The Forum on Information & Democracy announces the creation of a working group on the sustainability of journalism that will seek structural recommendations from experts, media stakeholders, academics and jurists all over the world on how to make quality journalism sustainable. A dramatic fall in income is threatening the survival of many news media, affecting the quality of their content and, ultimately, posing a major danger to democracies.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, will chair the working group’s steering committee, consisting of 17 well known figures (see list below). The Forum will recruit a team of rapporteurs and will publish an international call for contributions in mid-December.

The working group’s aim is to identify good practices (including business models, commercial cooperation and editorial partnerships), recommend a favourable regulatory environment (including an overhaul of the media economy’s legislative framework and innovative funding) and propose public policies of a non-market nature (such as state funding, non-financial benefits, tax concessions and development assistance).

“Upheaval in the media ecosystem and unfair competition attributable to change in the technological paradigm are endangering the financing of journalism,” Forum on Information & Democracy president Christophe Deloire said. “By creating this working group, we aim to help find a systemic response to the challenges of funding journalism.”

Nielsen said: “Quality news costs money and financial sustainability helps protect editorial independence. That’s why the sustainability of journalism is important for the whole public, not just those who work in the news media. I look forward to working with the Forum on Information & Democracy and the members of the new working group on the sustainability of journalism to identify recommendations that can help us find ways to ensure continued provision of quality news from genuinely independent media in the future.”

In a statement on 12 November 2020, the 70-nation Alliance for Multilateralism said it was looking forward to receiving a presentation on the working group’s recommendations at one of its meetings. The Coalition for Media Freedom’s 37 member countries issued a joint statement on 16 November “welcoming” the working group’s creation.

The Forum’s board of directors announced on 17 November that Harlem Désir, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s former representative on freedom of the media, has been appointed as the Forum’s director.

Members of the steering committee

  • Rasmus Nielsen, chair. Director, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford. He is also Professor of Political Communication at the University of Oxford.
  • Julia Cagé,  co-director, Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Evaluation of Public Policies. As a professor of Economics, she published Saving the media: Capitalism, crowdfunding and democracy.
  • Prem Chandran, co-founder and CEO, Malaysiakini. He also serves as non-executive director of KiniTV and FG Media, and he is the Chairperson of Asia Mobiliti. 
  • Styli Charalambous, publisher and CEO, Daily Maverick. He is a reformed accountant now working in media entrepreneurship.
  • Naresh Fernandes, editor, Scroll. He is also on the editorial policy board of the World Policy Journal. He was previously the editor-in-chief of Time Out India and The Wall Street Journal in New York. 
  • Elizabeth Hansen, lead researcher of the News Sustainability and Business Models project, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.
  • Kwame Karikari, professor in journalism and mass communication, School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana. Previously, he was the Executive Director of the MFWA.
  • Arne H. Krumsvik, Rector and Professor of Media and Communication, Kristiania University College. He is considered to be one of the founders of media innovations studies. 
  • Nishant Lalwani, Managing Director, Luminate. He also leads the organization’s work in narrative change across all its impact areas and oversees Luminate’s strategy, and partner support teams.
  • Mira Milosevic, executive director, GFMD. She authored the World Press Trends reports, managed Media Development Programmes at WAN-IFRA, and was the director of  Media Center Belgrade. 
  • Tania Montalvo, Executive editor, Animal Político. She started out as a reporter for Animal Político in 2013, with a focus on corruption, organized crime, violence and conflict.
  • Henri Pigeat, former president, AFP.  He is currently a press editor. Previously, he was the animator of the Quality of News and Information Task Force of the WAN.
  • Sibylle Rizk, public policies director, Kulluna Irada. She is an expert of Lebanese challenges as the former Editor in Chief of the leading Lebanese monthly Le Commerce du Levant.
  • Natalya Sindeyeva, founder and CEO, Dozhd. Dozhd is a Russian independent television channel. Natalia has twice won the ‘Russia’s media manager’ award for her work on radio and in television.
  • Olaf Steenfadt, head of the “Journalism Trust Initiative” at RSF. Olaf is a member of the “Committee of Experts on Quality of Journalism in the Digital Age” at the Council of Europe.
  • Kirstine Stewart, head of Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment and Information. Previously, she was the Vice-President, Media, Twitter after launching the Twitter Canada office. 
  • Patricia Torres-Burd, Managing Director – Media Services, Media Development Investment Fund. Previously, she was the vice-president of UBC International.