COVID-19 and the media: A pandemic of paradoxes

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, amid collapsing revenues and a rising torrent of online misinformation and gender-based hate speech, States have a human rights-based obligation to ensure the survival of public interest media, most urgently through subsidies that can be funded by proper taxation of multinational tech companies.

That is the leading conclusion of a new report by IMS (International Media Support), which assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operation of the global media sector. Drawing on reports from over 30 IMS partners worldwide, on surveys conducted by international journalism watchdogs through 2020, and supported by in-depth interviews with eight journalists working in public interest media in select IMS partner countries, this report provides comprehensive insight into what it terms ‘a pandemic of paradoxes’.

Among such paradoxes, the pandemic put journalists at the frontline of supplying essential health information to massively expanded audiences in need of reporting they could trust, even as the ensuing collapse in economic activity decimated advertising revenues, leaving public interest media vulnerable to bankruptcy or to takeover by media barons with a political agenda.