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Portfolio
Review
2016

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About MDIF

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.

About the Portfolio Review

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.

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Client
Developments

Client awards

In 2016, many of our clients (and in the case of Russia, former clients – see here) won national and international journalism awards in recognition of their work, including:

Election coverage

In 2016, elections were held in several countries where we work and our clients played a key role in improving voter knowledge, exposing corruption and increasing participation, including:

General elections, ZambiaBreeze FM, Zambia – In August, Zambia held presidential, parliamentary and local elections together with a vote on proposed changes to the Constitution. President Edgar Lungu was re-elected in an acrimonious and closely contested vote. The elections were marred by tension between rival political factions, with instances of electoral violence and media intimidation. Community-based private station Breeze FM provided detailed and localised coverage of the elections and scrutinised candidates. It ran more than 30 political phone-ins featuring candidates from various parties, increased coverage on its website and social media, and broadcast live debates.

Los Tiempos, BoliviaLos Tiempos, Bolivia – In February, Bolivians narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have lifted presidential term limits, allowing President Evo Morales to seek a fourth term. Los Tiempos newspaper and website was very active during the election period. It balanced reporting on a major procurement scandal facing the President with a detailed explanation of voting procedures and interactives tracking public opinion and the vote count. It also hosted a series of debates and monitored voting irregularities from readers on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Colab.re helps fight Zika virus

An app from Colab.re, BrazilAn 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.

Clients suspended, intimidated and prosecuted

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 DaljirRadio 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.

Client impact on corruption and accountability

Throughout the year, our clients continued to have a profound impact on their societies through reporting on corruption and government accountability, including:

El Periódico, Guatemala

Polluted lakes, GuatemalaFormer 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.

Public Eye, Lesotho

Public Eye, LesothoThe 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.

MDIF Developments

MDIF launches three new funds and Media Advisory Services

Kevin trainingIn 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.

Media Forum 2016 provides cross-client learning

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.

Media Forum 2016, Czech Republic

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.

MDIF declared undesirable in Russia

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.

Media businesses join Myanmar Media Program

Throughout 2016 we rolled out a $2.4 million, three-year capacity building program for media in Myanmar, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Eleven independent media organizations were selected to take part in the intensive coaching program that lies at the heart of the Myanmar Media Program; at the end of the year, two more organizations joined the program.

Myanmar Media ProgramParticipating media receive intensive tailored capacity building – including mentoring, one-to-one expert consulting, group workshops, peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and direct grants for building management capacity and business effectiveness – to help them establish financially sustainable, quality news businesses. Technical assistance focuses on topics such as strategic development, business planning and digital strategies, with MDIF deploying a mix of in-house expertise and mentor-coaches from Southeast Asia.

Participant outlets were chosen for their independence, potential impact and likelihood of long-term survival. They include ethnic media and comprise a mix of print, broadcast and digital, with local, national and international reach.

MDIF clients provide news to more than 60 million people

Breeze journalist

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.

Countries where MDIF has provided financing

Investors & funders

In 2016, MDIF returned $2,959,180 to its investors. Current funders and investors include:

  • Autonomy Investments
  • Bank Vontobel
  • David W. Haas
  • DOEN Foundation
  • Dreilinden Foundation
  • Foundation for Democracy and Media (SDM)
  • Institusjonen Fritt Ord
  • Income and Impact Fund
  • Margaret E. Kaplan Trust
  • Morgan Simon
  • Omidyar Network
  • Open Society Foundations
  • responsAbility
  • Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
  • Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Portfolio by the Numbers

Portfolio summary 2016

Cumulative 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 (unaudited)
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
Principal recovered 68,460,963 6,668,999 4,624,470 4,558,066 3,933,308 2,900,796 3,235,316 3,008,016
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

Portfolio by amount invested, press freedom ranking and corruption perceptions index

Chart of portfolio by amount invested, press freedom ranking and corruption perceptions index

Investments by region

Outstanding PRIs by region
Chart of Outstanding PRIs by Region
Cumulative PRIs by region
Chart of Cumulative PRIs by Region

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