On 31 January 2013, Media Development Loan Fund announced that it had changed its name to Media Development Investment Fund. The rebranding reflects the fund’s continued growth, a new structure and its introduction of new forms of financing and business support.
“As Media Development Loan Fund, we’ve thrived for 17 years providing financing and business support to many of the most important sources of independent news in countries where people have limited access to impartial information,” said Harlan Mandel, MDIF Chief Executive Officer. “Now, we’re putting ‘Investment’ at the heart of our name to better reflect the realities of what we do and what the future holds for us. Rebranding as MDIF aligns with the expanding range of financial and technical assistance we’re providing in an era of changing capital needs and rapid digitalisation of the news industry.”
MDIF’s new name is part and parcel of a new structure that will encompass multiple funds under MDIF management. This will enable MDIF to finance a broader range of independent media companies, from innovative and experimental digital information start-ups to high-impact companies with proven businesses poised for expansion. As a first step in this direction, in 2012 MDIF launched Digital News Ventures, which provides $30,000 to $300,000 angel and early-stage equity investments in digital news start-ups. Digital News Ventures has invested more than $1 million in 7 projects in its first year of operations.
At the same time MDIF will continue to expand the range of business assistance it provides to clients, in particular providing them with intensive support to help them take advantage of new digital opportunities to distribute and support their independent journalism. Last year the fund began rolling out the Knowledge Bridge, an extensive program of consulting, supported by a website and newsletter (www.kbridge.org/), dedicated to helping traditional news businesses move from a print or broadcast focus to a financially sustainable position that includes digital.
“Replacing the word ‘loan’ with ‘investment’ encapsulates not only all our financial tools, but also our other ‘investments’ in clients: knowledge and human capital,” said Mr Mandel. “It communicates that MDIF’s mission is not just to get repaid, but to strengthen independent media and earn an additional kind of dividend – more free and more open societies.”
MDIF has worked with many of the leading news outlets in emerging and frontier markets, such as Mail & Guardian in South Africa, elPeriodico in Guatemala and Malaysiakini in Malaysia. As the organisation has grown, so have many of its clients. In 2000, radio news agency KBR68H distributed short news programs to a handful of partner stations in Indonesia by internet and motorbike taxi. It now provides programming by satellite to 900 stations and an audience of 22 million across Asia.
“While working with us, many of our clients have witnessed and played a part in major events that have helped shape their countries’ history,” said Mr Mandel. “From the Orange Revolution in Ukraine to the Asian tsunami in Indonesia, and from the collapse of the ruble in Russia to the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, the independent news businesses we work with have provided critical news and information to their audiences when they most need it.”
The work of MDIF, a New York-registered not-for-profit corporation with 501(c)(3) public charity status, will be underpinned by a new mission statement. With its new structure in place, MDIF will invest in “independent media around the world providing the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies”.