Macedonia

Is Donor Funding Bad for Journalism?

Funding from donors in the media has grown significantly during the past decade or so. Journalists welcome the charity. But when these awards come with editorial “advice”, we have a problem.
 
Thisisafrica.me is an online media outlet that brands itself as a “leading forum for African opinion, arts and music.” They cover a jumble of topics ranging from politics to corruption to sex and reproductive policies. The site publishes op-eds, interviews and investigations. Its journalism has been widely praised across the continent.
 
But in spite of its apparent popularity, Thisisafrica.me is in business mainly thanks to donor funding: cash doled out by foundations and deep-pocketed philanthropists. Without cash from donors, Thisisafrica.me wouldn’t exist. That is hardly surprising, especially on a continent ravaged by poverty where markets can rarely support high-quality journalism.
 
But over the past decade or so, as the internet and dwindling economies have clobbered mainstream media companies, funding independent journalism has become a major problem everywhere. Ad spend is down or spread to many more outlets than before. Newspaper circulations have dived. Journalists and media companies take funding from almost all kinds of givers, donors included. Even established media are increasingly resorting to private donors.

Western Balkans Public Media on Life Support

Public service broadcasters in the Western Balkans have become increasingly unaccountable to their audiences and tone deaf to their needs. At stake is the very legitimacy of public service broadcasting in the region.
 
Public service broadcasters in the countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia – are in crisis.
 
In Bosnia & Herzegovina, the state-level public broadcaster BHRT announced in July 2016 that it would stop broadcasting its programs due to the lack of funding, highlighting the deep structural crisis of the public service broadcasting system in the country. The decision was later revoked; but the crisis remains.
 

How to Neuter Critical Media in Eastern Europe: Buy Them an Ad

The integrity and independence of journalism is in dire straits in eastern Europe. The preferential distribution of state advertising has had to do with much of this.
 
Celebrating 175 years of existence last year, Turkey’s leading telecom provider, Turk Telekom, organized a glamorous reception in Ankara, the nation’s capital city, attended by many of the country’s bigwigs. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan came in person to congratulate the telco’s chairman Mohammed Hariri for the company’s “exceptional service” to Turkey.
 
But the party was only a sprinkling in the company’s anniversary budget. On top of it, and other things, Turk Telekom splurged in 2014 on a massive advertising campaign ballyhooing its then upcoming anniversary. However, this spending spree turned out to be a rather clever political maneuver instead of a usual corporate stint. Data from Nielsen Company AdEx, which monitors ad spending in Turkey, show that Turk Telekom doled out some US$ 63m to 16 pro-government media outlets. Opposition newspapers such as Zaman, BirGun or Cumhuriyet didn’t receive a dime.

Macedonia's Digital Muck-Up: Politics as Usual Means "No TV for You!"

Digitization of broadcasting was hoped by many in Macedonia to pave the way for new voices to enter the media market. Instead, a digital dictatorship was established.
 
The 35 residents of the village Novo Selo, in Demir Hisar municipality in southwestern Macedonia, do not have much choice on their TV sets. They learn about what is happening beyond their homesteads solely from the three channels aired by the country’s public broadcasting service, MRTV, including one parliamentary channel showing essentially what lawmakers discuss in Skopje, the country’s capital city.
 
People invested in new devices in anticipation of what was supposed to be a digital revolution. As of 1 June 2013, households with older models of TV sets in Macedonia had, in fact, to buy new devices to be able to capture TV signals as, according to the state plan for digital migration, transmission in analog signal was discontinued. In short, without a new device set owners would not have been able to watch TV anymore.
 
In Macedonia, a country in which most mainstream media are strictly controlled  by the government, many people dreamed about what digital TV would bring them: not only new ways to search for programs, sparkling TV images and even the opportunity to shop online, but what swathes of viewers are missing most: more voices on television and better journalistic content.
 
But the people in Novo Selo are still denied even minimal benefits of digitization. And they are not alone.