Sasa Vucinic's Media Development Loan Fund applies venture-capital principles to create a sustainable free press in developing nations and countries emerging from repressive regimes.
"We want to create a new class of media entrepreneurs," says Sasa Vucinic, whose innovative approach to incubating a free press treats independent media like startups instead of charity cases. In most of the countries where his Media Development Loan Fund is active, management skills are dramatically lacking, and too often, grants backfire by creating a dependency that cannot be sustained when the Western donors leave.
All the projects supported by MDLF espouse the reverse philosophy: It doesn't give grants. Instead, it strives to help independent media with the business of providing news. Only when a media company can sustain itself with its own revenues, says Vucinic, can it be truly independent. Vucinic comes by his free-press focus through experience; prior to founding the MDLF, he was a top editor with Belgrade opposition radio station B92. He's also worked for the Soros Foundations Network (which later became the Open Society Institute), advising the national foundations on how to support independent media.
He'll be speaking at the Global Forum for Media Development next month in Greece.
"MDLF reminds us of something important: that what we take for granted in America [press freedom] is not universal."Dan Gillmor, San Jose Mercury News, 29 October 2000