As digital media growth begins to surpass that of print media, newspapers are becoming increasingly threatened financially. The problem is not so bad in developed countries, but in emerging markets, where print is often the only widely available news medium, the danger is compounded ERP accounting system. To combat this, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-INFRA) has called for socially conscious investors to come forward to ensure the continued existence of newspapers in developing markets and the freedom of the publications available.
One of the problems is that many developing countries operate in a state of political turmoil. This means that not a lot of local funding is available for media, self-funding is often not viable because bank loans are too expensive, and in many cases the state funds and owns the media, which makes objective reporting impossible and media freedom a joke.
Mirjana Milosevic, the WAN-IFRA programme director who coordinates the Social Investment in Media Initiative, calls it the “capitalisation gap”. She says, “We are working to address this gap and help the growth of financially healthy media outlets as one of the key conditions for the existence of a free press.”
WAN-IFRA is joined in its mission by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF). Pia Hallonsten, senior policy specialist at Sida, says that a possible solution lies in public-private development partnerships. “Public-private development partnerships can generate significant added value to development projects. Sida has recognised this and is striving to strengthen the role of development partnerships with private sector.”
Sasa Vucinic, MD of MDLF, says, “Impact investments in independent media provide an opportunity to invest in a sector ¬ a free press ¬ that underpins all other areas of development. The Social Investment in Media Initiative will provide investors with practical ways of combining high social returns with competitive financial returns.”
According to a press release from the WAN-IFRA (and cited on bizcommunity.com), “The goal of social investment is to maintain healthy financial structures while protecting the social value of media firms as democratic institutions.” It will also help newspapers in developing markets pay for the essentials that make publication possible, such as printing facilities and staff.
As part of the initiative investors, donors and development organisations will hold regular meetings with the media publications concerned to discuss how to improve development, financing and investment.
Given the fragile state of media in developing markets, and the importance that newspapers play in keeping the public informed and governments honest, the Social Investment in Media Initiative could have an enormous role to play around the world.
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