Journalism Funders Confidential #14: Equity, diversity and inclusion (or the lack of it) in European media philanthropy

[Cross-posted from the Journalism Funders Forum website, where you can sign up for this newsletter. Twitter version here.]

What can philanthropy focused on journalism across Europe do to respond to the daily injustices, entrenched inequalities and structural exclusion and oppression forced into global public view by the murder of George Floyd and the resulting outcry and continuing #BlackLivesMatter protests? How, as we emerge from (we hope) the worst of the COVID-19 crisis, can European media philanthropy and journalism “build back better” in terms of racial equity and justice?

These are a few highlight areas we’re going to focus our attention to in today’s edition of the Journalism Funders Confidential newsletter. The astonishing abandonment of press freedom principles, with over 300 documented incidents of media being assaulted, arrested or impeded by police forces across America, is a shocking sub-theme we’ll note, but not cover here.

There are now over 2,000 of you across dozens of countries reading and engaging with this newsletter, which is, amid the many pressures on your time and attention, genuinely humbling for us. Thank you, and do keep sending us tips, requests and feedback – via info@journalismfundersforum.com@sdp or @BibaDK – and as ever do share this with your colleagues, peers and networks if you think they’ll find it useful.

The (lack of) representation of minority voices in European media

As solidarity protests continue across Europe, some are taking their own local shape and momentum – #JusticePourAdama in France, a petition to remove all statues of King Leopold II in Brussels, and the toppling of the statue of a slaver in Bristol, England, for example – and forcing to open a window of attention and debate on similar racism, injustice and inequality in European societies too. While we want to focus today to the extent possible on the experience of black communities in Europe, many communities across Europe face various types and degrees of brutality and impunity, structural racism, and unfair treatment. For more on this, start with ENAR, who are also tracking how these inequalities make ethnic minorities in many countries disproportionately vulnerable to coronavirus.

There’s plenty of research about the relationship between media and minorities in Europe (here’s one Sameer worked on *15* years ago). We know it’s important, for example, that minorities both have fair access to jobs of all types and at all levels within the mainstream media, and that they are represented and reflected in media of various kinds. But we also know it’s not happening enough or fast enough, anywhere. Just last month, Neue Deutsche Medienmacher*innen released a report that showed that there *are* immigrants at the higher levels of German media – from Austria and Switzerland. The Media Pluralism Monitor’s risk ratings (2017 data) on access to the media for minorities are pretty stark for a number of European countries. This News Impact Summit post is a great run-down of things European media are doing to address the diversity problem.

You may know or fund schemes aiming at increasing the diversity of journalists entering the sector, or training to support media to increase the diversity of expert voices (top German talkshow Menschen bei Maischberger is in hot water over having an all-white panel discussing Black Lives Matter) or to report in a more inclusive way. There are a number of these kinds of mechanisms across Europe. Yet even with these progressive measures, black and minority ethnic people are under-represented in the media sector at all levels including in public service media and public interest journalism, and in investigative journalism. But it’s also true in charities and in philanthropy.

“As a person of colour, I’ve seen from the inside of media philanthropy how hard it is for those outside the established networks to get noticed, to get a meeting, to get hired,” says Sameer. Many coming from minority backgrounds, for example, don’t have the networks, the insider knowledge, the opportunities. It takes hard work to build a genuinely level playing field as the work that the Engine Room is doing on a more equitable funding ecosystem is showing. Foundations want to see better journalism, the public interest served, democracy strengthened, better life outcomes for citizens, a level playing field. When they look at the websites of foundations, they think “That’s not for me. I don’t belong there.” They’re faced with asymmetries.

What can funders do to tackle the lack of diversity in European media?

Philanthropy consultant Derek Bardowell issued a challenge to philanthropists to do more, faster, last week: “Philanthropists, you either stand with us or you stand against us. You have a choice. But we will not let anyone forget your ‘actions’ at this moment. And that’s a promise. #BlackLivesMatter

There are lots of examples of funders trying – within the parameters of their capacity – to do more to open up. See three examples below that show ways in which it’s possible to try to redress the balance a little. 

  • Actively seek out diverse local media entrepreneurs, organisations, cooperatives, collectives, networks, freelancers – ask your grantees to suggest others. Listen to them, find ways to help them meet their needs and surmount the barriers (at the very least, don’t *be* a barrier). Support their networking activities and meeting others. Ask them what they need to know about how you work. Try, as the Grant Givers Movement advocates, to ‘rebalance power’. Stichting Democratie & Media in the Netherlands went out into their community and held open hours in local cafes and other settings, and actively sought out the voices and ideas of underrepresented communities. They’re a small team, with limited capacity, but they actively sought to continually expand their range of vision, including by setting up a dedicated fund to combat anti-Muslim discrimination.
  • Minorities and other non-traditional applicants also find it harder to access sources of funding, whether philanthropic or investment, at all stages of the process. Where there are specific structures set up to address their needs, such as accelerators focused on minority-owned and -led public interest media and diversity, these are usually short-lived and underfunded (like the 2016-17 Diversity Accelerator at the OECD). We know that startup ecosystems around the world are much less diverse than they should be. Startup Genome’s 2019 report noted both a deficit in diversity and in policy and action aimed at increasing diversity. Funds like Andreessen Horowitz’s Talent x Opportunity Fund – for those with great ideas but without the typical background, “the education, the mobility, the network, the social proof, the mentors, the business knowledge” – may provide an interesting inspiration to other investors, or indeed, funders. Funders with a mission-driven or social investment approach can and do play a leadership role here, but the quantities of finance available are also much smaller than needed.
  • Make it easy for those from minority or under-represented backgrounds to feel seen on your site, your social channels, in your applicant guidance. Many journalists are not experienced at applying for grant funding, and those from marginalised or underrepresented communities even more so. Explain the process of applying for a grant, your criteria and other parameters more clearly, and show those that don’t have the track record, or contacts, or background how they can also be taken seriously. Look at your own institution, programme, team and your decision-making processes. Is there lived experience of dealing with marginalisation, exclusion, racism? Can you hire those with the expertise to help with this?

As ever, we want to keep this to a manageable length, and so don’t have space to cover everything in the email/web version, but do keep an eye on this Twitter thread where you can respond with more links and resources and point us to more examples of this.

Funding news in Europe and beyond

Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund announced that they are providing support ranging from USD 5,000 to USD 30,000 to more than 5,000 news organisations worldwide. The figures are pretty staggering – 12,000 applications from 140 countries – with the final funding total expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars. Facebook emergency grants are still open around the world (but no longer in Europe). We hope to hear soon how much information from either fund will be public or released as open data (including via INERC).

Dafne, EVPA and other funding and social investment networks have come together to create a one-stop-shop for “sharing information, resources and good practices” – Unitus Europe.

And talking of investment, there’s potentially good news for the media sector from the InvestEU programme (which first came up for the JFF in the Brussels session we held in 2018 with Euractiv). As EU Commissioner Vera Jourova notes, the new InvestEU proposal specifically mentions the media as an eligible sector. (Here’s ECFIN’s Georgia Efremova in a 2018 EVPA webinar explaining ‘Outcomes Funds’ like InvestEU. We hope to see the EVPA add media/journalism as a sector under its excellent resources section soon!)

And adding to the many other current funding opportunities we have pointed to in each edition, we want to encourage you to share the Agora Europe grants, from Hostwriter, for journalists from Southern and Eastern Europe – deadline 22 June 2020. (Their Unbias The News resource is a valuable recent contribution, by the way.)

Let us know of other funding opportunities you think we should share.

What we are reading

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