Global Independent Media Funding Reaches $1 Billion Annually — But Still has Long Way to Go

MIAMI — Non-U.S. funding to build independent media around the world is only $1 billion a year – just a tiny fraction of what world governments spend on arms annually, according to a report prepared for the John S. and James. L. Knight Foundation.

The report, authored by Drs. Lee B. Becker and Tudor Vlad of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia, documents at least 70 donor organizations that are funding efforts in 25 countries to create independent media.

Donors are units of governments in single countries, nongovernmental organizations, including foundations, and multinational organizations. Spending is spread around the world, with Eastern and Central Europe and African countries major recipients.

“A billion dollars may sound like a lot of money, but compare it to the $1 trillion spent globally on weapons every year. The world is spending a lot more on destructive technology than it is trying to get people to talk peacefully among themselves,” said Eric Newton, director of Knight’s Journalism Initiatives.

The report, “Non-U.S. Funders of Media Assistance Programs,”  is the first attempt to systematically examine the landscape of funding for independent media outside the U.S. and provide a listing of donor organizations. A previous report for Knight, entitled “The Media Missionaries: American Support for International Journalism Excellence and Press Freedom Around the Globe,” provided a detailed look at U.S. funding of global independent media, which totaled $600 million in the last decade. 

After the fall of communism in 1989, Western governments, nongovernmental organizations, foundations and others began a concerted effort, especially in Eastern and Central Europe, to help international media develop according to Western journalistic standards.

Whether the funding is even having an impact remains uncertain. The report by Becker and Vlad was undertaken as part of a larger effort to examine the relationship between independent media funding and its expected outcomes. But at present, as the report documents, it is difficult to conclude whether these funding efforts have succeeded in promoting press freedom and creating healthy, quality media.  

The report, based on data from donors and projection estimates, contains a summary of the main findings and the methodology used to locate funding agencies, as well as a listing of those agencies and their contact information.

To obtain a copy of the report, go to

The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which funded the work of Drs. Becker and Vlad, promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities. Since its creation in 1950, Knight Foundation has approved more than $275 million in journalism grants.