Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Launch Of the Stars4Media Programme – Innovate and Upskill Your Team!

WHY: Addressing the crisis of the Media sector

Disinformation disorder, falling trust and readership, unprecedented challenges in their business models, shifting skills and technology. The media sector is going through a deep multifaceted crisis. Solutions for a healthy media sector are still in the making. One thing is certain, they must be driven by the media sector itself, and by innovation. In this context, the European Union is co-funding a pilot project on media innovation and cross-border cooperation:

WHAT: Exchange programme on media innovation

A crisis-stricken European media sector facing unprecedented challenge requires innovation. To tackle this issue, Stars4Media is a media-driven project to support and accelerate innovation in the media sector in Europe. It builds on the involvement of media outlets, publishers associations and journalists’ and media unions, through the exchange of young media professionals around ad hoc media innovation initiatives.

For 12 months, starting in November 2019, this innovative project will let promising young media professionals to work together around collaborative innovative initiatives.

WHO: Participants will be young media professionals with 2-10 years of media experience.

They will come from different departments of different media outlets (journalists, graphic designers, developers, and managers for social media, products, marketing,…). The rationale is to cut across functional “silos” hindering new ideas, and speeds up the careers of ‘media rising stars’.

Young media professionals can propose ideas in one of the four following themes:

  • TRUST in media: 1) Constructive journalism  2) Fact-checking
  • DATA for media: 3) Data-journalism 4)  Artificial Intelligence / Language technologies
  • Related topics could be also accepted

WHO: Words of support

List of 60 supporters, including 15 MEPs and 13 media organisations

Over the next year, about 100 media professionals across Europe will learn new skills through paid placements in media organisations from other countries. In an ever more complex media landscape, this should trigger increased innovation and cross-border coverage. This is a pilot project and I very much look forward to the lessons learned to understand if and how this scheme should be scaled up. In the meantime, I invite interested candidates to watch for the forthcoming launch of the call for interest by “Stars for Media”. All the best!”  Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

“Journalism is at a crossroads, more important than ever and more fragile than ever. We urgently need to invest in innovation, new ways of engaging with diverse audiences and stimulating trust. Empowering young media professionals to experience best practice outside their newsroom, is a beautiful chance, we hope many apply for.” European Federation of Journalists

“We are addressing two of the key challenges that still hinder the processes of press transformation in the digital age: project-based product management and culture. With its unique European-wide twinning programme, Stars4media will help participating companies to truly rethink their relationship to innovation and embed experience innovation into our culture and organisation.” Vincent Peyrègne, CEO WAN-IFRA

Christophe Leclercq, founder of the EURACTIV Media Network, explained the context: “This pilot project was conceived with and for the media sector, working for the general interest of democracy. 45 media stakeholders expressed their support, then relayed by 15 MEPs from the 4 main political groups, and voted by the Parliament for two years around ‘rising stars’, the first one being implemented. Public support for journalistic cooperation or press freedom is useful, this one is different: it’s about innovation across border and economic sustainability.”

THE CONSORTIUM: Organisation

The consortium is coordinated by VUB, a university with one of Europe’s leading media innovation departments (imec-SMIT) and experience with exchange programmes, in cooperation with Fondation EURACTIV, the project Initiator, experienced in cross-border exchanges and media needs.

The consortium’s second circle reaches widely through its networks and renowned events. It contains the journalists (European Federation of Journalists), the publishers (WAN-IFRA, the largest association of media companies) and media technology leaders. These consortium partners will feed candidates for pre-selection under the 4 thematic waves. Conferences and ‘Summits’ planned for June 2020 by WAN-IFRA, and by Fondation EURACTIV in autumn 2020, will also award prizes for the best Initiatives, respectively around TRUST and DATA.


Stars4Media will sustainably impact media innovation and cross-border coverage in Europe:

  • Train for leadership  media professionals across borders
  • Accelerate innovation in the media sector, developing Initiatives between small teams from some 40 media outlets, exchanging knowledge, tools, and content
  • 100 news items will be produced directly as a result of the sustainable Initiatives
  • Recommend policies to expand and support a dynamic European media sector

Note to the editors:

About the Consortium:

SMIT stands for Studies in Media, Innovation and Technology. SMIT is a research group part of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and IMEC. VUB’s SMIT is the consortium leader.

Fondation EURACTIV is a think-and-do tank for the health of the media sector in Europe. It contributes to a healthy democracy and the emergence of a European public sphere. Fondation EURACTIV is the initiator of the Stars4Media project.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is the largest organisation of journalists in Europe, representing over 320,000 journalists in 72 journalists’ organisations, across 45 countries.

WAN-IFRA, is the global organisation of the world’s press. It is a global network of 3,000 news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, 60 member publisher associations representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries.

This project is co-funded by the European Union (grant agreement number: LC-01337350).

How: Details on the process

After a pre-selection phase, the match-making event (“Europe’s media lab” planned from 3 to 6 March 2020 in Brussels) will help perfect the initiative proposed and when necessary pair professionals from like-minded media outlets around innovation initiatives. Selected teams will benefit from ad-hoc training and will then implement joint concrete cooperation. This core on-the-ground exchange will involve both geographic mobility and virtual teamwork.

Media company-internal support will then come from senior mentors to ensure efficiency, impact and sustainability of the initiatives. Participating media outlets will encourage investment later on, based on the best Initiatives, stimulate cooperation between European media and help develop new business models for legacy media.

Independent media experts on the Stars4Media Advisory Committee will provide overall strategic guidance, informal advice to ‘lone stars’ (un-paired candidates), as well as jury service to select the participants.
Independence of the jury: the members of the jury committed to declaring at that time any conflict of interest and abstain from voting on such applications. 

Contacts and related links: 

Catalina Dumbraveanu – Stars4Media Project Manager – 

Nathalie Bargues – Communications and Projects Manager – Fondation EURACTIV –

Stars4Media Information: 

Fondation EURACTIV:

Webpage VUB imec-SMIT:


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