The Western Balkans region remains beset by political instability, corruption and a chronic lack of transparency. The national media are often captured by vested political-business interests and access to honest information, at this most critical of times, is muddied by propaganda and disinformation.
But there remain bright spots in this darkening picture; the all too often overlooked regional and local media, diligently serving their communities, getting behind the big stories to tell people what it all means for them and their families.
But local media, beyond the capitals, in the Western Balkans face multiple challenges. They include; uncertain financial futures, made worse by Covid-19 wreaking havoc with advertising, a lack of professional standards in production and reporting and a lack of skills and resources to grasp new digital business opportunities.
Backed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and working alongside the British Council, the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network and Intrac, the £9.5m Supporting Greater Media Independence in the Western Balkans programme will see the foundation providing substantial support -expert, mentoring and financial - to 48 media outlets in the region over the next two years in order to strengthen local media businesses for the long term. and approach new audiences and topic areas, including youth, gender equality.
The Thomson Foundation will provide business support by raising capacities and creating opportunities for the introduction of new revenue streams, introducing innovative and efficient ways and tools of measuring and engaging audience, and creating a business-oriented mind-set among media beneficiaries by piloting new business models.
It's an ambitious programme of content and business support for local media, one that will stabilise incomes, grow audiences and keep independent voices heard.
In line with its best practice, the Thomson Foundation will implement a blended-learning approach, combining e-learning with offline trainings and continuous mentoring by experts to support implementation and contribute to monitoring of performances, results and impact of intervention.
We will be looking for experts for the projects and job offers will be published on our website.