Appropriate local print media funding models for Ukraine – expert report from the EU-CoE joint project

The financial situation of many local print media in Ukraine is difficult, so it is necessary to study the experience of other European countries and the Council of Europe standards on state support for these media.

Marius Dragomir, consultant of the joint project “The EU and the Council of Europe work together to support media freedom in Ukraine”, in his recently published report “State financial support for the print media: Council standards of Europe and European Practices ”concluded that out of four main types of funding models for local print media that exist in Europe (direct grants, tax breaks, state advertising, project-based support programs), two more suitable for Ukraine are the project-based support mechanism and the direct public subsidy fund.

A project-based support mechanism is funding that covers the specific needs of print media, i.e. training and skills development, upgrading of technology or facilities, or maintenance processes. restructuring. This model would be preferable because it would also require the participation of the media, encouraging them to design their own operational and business models that guarantee both their financial sustainability and their editorial independence. For example, the Netherlands and Belgium have such experience.

“In the Ukrainian context, such a funding program should provide sufficient funding to cover the needs of all local print media that offer quality content. The fund should be designed to cover a longer period to ensure predictability and allow the media to plan for the longer term, ”explains Marius Dragomir in the report.

Alternatively, a state subsidy system in the form of a media support fund would help local print media in Ukraine build resilience and produce quality content for local audiences.

“For such a system to work, it must be designed to provide both basic financial support to all local print media as well as larger financial grants to media that offer or strive to offer content of high quality or who prove to have a solid vision of how to improve their operations, ”says Marius Dragomir in the report.

Direct subsidies in the print media sector are relatively rare in Europe. However, Austria, Finland, France and Sweden have such experience.

A third option would be a combination of the direct grant model and the project-based model, or provide tax exemptions for the media. If the funding helps the media to improve their financial viability, within a certain period of time the subsidy model can be phased out.

The expert mentions that whatever form of public funding aid is implemented, it is essential to ensure the independence of the media. The Council of Europe also stresses this in its recommendations. Thus, state funding should be based on a few key principles: transparency; funding schemes should be designed on the basis of clear criteria; State funding must meet both economic and socio-cultural needs as well as democratic needs; public media funding programs should be designed as a complementary and remedial measure rather than a dominant funding model.

High-quality and independent local media are essential to protect the national information space, develop media literacy, meet the information and cultural needs of local communities, develop pluralism in the coverage of both national processes and the life of local communities.

To recall, the National and Municipal Print Media Reform Act 2015 laid the groundwork for the privatization of the local press, a process that began in January 2016. As a result, a total of 615 publications were reformed, or around 96 % of total number. state and municipal media actually published at the end of 2018.

Link to the expert report.

Background information:

The project “The EU and the Council of Europe work together to support media freedom in Ukraine”, funded by the EU and the Council of Europe, aims to strengthen the role of the media, their freedom and their security.

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