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The Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation (IPS Media Foundation), a not-for-profit trust founded last year to fund independent media outfits that provide socially relevant content, has received close to two dozen applications. It will announce the ventures it’s funding next month.

The development was confirmed by chairman of the trust, T.N. Ninan. A former editor of the financial daily Business Standard, he is currently chairman of Business Standard Ltd.

The IPS Media Foundation is backed by Rohini Nilekani, chairperson of Arghyam, a Bengaluru-based public charitable foundation; Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro Ltd; Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon Ltd; and Vikram Lal, former chairman of Eicher Motors Ltd.

Both Nilekani and Premji are anchor donors in the venture and have committed 30 crore each towards the foundation. IPS Media Foundation has so far raised more than 100 crore.

Ninan declined to specify the names of the firms that have sought funding from IPS Media Foundation. “We’ll release information on the ventures that we fund. I’m sure the others will want to retain their privacy," he said in an email response to queries from Mint.

Asked about the selection procedure and the criteria for filtering the funding recipients, Ninan said, “There are several issues that we look at: financial and non-financial, purpose, relevance, sustainability, outcomes and impact." Ninan added that there were no estimates at this stage that he could share on the amount that the trust would commit to each organization.

News website The Wire is one of the applicants to the foundation. “Our application is under process, and we’re eagerly awaiting their response," said Siddharth Varadarajan, co-founder of The Wire and former editor of The Hindu.

He founded the news portal in May 2015 along with columnist Sidharth Bhatia and Raghu Karnad, former editor at TimeOut Delhi and the son of actor Girish Karnad. The Wire has plans to expand its team and has hired 10 people outside of its five-member founding team.

People familiar with the development say that CGNet Swara, a voice portal that enables ordinary citizens to report and discuss issues of local interest, has also applied to the IPS Media Foundation. CGNet Swara was founded by Shubhranshu Choudhary, a Knight International Journalism Fellow.

IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative founded by Govindraj Ethiraj, a television and print journalist and former editor-in-chief of Bloomberg TV India, is also on the list of applicants. IndiaSpend is a non-profit venture and a project of The Spending & Policy Research Foundation.

Donors will have no role to play in the funding decisions made by the IPS Media Foundation, according to information on the trust’s website.

“Donors wish to have no say in funding decisions taken by the Foundation, and will sign suitable agreements with the Foundation which will be—and act as—an independent organization run by Trustees," the website says.

The trustees who are part of the Foundation include Ninan, Ashish Dhawan, founder of private equity fund ChrysCapital Investment Advisors; C.B Bhave, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi); historian Ramachandra Guha, and former Supreme Court justice Ruma Pal.

Several digital news media organisations have been reaching out to investors in a bid to sustain their business as they fight for traffic with the online versions of traditional media brands like New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) and The Times of India.

Last week, media news website Newslaundry received money from Omidyar Network, a New York-based philanthropic investment firm. Omidyar has also funded Samir Patil’s news portal Scroll.in.

Although there isn’t a strong tradition of not-for-profit journalism in India’s media business yet, there are a few newspapers that are run by not-for-profit trusts such as the Chandigarh Tribune and the Janmabhoomi group of newspapers run by the Saurashtra Trust, among others.

Mint and Hindustan Times, published by HT Media Ltd, compete with some of the publications mentioned in the story.

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