MJRC Financial Support Program for Independent Media

The Media and Journalism Research Center embarked on a new activity in 2020: funding of independent media outlets and journalistic projects in media environments with a high level of capture.

The center designed a research project anchored in a sub-granting program, whereby philanthropic organizations contribute funds that are then awarded by our center in the form of grants to independent media organizations vulnerable to capture. The aim of our funding program is to support the media outlets in achieving financial sustainability or, at the very least, strengthening their resilience to better withstand hostile attacks by the government or businesses close to authorities.

The center has been chosen to distribute these funds due primarily to its extensive knowledge of the media sector in countries with high levels of media capture. In designing the country funding strategy, the center is utilizing its database of media outlets that it has built through its networks of researchers over the past 25 years.

The program focuses on three key areas: financial sustainability, organizational sustainability, and sustainable audience growth. Additionally, the center works on developing networks of media groups, where possible, by bringing together supported media outlets to create alliances or other forms of joint initiatives. These initiatives would help them save resources (for example, by sharing the same software or legal advisors) or gain representativity (for example, by negotiating jointly with advertisers).

The work of the sub-grantees is regularly evaluated through visits to media outlets or interactions with the outlet’s teams. This evaluation includes collecting data on audience numbers, newsletter subscribers, ad revenue, donations, and staff size. Additionally, a comparative analysis is conducted to assess their performance in comparison to other media outlets, including pro-government and captured media.

This project provides an unprecedented opportunity for our research organization. It allows our center to conduct insightful studies on independent media, gathering detailed information about the challenges they face in attracting local funding, their interaction with local authorities, data regarding the local private business sector, and statistical data on expenditure on cultural products such as cinema, books, media, theater, and concerts in the market where these outlets operate.

The research gathered through this project is used to inform our studies on media sustainability in captured ecosystems, including both good and bad practices in financially supporting media outlets. This information can be useful to donor organizations, regulators, or other institutions that work to support independent journalism.

Measuring Impact: Grant Scoring Indices

Grant Value Index (GVI) is a media assessment tool developed by MJRC’s director Marius Dragomir along with a group of the center’s experts. The tool is used to estimate the “cost of impact” in media development projects. The tool has been tested thus far in 15 media development project.


The Impact Index

This is an indicator that measures how much impact a grant has achieved. It is calculated as an average of the set of indicators (INDs) listed below.

To weigh the indicators (on the scale described below), we use a combination of the following: document analysis carried out independently by researchers to identify impact in any of the areas listed below and expert opinion (collected from at least five experts knowledgeable of the context, topic, outlet or other aspects of the project). The types of impact expressed by the indicators below are quantified on a scale from 0 to 1: a). No to very low impact: between 0.0 and 0.2; b). Some impact (0.2-0.4); c). Decent impact (0.4-0.6); d). High to very high impact (0.6 to 1.0).

Indicator 1: INDPolSoc: Impact on policy/civil society (calculated as the average of the following four sub-indicators)

Sub-IND 1.1 DbDoc: Policy debates & documents

Sub-IND 1.2 ReAuPr: Reactions by authorities/private institutions

Sub-IND 1.3 MedRef: Media references

Sub-IND 1.4 CivSoc: NGOs using the work

Indicator 2: INDCol: Impact on journalistic collaboration

Indicator 3: INDFund: Impact on building a viable funding model

Indicator 4: INDAud: Audience impact (growth of audience thanks to the project)

The Impact Index is calculated using the following formula: (INDPolSoc [DbDoc+ReAuPr+MedRef+CivSoc÷4] + INDCol + INDFund + INDAud)÷4

The Impact Index is an indicator of the overall impact of the specific grant (higher score equals higher impact)

Grant Value Index

This index is an estimate of how much it costs to achieve a certain level of impact. To obtain the Grant Value Index, the total monetary value of a grant awarded for a specific project or to a media outlet is divided by the number of “impact points” (the decimal value between 0 and 1) in the Impact Index that measures the impact of the analyzed grant/project. This decimal value ranges from 0 to 100 (e.g., 14 for a project whose Impact Index is 0.14).

The Grant Value Index is calculated using the following formula: ValGrantTotal(€) ÷ ImpPoints (0 to 100).

The Grant Value Index is an estimate of how much money it costs to achieve a “unit” of impact (lower amount equals better value for grant dollars spent)

For more information about MJRC’s financial support program, please contact our Secretariat at [email protected].