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Support to Independent Media Serving the Public Interest in the Neighbourhood South
Deadline: Dec 8, 2020  
- 44 days

 Film and Media
 New Media
 Euro-Mediterranean Relations
 Article Writing
 Digital Society
 Web
 Journalism

1. Support to Independent Media Serving the Public Interest in the Neighbourhood South

1.1. Background

With the rise of hyper-nationalism, populism, disinformation and state sponsored propaganda threatening freedom of press and curbing people’s access to reliable information globally, professional and principled journalism is more important than ever in order to provide the populations with access to verified and independent information, in order to foster civic mindset and thus ultimately contribute to the democratic aspirations of the societies around the globe. 

Independent media actors are facing difficulties specific to the socio-political and economic environment where they operate. In its World Press Freedom Index 2019, Reporters Without Borders notes a deterioration in conditions for media in many countries of the EU Southern Neighbourhood, with increasing persecution of government critics and authoritarian control over news and information. In the most restrictive environments, independent media are banned, denied licenses, and/or harassed through denial of premises. They are also exposed to raids on their offices, and to false legal charges against journalists, followed by their arrest. Attacks and intimidation of journalists are common, often with apparent impunity, and self-censorship is often necessary for these media to survive. 

Global media trends are reflected and magnified in the region of the Neighbourhood South. Traditional media are trying to come to terms with the dramatic ascendancy of social networks which enjoy greater immediacy and ease of access. Digital advertising is on the rise but a growing proportion of these revenues are leaving local markets, drawn down by tech giants such as Google and Facebook. Meanwhile, mainstream media struggle to survive on shrinking budgets which leave little margin for investing in people, technology or content.

Fragile business models expose media outlets to diverse pressures from politicians and power-brokers. With advertising contracts or core funding often dependent on toeing the line, editorial teams routinely practice self-censorship, often forced to second-guess what might and might not displease their paymasters. In this environment, where safety concerns and a lack of job security are widespread, it is unsurprising that many practitioners feel under-supported and demotivated.

Growing encroachment of the state over the media is a recurrent theme across the region. Crowding out alternative and independent voices by filling the media space with conflicting narratives has a similar effect without the need to infringe the principles of free expression.

Given the narrow parameters in which they operate, journalists struggle to put up a credible defence against disinformation campaigns. Faced with staid or editorially compromised content that fails to reflect their interests or concerns, young people have gravitated towards social media where they seek out like-minded peers and look for validation of their views. However, the unfettered nature of the social media space leaves them vulnerable to agenda-driven narratives propagated by state and non-state actors.

Donor funding continues to offer a lifeline to beleaguered media outlets across the region but the mechanisms and conditions for providing this support remain a bone of contention. From the donors’ perspective, beneficiaries struggle to meet their declared objectives to achieve sustainability, which is unrealistic in the current context in the industry in the region. Grantees argue that funding programmes place too much emphasis on producing thematic programming which rarely reflects their audiences’ key concerns and forces them to divert resources from core activities. Nevertheless, the vast majority of media professionals are eager to find a way of working with donors to ensure that the battle against agenda-driven or tendentious content is not lost. They see value in regional as well as bilateral engagement and agree that, crucially, donor funding enables them to remain connected to regional or global trends as well as to strengthen their position on the local market.

For all the reasons above, this action seeks to provide comprehensive support to independent media, journalists to provide balanced and objective high quality content in line with ethical journalistic

​​​​​​​1.2. Objectives of the programme and priority issues 

The global objective of this call for proposals is:

To support pluralism, independence and resilience of independent media, which act in the public interest as bulwark against authoritarianism, hate speech and dis-information, and to promote critical thinking and civic-oriented mind-set in the population, thus contributing to the democratic aspirations and resilience in the societies in the region of the Southern Neighbourhood.

The specific objective of this call for proposals is: 

To strengthen the independence of independent media and journalists serving the public interest.

The expected outcomes are:

  1. 1. Independent and verified information and high quality content (reliable, fact-based, fact-checked, timely and gender responsive) is produced and shared within/out of the region of the Southern Neighbourhood reaching relevant audience (including underserved populations, e.g. language minorities, etc.). 
  2. 2. Independent media outlets have improved the viability of their business  by exploring, developing and implementing new business models, and new revenue generator models. Particularly, independent media professionals and outlets serving the public interest, including a specific segment of population that would not have access to independent and verified information otherwise continue their service with improved resilience and viability.
  3. 3. Strengthening of existing (and creation of new if absolutely necessary) channels, platforms, networks and communities of practice, as well as of coalitions, alliances and global partnerships for knowledge transfer, experience and good practice sharing, promotion of innovative and creative approaches and solutions, as well as for opportunities to develop business collaboration and/or content co-production, among independent media actors, both women and men, and across all sectors of the media industry.   

The priority(ies) of this call for proposals is/are:

  • • The methodology should outline the criteria for the selection of applicants for financial support for third parties and how continued technical support to the third parties will be ensured.  
  • • The methodology should outline the regional dimension, how the cooperation and coordination among actors will take place at regional level, and how the regional dimension can be used to ensure the best use of available resources and best possible impact of the activities, including environmentally friendly online solution with relatively low carbon footprint.  
  • • The methodology should outline how the action will prioritize expertise by media professionals (e.g. former journalists, editors, publishers, producers etc.) as opposed to professional trainers with minimal or no experience in the media industry. Equally, the methodology should outline how the action will prioritize local expertise, experts, trainers, mentors, etc. with the aim of also supporting and fostering the local media development and media protection community
  • • The methodology should outline how gender equality will be ensured throughout the design of the action. (E.g. A pluralistic independent media needs to count on women’s voices and experiences, which are recurrently marginalised from mainstream media outputs and information, mostly gender blind and male-centred. In this respect, the methodology should outline how both women, and young women and men, will be considered and included as both producers and recipients of impartial and well-researched information and media content.) 
  • • The methodology should outline whether and how diaspora communities from Neighbourhood South countries residing in another Neighbourhood South country will be involved in the project .
  • • The methodology should outline how the action will ensure that independent media is inclusive and representative of the plurality of voices and experiences that conform the rich social tissue of the Southern Mediterranean region, and how vulnerable groups are addressed, represented and heard (i.e. women, youth and minorities). 
  • • The methodology should outline how the sustainability of the results and created networks will be ensured beyond the lifetime of the programme
  • • The methodology should outline how the action will ensure that the support is provided in a partnership-like approach, developing the concrete support with the media outlet, journalist or other media professional as tailor-made as possible, based on needs and mutual trust, while allowing for flexibility in order to accommodate the volatile political and economic context in the region. The administrative burden should be absolutely minimal in order not to divert the scarce resources and staff available to independent media and journalist.
  • • The methodology should outline how the action will ensure that at least minimal standards of working conditions (e.g. fair and gender equal salaries, job safety, zero tolerance to gender inequality – including gender-based violence and harassment, decent work principles, etc.) are respected during the implementation of the present action.
  • • The methodology should outline how the action will ensure the security to protect the safety, security and integrity of beneficiaries where and as appropriate during the implementation and documentation of the action. These should be specified for both, operational aspects (e.g. EU and action’s visibility, quotes and names, photos, social media posts, etc.) as well as financial/legal aspects (invoices and receipts for expenditure verification, etc.)

In addition, the proposals should take into account the following working principles:

  • • The project shall be implemented following a rights-based approach, encompassing all human rights, with a focus on the rights of most vulnerable groups. The five following working principles will be applied at all stages of implementation: (a) legality, universality and indivisibility of human rights; (b) participation and access to the decision-making process; (c) non-discrimination and equal access; (d) accountability and access to the rule of law; (e) transparency and access to information.
  • • The activities financed under this call for proposals shall be carried out in coordination and cooperation with the EU Delegations in the region, (where possible) national and local authorities, civil society, the media and other relevant stakeholders.
  • • The beneficiary should plan and budget for sufficient measures to ensure the management of financial support to third parties, including capacity development, coaching and on-the-job training of grants  beneficiaries to support the recipients of financial support in the implementation of their activities, as well as in the management of the financial support (e.g. related to financial and narrative reporting, progress monitoring, budget execution and revision, etc.), and to ensure oversight, monitoring and evaluation of the grants.

1.3. Financial allocation provided by the contracting authority

The overall indicative amount made available under this call for proposals is EUR 9 000 000. The contracting authority reserves the right not to award all available funds.

Size of grants

Any grant requested under this call for proposals must fall between the following minimum and maximum amounts:

  • • minimum amount: EUR 8 000 000
  • • maximum amount: EUR 9 000 000

Any grant requested under this call for proposals must fall between the following minimum and maximum percentages of total eligible costs of the action:

  • • Minimum percentage: 90 % of the total eligible costs of the action.
  • • Maximum percentage: 95 % of the total eligible costs of the action (see also Section 2.1.5). 

The balance (i.e. the difference between the total cost of the action and the amount requested from the contracting authority) must be financed from sources other than the general budget of the Union or the European Development Fund.

​​​​​​​2. Rules FOR thIS call for proposalS

These guidelines set out the rules for the submission, selection and implementation of the actions financed under this call, in conformity with the practical guide, which is applicable to the present call (available on the internet at this address http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/prag/document.do?locale=en).

​​​​​​​2.1. Eligibility criteria

There are three sets of eligibility criteria, relating to:

(1) the actors:

  • • The ‘lead applicant’, i.e. the entity submitting the application form (2.1.1),
  • • if any, its co-applicant(s) (where it is not specified otherwise the lead applicant and its co-applicant(s) are hereinafter jointly referred as ‘applicant(s)’) (2.1.1), 
  • • and, if any, affiliated entity(ies) to the lead applicant and/or to a co-applicant(s). (2.1.2);

 

(2) the actions:

Actions for which a grant may be awarded (2.1.4);

(3) the costs:

    • • types of cost that may be taken into account in setting the amount of the grant (2.1.5).

2.1.1. Eligibility of applicants (i.e. lead applicant and co-applicant(s))

Lead applicant

(1) In order to be eligible for a grant, the lead applicant must:

  • • be a legal person and 
  • • be non-profit-making and
  • • be a specific type of organisation such as: non-governmental organisation, public sector operator, international (inter-governmental) organisation as defined by Article 156 of the EU Financial Regulation  and
  • • be established in a Member State of the European Union or one of the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) South partner countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia) or a country that is a beneficiary of an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) set up by Council Regulation (EC) No 1085/2006 or a Member State of the European Economic Area (EEA);
  • • be directly responsible for the preparation and management of the action with the co-applicant(s) and affiliated entity(ies), not acting as an intermediary.

In addition to the criteria listed above, the lead applicant must

  • • be an organisation or be in a partnership of organisation(s) with a recent proven experience of at least five years (since 2013) in the field of media development, and 
  • • have recent proven experience (since 2015) in awarding, managing and monitoring the implementation of grants, including coaching of grantees and on-the-job aiming at strengthening their project management capacities.

The two criteria listed above do not apply to co-applicant(s). 

  (2) Potential applicants may not participate in calls for proposals or be awarded grants if they are in any of the situations listed in Section 2.6.10.1 of the practical guide;

 

Lead applicants, co-applicants, affiliated entities and, in case of legal entities, persons who have powers of representation, decision-making or control over the lead applicant, the co-applicants and the affiliated entities are informed that, should they be in one of the situations of early detection or exclusion according to Section 2.6.10.1 of the practical guide, personal details (name, given name if natural person, address, legal form and name and given name of the persons with powers of representation, decision-making or control, if legal person) may be registered in the early detection and exclusion system, and communicated to the persons and entities concerned in relation to the award or the execution of a grant contract.In this respect, provisionally selected lead applicants, co-applicants and affiliated entities are obliged to declare that they are not in one of the exclusion situations through a signed declaration on honour (PRAG Annex A14) together with the full application. For grants of EUR 60 000 or less, no declaration on honour is required.

 

In Annex A.1 Section 2 and Annex A.2 Section 5 (‘declaration(s) by the lead applicant’), the lead applicant must declare that the lead applicant himself, the co-applicant(s) and affiliated entity(ies) are not in any of these situations.

The lead must act with co-applicant(s) as specified hereafter.

If awarded the grant contract, the lead applicant will become the beneficiary identified as the coordinator in Annex G (special conditions). The coordinator is the main interlocutor of the contracting authority. It represents and acts on behalf of any other co-beneficiary (if any) and coordinate the design and implementation of the action.

Co-applicant(s)

The Lead applicant has to be in a partnership with at least one co-applicant and has proven experience of working in at least three countries of the Neighbourhood South region The partnership should involve organisations that have proven and complementary experience in the relevant areas of the programme.  

The partnership will have to demonstrate strong management capacities, in particular to implement grants and preferably financial support to third parties, and to monitor and coach the third parties. The lead applicant and co-applicants will have to demonstrate their expertise in the media sector in general, and more specifically in the field of media development, journalism, support to media, as well as their experience implementing operational actions and capacity building activities in the region. 

It is recommended not to involve more co-applicants than is needed. All co-applicants must be carefully chosen and play a strategic and an active role in the activities proposed. All proposals must demonstrate the value-added that all co-applicants bring to the programme and its activities

Co-applicants participate in designing and implementing the action, and the costs they incur are eligible in the same way as those incurred by the lead applicant. 

Co-applicants must satisfy the eligibility criteria as applicable to the lead applicant himself.

In addition to the categories referred to in Section 2.1.1, the following are however also eligible: NGOs/CSOs, media outlets, economic operators such as SMEs, social enterprises working in the following  sectors as their  professional core activity: independent and quality journalism, media development, media industry related services (e.g. audience understanding and analysis, research, publishing, marketing, etc.)

Co-applicants must sign the mandate in Annex A.2 Section 5.

If awarded the grant contract, the co-applicant(s) (if any) will become beneficiary(ies) in the action (together with the coordinator) 

(3)  Applicants included in the lists of EU restrictive measures (see Section 2.4. of the PRAG) at the
        moment of the award decision cannot be awarded the contract.

​​​​​​​2.1.2. Affiliated entities

Affiliated entity(ies)

The lead applicant and its co-applicant(s) may act with affiliated entity(ies).

Only the following entities may be considered as affiliated entities to the lead applicant and/or to co-applicant(s):

Only entities having a structural link with the applicants (i.e. the lead applicant or a co-applicant), in particular a legal or capital link.

This structural link encompasses mainly two notions:

(i) Control, as defined in Directive 2013/34/EU on the annual financial statements, consolidated financial statements and related reports of certain types of undertakings:

Entities affiliated to an applicant may hence be:

  • - Entities directly or indirectly controlled by the applicant (daughter companies or first-tier subsidiaries). They may also be entities controlled by an entity controlled by the applicant (granddaughter companies or second-tier subsidiaries) and the same applies to further tiers of control;
  • - Entities directly or indirectly controlling the applicant (parent companies). Likewise, they may be entities controlling an entity controlling the applicant;
  • - Entities under the same direct or indirect control as the applicant (sister companies).

(ii) Membership, i.e. the applicant is legally defined as a e.g. network, federation, association in which the proposed affiliated entities also participate or the applicant participates in the same entity (e.g. network, federation, association,…) as the proposed affiliated entities.

 

The structural link shall as a general rule be neither limited to the action nor established for the sole purpose of its implementation. This means that the link would exist independently of the award of the grant; it should exist before the call for proposals and remain valid after the end of the action.

 

By way of exception, an entity may be considered as affiliated to an applicant even if it has a structural link specifically established for the sole purpose of the implementation of the action in the case of so-called ‘sole applicants’ or ‘sole beneficiaries’.  A sole applicant or a sole beneficiary is a legal entity formed by several entities (a group of entities) which together comply with the criteria for being awarded the grant. For example, an association is formed by its members.

What is not an affiliated entity? 

 

The following are not considered entities affiliated to an applicant:

 

  • - Entities that have entered into a (procurement) contract or subcontract with an applicant, act as concessionaires or delegatees for public services for an applicant,
  • - Entities that receive financial support from the applicant,
  • - Entities that cooperate on a regular basis with an applicant on the basis of a memorandum of understanding or share some assets,
  • - Entities that have signed a consortium agreement under the grant contract (unless this consortium agreement leads to the creation of a ‘sole applicant’ as described above).

 

How to verify the existence of the required link with an applicant?

 

The affiliation resulting from control may in particular be proved on the basis of the consolidated accounts of the group of entities the applicant and its proposed affiliates belong to.

 

The affiliation resulting from membership may in particular be proved on the basis of the statutes or equivalent act establishing the entity (network, federation, association) which the applicant constitutes or in which the applicant participates.

If the applicants are awarded a grant contract, their affiliated entity(ies) will not become beneficiary(ies) of the action and signatory(ies) of the grant contract. However, they will participate in the design and  in the implementation of the action and the costs they incur (including those incurred for implementation contracts and financial support to third parties) may be accepted as eligible costs, provided they comply with all the relevant rules already applicable to the beneficiary(ies) under the grant contract.

Affiliated entity(ies) must satisfy the same eligibility criteria as the lead applicant and the co-applicant(s).  They must sign the affiliated entity(ies) statement in Annex A.2 Section 5.

In addition to the categories referred to in Section 2.1.1, the following are however also eligible: NGOs/CSOs, media outlets, economic operators such as SMEs, social enterprises working in the following  sectors as their  professional core activity: independent and quality journalism, media development, media industry related services (e.g. audience understanding and analysis, research, publishing, marketing, etc.)

2.1.3. Associates and contractors

The following entities are not applicants nor affiliated entities and do not have to sign the ‘mandate for co-applicant(s)’ or ‘affiliated entities' statement’:

  • Associates

Other organisations or individuals may be involved in the action. Such associates play a real role in the action but may not receive funding from the grant, with the exception of per diem or travel costs. Associates do not have to meet the eligibility criteria referred to in Section 2.1.1. Associates must be mentioned in Annex A.2 Section 4 — ‘Associates participating in the action’. 

  •  Contractors

The beneficiaries and their affiliated entities are permitted to award contracts. Associates or affiliated entity(ies) cannot be also contractors in the project. Contractors are subject to the procurement rules set out in Annex IV to the standard grant contract.

      1. 2.1.4. Eligible actions: actions for which an application may be made

Definition: 

An action is composed of a set of activities.

Duration

The initial planned duration of an action may not be lower than 54  months nor exceed 60 months.

Sectors or themes

  • • Media sector
  • • Journalism
  • • Quality content production
  • • Media development
  • • Media business, marketing and advertising
  • • Audience research
  • • Training, coaching, mentoring
  • • Networking, coalition building
  • • Core funding
  • • Production funding
  • • Subgranting or third party financing 

Location

Actions must take place in at least eight of the following countries: Algeria, Egypt, Israel (), Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine (), Syria () and Tunisia. Actions may take place in EU countries, where relevant.

Types of action

Types of action which may be financed under this call include but are not limited to: 

  • • Funding schemes to improve the financial viability of independent media, paired with 
  • • Enhanced capacity building (in person and online) of independent media outlets, journalists and professionals in terms of business viability, and 
  • • Enhanced capacity building aiming to improve the quality and relevance of the content produced. 
  • • Additional capacity building depending on the needs (protection and safety of journalists, legal assistance, security including cyber-security, social rights, gender equality, operating a new software/apps/equipment, data protection, copyright, etc.) 
  • • Networking opportunities both in person and online for with peer-to-peer learning, exchanges, best practices, as well as options to establish or further creative coalition and alliance co-operation and collaboration (e.g. on content co-production or joint income generator strategies). 

Activities may also involve actors from countries neighbouring the Neighbourhood region: Members for Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) which are not Neighbourhood South countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Turkey and Mauritania) and African states bordering the Neighbourhood countries (Chad, Mali, Niger, Sudan and non-autonomous territory of Western Sahara).

Actions should be open to actors from Libya and Syria and/or Libyan and Syrian diaspora organizations residing or registered in one of the above-mentioned countries.

The following types of action are ineligible:

  • • actions concerned only or mainly with individual sponsorships for participation in workshops, seminars, conferences and congresses. Conferences can only be funded if they form part of a wider range of activities to be implemented in the life-time of the project. For these purposes, preparatory activities for a conference and the publication of the proceedings of the conference do not, in themselves, constitute such “wider activities”;  
  • • actions concerned only or mainly with individual scholarships for studies or training courses;
  • • actions concerned only or mainly with academic research (whereas applied research activities, demonstrative or pilot actions aiming to establish an effective cooperation among academic and governmental institutions (or local authorities) may be foreseen as part of the action);
  • • actions supporting individual political parties; 
  • • actions including proselytism.

Types of activity

Types of activities which may be financed under this call include but are not limited to: 

Capacity building

  • • Production-led result-oriented capacity building trainings. Women journalists and media professionals should be specifically targeted.
  • • In-house tailor-made capacity building for managers and editors (e.g. programming, audience understanding, fact-checking, newsroom workflows, etc.). Women as producers and managers of media content should be specifically targeted, and their editorial point of view, included and disseminated/promoted. 
  • • In-house tailor-made capacity building in programming (enhanced children’ programmes, investigative content, hyperlocal content, repackaging existing content in children- and youth-friendly and/or innovative formats, etc.), which should also target women journalist.
  • • In-house tailor-made gender responsive capacity building for managers of media outlets as well as of alliances and coalitions (resources management – HR, internal policies, business models, income generation, etc.), which should also target women in those positions, or women who wish to access those positions.
  • • Tailor-made (in-house as appropriate) capacity building for existing networks, alliances and coalitions of media outlets and/or professionals to further their collaboration and experiment with new high quality content, formats, collaborative strategies, etc.
  • • Other relevant capacity-building on relevant themes (e.g. journalists safety, cyber-security, social rights, legal assistance, operating a new software/apps/equipment, data protection, copyright, etc.).

 

Funding

  • • Flexible and long-term funding (up to 3-5 years) for the following needs (list non-exhaustive):
  • o core funding, 
  • o production of high quality content, including piloting new type/genre of content and/or programming (e.g. children programming, re-packaging content to youth friendly formats, etc.), 
  • o new and innovative technical solutions to improve value for money and effective programming, content production, as well as to enhance efficiency of the business operations (e.g. new software, apps, or even equipment if absolutely necessary and justified).

Networking

  • • Networking opportunities, in person and online, ideally in the margins of existing industry events related to relevant themes (e.g. business models and viability, journalist safety, investigative journalism, media outlets governance, audience understanding, fact-checking, media literacy, social rights, data protection, copyright, etc.).
  • • Peer learning and exchanges & best practices sharing (possibly theme, genre or profession focused), also among professionals along the supply chain of the media industry.
  • • Online and virtual opportunities (e.g. platforms) for networking, content and knowledge sharing.

Applicants should include in the concept notes and full proposals a clear indication and explanation of:

  • • the strategic framework of the action;
  • • the key activities and outputs, including communication actions and involvement of relevant stakeholders;
  • • the implementation schedule (start and end time);
  • • the estimated costs per activity;
  • • which performance indicators will be used to evaluate the benefits of the project and its overall performance, and how they will monitor these parameters during and after project implementation; such information should be disaggregated by gender and gender specific performance indictors should be developed;
  • • the relevant training and awareness actions;
  • • the criteria for selecting the third parties who will receive financial support and key steps of the selection process;
  • • the demonstration effect – in which manner the action is innovative for the region and not "business as usual".

The partnership agreement signed by all partners (applicant and co-applicants), containing information about the division of labour and resources/budget of the action between all partners, should be presented as part of the concept note.

Within the scheme providing financial support to third parties, Calls for Applications should be published in English, French and if possible in Arabic language, and applicants for financial support to third parties shall be able to submit applications in English, French and if possible in Arabic language.

The application form and procedure should be tailor-made for beneficiary organisations with weak managerial and administrative capacities, and should foresee an evaluation and selection based on high quality and/or innovative ideas and initiatives, and a review process during which the quality of the intervention logic, the impact and sustainability of the activities can be improved and further developed.

Coaching and on-the-job training should be foreseen to support the beneficiaries of financial support in the implementation of their activities, as well as in the management of the financial support (i.e. related to financial and narrative reporting, budget execution and revisions, etc.). In addition, the provision of tools such as audience surveys or others could also be foreseen.

Applicants to this call should specify in their applications what type of supporting documents will be requested from the beneficiaries of financial support to verify that the funds have been used for the purpose and in line with the contract. Financial support to third parties should take a result based /output oriented approach and the supporting documents should reflect this approach. The security risks to the safety and integrity of beneficiaries involved with keeping certain documentation by the beneficiaries should be also considered.

The establishment of a Project Steering Committee should be foreseen, which would give strategic guidance to the implementation of the financial support scheme, and comprise the project partners and possibly other key stakeholders in the media and civil society sector in the Southern Neighbourhood region.

Financial support to third parties 

Applicants  shall propose financial support to third parties.

Applicants shall propose financial support to third parties in order to help achieving the objectives of the action. 

At least 55 % of the grant allocated must be redistributed as grants for actions as described here above.    

The maximum amount of financial support per third party is EUR 300 000.

Under this call, financial support to third parties is considered essential to achieve the objective of the action.

In compliance with the present guidelines and notably of any conditions or restrictions in this Section, the lead applicant should define mandatorily in Section 2.1.1 of Annex A.2: 

  1. (i) the overall objectives, the specific objective(s) and the outputs (i.e. the results) to be achieved with the financial support 
  2. (ii) the different types of activities eligible for financial support, on the basis of a fixed list 
  3. (iii) the types of persons or categories of persons which may receive financial support  
  4. (iv) the criteria for selecting these entities and giving the financial support  
  5. (v) the criteria for determining the exact amount of financial support for each third entity, and 
    1. (vi) the maximum amount which may be given.

In all events, the mandatory conditions set above for giving financial support (points (i) to (vi)) have to be strictly defined in the grant contract as to avoid any exercise of discretion.

Persons or categories of persons eligible for financial support to third parties must:

  • • be legal persons, and  
  • • may be profit making, however may not generate any profit form this action, and
  • • NGOs/CSOs, media outlets, economic operators such as SMEs, social enterprises and/or entrepreneurs and freelancers working in the following  sectors as their  professional core activity: independent and quality journalism, media development, media industry related services (e.g. audience understanding and analysis, research, publishing, marketing, etc.) and 
  • • be established in one of the Neighbourhood South countries.

Visibility

The applicants must take all necessary steps to publicise the fact that the European Union has financed or co-financed the action. As far as possible, actions that are wholly or partially funded by the European Union must incorporate information and communication activities designed to raise the awareness of specific or general audiences of the reasons for the action and the EU support for the action in the country or region concerned, as well as the results and the impact of this support.

Applicants must comply with the objectives and priorities and guarantee the visibility of the EU financing (see the Communication and Visibility Manual for EU external actions specified and published by the European Commission at http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/funding/communication-and-visibility-manual-eu-external-actions_en).

Number of applications and grants per applicants / affiliated entities

The lead applicant may not submit more than one application under this call for proposals.

The lead applicant may not be awarded more than one grant under this call for proposals.

The lead applicant may not be a co-applicant or an affiliated entity in another application at the same time.

A co-applicant/affiliated entity may not be the co-applicant or affiliated entity in more than one application under this call for proposals.

A co-applicant/affiliated entity may not be awarded more than one grant under this call for proposals.

2.1.5. Eligibility of costs: costs that can be included 

Only ‘eligible costs’ can be covered by a grant. The categories of costs that are eligible and non-eligible are indicated below. The budget is both a cost estimate and an overall ceiling for ‘eligible costs’. 

The reimbursement of eligible costs may be based on any or a combination of the following forms:

  • − financing not linked to costs of the relevant operations based on: .

 (i) either the fulfilment of conditions set out in sector specific legislation or Commission Decisions;  or

(ii) the achievement of results measured by reference to the previously set milestones or through performance indicators;

  • − actual costs incurred by the beneficiary(ies) and affiliated entity(ies);
  • − one or more simplified cost options.

Simplified cost options may take the form of:

  • unit costs: covering all or certain specific categories of eligible costs which are clearly identified in advance by reference to an amount per unit.
  • lump sums: covering in global terms all or certain specific categories of eligible costs which are clearly identified in advance.
  • flat-rate financing: covering specific categories of eligible costs which are clearly identified in advance by applying a percentage fixed ex ante.

 

Simplified costs options (SCOs) are divided in two categories:

1/ "output or result based SCOs": this category includes costs linked to outputs, results, activities, deliverables in the framework of a specific project (for example the determination of a lump sum for the organization of a conference, or for the realisation of a determined output/activity). Where possible and appropriate, lump sums, unit costs or flat rates shall be determined in such a way to allow their payment upon achievement of concrete outputs and/or results. This type of SCO can be proposed by the Beneficiary (no threshold is applicable) at proposal's stage. In case the evaluation committee and the contracting authority are not satisfied with the quality of the justification provided reimbursement on the basis of actually incurred costs is always possible.

2/ "other SCOs". This second category, which is only applicable to pillar assessed entities, entails simplified cost options embedded in the cost accounting practices of the beneficiary, for which an ex-ante assessment is deemed necessary, considering the need of a consistent application of the conditions required. In order to enable the use of theseSCOs, the beneficiary's cost accounting practices need to have been positively assessed by an audit firm based on standard ToRs provided by the Commission. To obtain reimbursement of this category of SCOs, the beneficiary shall make reference to the previously obtained ex-ante assessment in the budget justification sheet (annex B).

The amounts or rates have to be based on estimates using objective data such as statistical data or any other objective means or with reference to certified or auditable historical data of the applicants or the affiliated entity(ies). Determining SCO is possible also through ‘expert judgement’ provided by internally available experts or procured in accordance with the applicable rules. Experts must be either commissioned auditors or chartered accountants, or staff of the Commission but cannot be staff of the beneficiary. The methods used to determine the amounts or rates of unit costs, lump sums or flat-rates must comply with the criteria established in Annex K, and especially ensure that the costs correspond fairly to the actual costs incurred by the beneficiary(ies) and affiliated entity(ies), are in line with their cost accounting practices, no profit is made and the costs are not already covered by other sources of funding (no double funding). Refer to Annex K for the details of the procedure to be followed depending on the type and amount of the costs to be declared as SCO.

Applicants proposing this form of reimbursement, must clearly indicate in worksheet no.1 of Annex B, each heading/item  of eligible costs concerned by this type of financing, i.e. add the reference in capital letters to ‘UNIT COST’ (per month/flight etc.), ‘LUMPSUM’, ‘FLAT RATE’ in the Unit column (see example in Annex K). 

Additionally in Annex B, in the second column of worksheet no.2, ‘Justification of the estimated costs’ per each of the corresponding budget item or heading applicants must:

  • − describe the information and methods used to establish the amounts of unit costs, lump sums and/or flat-rates, to which costs they refer, etc for output or result based SCO.
  • − clearly explain the formulas for calculation of the final eligible amount for output or result based SCO
  • − make reference to the previously obtained ex-ante assessment for other/recurrent SCOs.

In case of output or result based SCOs the evaluation committee and the contracting authority decide whether to accept the proposed amounts or rates on the basis of the provisional budget submitted by the applicants, by analysing factual data of grants carried out by the applicants or of similar actions. In case the evaluation committee and the contracting authority are not satisfied with the quality of the justification provided reimbursement on the basis of actually incurred costs is always possible.

No threshold is set ex-ante for the total amount of financing that can be authorised by the contracting authority on the basis of simplified cost options. Other/recurrent SCOs can be declared only if previously successfully ex-ante assessed.

Recommendations to award a grant are always subject to the condition that the checks preceding the signing of the grant contract do not reveal problems requiring changes to the budget (such as arithmetical errors, inaccuracies, unrealistic costs and ineligible costs). The checks may give rise to requests for clarification and may lead the contracting authority to impose modifications or reductions to address such mistakes or inaccuracies. It is not possible to increase the grant or the percentage of EU co-financing as a result of these corrections.

It is therefore in the applicants' interest to provide a realistic and cost-effective budget.

 

The grant may take the form of a single lump-sum covering the entire eligible costs of an action or a work programme.

Single lump sums may be determined on the basis of the estimated budget, which should comply with the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Compliance with these principles shall be verified ex ante at the time of evaluation of the grant application.

When authorising single lump sums the authorising officer responsible shall comply with the conditions applicable to output or result based SCOs. 

When using this form of financing, the description of the action shall include detailed information on the essential conditions triggering the payment, including, where applicable, the achievement of outputs and/or results. 

 

The responsible authorising officer may consider that the usual cost accounting practices of the beneficiary are compliant with the conditions applicable to simplified cost options, if they are accepted by national authorities under comparable funding schemes. In this case the grant beneficiary shall demonstrate that the national authority accepted the cost accounting practices and will have to specify in which context this acceptance is given.

The evaluation committee and the contracting authority will assess if the funding scheme is comparable and in case of positive outcome will consider these practices as if they were ex-ante assessed by an external auditor.

 

Eligible direct costs

To be eligible under this call for proposals, costs must comply with the provisions of Article 14 of the general conditions to the standard grant contract (see Annex G of the guidelines).

Paying fees linked to the registration and licences of media outlets within the Neighbourhood South region are eligible costs.

Contingency reserve

The budget may include a contingency reserve not exceeding 5 % of the estimated direct eligible costs. It can only be used with the prior written authorisation of the contracting authority.

Eligible indirect costs

The indirect costs incurred in carrying out the action may be eligible for flat-rate funding, but the total must not exceed 7 % of the estimated total eligible direct costs. Indirect costs are eligible provided that they do not include costs assigned to another budget heading in the standard grant contract. The lead applicant may be asked to justify the percentage requested before the grant contract is signed. However, once the flat rate has been fixed in the special conditions of the grant contract, no supporting documents need to be provided.

If any of the applicants or affiliated entity(ies) is in receipt of an operating grant financed by the EU, it may not claim indirect costs on its incurred costs within the proposed budget for the action.

Contributions in kind

Contributions in kind mean the provision of goods or services to beneficiaries or affiliated entities free of charge by a third party. As contributions in kind do not involve any expenditure for beneficiaries or affiliated entities, they are normally not eligible costs. 

As an exception, contributions in kind may include personnel costs for the work carried out by volunteers under an action or work programme (which are eligible costs).

Volunteers' work may comprise up to 50 % of the co-financing. For the purposes of calculating this percentage, contributions in kind in the form of volunteers' work must be based on the unit cost provided by the contracting authority. This type of costs must be presented separately from other eligible costs in the estimated budget. The value of the volunteer’s work must always be excluded from the calculation of indirect costs.

When the estimated costs include volunteers' work, the grant shall not exceed the estimated eligible costs other than the costs for volunteers' work.

Other co-financing shall be based on estimates provided by the applicant.

Contributions in kind may not be treated as co-financing

However, if the description of the action as proposed includes contributions in kind, the contributions have to be made.

Ineligible costs

The following costs are not eligible:

  • − debts and debt service charges (interest);
  • − provisions for losses or potential future liabilities;
  • − costs declared by the beneficiary(ies) and financed by another action or work programme receiving a European Union (including through EDF) grant;
  • − purchases of land or buildings, except where necessary for the direct implementation of the action, in which case ownership must be transferred in accordance with Article 7.5 of the general conditions of the standard grant contract, at the latest at the end of the action;
  • − currency exchange losses;
  • − credit to third parties.
  • − salary costs of the personnel of national administrations

Ethics clauses and Code of Conduct

a) Absence of conflict of interest

The applicant must not be affected by any conflict of interest and must have no equivalent relation in that respect with other applicants or parties involved in the actions. Any attempt by an applicant to obtain confidential information, enter into unlawful agreements with competitors or influence the evaluation committee or the contracting authority during the process of examining, clarifying, evaluating and comparing applications will lead to the rejection of its application and may result in administrative penalties according to the Financial Regulation in force. 

b) Respect for human rights as well as environmental legislation and core labour standards 

The applicant and its staff must comply with human rights. In particular and in accordance with the applicable act, applicants who have been awarded contracts must comply with the environmental legislation including multilateral environmental agreements, and with the core labour standards as applicable and as defined in the relevant International Labour Organisation conventions (such as the conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining; elimination of forced and compulsory labour; abolition of child labour).

Zero tolerance for sexual exploitation,  abuse and harassment:

The European Commission applies a policy of 'zero tolerance' in relation to all wrongful conduct which has an impact on the professional credibility of the applicant.  

Physical abuse or punishment, or threats of physical abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, harassment and verbal abuse, as well as other forms of intimidation shall be prohibited. 

 

c) Anti-corruption and anti-bribery 

The applicant shall comply with all applicable laws and regulations and codes relating to anti-bribery and anti-corruption. The European Commission reserves the right to suspend or cancel project financing if corrupt practices of any kind are discovered at any stage of the award process or during the execution of a contract and if the contracting authority fails to take all appropriate measures to remedy the situation. For the purposes of this provision, ‘corrupt practices’ are the offer of a bribe, gift, gratuity or commission to any person as an inducement or reward for performing or refraining from any act relating to the award of a contract or execution of a contract already concluded with the contracting authority.

      d)  Unusual commercial expenses 

Applications will be rejected or contracts terminated if it emerges that the award or execution of a contract has given rise to unusual commercial expenses. Such unusual commercial expenses are commissions not mentioned in the main contract or not stemming from a properly concluded contract referring to the main contract, commissions not paid in return for any actual and legitimate service, commissions remitted to a tax haven, commissions paid to a payee who is not clearly identified or commissions paid to a company which has every appearance of being a front company.

Grant beneficiaries found to have paid unusual commercial expenses on projects funded by the European Union are liable, depending on the seriousness of the facts observed, to have their contracts terminated or to be permanently excluded from receiving EU/EDF funds.

e) Breach of obligations, irregularities or fraud

The contracting authority reserves the right to suspend or cancel the procedure, where the award procedure proves to have been subject to substantial breach of obligations, irregularities or fraud. If substantial breach of obligations, irregularities or fraud are discovered after the award of the contract, the contracting authority may refrain from concluding the contract.

2.2. How to apply and the procedures to follow

To apply for this call for proposals the lead applicants need to:

I. Provide information about the organisations involved in the action. Please note that the registration of this data in PADOR is obligatory for this call for proposals:

Concept note step: Registration is obligatory for lead applicants applying for EU contributions of more than EUR 60 000.

Full application step: Registration is obligatory for co-applicant(s) and affiliated entity(ies). Lead applicants must make sure that their PADOR profile is up to date. 

II. Provide information about the action in the documents listed under sections 2.2.2 (concept note) and 2.2.5 (full application). Please note that online submission via PROSPECT is obligatory for this call,

PADOR is an on-line database in which organisations register and update information concerning their entity. Organisations registered in PADOR get a unique ID (EuropeAid ID) which they must mention in their application. PADOR is accessible via the website: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/pador_en 

It is strongly recommended to register in PADOR well in advance and not to wait until the last minute before the  deadline to submit your application in PROSPECT. 

If it is impossible to register online in PADOR for technical reasons, the applicants and/or affiliated entity(ies) must complete the ‘PADOR off-line form attached to these guidelines. This form must be sent together with the application, by the submission deadline (see sections 2.2.2 and 2.2.5). 

Before starting using PADOR and PROSPECT, please read the user guides available on the website. All technical questions related the use of these systems should be addressed to the IT helpdesk at EuropeAid-IT-support@ec.europa.eu via the online support form in PROSPECT.

2.2.1. Concept note content  

Applications must be submitted in accordance with the concept note instructions in the grant application form annexed to these guidelines (Annex A). 

Applicants must apply in English, or French.

Please note that:

  1. 1. In the concept note, lead applicants must only provide an estimate of the requested EU contribution as well as an indicative percentage of that contribution in relation to the eligible costs of the action. A detailed budget is to be submitted only by the lead applicants invited to submit a full application in the second phase. 
  2. 2. The elements outlined in the concept note may not be modified in the full application. The EU contribution may not vary from the initial estimate by more than 20 %. Lead applicants are free to adapt the percentage of co-financing required within the minimum and maximum amount and percentages of co-financing, as laid down in these guidelines in Section 1.3. The lead applicant may replace a co-applicant or an affiliated entity only in duly justified cases (e.g. bankruptcy of initial co-applicant or affiliated entity). In this case the new co-applicant/affiliated entity must be of a similar nature as the initial one. The lead applicant may adjust the duration of the action if unforeseen circumstances outside the scope of the applicants have taken place following the submission of the concept note and require such adaptation (risk of action not being carried out). In such cases the duration must remain within the limits imposed by the guidelines for applicants. An explanation/justification of the relevant replacement/adjustment shall be included in an accompanying letter or email. 

Own contributions by the applicants can be replaced by other donors' contributions at any time.

3. Only the concept note form will be evaluated. It is therefore of utmost importance that this document contains ALL relevant information concerning the action. No additional annexes should be sent.

Any error or major discrepancy related to the concept note instructions may lead to the rejection of the concept note.

Clarifications will only be requested when information provided is not sufficient to conduct an objective assessment. 

Hand-written concept notes will not be accepted.

2.2.2. Where and how to send concept notes

The concept note together with the declaration by the lead applicant (Annex A.1 section 2) must be submitted online via PROSPECT https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/prospect following the instructions given in the PROSPECT user manual.

Upon submission of a concept note online, the lead applicant will receive an automatic confirmation of receipt in its PROSPECT profile.

Please note that incomplete concept notes may be rejected. Lead applicants are advised to verify that their concept note is complete by using the checklist for concept note (Annex A.1, Instructions).

      1. 2.2.3. Deadline for submission of concept notes 

The deadline for the submission of concept notes is 08/12/2020 at 14:00 (Brussels date and time) and online.  In order to convert this deadline to local time you can use any online time converter tool that takes into account timezones and winter/summer time changes (example available here) The lead applicant is strongly advised not to wait until the last day to submit its concept note, since heavy Internet traffic or a fault with the Internet connection (including electricity failure, etc.) could lead to difficulties in submission. The Contacting Authority cannot be held responsible for any delay due to such afore-mentioned difficulties. 

Any concept note submitted after the deadline will be rejected.

2.2.4. Further information about concept notes

An information session on this call for proposals will be held on 20 October 2020 at 14 hours online.

Questions may be sent by e-mail no later than 21 days before the deadline for the submission of concept notes to the address(es) below, indicating clearly the reference of the call for proposals:

E-mail address: NEAR-ENI-SOUTH-TENDERS@ec.europa.eu

The contracting authority has no obligation to provide clarifications to questions received after this date.

Replies will be given no later than 11 days before the deadline for submission of concept notes. 

To ensure equal treatment of applicants, the contracting authority cannot give a prior opinion on the eligibility of lead applicants, co-applicants, affiliated entity(ies), an action or specific activities.

No individual replies will be given to questions. All questions and answers as well as other important notices to applicants during the course of the evaluation procedure will be published on the website of DG International Cooperation and Development: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm?do=publi.welcome, as the need arises. It is therefore advisable to consult the abovementioned website regularly in order to be informed of the questions and answers published.

All questions related to registration in PADOR or the online submission via PROSPECT should be addressed to the IT helpdesk at EuropeAid-IT-support@ec.europa.eu via the online support form in PROSPECT: Please note that the working languages of the IT support are: English French and Spanish. Therefore users are invited to send their questions in English, French or Spanish should they wish to benefit from an optimum response time.

Please note that the contracting authority may decide to cancel the call for proposals procedure at any stage according to the conditions set out in Section 6.5.9 of the PRAG

2.2.5. Full applications 

Lead applicants invited to submit a full application following pre-selection of their concept note must do so using the grant application form annexed to these guidelines (Annex A.2). Lead applicants should then keep strictly to the format of the grant application form and fill in the paragraphs and pages in order.

The elements outlined in the concept note cannot be modified by the lead applicant in the full application. The EU contribution may not vary from the initial estimate by more than 20 %, although lead applicants are free to adapt the percentage of co-financing required within the minimum and maximum amount and percentages of co-financing, as laid down in these guidelines under Section 1.3. The lead applicant may replace a co-applicant or an affiliated entity only in duly justified cases (e.g. bankruptcy of initial co-applicant or affiliated entity). In this case the new co-applicant/affiliated entity must be of a similar nature as the initial one. The lead applicant may adjust the duration of the action if unforeseen circumstances outside the scope of the applicants have taken place following the submission of the concept note and require such adaptation (risk of action not being carried out). In such cases the duration must remain within the limits imposed by the guidelines for applicants. An explanation/justification of the relevant replacement/adjustment shall be included in an accompanying letter or email.

Lead applicants must submit their full applications in the same language as their concept notes. A copy of the lead applicant’s accounts of the latest financial year (the profit and loss account and the balance sheet for the last financial year for which the accounts have been closed) must be uploaded in PADOR by the full application deadline. A copy of the latest account is neither required from (if any) the co-applicant(s) nor from (if any) affiliated entity(ies)).

Please complete the full application form carefully and as clearly as possible so that it can be assessed properly. 

Any error related to the points listed in the checklist (Annex A.2, Instructions) or any major inconsistency in the full application (e.g. if the amounts in the budget worksheets are inconsistent) may lead to the rejection of the application.

Clarifications will only be requested when information provided is unclear and thus prevents the contracting authority from conducting an objective assessment.

Hand-written applications will not be accepted.

Please note that only the full application form and the published annexes which have to be filled in (budget, logical framework) will be transmitted to the evaluators (and assessors, if used). It is therefore of utmost importance that these documents contain ALL the relevant information concerning the action. 

With the full application the lead applicant also has to submit the completed PADORform (Annex F) for the lead applicant, each (if any) co-applicants and each (if any) affiliated entities.

No additional annexes should be sent.

​​​​​​​2.2.6. Where and how to send full applications 

Full application forms together with the budget, the logical framework and the declaration by the lead applicant must be submitted online via PROSPECT https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/ europeaid/prospect following the instructions given in the users’ manual.

Upon submission of the full application online, the lead applicants will receive an automatic confirmation of receipt in their PROSPECT profile. 

 

Please note that incomplete applications may be rejected. Lead applicants are advised to verify that their application is complete using the checklist (Annex A.2, Instructions).

​​​​​​​2.2.7. Deadline for submission of full applications 

The deadline for the submission of full applications will be indicated in the letter sent to the lead applicants whose application has been pre-selected. This letter will appear online automatically in the PROSPECT profile of the lead applicant. 

Lead applicants are strongly advised not to wait until the last day to submit their full applications, since heavy Internet traffic or a fault with the Internet connection (including electricity failure, etc.) could lead to difficulties in submission. The Contacting Authority cannot be held responsible for any delay due to such afore-mentioned difficulties. 

Any application submitted after the deadline will be rejected. 

​​​​​​​2.2.8. Further information about full applications 

Questions may be sent by e-mail no later than 21 days before the deadline for the submission of full applications to the addresses listed below, indicating clearly the reference of the call for proposals:

NEAR-ENI-SOUTH-TENDERS@ec.europa.eu

The contracting authority has no obligation to provide clarifications to questions received after this date.

Replies will be given no later than 11 days before the deadline for the submission of full applications. 

To ensure equal treatment of applicants, the contracting authority cannot give a prior opinion on the eligibility of lead applicants, co-applicants, affiliated entity(ies), or an action.

No individual replies will be given to questions. All questions and answers as well as other important notices to applicants during the course of the evaluation procedure, will be published on the website of DG International Cooperation and Development: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm?do=publi.welcome  as the need arises. It is therefore advisable to consult the abovementioned website regularly in order to be informed of the questions and answers published.

All questions related to registration in PADOR or the online submission via PROSPECT should be addressed to the IT helpdesk at EuropeAid-IT-support@ec.europa.eu via the online support form in PROSPECT. Please note that the working languages of the IT support are: English French and Spanish. Therefore users are invited to send their questions in English, French or Spanish should they wish to benefit from an optimum response time.

​​​​​​​2.3. Evaluation and selection of applications

Applications will be examined and evaluated by the contracting authority with the possible assistance of external assessors. All applications will be assessed according to the following steps and criteria.

If the examination of the application reveals that the proposed action does not meet the eligibility criteria stated in Section 2.1, the application will be rejected on this sole basis. 



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