GFMD Releases Report on Media Sustainability, Outlines Strategies for Effective Collaboration

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Zoe Titus
Chair of GFMD

The Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), an international network of journalism support and media development organisations based in Brussels, Belgium, has released a report on funding in the media development sector in which it outlined strategies for effective collaboration among stakeholders.

The report titled Transforming Media Development – Recommendations for effective funding and collaboration” is based on a body of desk research as well as a series of online interviews with GFMD members from Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America. The report documents the challenges faced by that GFMD’s members face on a daily basis in their attempts to raise funds and live up to donor expectations on reporting and accountability.

Over the past five years, GFMD has reported significant challenges in fundraising and business development for media support organisations, these include: The short-term nature of funding and a marked lack of continuity in development programmes; a tendency by donors to view news media as a tool for their communication strategies rather than a crucial requirement for democracy-building; top-down relationships between donors and implementing agencies as well as opaque funding programmes and lengthy, overly complex application procedures.

These challenges according to GFMD have led to the emergence of a fragmented sector that is plagued by duplication of efforts and poor coordination. Both media outlets and media support organisations spend a disproportionate amount of time applying for and servicing grants.

The report builds on the findings of surveys conducted by GFMD in 2018 and 2022 to assess members’ perceptions of fundraising processes and donor priorities for the media and the media development sector.

It also complements GFMD’s ongoing initiative to update its Principles for Effective Media Development and Support to Journalism. It is expected that these principles will be adopted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee in early 2024, with a view to holding a meeting with donors in March or April to explore ways of putting these principles into practice.

Furthermore, the report draws on the feedback of media development actors to present a set of recommendations for both donors and implementing agencies. These include proposed improvements to the development and roll-out of funding programmes, along with measures that can be adopted by both parties to introduce more effective ways of working and enhance engagement and collaboration across the sector.

The report suggested the following recommendations for donors and implementing agencies respectively.

Donors should:

  • Offer core or institutional support to independent media outlets, recognising that, without core funding, many of these actors will cease to exist and the diversity of voices will be diminished.
  • Take steps to improve dialogue with media development partners and engage in the co-creation of projects.
  • Conduct or commission regular, structured assessments of media landscapes and use the findings to shape funding programmes.
  • Invest in country-based audience research which can give proper insight into the themes and formats which are likely to resonate with different target groups.
  • Simplify procedures and reduce lead times for applications.
  • Harmonise procedures across the donor community, thereby enabling joint reporting and collaborative monitoring and evaluation.
  • Give leadership roles to media support organisations from the Global South, acknowledging their in-depth knowledge of local media landscapes and their credibility among local actors.

Implementing Agencies should:

  • Diversify the donor base and consider opportunities for commercial activity to supplement grant funding.
  • Prioritise donors who offer their beneficiaries long-term partnerships based on a common vision and shared goals.
  • Avoid pursuing funding opportunities that have limited chances of success or that are a poor fit for core activities.
  • Engage in network- and coalition-building with a view to pooling resources with counterparts. •
  • Improve resource allocation within in-house teams and consider ways of streamlining business development work.
  • Improve M&E systems in order to generate stronger evidence of impact and success.
  • Enter into strategic partnerships with other implementing organisations that have complementary skills.
  • Establish a clear and distinct position in the media development market.

To read the full text of the report please download Transforming Media Development.