Reform of the model for supporting the media: more funds, flexibility and independence

Date

2022 06 20

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The reform of the model for supporting the media was presented today at the Ministry of Culture. The reform will open up significantly more opportunities for the media to add to the content it creates, and for society to receive reliable and valuable information.

In the Ministry of Culture’s draft proposal for amending the Republic of Lithuania Law on the Provision of Information to the Public, it is proposed to establish a new public institution, the Media Support Fund. It is proposed to use the Fund to support not only those who produce information for the public, but also in certain cases the projects of disseminators and the activities of natural persons (journalists). It is also proposed that the Media Support Fund could grant stipends, perform research, prepare and publicise reviews, and perform other functions for the implementation of policy on the provision of information to the public. It is proposed for the Fund to have three owners, each with equal rights: the Government’s authorised institution in the area of provision of information to the public (the Ministry of Culture), the Public Information Ethics Association (uniting associations of public information producers, disseminators and journalists), and the Cultural Periodical Publications Association. It is proposed that the Fund’s governing council be composed of 10 members.

According to Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys, the media today is experiencing unprecedented changes. The reallocation of advertising revenue in favour of enormous global corporations and content-sharing platforms has caused the very survival of media organisations to become a challenge, with a resulting fall in the quality of the content produced. “The issue of cultural media and the regional media is a separate problem; their ability to support themselves was already a difficult matter, despite their huge importance to civil society and local communities,” Minister of Culture Kairys says. “The existing system of support was established to meet important but primarily local challenges. Nowadays, the nature and the scale of the challenges is altogether different. The pandemic, infodemic, Russia’s war against Ukraine, the public’s changing habits for the consumption of media and information: all of this has shown that the existing model is simply too static and unable to respond properly to changing circumstances, and does not provide a meaningful level of support to the media, the role of which is so important at such a tense moment. The updated support model would mean more flexibility and self-governance, and at the same time less political influence when taking decisions to allocate support for one or another specific project. We certainly see the need to significantly increase the level of support for the media. But to do that, first of all we have to do our homework: update the media support model itself, in a constructive way.”

It is planned that next year, during a transitional period, funding for media projects will be allocated by both the existing Media Support Foundation (in Lithuanian, SRTRF) as well as the proposed Media Support Fund. From 2024, all funds for the purpose of supporting the media would be allocated through the Media Support Fund only.

The draft proposal provides that the Fund will support three main programmes: news, investigative and educational journalism, cultural media and regional media. In addition, other programmes prepared by the Fund’s governing council will also be supported, taking into consideration the priorities for development of provision of information to the public and with the approval of the Fund’s owners.

“The media all around the world is facing a multitude of challenges. At the same time, the necessity of working in an ethical way to produce good information, and to feel the weight of responsibility to the public with each and every publication, report or broadcast, still remains. Sustainable, long-term and well-thought-out decisions are necessary, which in this especially dynamic environment of change will help Lithuania’s media to improve the reliability and quality of the information it produces,” says Vaiva Žukienė, a representative of the Public Information Ethics Association, one of the three organisations proposed to be owners of the new Fund.

Gytis Norvilas, the head of the Cultural Periodical Publications Association, says that representatives of the cultural media sector have sought funding reform for many years, to ensure the media’s sustainability, modernity and liveliness. “We see the proposed Fund as another attempt to reset the entire field of support for the media. We understand that other media sectors (the regional press, analytical journalism) are also experiencing challenges, so our interest is the health of the entire media space, and that is why we are not afraid to play a responsible role in establishing the new fund. We expect the same from others, including politicians and the entire spectrum of the cultural community and media.”

In case of approval of the amendments to the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public, the Media Support Fund would be established, the Fund’s governing council would be formed, the Fund’s director would be appointed by means of a competitive public hiring process, and the guidelines for selecting projects to be funded would be prepared. The first call for the media to apply for funding could occur in the summer of 2023.

Photograph from pixabay.com