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Photo: Delwyn Verasamy / Mail & Guardian

Track record

Since we made our first loan in 1996, MDIF has invested in 119 independent media businesses in 42 countries. Over 24 years, our affordable debt and equity financing, supported by tailored technical assistance and advisory services, helped public interest media develop sustainable businesses, while safeguarding their editorial independence.

As of December 2019, we provided $231.2 million in financing, including $203.4 million in loans and equity investments, $27.2 million in technical assistance (TA) and TA grants and $0.6 million through a secure payment service for independent media.

MDIF has received back over $74.1 million in recovered principal invested, while earning more than $42.6 million in interest, dividends and capital gains, and returning over $54.1 million to investors.

$231.2 million
of total financing
over 24 years

media companies
in 42 countries

Track record summary table

Cumulative 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 (unaudited)
Assets Under Management n/a $39.9m $66.8m1 $70.1m1 $63.9m1 $115.2m
Number of total clients 119 53 48 47 42 42
Number of new clients n/a 2 4 2 4
Number of countries 42 28 28 26 25 28
New investments made $203.4m $1.5m $21.5m $3.7m $3.0m $55.2m
Principal recovered $74.1m $3.2m $3.0m $1.96m $1.86m $1.8m
Interest, dividends & capital gains collected $42.6m $576K $1.2m $917K $263K $867K
Returned to investors $54.1m $3.6m $6.4m $9.1m $2.0m $6.1m
  1. Numbers were adjusted based on the valuation of the investments.
Portfolio size, 2015-2019
Total annual client reach by type, 2014-2018
Number of clients, 2015-2019
Total annual client reach by type, 2014-2018


MDIF finished December 31, 2019 with $115.2 million total assets under management. Our portfolio included 42 independent media companies spread across 28 countries. In 2019 alone, MDIF invested $55.2 million in 10 media companies across 10 countries, four of them being new to our portfolio.

In 2019, we saw two outstanding clients from two different countries leave the portfolio, including one full repayment of the loan and one selling of shares.

In the past year, principal recovered stood at $1.81 million, while collections of interest, dividends and capital gains totaled $867,341.

MDIF’s Board of Directors also approved write-offs totaling $808,428, with three companies subsequently leaving our portfolio, which put our loss rate at 11.4% at the end of the year.

115.2 million
in 42 companies

10 companies supported with investment in 2019

In 2019, our capital structure included:

MDIF Media Finance I (MMF I)

A blended-value loan fund with a portfolio of twelve media businesses across eleven countries as of December 31, 2019. In 2019, MMF I allocated $935,000 to five media businesses in five countries, including two new companies in the Philippines and Guyana, and three existing clients in Serbia, Peru and Ukraine.

Emerging Media Opportunity Fund I (EMOF I)

A private equity fund that completed six investments and two follow-on investment in six companies in five countries as of December 31, 2019. In 2019, EMOF I invested a total of $750,000 in two companies – an existing client in Indonesia and a new client in Argentina.

MDIF General Fund (MDIF GF)

Our original evergreen fund providing Program Related Investments (PRIs). In 2019, two existing clients were supported with follow-up financing totaling $168,651 under MDIF GF, one in South Africa and one in Hungary.

SFS Ventures (SFS)

A joint venture between Sourcefabric and MDIF. In 2019, SFS Ventures acquired 60% of the share capital of Polish radio company Eurozet sp. z o.o.

MDIF Media Partners (MP)

A fund managed by MDIF investing in Polish media company Agora SA. There was no new activity in 2019.

Assets Under Management, 2015-2019
Assets Under Management, 2015-2019
Photo Portfolio - Unsplash
Photo: Unsplash

Countries we work in

Since 1996, we have worked in 42 countries where access to free and independent media is under threat. As of December 2019, MDIF held debt and equity investments in media companies in 28 countries, from India to Lesotho and from Peru to Malaysia.

The largest share of our assets under management — 78.9% — were in Southeast and Eastern Europe, with 11 companies in our portfolio, followed by Asia at 9% (10 companies), Africa at 6.8% (7 companies), Eurasia at 3.3% (4 companies) and Latin America at 1.6% (8 companies), in addition to 0.4% allocated to 2 international projects with global reach.

Last year, we extended our operations to two new countries – Guyana and the Philippines.

Children's Radio Foundation
Photo: Children’s Radio Foundation
Countries where MDIF has provided financing
Countries where MDIF has provided financing

Botswana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Malawi, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines

Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia

Outlets with global reach based in the Netherlands and USA

At the end of 2019, 38 out of 42 media companies we supported operated in countries where the media environment is partly free or not free, according The World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RWB)2. Additionally, 35 out of 42 clients in 2019 were in countries perceived as struggling with corruption problems, as measured by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index3.

In the chart on the right, each bubble represents a country, while the size of the bubble is determined by the amount invested. The further the bubble is to the right, the less free the country, and the lower on the chart, the more corrupt the country is perceived to be by its citizens.

  1. 0-25 “Free” (referred to as “good situation” and “satisfactory situation” by RWB), 25.01-35 “Partly free” (referred to as “problematic situation” by RWB) and 35.01-100 “Not free” (referred to as “difficult situation” and “very serious situation” by RWB)
  2. 0-49 “More corrupt”, 50-100 “Less corrupt”
MDIF’s assets under management by press freedom and corruption perceptions
Countries where MDIF has provided financing

Client developments

Over 24 years, MDIF had invested in 119 public interest media businesses of different sizes, types of activity and business models. Last year alone, MDIF’s investments supported the work of 42 media companies, employing more than 4,472 journalists, managers and other media workers, 48.1% of them women.

Our affordable financing aims to help media companies, as diverse as digital startups and national multi-platform broadcasters, build robust media organizations strong enough to fulfill their critical role of providing society with timely and reliable information.

Despite having very different business models and activities, MDIF-supported companies have a common interest in providing the information that citizens need to build free, thriving societies.

Photo: Vijesti

MDIF clients demonstrated their dedication and professionalism by earning multiple awards and accolades in 2019. We counted as many as 55 honours received by our clients during the year. 54.8% of MDIF-supported media organizations included in our annual questionnaire reported receiving awards in 2019. Out of those presented with prizes, 15 were recognized with national awards, 8 with international awards and 6 with local awards.


Many MDIF clients are leaders in their markets, renowned for their business innovation. Based on survey results, 65.5% of MDIF-supported media organizations surveyed as a part of our annual questionnaire reported carrying out innovative digital, multimedia or revenue development projects, partnerships or collaborations in the last year, with some examples presented below.

Growing subscription revenues

In Poland, Agora’s daily Gazeta Wyborcza grew its digital subscribers to 219,000, making it one of the world’s leading press sites in terms of subscriptions, ahead of LA Times, The New Yorker, Die Zeit and Le Figaro. The growth can be attributed mainly to the changes in the offer and boosting retention via products that encourage users to consume more content, such as newsletters, the introduction of family access and the app made available to all subscribers.

Finding new distribution channels

In Indonesia, legal news service Hukumonline launched the second version of LIA (Legal Intelligent Assistant), the first chatbot in Indonesia focusing on legal issues. Through the chatbot platform, people can easily access free legal information, for example about marital, divorce and inheritance law. Chatbot makes legal information available at a time when many Indonesians do not have sufficient access to adequate legal aid.

Embracing software development

In India, Scroll is working on designing a new platform called “Scroll Stack” that would work as a publishing platform for small independent publishers and individual bloggers. This mobile- first platform aims to provide both subscriber payment infrastructure as well as an advertising option to small publishers. The platform will utilize Scroll’s traffic as the discovery engine for publishers in India and later expand to other parts of the world.

In mission terms, MDIF-supported media continued to produce many forms of public benefit, bringing about transformative changes to their communities, cities, regions and countries in 2019. Examples of the concrete impact brought about by reporting on corruption and accountability, elections and social issues are presented below. More information on the impact of MDIF-supported media can be found in our Impact Dashboard published later in 2020.

Corruption and Accountability:

Vijesti exposes Montenegrin inspectors taking bribe

In Montenegro, national station TV Vijesti broadcast a video showing footage of two officials from the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism asking for and accepting bribes to ease the building permit process. In a video, the inspectors are heard demanding a kickback of 5,000 euros from a businessman who wants to construct a building in the town of Budva without a valid permit. Having failed to clamp down on corruption, Montenegro’s Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism resigned after the video was released. This is the first case of a Montenegrin minister resigning due to corruption in state institutions.The following day, the two inspectors were arrested after a new procedure against them was initiated.

Social issues:

Scroll reports on sexual harassment at India’s Supreme Court

In India, digital media Scroll published an article in which a former Supreme Court employee accused a serving Chief Justice of unwanted sexual advances, saying that she was dismissed after she resisted the advances, and that her husband and brother-in-law were also laid off from their public service jobs. The Supreme Court set up an in-house committee to look into the allegations but the accused judge appointed himself as chairman and it was only after protests that he stepped down. After carrying out an investigation without the victim, the committee cleared the judge. Civil society groups protested the decision and called for a new and impartial probe. Soon after, the husband and brother-in-law were reinstated to their jobs with the Delhi police without any explanation.


Rappler uncovers digital disinformation during the Philippine elections

In the Philippines, online outlet Rappler reported extensively about how supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte weaponized social media to attack hiscritics,beginninginthe2016presidentialelections andcontinuingthroughthe2019mid-termelections. Based on their investigation, Rappler notified Facebook of troll farms used to polarize online discussion, asking the company to remove them. After months of inaction, Facebook removed the accounts engaged in “inauthentic behavior” first in October 2018, and then again in March 2019. In retaliation for its critical reporting, Rappler and its reporters have been subjected to continued harassment, both from the violence-inciting troll army and from the administration, facing a total of 11 probes and lawsuits.

Sadly, media around the world continue to face fierce hostility, with new and increasing forms of repression taking hold in open societies and authoritarian states alike. In 2019, 42.4% MDIF-supported media organizations included in our annual questionnaire reported experiencing attacks, arrests or harassment in the past year, with examples of incidents presented below.


PARTLY FREE The World Press Freedom Index

Poland on globeIn Poland, Agora’s newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza faced intensified legal harassment by the ruling Law and Justice party and state-owned entities for its reporting on issues of public interest. In all, around 50 criminal and civil cases were brought against the newspaper by various state or state-controlled institutions.


NOT FREE The World Press Freedom Index

Philippines on globeIn the Philippines, Rappler continued their struggle against government harassment. Under the Duterte presidency, a total of 11 probes, complaints and cases have been filed against Rappler, including tax-related charges and an action for alleged ‘cyber libel’. Meanwhile, CEO Maria Ressa had posted bail eight times and been arrested twice.

Attacks on media freedom and freedom of expression are not the only challenges facing independent media. When asked to rank different challenges as a part of our annual questionnaire, MDIF clients reported that economic and business issues – such as dwindling advertising revenues and sales – posed the greatest risk. 63% of respondents rated them as 4 or higher, where 1 represents the smallest challenge and 5 represents the biggest challenge.

We believe that this is clear validation of our mission to provide financing and technical assistance that help independent media companies build the resilience needed to weather market volatility and, at the same time, maintain high news quality standards.

Attacks on media freedom
Photo: RTV21

Technical assistance and regional initiatives

To help build robust media businesses able to fulfill their role of providing reliable information, MDIF delivers customised capacity support and advice to qualified media organisations.

Since 1996, we have deployed a total of $27.2 million in technical assistance and grants aimed at increasing sustainability and resilience of media, both individually and at the sector level.

In 2019, we delivered $2.8 million in tailored technical assistance through Media Advisory Services (MAS), our capacity building unit, and through our regional initiatives, supporting 113 media companies in total.

$2.8 million
of technical assistance and grants in 2019

113 media companies supported by MAS & regional initiatives

In 2019, MAS continued to assist MDIF investees and other qualified media organisations to improve their business performance. Its various capacity building activities included 9 group events, technical assistance grants for 6 media organisations as well as 32 targeted consultations carried out by both in-house and external experts, in addition to ongoing remote support and advice, with an example of technical assistance support presented below.

In 2019, the capacity of Peruvian regional outlet El Búho was bolstered by dedicated assistance from an external consultant, as well as participating in two group events. One of the goals of the support was to develop a plan for strengthening El Búho’s digital presence: the audience in December 2019 more than doubled compared to December 2018 (a 259% increase Year-over-Year). The one-on-one consultation also sought to help the company explore new revenue streams as well as improve its product and sales offers. With the help of the expert, El Búho consolidated a new business plan, created new sales packages and launched a branded content studio. By adding reporting that could appeal to a more national audience and strengthening its SEO results, El Búho also opened up to a new set of clients beyond the usual regional advertisers.

After the support received for capacity building, we now have a business plan and concrete strategic actions to advance the sustainability of the company

- El Búho

When asked to evaluate our support, 74.2% of MDIF clients agreed or strongly agreed that there had been changes in their company because of their involvement with MDIF. Additionally, 95.5% of MDIF clients who received capacity building support from MDIF in 2019 agreed or strongly agreed that there had been changes in their company because of that support. Most importantly, 100% of the changes that occurred as a result of the involvement with MDIF or as a result of capacity building support were viewed as positive, with a selection of client testimonials below.

Thanks to trainings, meetings and round tables, the qualification level of our staff, both journalists and managers, has increased. Thanks to loans, our organization has gained a stronger position in the market

Client in Southeast and Eastern Europe

MDIF’s client network have been very valuable in understanding regional dynamics and markets, and also in exchanging learning and challenges with other Latin American clients, especially those with our same size

Client in Latin America

Myanmar Media Program II (MMP II)

In Myanmar, MDIF launched the second phase of our Myanmar Media Program (MMP) to increase the prospects for the sustainability of the independent media sector by improving the capacity of participating media companies. Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the current phase runs from July 2019 to December 2022.

The program aims to improve the business and management capacity of 36 independent media companies – a mix of national and local news outlets of different sizes and media types – and includes a sales initiative that will provide media partners from the regions with access to Yangon-based advertisers through a small media sales staff within the MDIF team in Yangon.

$3.3m program over 3.5 years
36 participating media organisations

Photo: Shan Herald Agency for News

South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP)

In South Africa, MDIF is implementing an initiative to accelerate digital innovation among independent media outlets that seek to deploy new solutions and reach new audiences. Run by MDIF, with funding support from OSF-South Africa and Luminate, the initiative launched in August 2017 and will last until August 2021.

SAMIP provides funding, mentorship and training to selected mission-driven companies and organizations passionate about trying new approaches to local news and information. By the end of the year, SAMIP had grown its cohort to 17 organizations, from community radios and citizen journalism platforms to multimedia digital publishing platforms.

$4m program over 4 years
17 participating media organisations

Photo: Nhlanhla Mtaka/Igunundu Agency

Year in review


The UK’s Department for International Development selected a consortium of which MDIF is part for a program (PrIMED) in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone.

MDIF launches the Southeast Asia Technical Assistance Initiative

With support from Sida, MDIF launched capacity building initiative in 3 Southeast Asian countries - Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand, with Philippines added later. Current pilot phase supports 5 independent media, a combination of for-profit and NGO-run.

Media Forum 2019

Nearly 180 clients, investors, staff and Board members from 46 countries attended the Media Forum 2019 in Warsaw, Poland.

Changes in Board of Directors

After 10 years as Chair, Bernard Poulet stepped down and was succeeded by Vice-Chair Sheila Coronel. Adriaan Stoop became Vice-Chair. Over the course of the year the Board also welcomed three new members: María Teresa Ronderos, Jim Egan and Richard Atterbury.

Commitment to carbon neutrality

MDIF is again certified as a Carbon Neutral company by Natural Capital Partners.

Reading list

2019 2020

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