Funding for Media Development

U.S. overseas development assistance—from both public and private sources—is at its highest level ever. Official U.S. foreign aid more than doubled after the 9/11 attacks, reaching nearly $23 billion in 2006. Private U.S. giving to developing countries has also grown sharply and surpasses that of the government. The Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity found that U.S. philanthropic giving to developing countries grew from $62 billion in 2003 to $95 billion in 2005.

To learn how much of this overall funding went to develop independent media, CIMA conducted a survey in 2007.The research proved challenging. CIMA’s report identified 140 funders, large and small, public and private, with myriad ways of categorizing and accounting for projects.

Within the U.S. government alone, funding is split among a dozen different agencies, bureaus, and offices. Many media projects are commissioned by local embassies and USAID posts and not closely tracked by home offices in Washington. USAID officials, in fact, have found it difficult to search the agency’s projects database for individual media programs, which tend to be subsumed under broader headings, such as “democracy and governance” or “civil society.”

CIMA’s survey was not exhaustive, but rather aimed to provide a snapshot of the sector by focusing primarily on funders of projects whose goal is to strengthen independent media abroad. The survey did not include some government public diplomacy projects, specifically the State Department’s Bureaus of International Information Programs or Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Public Affairs. These bureaus oversee programs, such as the Fulbright exchanges and journalist speaker programs, which assist media development goals. Nor did it include federal funds spent on international broadcasting, such as those by Voice of America, except for a relatively small amount spent on media training. Department of Defense funding for media-related projects was also excluded, and the survey did not include all private organizations involved in “communication for development”—projects that use media to promote specific issues such as AIDS education or family planning, rather than work specifically to develop the media sector.

Among the findings:

  • U.S. funding for international media development in 2006—public and private—exceeded $142 million
  • U.S. government funding totaled nearly $69 million
  • U.S. private sector funding totaled over $60 million
  • Funding from government-supported nonprofit organizations—the National Endowment for Democracy and U.S. Institute of Peace—totaled $13 million



For more on CIMA’s survey and an explanation of these numbers, see CIMA’s 2008 report Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster Free and Independent News Around the World.




Efforts to understand the levels of funding for media development outside the United States have been equally sporadic and have yielded an even more indistinct picture of the sector. Many countries, particularly in Europe, are only now beginning to realize the potential impact of media development programs. For a more complete discussion of non-U.S. funders of media development, see CIMA’s report Funding for Media Development by Major Donors Outside the United States.



Relevant Reports

Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster Free and Independent News Around the World

U.S. Public and Private Funding of Independent Media Development Abroad

Funding for Media Development by Major Donors Outside the United States

Challenges to U.S. Government Support for Media Development

Experimentation and Evolution in Private U.S. Funding of Media Development

Soft Censorship: How Governments Around the Globe Use Money to Manipulate the Media


Relevant Events

U.S. Private and Non-U.S. Funding of Media Development