These “media alternatives” can take different forms and formats – some are for-profit enterprises that adopt new business models, while others represent creative experiments led by ordinary citizens. Technology has fundamentally changed traditional business approaches, content production, distribution, and even ownership. Quite interestingly, some of these media alternatives run revamped versions of traditional business models based on limited quality readership.
Yet, tides have not lifted all boats. In their infancy, social media and new digital platforms promised to open, promote, and advance democratic spaces for everyone. Women are increasingly marginalized in both the backend development and as content recipients. One leading media outlet in Cambodia, with more than 600,000 subscribers, confirmed that nearly 70% of their readers were in fact men. And it’s no secret that many online spaces tend to be especially toxic for women. The good news is that isolated, yet increasingly important, signs of resilience are emerging in the sector in Southeast Asia. Two examples, The Magdalene and Rappler, are both women-led and slanted towards issues important to women.
It is, however, in its citizen-enabling power that technology and social media, in particular have shown more dynamism. Celebrities, musicians, vloggers, and active citizens are using different social media to broadcast their ideas, hopes and concerns. There is, indeed, an enormous potential for new forms of digital and alternative media. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is exploring new ways to incubate and support these “media alternatives” to increase resilience and strengthen civic spaces.
At the beginning of the project, UNDP commissioned Splice Media to conduct an independent ‘media market audit’ that looks at challenges and opportunities for media entrepreneurs and start-ups in Cambodia. You can download their report here.
In August 2019, UNDP launched the Cambodia Media Lab, a series of informal events aimed to guide, inspire, and support media entrepreneurs and professionals in Cambodia. Since the beginning of the project there have been two Media Lab events and they have brought together more than 100 of the most inspiring media entrepreneurs and experts from across Cambodia and Asia. Together, we have discussed how we need to rethink business models and the very concept of media itself, how we can promote civic engagement and institutional resilience within the media, the safety of journalists both in the field and in the digital space and how new online media outlets are emerging and what it takes to start these.
After a competitive three-stage selection process, five media outlets won the Media Alternatives Business Challenge, all of which are led by women. With the support from our partners – OHCHR and the UK Embassy in Cambodia, the winners have embarked on their incubation journey. Follow this page to learn more about the program and these media heroes.
1. Mapping of media alternatives and innovations in Cambodia.
2. Accelerating and scaling innovative and sustainable media alternatives in Cambodia.
3. Promoting women’s entrepreneurship and leadership in the media sector.
OHCHR, UK Embassy
Mr Fabio Oliva, Peace and Development Advisor, UN Cambodia
Learn more about our Media Alternatives Business Challenge Here!