Transforming media businesses to sustain democracy

The #Media4Europe Conference on “Media Transformation and democracy building” took place on Thursday, May 12th. The event highlighted currently open calls with funding for media, and a particular focus was given to the Stars4Media NEWS one with a deadline on 30 June.


In her opening speech, the Commission VP Věra Jourová stressed how the ”EU supports innovation and digital transformation, as crucial for the sector to thrive in the long run”. 

Joanna Krawczyk, President of Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation, emphasized that  ”Recent years have highlighted independent media as an essential service“. Ms Krawczyk, also Chair of the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (including El Pais, Die Welt, La Repubblica, Le Figaro, Le Soir, Tribune de Geneve and TagesAnzeiger) stressed: ‘'[…] programmes like Stars4Media, supporting sector’s resilience and independence, are crucial in enabling its business sustainability and in regaining audiences’ trust‘’. 

Sustainability can come from many sources as mentioned by Christophe Leclercq, Founder of EURACTIV and Chairman of Europe’s MediaLab ‘’What we need is not short term subsidies or the fast emergency help but reliable business models.” 

Reflecting the same spirit, Paolo Cesarini, Board Member of the European Media and Information Fund, elaborated: “Democracy and media pluralism cannot be taken for granted, even in western societies. The war in Ukraine shows independent media are vital for peaceful and democratic societies. There is a clear need for diversification of funding instruments to help the news media sector to navigate the digital revolution without compromising journalistic ethical standards and editorial independence ”. 

Renate Schroeder, Director of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and Stars4Media Jury Member, said: “Stars4Media made me hopeful. It showed me how young people throughout Europe are motivated to bring diversity in the newsroom, engage the audience, try out new forms of storytelling and journalism and  realise the importance of local journalism”. EFJ is currently co-running a parallel programme, Local Cross-Border investigative journalism project,  

In the words of Max von Abendroth, former CEO of the European umbrella organisation for donors and foundations, Dafne: “Philanthropy is about using private resources for public good. Today philanthropy faces legal barriers that make it difficult and costly to donate cross-border within the EU. Furthermore, with media and journalism not being recognized as a charity, this adds another legal barrier for foundations to fund media and journalism”.

Lars Boering, Director of the European Journalism Centre, underlined the importance of impact. “In Stars4Media, what we contribute is working towards impact. A lot of programs and projects that are being run focus on reaching goals, but it’s not the only thing. Real change is there when impact criteria are met and programme vision is achieved”, remarked Mr Boering.

Recognising impact and business sustainability was key to select the Stars4Media Second Edition Winners. During  the Awards Session, Catalina Dumbraveanu, VUB & Stars4Media Project Manager, said: “Looking back, it is impressive to see what our beneficiaries were able to achieve in only four months, from giving voice to the untold stories to diversifying revenue lines. It makes us enthusiastic, and curious, to see the next edition of beneficiaries, who will have nearly ten months to bring their innovations to life, and more funding and more coaching at their disposal.”


Stars4Media NEWS is currently accepting applications for the Call for Projects. The Programme aims to fund 14 selected projects, each including at least of 2 media companies, providing them with funding and tailored coaching for an overall worth of 100k EUR.

Interested media companies are also welcome to contact the project team at for more information on the process. 




The five winners received recognition for their efforts in bringing innovative solutions for the challenges faced sector-wide:

Here are some statistics from all projects participating to Stars4Media Second Edition.

  • Women make 42% of the total of 185 participants
  • The funded initiatives are balanced around three key journalism themes: Journalism, trust, participation (11 projects) ; Media technology (11); and Other media innovations (8) 
  • A majority of participants come from Belgium, France, Spain, UK, Czech Republic, and Italy. In terms of regional balance, 40% of participants reside in Western Europe, 22% in Southern Europe, 20% in Northern, and 18% in Eastern  Europe
  • Among the 76 participating media companies, a majority of companies are small (up to 15 employees) or very small (up to 5 employees), but 20 were large media (more than 50 employees)