PIJI has an ongoing research program into taxation to encourage investment in public interest journalism.

The potential of philanthropy to contribute to the development of non-profit news production in Australia is under studied.

This program of research is guided by the Project Steering Group, consisting of:

  • Dr Bill Birnbauer, Monash University
  • Anna Draffin, Public Interest Journalism Initiative
  • Krystian Seibert, Philanthropy Australia and Swinburne University

Project partners for this research are Australian Communities Foundation, Philanthropy Australia and Pro Bono Australia.

Understanding the role that philanthropy can play in supporting public interest journalism and how to enable it

Despite repeated proposals to provide news media organisations with deductible gift recipient (DGR) status, there had been no study to interrogate the mechanical barriers for funders and news organisations, and the motivational factors that may affect the philanthropic sector’s appetite to fund public interest journalism.

This report draws on a series of interviews conducted with approximately forty stakeholders from news media organisations and philanthropy to provide insights into the motivations and mechanisms that impact philanthropic giving to public interest journalism.

The research found that:

  • There was a strong view that philanthropy does have a role to play in supporting the Australian news media industry, though participants did not anticipate that philanthropy would be likely to account for a substantial investment;
  • A small but growing market of philanthropists is supporting public interest journalism, motivated by its nature as a public good; by its potential to further another cause they care about; and its importance to community infrastructure;
  • Philanthropic funders lack awareness of the need for support;
  • Current charity and taxation laws are a key constraint;
  • Philanthropists and news media organisations may have only limited exposure to examples of what is being funded and the rationale for it, hindering development;
  • News media organisations do not have experience engaging with philanthropy and can struggle to articulate the social and civic impact of public interest journalism;
  • By addressing regulatory constraints and tapping into existing cause areas, there is potential to grow philanthropic support for the not-for-profit journalism sector.

Reviewing proposals to facilitate philanthropic funding of news in Australia

Multiple government and regulatory inquiries have examined the financial difficulties facing the news industry over the past decade. A recurring recommendation of these inquiries is to provide incentives for philanthropic giving to the news sector. The comparison is often drawn to the United States, where philanthropy contributes around US$500m every year.

PIJI conducted a review of proposals to government inquiries over the past decade and found that:

  • the two options consistently suggested are 1) to create a new category of deductible gift recipient for journalism, and/or 2) create a central philanthropic trust to receive and distribution donations;
  • there are some indicators that there is likely to be demand for funding but no comprehensive study of the potential uptake of non-profit, charitable, deductible gift recipient status among news organisations; and
  • there has been no research in the Australian market among philanthropic funders to assess whether they are interested in giving to journalism and, if so, what incentives and barriers may exist.

These findings will inform the next stages of PIJI’s research into this issue.

Gary Dickson, Research & Projects Manager, Public Interest Journalism Initiative

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