by Jorgen Ejboel, Chairman, JP-Politikens Hus
Slide 1: Presentation af JP/Politikens Hus
Slide 2: Forside på regnskabsrapport.
This message is vitally important. A media company is not truly independent without being
financially healthy. Running a media company is like running any other company. A commercial
basis must exist. You must master running a professional organisation, if you are going to play an
important role in your society. Enthusiasm is also needed, but – important to say – not enough.
Many people end up going bankrupt because of lack of necessary skills. Publishing is about profit,
but publishing is also about much more than profit. The heart of our business is that every day we
are dealing with essential information for the good of society.
Without financial freedom – there is no freedom. Without sufficient financial resources, you don’t
have the muscle to go against opposition forces and defend freedom of the press and freedom of
expression. You must defend the ideas you strongly believe in.
JP/Politiken Newspapers were financially strong, when the cartoon-case started. You can not
imagine the worldwide pressure we had to live with – and still have.
All of a sudden your associates, colleagues and friends become very visible to you. The pressure is
almost unbearable. Luckily we have the means to defend ourselves – to a certain extent of course – and we have owners who are willing to fight for freedom of the press. But this is what it takes.
I am not going to discuss the cartoon-affair at this conference, but I would only want to use it to
illustrate what a “global village” our planet has turned into, thanks to the modern means of
communication. For both formal and informal communication, these means have become unheard
of quick, cheap and fragmented. Through channels such as internet, blogs, text messaging, lies,
rumours, myths, prejudices and exaggerations all travel and disperse at the speed of light – and
they can turn into facts and realities almost as quick. You should prepare yourself for this and be
able to act in this new arena.
The good news is that in this global, positive chaos, the media will have an even more important
role to play. We need to get the overview ourselves and pass it on to our audience. We need to
separate facts from rumours, and to be critical of data, information and sources. We must present
people with the relevant news – based on facts, research and realities. This we have always done,
but now the playing field is transnational, chaotic and fragmented. And – as just mentioned – our
counterbalancing task has become more important.
Before moving on I would like to present the following two quotes. They both go to the heart of
“For centuries, press freedom has been viewed as a fundamental political institution, providing
checks and balances on authorities. But the media’s role in facilitating economic development is
A free press can not only provide independent information, but also act as a corrective mechanism
for the economy in a way that the government can not. Thus, media freedom is not only politically
necessary, but also good for growth and job creation.”
- Mr. Chen, Yale School of Management __________
”We need a free press to help create the conditions for sustainable development, even though
pressing such issues will not be popular with all governments.”
- Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank
As we all would agree, it is vitally important issues that UNESCO is dealing with and perhaps the
business angel concept should be applied more often. Especially when dealing with governments.
Governments are donating so much money every year to various media initiatives. We are talking
about hundreds of millions dollars each year – but unfortunately the waste percentage is tremendously high.
I am convinced that UNESCO should try to influence the governments how to spend this huge
amount of money.
When it comes to media, many governments have no expertise in the media field. They are
apprehensive and afraid of dealing with media companies and therefore leave it to grass roots
organisations and journalists unions.
During the last two years, I have seen projects that should been scaled down or dropped altogether.
It is sad to see the tax payers’ money go down the drain. Why so many failures? There are many reasons for this, of course, but one of the most important
ones is that too many amateurs are being handed huge sums of money. They don’t have the
experience to build companies – be they small or big – and they don’t have the skills to lead these often quite well funded initiatives. Furthermore, they don’t have the patience to stay with a certain
project that may take years to succeed. There is always a new fashionable place to go to. There is
plenty of enthusiasm. Media are exciting to work with.
Training courses for journalists are of course important, but it takes much, much more than that to
build a sustainable company with a future.
I will share with you a few media projects:
A printing plant in Serbia, APM Print, began production three years ago. It has been envisioned and funded by WAN, UNESCO, EU, Denmark, France and Germany.
It can print 60.000 copies pr. hour – full colour. Staff: 68. Revenues: aprox. 6-7 Mio. Euro. Customers: Independent daily newspapers and weekly papers. Printing quality: International.
Total investment: 4 mio. Euro. Profit: 2004: 300.000 Euro, 2005 (estimated): 350.000 Euro.
Budget – 2006: 400.000 Euro.
Also they have set up a distribution company.
Have there been problems? You bet. You name it, we got it!!!
Most of them have been solved by now due to a very dedicated management and staff, which only
have one goal: to succeed!!!
I was appointed chairman of the board of the printing company by WAN two years ago. The
shareholder agreement states that WAN holds the position of chairman.
The independent print media in Serbia own 75 pct. and the Swiss company Ringier holds 25 pct.
You can probably imagine the kind of problems that arise, when 75 pct. of the shareholders have
very little money and the minority shareholder has a lot of money.
I have come to love the people down there. It has been a great personal experience, and one that I
wouldn’t want to be without. To work with people who really have to fight for a decent life and job is a great privilege. It gives your life a new perspective. For this I am very grateful.
So what I can offer? Experience and dedication.
The Serbs are very well educated and very resourceful. I am impressed with how fast they have
come to learn the principles of a market economy. And they are prepared to work very hard. The
Serbs want to exchange ideas and practices with professional media people – be it editorial,
technical, marketing etc. – to the benefit of both parties.
And you can say the same for other countries I have visited: they want to deal with professional
and experienced media people.
Resolutions and training here and there is not sufficient. You have to start working with a
company from the top. Some – unfortunately not all – know that they have to be financially self-sustainable. Only profitable media companies can be independent.
In some cases donor money is important in the beginning, but there has to be a solid business plan
to begin with. The first test should always be that they come to you with a plan and not the other
“Donor sickness” is what I saw in the Central Asia last year, where WAN was having a
Many newspapers there have been given money for many years and now find it very difficult to
work on their own without financial help. Financial aid has become a drug for both them and the
donors. The donors make a great living handing out money. Without customers – no job.
4 The number of government agencies, NGOs and foundations dealing with media is almost
unbelievable. Many of them are competing with one and other. You can imagine the number and
types of problems it leads to.
Let me give you another example of a media company that has made it despite having almost
everything going against them:
A couple of a months ago I went to Siberia to visit a publishing company called Altapress in Barnaul in the Altai region in Russia. The publishing house was founded by journalists in 1990,
when it began publishing the weekly Svobodny Kurs.
They started from scratch, and today Altapress has nine weekly newspapers and magazines with a
total circulation of 190,550 copies. More than 1.000 people work for the company. They have
established their own printing house and radio station.
In 2002 they opened a school of practical journalism, in which more than 180 students annually
come to study from the journalism department of a local university.
The mission of the company is to satisfy society’s need for receiving unbiased information. ”The most important values for us are freedom of speech, observing the standards of high-quality
journalism and the priority of human and society interest over state interest.”
The company is owned by the founders. From the onset, they realised that they had to be
financially independent in order to fulfil their goal. They had to master the disciplines of
management. Again they started from scratch.
The people I met there are dedicated and hard, hard working. Also, they are very open-minded and
I find myself lucky to have become friends with such admirable people!
I could also suggest to you go to Greenland and visit the weekly newspaper Sermitsiaq. It is a tough place to publish in, but the paper has become successful. Again, you find talented and hard
working people who acknowledge that you must make a profit if the publishing company is to
survive. The newspaper was founded by a group of people with a mission and an idea – plus the will to fight to make the dream come true.
Recently, I travelled with the management of the Danish news agency, Ritzaus Bureau when the agency made a co-operation agreement with its Jordanian colleague, Petra. The interesting peer-to-peer agreement incorporates exchange of editorial staff, proven editorial concepts and
technologies and the exchange of editorial content. The conclusion of this agreement took place in
the midst of the cartoon-affair, and it quickly and clearly demonstrated the benefits of media