By Jordan Chong
PIJI Chief Executive Anna Draffin has highlighted new research showing the potential to grow philanthropic support for the not-for-profit journalism sector through addressing regulatory constraints.
Speaking at an event hosted by The Walkley Foundation and PS Media on September 15 entitled “Why philanthropy is backing local journalism”, one of the issues raised was the difficulties news media faced in articulating its value and engaging with funders was not unique to the media industry.
“Philanthropic investment is actually a professional sector within itself,” Draffin said. “It is becoming increasingly professionalised over the last 15 to 20 years in Australia.”
“It does also have regulatory obligations, which mean that transparency and accountability are key aspects to actually engaging with the philanthropic sector.
“So there is an onus both on the funders themselves to better understand the needs of the sectors they are looking to support and why.
“And as you will see, for those of you that have read our research . . . it a spectrum of motivations. A funder could be interested in the underlying public good that public interest journalism offers to the community – so a direct public benefit – through to supporting specific cause areas.”
Meanwhile, there was the onus on the media organisations themselves to actually understand the needs of the philanthropic funders. Part of that was a capacity issue, Draffin said.
The webinar also heard from The Conversation Media Group chief executive Lisa Watts, who said it was “very, very tough” to secure philanthropic funding during the early years of the company.
Watts said a more attractive taxation setting would help secure more philanthropic funding, such as giving public interest journalism deductible gift recipient (DGR) status.
“Being able to operate with tax deductibility for public interest journalism is important and having an easier pathway to do that would make a difference for a lot of media,” Watts said.
“There are certainly larger institutional philanthropic contributors who need the DGR tax settings to be able to give the money out.”
Another participant was Guardian Australia managing director Dan Stinton, who discussed some of the publisher’s partnerships, such as with Melbourne University on The Guardian Civic Journalism Trust in 2018. The Guardian Australia has also teamed with about a dozen different organisations on funding specific journalism projects.
“The reason it has been such a great fit for us is because we are a relatively new news organisation in Australia, we are only eight years old here,” Stinton said.
“We didn’t quite have the revenue, and we still don’t quite have the revenue, to do all the things that we wanted to do.
“What it does is it enables us to effectively bring forward some of the reporting that we would probably get to eventually but might take us a few years. It is almost like it is seed funding for the kinds of journalism projects that we want to do.”
Rebecca Gorman, whose Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN) has partnered with Australian Associated Press to fund a dedicated agriculture desk, said the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the importance of local journalism.
“More than ever in this COVID environment we need our local connections,” Gorman said.
Read more on this topic from Philanthropy Australia.
Access PIJI’s research report ‘Understanding the role that philanthropy can play in supporting public interest journalism and how to enable it’.