MDIF, OSF and Omidyar Network launch South Africa Media Innovation Program

29 August 2017, Johannesburg: Today saw the launch of the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) to provide dedicated funding and capacity building support to independent media in the country, focused on digital innovation. The Program will promote innovation in the sector, fund the development of public interest digital publications with a focus on young audiences, and drive transformation and foster new and diverse voices.

The SAMIP’s first Innovation Challenge was also launched to identify qualifying projects and organisations that are building news and information products that engage and inform local / underserved communities. In this first challenge, successful entrants will receive a cash prize of up to ZAR 500 000.00, strategic advice and mentoring by a digital media expert to help them develop a viable business around their product or platform. Entry is open until October 31, 2017.

SAMIP was initiated by the Open Society Foundation of South Africa (OSF-SA) and with the funding support of the Omidyar Network (ON), it will be managed by Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF). The Program will promote and advance media innovation and diversity by new entrants and existing outlets in South Africa, and is built around shared values of editorial independence. It aims to foster an innovative and digitally savvy media sector that prioritises new thinking and sustainable business models.

SAMIP will provide financing and capacity building to existing media outlets with digital-first strategies and sustainable revenue model development, as well as new independent news sites that can provide crucial reporting and information about day-to-day national affairs, showcase investigative reporting, and enable innovative approaches to journalism and citizen / community interaction.

Fatima Hassan, Executive Director of OSF-SA said, “Accurate reporting, non-partisan coverage and information are the lifeblood of any democracy, and particularly in South Africa, given its apartheid past. The space to report clearly and credibly outside the framework of vested political and commercial interests has narrowed sharply in recent years while transformation remains limited, and there is a strong need to provide support to journalists of colour, especially strengthening the inclusion of women reporters and editors as we make the digital leap. Therefore, we are supporting SAMIP”.

Patrick Gaspard, Vice President of OSF said, “The Open Society Foundations deeply believes in the role of a free and independent press as vital to the preservation of democracy, especially now when freedom of the press is under attack around the globe.  The Media Innovation Program will provide much-needed support to journalists in their drive to hold power accountable while uplifting exciting new voices, seeding technological experimentation, and encouraging risk-taking.  I am confident that this program will make a meaningful contribution towards the transformation of a critical industry in South Africa; an industry that is in need of greater diversity.”

Khuram Hussain, Principal- Investments at Omidyar Network said, “SAMIP will play an important role in expanding the scale and reach of independent media in South Africa by supporting existing organisations at the same time as encouraging new entrants, perspectives and voices. We believe that a thriving independent media sector in South Africa is key to providing trusted information, critical checks and balances on those in positions of power and protecting openness and accountability which are the foundations of a healthy democracy. This initiative forms part of Omidyar Network’s global commitment to fund independent media, investigative journalism and to combat the spread of misinformation”.

Harlan Mandel, Chief Executive Officer of MDIF said, “At the heart of the SAMIP is innovation. Innovation in how media is used to find and tell stories, and innovation in developing new and sustainable business models. This is a time of transition for many media companies and successful organisations need to diversify revenue streams and build products that resonate with their audiences. The Program will provide the funding and mentorship needed for the independent media sector to deploy new solutions and reach new audiences”.

About the Open Society Foundations (OSF)

The Open Society Foundations (OSF) work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. Working in every part of the world, OSF places a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalised communities. OSF does more than give away money. We use a range of tools including advocacy, litigation, and research to help support open societies around the world.

OSF was founded by George Soros, who began his philanthropy in 1979 by giving scholarships to black South African students during apartheid. OSF established its first country foundation in Hungary in 1984, and throughout 1980s and 1990s, focused on countries in the Soviet Bloc making the transition to democracy. In 1994, marking the end of apartheid and a new era of democracy, OSF opened its first African foundation in South Africa to support the new democratically elected government in its efforts to advance the values and rights contained in the Constitution. OSF expanded its reach globally during the 1990s, and now we work in over 100 countries in every region of the world including in South Africa.

To learn more, visit and and follow us on Twitter @osfsa @OpenSociety #SAMediaFund

About the Omidyar Network (ON)

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organisation invests in and helps scale innovative organisations to catalyze economic and social change. Omidyar Network has committed more than $1 billion to for-profit companies and nonprofit organisations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Education, Emerging Tech, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights.

Omidyar Network has been actively funding independent media, investigative journalism, and fact-checking around the world for the last decade. In April 2017, it committed a further $100m of funding, to be deployed over the next three years, to continue to strengthen independent media and investigative journalism, tackle misinformation and hate speech, and enable citizens to better engage with government on critical issues.

To learn more, visit and follow us on Twitter @omidyarnetwork #PositiveReturns

About Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF)

MDIF is a not-for-profit investment fund, providing debt and equity financing to independent media businesses in countries with a history of media oppression. Its affordable financing and technical assistance help independent news outlets build sustainable businesses around quality news and information. Since providing its first loan in 1996, MDIF has provided more than $163 million in affordable financing, including:

  • $146 million in loans and equity investments;
  • $17 million in technical assistance and other grants;
  • Earned over$41.9 million in interest, dividends and capital gains;
  • Collected more than $70 million in recovered principal invested.

In 21 years of supporting independent media, MDIF has invested in 113 clients and 347 projects across 39 countries. It ended June 30, 2017 with a portfolio of $61.4 million in outstanding loans and investments.

For more information visit or contact Sandra Sowray: tel: +27 79 167 6863 and Dani Cohen tel: +27 82 897 0443

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