In the upcoming months, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom will take a closer look at the funding of independent reporting in Europe, thus giving already an insight into one of the topics of ECPMF’s European Media Freedom Conference in October 2016.
Independent funding has become more and more problematic during the last years. Not only a general crisis of the media, especially affecting print media outlets who are having a hard time competing with new forms of electronic media and need new sources of income anyway, but also the global economic crisis made media more vulnerable.
Many journalists in countries hit hard by the crisis lost their jobs. Private as well as public media had to stop or reduce broadcasting because of a lack of financial means. In Greece, for example, 2900 journalists alone lost their jobs when the public broadcaster closed due to a halt of financial support by the government. This puts media in a desperate situation, making them reach out for every option possible. In consequence, they often have to accept funding that is not unconditional: Financial supporters giving money to the media either as direct donations, via advertisements or even through ownership by buying a publication use their superior position to influence the editorial content.
This situation of available, but often dirty funding leaves editors and journalists torn. They either have to abandon their ethical standards of reporting, or risk to lose their jobs and close down the media completely – and rather go for the first option. But financial means coming with conditions and the communication of certain opinions violate one of the most important rules of reporting: objectiveness.
The power of the crowd
Luckily, many media practitioners do not accept dirty money as last resort and try to find own ways to stay or become independent. The power of social networks and possibilities of the internet allow journalists to find new and unusual sources to finance their work.
The practice of crowdfunding is becoming increasingly popular among media: First being a financing model for artists or start-up companies, journalists have been exploring this possibility, too. With the help of online platforms like Indiegogo, Startnext or Kickstarter, they collect financial donations of as many independent people as possible to secure their media project. Small donations by a crowd often allow a greater independence than big amounts of money by few donors, as the influence of single people is kept low.
However, crowdfunding is no panacea. It is often not reliable in the long term, but only finances projects at a certain point. In addition, at times where news are available for free on many websites, it is not an easy task to activate individuals to pay for journalistic content.
During the upcoming months, ECPMF will present journalistic crowdfunding projects from all over Europe and interview the heads behind them. In addition, the series will be supported by interviews with experts on funding for media and critical voices from the community to give a balanced answer to the question if community funding can be a lasting model to save independent reporting.
If you know any interesting media projects finding its own ways to fund independent reporting, tell us about it: firstname.lastname@example.org