Southeast Asia Technical Assistance Initiative

The Southeast Asia Technical Assistance Initiative strengthens independent media across the region through an innovative coaching program to build business capacity.

What is SEATAI?

Business skills building is often overlooked in media development yet is vital if independent media are to maximise their impact by providing their audiences with access to reliable news and information.

MDIF launched the Southeast Asia Technical Assistance Initiative (SEATAI) in early 2019 to respond to the need for important public interest media to build business capacity. Then, and now, Southeast Asian media are facing an increasingly challenging political and economic environment. Threats to journalists, media outlets and press freedom are widespread in the region. At the same time, growing media concentration and a fast-changing business environment, now coupled with the impact of COVID-19, create further challenges for independent media. The imperative to harness the potential for financial sustainability is more critical than ever.

SEATAI matches the specific business development requirements of each of its media partners with the knowledge and skills of a senior Southeast Asian media executive who acts as their coach. These coaches are tasked with advising on company strategy and designing capacity-building plans tailored to the media's individual needs. In addition, SEATAI media partners have access to regional specialists who can provide short-term technical assistance in areas such as website redesign, SEO services, sales and marketing training, etc. There is also a small grants and a seed equity investment facility for those participating media that meet program criteria.

This unique program builds upon the lessons learned from MDIF’s Myanmar Media Program, a business capacity building program for independent media in Myanmar that has been running since November 2015 and will continue until the end of 2022.

Criteria for media participating in SEATAI

SEATAI supports the business development of independent media. There are strict eligibility conditions for participation. Criteria include:

  • Media companies or not-for-profit organizations committed to providing credible, independent news, information or public interest debate for audiences based primarily in Southeast Asia.
  • Independent from the government or of any other political or economic interest group.
  • Supportive of democratic practices and institutions, political pluralism, transparency, human rights, dignity and equal rights for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion and other subjects of discrimination.
  • Operating in countries where access to reliable information is limited.
  • Legally registered, except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Committed to developing a path to financial sustainability.
  • Having sufficient capacity to produce regular financial reports.
  • Willing to commit sufficient time to work with coaches/mentors and carry out assigned tasks.

For further information on SEATAI, contact tessa.piper@mdif.org.

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