Strengthening Independent Media

Principles for Investment

What does it take in today's world for media funding to be effective?

BY SUSAN MOELLER

Director, International Center for Media & the Public Agenda, U of Md

 

The participants articulated over the course of the meeting a number of elements they considered critical to successful investment in new digital media --  or for that matter in mixed media systems that blend elements of old and new.  As the meeting progressed, these were referred to as “Salzburg Principles of Media Development”:

The group in Salzburg identified seven key principles: 


1.  Risk-taking:  Receptiveness to proposals that challenge conventional thinking, reflecting novel ideas, program strategies, and business models.  Capability to manage a funding portfolio that includes high risk investments and therefore a higher proportion of projects that can be expected to fail.

2.  Innovation:  Entrepreneurial approach -- an interest in seeking out non-traditional grantees.  Willingness to invest in start-up as well as established organizations and networks.  Openness to providing support for individual entrepreneurs.  Commitment to testing new ways of finding and supporting creative ideas, individuals, and organizations.  Interest in experimenting with new technologies.

3.  Long-term, sustained investment:  Sensitivity to the critical need for multi-year funding, particularly for start-up digital media ventures.  Willingness to cover fixed expenses and overhead costs, not just project funding.

4.  Flexibility:  Ability to make “second stage” investments in the most promising start-ups, and to offer a mix of vehicles to fit individual circumstances (e.g., grants, loans, technical assistance, capital support, program related investments, including equity stakes in for-profit ventures). 

5.  Site-specific strategy:  One size does not fit all.  Media investment strategies must fit a particular location as well as the target audience and desired outcomes.  Research on how various media are used and relied upon produces knowledge vital in designing strategy and measuring impact.

6.  Collaboration:  Understanding local regulations and relationships is important in mounting sustainable initiatives.  Donors need to share their insights and networks to increase chances for effective media investments in diverse regions of the world.

7.  Commitment to Learning and Accountability:  Meaningful evaluation of media grants and commitment to making results publicly accessible to advance best practice.