Mediahuis invests in company that promotes media plurality in Europe

Pluralis will invest in news companies operating where their independence is at risk

Mediahuis and Pluralis chairman Thomas Leysen: ‘Our investment framework is explicitly non-partisan.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Mediahuis and Pluralis chairman Thomas Leysen: ‘Our investment framework is explicitly non-partisan.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Belgian media company Mediahuis, which publishes the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent newspapers, has joined a coalition of European media companies to launch an investment vehicle to invest in 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. It said this would “help preserve the editorial independence” of European news organisations and that it would not itself get involved in any editorial decision-making.

The vehicle is acquiring a 40 per cent share of Polish media company Gremi Media, which publishes Rzeczpospolita, one of Poland’s most important and influential newspapers. This is its second investment after the acquisition of a 34 per cent stake in Petit Press, Slovakia’s second-largest publisher, earlier in 2021.

“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.”

Under pressure

Independent news media has been under growing pressure in some European countries, with plurality under threat and misinformation rising, while the past decade has seen a wave of ownership takeovers, Pluralis noted.

Its shareholders also include the Brussels-based King Baudouin Foundation, Soros Economic Development Fund, foundations Tinius Trust and KIM, Media Development Investment Fund as well as other “impact investors”. Mediahuis’s stake of 25.39 per cent is the second-biggest behind the 28.46 per cent held by King Baudouin Foundation.

Pluralis said it was “currently in discussion with additional investors to enlarge and further diversify its funding base” and was also assessing future investments across Europe.

Mediahuis acquired the former Independent News & Media (INM) group in 2019 for €145.6 million and renamed the company Mediahuis Ireland earlier this year.