FAQs: Your questions answered
1. What are the criteria on which IPSMF evaluates media entities for funding and support?
At the core of every funding is an appreciation of the ‘journalism’ that an entity has been stood for. The track record of the Founders, the passion that drives them and the impact that they seek to achieve also plays a great role. … The Foundation focuses mostly on digital media that are already operational. It needs to be convinced about the quality, integrity, independence and impact of the journalism practiced so far. These attributes would invariably translate into building a loyal reader/ viewer base. Hence, ‘audience reach’ both on the web as well as on social media platforms, is part of the evaluation process. The key to running any successful media operation is sustainability. Potential grantees are evaluated for the current financial stability of the operation, the risk capital invested by the Founders, revenues generated as well as the overall ability of the operation to scale through the implementation of its future revenue and business goals. The Foundation’s funding is ideally on a three-year horizon. During the course of the funding cycle, grantees are expected to ensure that their dependency on the Foundation’s funding is gradually minimised. As every grantee is expected to focus and grow their regular revenue streams, the extent of funding is on a diminishing scale. A clear revenue plan or alternative sources of funding is imperative.
2. Does IPSMF support print and television media?
While there is no stop to funding credible media in any format, the Foundation has consciously decided to opt for and focus on digital media entities, as the medium has low entry … barriers with potential to enable new-media players to clock maximum reach and impact at the least cost. It can be clearly discerned that it is on the digital and mobile platforms that the future of mass media lies.
3. Does IPSMF support regional-media platforms?
We do. In fact, the Foundation is focused on supporting more Indian-language entities that are independent and are committed to public-interest journalism. … The Foundation has lent support to Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam and Tamil language media. IPSMF is seeking out Independent media entities in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu and Telugu amongst other Indian languages.
4. You offer “financial and other assistance”. Can you elaborate on the latter?
While most of the Foundation’s grantees are fairly savvy and professional in running their operations, there are quite a few who need help in understanding the complexities of setting up a … ‘business’ venture – local licencing and legal requirements, financial planning and even technology 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.
5. 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 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.
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 building of a 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 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? What remedies would it employ if it finds a grantee not adhering to the values it espouces?
The Foundation does not seek to exert any influence over grantees’ editorial and content plans. 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.The rigorous pre-grant due diligence by the Foundation almost virtually ensures that we support only those entities who adhere to the vision that IPSMF was set for. The Foundation has a built-in process, that tracks content produced by its grantees. It reserves its right in providing feedback to grantees on content that is found in violation of the Foundation’s values and mandate. Moreover, if the Foundation determines 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.
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 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 “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 discord or conflict prior to being onboarded. The paramount criterion is whether the journalism is based on facts, is independent and fair, and in the public interest. A broad and critical litmus test would be to seek evidence of a potential grantee’s adherence to and promoting the values and ideals enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
10. What are IPSMF’s views on the increasing proliferation of fake news?
Misinformation in a democratic system is a problem that demands long-term solutions and interventions. This has to be addressed without undermining the advantages of digital media. … IPSMF is conscious that an independent media ecosystem should provide high-quality journalism to build public trust. Misinformation and fake news has eroded trust in media and led to damaging the credibility and reputation of media as a whole. 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, 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.