FAQs: Your questions answered
1. What is IPSMF’s objective in funding and supporting Indian media-entities? What does the Foundation seek to achieve?
The Foundation’s goals are to create, through its funding initiatives, a media ecosystem that fosters independent, public interest journalism; encourages the attainment of higher editorial standards; influences public debate; challenges and complements mainstream media; and empowers individuals to exercise their democratic rights.
We believe that media must play the role of watchdog and guardian of public interest. We aim to create as wide a footprint as possible by supporting digital-media entities in both English and Indian languages, both at the national and regional level. If the entities we support go on to become ‘beach-heads of journalistic excellence’ and in their own way bring pressure to bear upon legacy media, we would consider our effort fulfilling.
2. What are the criteria on which IPSMF evaluates media entities for funding and support?
What excites us most is the passion of the founders, what drives them and the impact that they seek to achieve. We are now mostly focused on ‘running’ digital enterprises, as that enables us to get a clearer picture of the capacity for quality journalism of the entity, and its impact. ‘Audience reach’ of the web platform, as well as its social media footprint, is another extremely important criterion in our evaluation. Another key criterion is sustainability. The Foundation’s funding is ideally planned for up to three years. It is, therefore, important that all our grantees have a clear revenue plan or alternative sources of funding. During the course of the funding period, we aim at ensuring that the dependency of grantees on the Foundation’s funding is gradually minimised.
3. Does IPSMF support print and television media?
While there is no stop on funding credible media in any format, the Foundation has consciously decided to opt for and focus on the digital media entitles, as we believe that the digital medium has the potential to enable new media-players to clock the maximum reach and impact at the least cost. This is apart from the fact that it can be clearly discerned that it is on the digital and mobile platforms that the future of mass media lies.
4. Does IPSMF support regional-media platforms?
We do. In fact, the Foundation’s focus is on supporting more of Indian-language entities that are independent and are committed to public-interest journalism. IPSMF has funded, or is on the verge of funding, a significant number of Indian language entities.
5. You offer “financial and other assistance”. Can you elaborate on the latter?
Some of our grantees are fairly savvy and professional in running their operations. But, there are others who need some help in understanding the intricacies of setting up a ‘business’ venture – local licencing and legal requirements, financial planning and taxation aspects and even technology needs for setting up a robust web and mobile platform. We share best practices and experiences with the grantees and also help in connecting them to the right kind of consultants and vendors.
6. IPSMF funds media entities that compete with each other. How does it handle this seeming conflict of interest?
We are keen that all our grantees contribute to the kind of media ecosystem that the Foundation strives for. Like any other investment relationship, where entities are expected to share confidential information with potential investors, IPSMF’s relationship with its grantees is built on a foundation of complete confidentiality and trust. We follow a strict code of not sharing any confidential information of one grantee with any of our other grantees. At the same time, the Foundation is happy to facilitate interactions between its portfolio of grantees for sharing best practices and exploiting possible synergies.
7. Does IPSMF have influence over content at funded companies?
The Foundation does not seek to have any further influence over editorial plans and strategies beyond what the grantee already practices. IPSMF gives high priority to the realisation of its vision to create an ecosystem that sets trends and fosters excellence in public-interest journalism. Entities that approach the Foundation for funding are fairly conversant with the values that it stands for. All our grantees are expected to operate within this framework.
8. Do IPSMF’s funders have a say in deciding who gets a grant? If not, do they have any role beyond providing the money?
IPSMF was set-up at the initiative of some of our donors. However, they have chosen to distance themselves completely from all stages of the funding process. The Foundation’s agreements with donors specify, among other things, that they will have no control over the Foundation’s funding decisions. IPSMF is headed by an eminent Board of Trustees which is independent of the donor group. The Board of Trustees is responsible for all decisions on grants. The donors are not involved at any stage of the grant-making process. Donors are informed of the activities of the Foundation through a quarterly newsletter. Once a year, the Trustees also interact with donors to share and apprise them of the Foundation’s activities..
9. How does IPSMF view news outlets that have ideological leanings?
While it is true that different media entities may consciously or unconsciously have inbuilt biases – ideological or otherwise – the Foundation is completely “ideology agnostic”.
IPSMF has clearly defined values and operating standards for the entities it supports. And a rigorous evaluation is done to detect any obvious aberrations before any entity is taken on board. The paramount criterion is whether the journalism that the media entities practice and the content that they put out is based on facts, is independent and fair, and is in the public interest. A broad and critical litmus test is to see if the entities adhere to, and promote, the values and ideals enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
10. What are IPSMF’s views on the increasing proliferation of fake news?
Misinformation is an aberration that one must constantly monitor, guard against, and fight. We believe that IPSMF has a significant role to play in this fight against misinformation. IPSMF is very conscious of the damage that fake news and misinformation has done to the credibility and reputation of the media itself. Social media platforms have great potential to create new communities and groups that should actually ‘aid democracy’. However, these platforms are also being misused with a vested and malicious intent by certain elements. The Foundation is cognisant of this larger threat which may be only amplified in the coming years.
Therefore, as a concrete step, the Foundation has consciously decided to support entities that are engaged in busting misinformation and fake news, to weed out the unsavoury aspects of the undeniable reach and efficacy of the social media platforms.
11. Does IPSMF keep track of the journalism practised by its grantees and what remedies would it employ if it finds one of its entities responsible for misinformation?
The rigorous pre-grant due diligence by the Foundation almost virtually ensures that we support only those entities who we think will not consciously publish anything which has not been fact-checked and researched. That apart, the Foundation, as part of its built-in process, tracks content produced by its grantees and reserves its right to revert to the grantees if anything is found in violation of the Foundation’s values and mandate. Moreover, if the Foundation perceives that there are repeated violations of the guidelines, then the Foundation’s remedy may extend to the ceasing of the funding and support to the grantee.