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More investment in local loan funds needed to protect press freedom

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More investment in local loan funds needed to protect press freedom

Without viable funds, the hard-pressed wins can be lost, jeopardizing both access to independent information and the future of the publication.

Over the years, the idea of securing financial sustainability has become more central in the fight for a free press. But how do news organizations find the money they need to survive?

During the Media Development roundtable, Harlan Mandel, director of the New York-based Media Development Loan Fund, explains that while there are some resources available, there's no panacea for closing the capitalization gap that many publications around the world face.

One of the leading vehicles for funding is through loans, such as those distributed by the MDLF. Mandel explains the idea of a revolving loan fund, which since 1995 has provided US$110 million in loans to 79 independent news outlets in 27 countries.

“The model of recycling the funds really works,” says Mandel. “We have very reliable clients, with only $1.9 million in losses to date.”

Most of the businesses the MDLF helps are already in the red when they intervene. Once they start to become more financially viable, the organization focuses on helping them implement a long-term plan, increasing their chances for long-term survival.

Thirty-eight million people get their news from current MDLF clients, and after five years of working with MDLF the average client has tripled its sales. However, there is still a need for more funds, and it will take both private and public partnerships to close the gap.

“The role of the public sector is to help bridge that gap. It can be done with the products that we offer,” says Mandel. This means the public sector will help encourage the private sector's help by taking on some of the risk.

“The idea is that there's been a lot of focus on content,” says Justin Arenstein, digital strategist consulting for Google and the African Media Initiative (AMI). “They need to be strong viable financially so the content will not be undermined. You have to focus on the business of the news.”


Alexandra Waldhorn


2011-10-12 14:53

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The 71st World News Media Congress, the 26th World Editors Forum and the 3rd Women in News Summit took place from 1 - 3 June 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this blog, WAN-IFRA provides previews, interviews, summaries of the presentations and other useful information about the Congress.

Participants were also very active on Twitter throughout the event under the hashtag #wnmc19.

In 2011 the newspaper world gathered in Vienna, Austria for IFRA Expo 2011, 63rd World Newspaper Congress and 18th World Editors Forum.

This is the event's live blog.

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