Independent media houses in Eastern Europe have been struggling to stay in business and maintain standards, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the lockdown has made production even harder and cut advertising and other revenues, just as demand for quality information and analysis has been surging.
The Budapest office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in May commissioned reports by nine media professionals on the changes to the sector since the pandemic in their respective countries. Findings included that the new thirst for COVID-related information has not translated into a rise in financial stability for the media providing it. Existing business models remain vulnerable and funding mechanisms woefully inadequate.
The advertising market has nearly collapsed, with serious repercussions for all media formats.
Media funded by wealthy individuals appear in a better position to survive, though this can compromise editorial independence.
Also, emergency laws in some countries have put journalists at legal risk when reporting critically.
The findings were discussed in two regional online conferences and a working paper, as well as summarized in this short video:
In the wake of the project, a policy proposal has been developed together with Reporters Without Borders. The proposal will be discussed with Members of European Parliament and others in a number of meetings during the months of October and November.
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