is one of the largest public media development donors. The following table highlights the combined US State Department and USAID funding levels for media development efforts between 2013 and 2015. This information is broken down by bureau.
|Fiscal Year 2013||Fiscal Year 2014||Fiscal Year 2015|
|East Asia and Pacific||$3,751,834||$2,711,776||$6,003,843|
|Europe and Eurasia||$14,789,410||$14,588,445||$12,765,203|
|South and Central Asia||$1,649,700||$2,030,849||$2,597,321|
|DCHA – Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance||$3,489,816||$3,995,000||$3,520,000|
|DRL – Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor||$8,866,500||$17,450,000||$20,800,000|
2015 Combined State Department and USAID Funding for Media Freedom and Freedom of Information
The USAID-supported Regional Investigative Journalism Network (RIJN) has greatly strengthened in-depth cross-border investigative reporting and investigative reporting centers throughout Europe and Eurasia. In light of the events in 2014 in Ukraine, the local partner center, the Organized Crime and Reporting Project (or OCCRP), assisted with efforts to secure and make public tens of thousands of files that were dumped into a nearby lake when deposed Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage fled the presidential compound. In particular, OCCRP played a pivotal role in helping rescue, secure, digitize and publish these documents. For example, see: http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00KM3J.pdf (p. 39). In addition, a second newly-created website specifically tracks assets held by (former) Ukrainian officials in countries abroad. Many of the documents tracking those assets were supplied by OCCRP. See also: http://mapukrainianpep.org/
Through its Media Strengthening Program (MSP), USAID/Mozambique promotes a diverse, independent, and professional media sector to provide citizens with access to quality information and promote debate, necessary building blocks for democratic governance. MSP improves the business management capacity of media outlets to bolster their long-term financial viability and strengthens the professional skills of Mozambican journalists, with a specific focus on investigative journalism on key issues ranging from the extractive industry to gender-based violence. Given that most Mozambicans receive their news from radio, MSP also partners with community radio stations to improve their journalism, management, and communication with the communities they serve. To invest in future generations of journalists, MSP collaborated with a leading journalism school to strengthen the quality of teaching and the learning environment for students. Lastly, MSP works with local organizations to advocate for press freedom and an improved legal enabling environment for media. Among other activities, MSP’s advocacy work helped lobby for the country’s first Right to Information Law and then engaged activists to shape the framework for implementing the law.
USAID’s Enhancing Palestinian Independent Media project the West Bank and Gaza develops the institutional and professional capacity of independent media and promotes informed media dialogue, through activities that: enhance the quality of news and information programming; provide small grants to media outlets; partner with media schools to develop curricula that focus on modern media; and develop a new Media Policy and Research Center that conducts research, develops policy recommendations, and advocates on behalf of media institutions. For more information, see: http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACT144.pdf
Under USAID’s Afghan Civic Engagement Program, which strengthens the role and viability of civil society in Afghanistan, USAID seeks to improve access to quality, independent news. USAID supports media sector advocacy and policy reform, increases journalistic professionalism through trainings, particularly on reporting on issues of governance, organized sector discussions and sponsored internships. USAID also supports public interest programming on civic participation and social issues through outlets such as Salam Watandar and Pajhwok News Agency.
Since 2012, the Information Safety and Capacity Project, USAID’s flagship Internet Freedom program, has worked with over 100 vulnerable civil society and independent media organizations and bloggers to provide them with long-term mentoring, tools, training and techniques to keep themselves and their data safe and resilient online. ISC also provides small grants to technology organizations to incentivize them to improve the user experience and make digital security tools easier to use by CSOs and bloggers in developing countries.