MDIF publishes Myanmar local media business report

New York, 6 November 2018: Media Development Investment Fund today published An Unfavorable Business: Running Local Media in Myanmar’s Ethnic States and Regions, a 66- page report that assesses the business challenges faced by the country’s local media outlets.

The report is based on research conducted from April-August 2018, as well as data gathered during the three years that MDIF has been running its business capacity building initiative, the Myanmar Media Program (MMP).

MDIF’s research identified 55 local media outlets operating in Myanmar’s seven ethnic states and seven regions that serve the information needs of particular geographic areas or ethnic nationalities. It found that local media establishment has surged since the political opening in 2011, with 38 of the 55 media launched over the past 7 years. The research confirmed that the largest number of local media outlets are located in Chin State, Shan State and Sagaing Region, and there is at least one media outlet in each of the country’s seven ethnic states. An interactive map produced by MDIF shows the locations and basic information about each of the 55 outlets.

The existence of dozens of local media in Myanmar may suggest a healthy environment for these outlets, but the report identifies multiple internal and external obstacles that severely hamper their prospects for sustainability and continued existence. Most notable among them are uneven advertising market development, continuing government domination of the media sector, and an uneven digital media transition. “The business environment is heavily stacked against the survival of local media,” says MDIF’s Program Director for South East Asia, Tessa Piper. “And if that wasn’t challenging enough, they also have to deal with growing threats to free expression and media freedom, increasing conflict, and a fragile peace process.”

As well as analyzing the macro obstacles to local media sustainability, the report features case studies of five local media that are participating in MDIF’s business capacity building program.

The report concludes that many of the problems faced by local media are structural and require a focused strategy by the national and state- and region-based governments, as well as by supporting developing agencies. A priority should be to set a framework for long-term strategies for media and revenue development, organizational development and, ultimately, sustainability. As founding director of Yangon and Mandalay Journalism Schools Ye Naing Moe explains, the survival of local media is vital. “Local media outlets strive to hold local authorities accountable, to meet local public information needs and to protect the rights of local people. Thanks to local media outlets, local people in the ethnic states and regions have a voice for the first time in our country’s modern history.”

Printed versions of the report are available on request. A Myanmar language version of MDIF’s report will be published later this month.

For more information contact Peter Whitehead, Director of Communications, peter.whitehead@mdif.org.