In 2015, Pew Research Center(1) published a report revealing that 88% of 671 journalists surveyed identified the decreasing resources in newsrooms as their top concern. Around the world, the shrink in the media’s budget and the decline in profits plunged journalism into an important crisis. Why?
- Internet: the expansion of internet and social media channels impeded the traditional role of journalists and contributed to the rising precariousness of the media sector. For instance, nowadays different conflict actors are less dependent on conventional media to make their voice heard as they don’t control the information anymore(2)(3).
- Media crisis: it is becoming increasingly expensive to cover conflict for media outlets regarding the risks and the various necessary preparations. The New York Times estimated the financial cost to cover a story in Baghdad at approximately 8,600 euros. Combined with a shrink in the budget, it becomes clear why the number of foreign correspondents has decreased sharply throughout the decades(4).
- Corruption: across the globe, governments try to undermine editorial independence by intentionally not allocating sufficient funding to media, cutting their budget or subsides, and by embezzling their funds. For instance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the media support budget has reached US$ 2 million since 2009, the beneficiaries never received one dollar and did not know where the money went either (5).
What do they miss?
Consequently, independent journalists are constrained to exercise their profession in increasingly precarious conditions. Unfortunately, they frequently lack:
- Travel and health insurance
- Access to lawyers
- Trauma therapists and psychological counselling
Moreover, independent media outlets are increasingly less capable of affording all the necessary protective resources for their employees. Yet, those safety measures are essential for guaranteeing their survival in a dangerous environment. The latter includes:
- Safety training
- First aid training
- Armoured vehicles
- Protective equipment-body armour, helmet, and jackets
- Satellite telephones, and data encryption tools
- Cyber protection tools and training
- Hire of reliable vehicle and drivers
- Hire dependable and vetted support staff like translators, fixers, and security guards
- There are various consequences of an absence of sufficient funding. According to a UNESCO’s report, the lack of financial resources leads journalists to put themselves in more risky and dangerous situations, while undertaking their reports at their own risk. Unfortunately, this reality applies more to independent journalists operating in an unstable region. Indeed, local media and freelancers are not as likely to enjoy complete protection and safety protocols as journalists attached to the western affluent media outlet (6).
- The lack of funding impacts the information’s quality,notably by reducing the ability of journalists to undertake investigative work and extensive research. The absence of material and protective resources to access the battlefield can be a barrier to completing their report successfully and adequately.
Solutions for the journalism funding crisis
One of the solutions is simple to apply. It consists of supporting independent media by reading and sharing their reports in order to give visibility to their fantastic work. Moreover, you can also donate money in order to encourage independent media. Free Press Unlimited is active in more than 40 countries over the world and works with 90 local independent media.
In regions where public services are ineffective, NGO’s and international organisations do not consider the funding of media development as a top priority. In fact, it is usually the sector where donors invest the least. To remedy this dramatic situation, it is crucial that international donors and NGO’s contributes financially to the development of media in the conflict region. Learn more about Media development with DW Akademia.
Tax large online platforms should be enforced for publishers’ content. Hence, this would enable to share the profits they generate with small independent media outlets. Moreover, at the national level law should enforce state subsidy and financial media assistance for media outlets.
The “Support to independent media and journalists” guide provides journalists with a set of solutions to ameliorate the conditions of media operating in conflict.