MDIF provides affordable financing and business assistance to independent news outlets in challenging environments, helping them to become financially sustainable. We invest in outlets that provide the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies.
The MDIF Portfolio Review 2016 provides an overview of the performance of our investment portfolio, including visualizations of allocations by geography, press freedom ranking and corruption. It also offers an insight into our clients’ critical work around the world and organizational developments.
An app created by Brazilian client Colab.re helped the country to fight the outbreak of the Zika virus. As health officials began to suspect there might be a link between Zika in pregnant women and the birth of children with severe disabilities, Colab.re launched a dedicated app allowing residents to report outbreaks of Zika, dengue and chikungunya – all viral infections carried by mosquitoes – and the location of pools of standing water where the mosquitoes might breed.
The app works by allowing citizens to report symptoms and check which infection they are likely to have contracted. By comparing mosquito-breeding sites with symptoms, local authorities have a better understanding of the spread of the epidemic and are able to take action to minimise standing water.
Several clients were subjected to serious political pressure during the year, including:
Malaysiakini: Editor-in-Chief charged with cyber-crime. Malaysiakini was under repeated pressure as Prime Minister Najib Razak denied claims of massive corruption in the 1MDB scandal. Editor-in-Chief Steven Gan was charged with a ‘cyber-crime’ for uploading videos of a press conference in which a politician called for the Attorney-General’s resignation for failures in the investigation. If convicted, he faces up to one year in jail and Malaysiakini could be closed.
Radio Daljir: Government forces Somali station off air. The government of the Puntland region of Somalia closed client Radio Daljir for 12 days in June after broadcasting an interview with an opposition leader. Radio Daljir’s Editor-in-Chief was seriously beaten and the journalist who initially broke the story received multiple death threats.
Himalmedia: Arrest, exile and closure of Nepalese magazine. The Head of Nepal’s Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) waged a personal campaign against independent media, in particular Himalmedia and the Dixit family owners. The intimidation led to 10 days in jail for one Dixit family member and temporary exile of another, as well as the closure of a magazine and a massive unfounded tax demand for Himalmedia. The political landscape changed in October when the CIAA Head was suspended and impeachment proceedings started against him.
Throughout the year, our clients continued to have a profound impact on their societies through reporting on corruption and government accountability, including:
Former Vice-President Roxana Baldetti promised to clean up the country's polluted lakes and awarded a contract worth $19 million to an engineering firm to clean Lake Amatitlán. El Periódico published an article revealing terms of the contract that had been kept secret and showed that the company would use a cleaning chemical that was ineffective. The former Vice- President faces criminal prosecution for the case that caused widespread anger.
The Lesotho government lost more than $31 million in a massive fraud and money laundering scheme when the Integrated Financial Management Information System for national budgeting and accounting was manipulated to make double payments to several government suppliers. Public Eye broke the story and the scandal is being investigated by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences.
In 2016, we successfully launched three new funds to provide equity and debt financing to independent media companies in countries with challenging media environments. The three funds have already started investing debt and equity in independent media companies in countries such as India, Brazil and Ukraine.
In 2016, we also expanded our program of technical assistance, restructuring it as Media Advisory Services (MAS). As digital’s domination of media increases pace, MAS is vital in coordinating our technical assistance across all our funds and bringing it to a new qualitative level. It builds on our existing program of management advice and assistance, which over the course of 2016 provided dozens of clients with tailored consulting and training to support their online, broadcast and print work. We carried out scores of one- to-one consulting visits to clients on issues ranging from restructuring TV operations to online revenue strategies. In addition to onsite visits, we provided remote assistance via conference calls and emails on a regular basis, as well as hosting several group events.
More than 130 clients, funders, partners, Board and staff gathered for the Media Forum in Prague from 10-12 November. The opening ceremony took place at the historic Czech Museum of Music and was followed by two days of panels, presentations and workshops. Topics examined ranged from mission-focused issues, such as investigative journalism and election reporting, to the business of online video and mobile, and transitioning from an independent newspaper to a diversified media company.
Participants rated the Forum as one of the best, with clients appreciating the interactive panels and the practical nature and quality of the content. There was a range of side meetings before, during and after the Forum, including a workshop for Myanmar Media Project participants (see here). Watch Media Forum Insights, a series of short interviews with clients, here.
On August 22, the Russian Ministry of Justice officially listed MDIF as an ‘undesirable’ organization. The declaration, which claimed that MDIF is a threat to the Russian constitution, effectively prohibits us from operating in the country and prevents Russian companies and individuals from dealing with us. We had anticipated the move and had ceased working in Russia before the announcement. In March NTV, a channel well known for pro-government propaganda, broadcast ‘Debtors of the State Department’, a program accusing MDIF of being an agent of the U.S. State Department and our clients of being mouthpieces of U.S. foreign policy. A finding by the Russian Public Commission for Media Complaints that the claims were “unsubstantiated and false” went unnoticed.
MDIF became one of seven organizations supporting civil society and democratic development on the undesirable list, including the National Endowment for Democracy, Open Society Foundations and the International Republican Institute. The declaration was widely condemned internationally, but provoked hostile coverage of MDIF and our clients in Russian media. Since the declaration, our former clients have continued to face substantial pressure.
The Impact Dashboard 2016 found that in 2015 MDIF clients provided news and information to 60.9 million people in countries where access to free and independent media is under threat, while generating a combined $56.3 million in sales. It also found that after five years of working with us, client businesses grew their reach by a median of 33% and their sales by 113%.
The Impact Dashboard 2016 also found that clients ranging from local news websites to national broadcasters had a profound impact on their societies through reporting on corruption and government accountability. Across our portfolio, in 2015 78% of clients exposed corruption scandals in their country and 89% held government leaders accountable for their policy promises. View our interactive Impact Dashboard presentation or read the full publication here.
In 2016, MDIF returned $2,959,180 to its investors. Current funders and investors include:
|Portfolio size (with commitments)||n/a||42,802,819||43,341,156||47,060,161||47,934,160||42,248,995||38,486,097||35,057,522|
|Assets Under Management||n/a||66,049,773|
|Number of total clients||110||48||51||54||59||66||53||49|
|Number of new clients||n/a||4||5||9||6||11||—||2|
|Number of countries||39||19||21||25||25||32||28||29|
|New investments made||142,143,073||10,012,769||6,486,157||8,845,225||5,328,980||3,250,447||1,484,950||3,795,556|
|New projects funded||341||27||27||25||16||19||13||12|
|Interest, dividends & capital gains collected||41,126,263||1,523,179||1,127,059||1,042,177||1,113,386||856,194||576,527||1,160,646|
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