The King Baudouin Foundation has helped launch a coalition of European media groups, investors, and philanthropic institutions that will provide capital and expertise to news media companies operating in countries where media plurality is at risk.
Pluralis, a Dutch limited liability company based in Amsterdam, will invest in news outlets that ‘provide independent, quality reporting’ where plurality is under threat – one of its first moves was to acquire 40 per cent in the Polish media company, Gremi Media, which publishes one of Poland’s most influential newspapers.
The aim of Pluralis is to ‘help preserve the editorial independence’ of European news organisations, and it has said that it would not itself get involved in any editorial decision-making.
In addition to KBF, the impact investment vehicle is supported by the New York-based Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), Tinius Trust and Mediahuis, a leading European news publisher with its main activities in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Ireland. The biggest shareholders of Pluralis are KBF with almost 30 per cent, Mediahuis with 25 per cent, and the Soros Economic Development Fund with 17 per cent.
KBF Managing Director Luc Tayart de Borms said, ‘The King Baudouin Foundation decided some time ago to invest part of its endowment in mission-related investments. Our stake in Pluralis fits squarely into that objective and adds to our already existing support of media in Europe via Civitates, an initiative of 21 foundations for democracy and solidarity in Europe.’
In many parts of Europe, independent news media are under growing pressure, with plurality under threat and misinformation rising. The past decade has seen a wave of ownership takeovers across the region.
‘Grounding each of our investments is the belief that citizens’ access to a plurality of news sources is fundamental for sustaining European democracy,’ said Pluralis Chairman Thomas Leysen, who is also Chairman of Mediahuis. ‘Our investment framework is explicitly non-partisan: we invest in independent media companies practising responsible high-quality journalism, regardless of editorial orientation.’
Pluralis draws on the expertise and experience of its shareholders to support investee management through active board participation, and by transferring industry expertise to facilitate company growth and value creation.