March 10, 2021

World’s first private equity impact fund for independent media is fully deployed and impacting on communities

Emerging Media Opportunity Fund (EMOF) I, the world’s first private equity impact fund for independent media, is fully deployed.


EMOF Colab re FB

This is great news for independent media and demonstrates once again that impact investing is an effective way to support independent media and their vital role in open societies.

Independent media expose corruption and hold governments to account. They provide vital information on issues like the environment, health and gender, and ensure fair elections. Press freedom is recognised by UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 as contributing to peace, justice and strong institutions. From an impact point of view, it’s hard to think of a sector with more wide-ranging impact – or where there’s greater need. According to Freedom House’s most recent global analysis, in 2017 only 13% of the world’s population had access to a free press, and since then the situation has got much worse.

EMOF was launched by Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), a New York-based not-for-profit investment fund that has invested $240 million in independent media in 25 years, and closed at $12.9 million in December 2017. Investors in EMOF I include Denmark’s Investment Fund for Developing Countries (IFU), JP Politiken Hus (a leading Danish media company), Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF) and Dutch foundation Stichting DOEN, in addition to MDIF.

The problem EMOF I addresses is independent media’s need for growth capital that doesn’t come with strings attached to editorial. In many countries, including those where EMOF invests, the only capital independent media can access comes from governments, oligarchs and other vested interests seeking to exchange financing for editorial influence. EMOF offers companies an alternative, enabling media with significant growth potential to build businesses around the principles of quality independent news and information and compete with compromised outlets.

The fund’s portfolio includes 10 companies in six countries where access to reliable news and information is under threat, with a focus on India, Indonesia and Latin America. All investees have concrete impact on the communities they serve. EMOF takes an expansive view of media and its portfolio ranges from digital news sites to social tech companies and a citizen engagement app. Investees reach a combined audience of more than 118 million people and include:

  • SHEROES, India: a social media platform for women with 22m users, providing a safe digital social space and access to information and expert advice on issues like sexual health, education and careers.
  • Colab, Brazil: a citizen engagement app connecting people with local governments, improving accountability and enabling direct communication with authorities over issues that impact on urban communities.
  • Suara.com, Indonesia: an award-winning general news website reaching nearly 60 million unique users per month that is developing local content to provide news to communities that previously had limited access to quality local information.
  • Josh Talks, India: an impact media platform that seeks to unlock human potential by inspiring, informing and upskilling young people, mobilising them for gender equality, sustainability and promoting business.

To ensure financial and mission alignment, MDIF has tied 100% of its profit participation to the social impact of investments. MDIF’s earnings through carried interest is conditioned on meeting a range of mission-aligned indicators, including the deficit of media freedom in the country at the time of investment, the demonstrated social impact of investee news and information throughout the investment, and a mission-aligned exit. The fund has a target IRR of 10.5% for its investors.

With the explosion of misinformation globally and more governments actively clamping down on independent media, the demand for EMOF-style financing will only grow.

Peter Whitehead, Director of Communications, Media Development Investment Fund, peter.whitehead@mdif.org

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