Public Media

The public media tent includes news shows on NPR and PBS, quality kids' programming like Sesame Street, public access TV channels, community radio stations and nonprofit journalism outlets. We rely on public media to inform us, educate our children, entertain us, broaden our cultural horizons, show us local government in action, and help us participate in our communities.

As commercial media institutions crumble, laying off thousands of journalists and gutting newsrooms, they fail to report in depth on the most vital stories of our time. Public broadcasters and community media outlets are not just an alternative to the mainstream; they are essential public institutions in our democracy.

The United States spends a tiny amount — $1.50 per capita — on public media funding. Indeed, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is among the lowest-funded public media systems in the world. Canada spends about $22 per capita; England comes in at around $80; and Denmark and Finland both spend more than $100 per capita.

But while we need noncommercial media in the U.S. more than ever, this vital service is facing new threats. Policymakers seeking to score political points are launching renewed attacks on public and community media.

We face a choice: We can accept a mediocre status quo and maintain an under-funded public media system that is vulnerable to constantly changing political winds, or we can aspire to a public media system that makes use of all technologies available to inspire, educate and inform.

Free Press is partnering with forward-thinking leaders across the public media community, independent media makers and everyday people to develop effective policies that will support public media over the long haul.

Blog Posts

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Press Releases

  • Free Press Mourns Charles Benton

    April 30, 2015
    Charles Benton, the chairman of the Benton Foundation and a longtime champion of community media, public broadcasting and universal broadband access, died Wednesday.
  • FCC Chairman Genachowski to Step Down

    March 21, 2013
    WASHINGTON -- The Wall Street Journal reports that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will announce on Friday that he will step down from his position as head of the agency. Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement: "When Julius Genachowski took office, there were high hopes that he would use his powerful position to promote the public interest. But instead of acting as the people's champion, he’s catered to corporate interests."
  • Romney’s Threats to Public Media Ignore Popular Will

    August 15, 2012

    WASHINGTON – In an interview published Wednesday in Fortune, presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that he would eliminate funding for public broadcasting if elected.

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News from Around the Web

  • Public Broadcasting Funding in Danger in Kansas and Elsewhere

    Kansas City Star
    February 11, 2013

    In Kansas and across the country, public broadcasters find statehouses reluctant to help with the bills for two reasons: There’s simply less money to spare, and Republican-dominated legislatures see the radio and TV stations as too liberal.

  • Puppets Protest Romney Threat to PBS

    International Business Times
    November 5, 2012

    Puppets urged politicians to keep up federal funding for U.S. public broadcasting after Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney threatened to pull the plug on Big Bird and friends.

  • The Million Puppet March: Fighting for Public Broadcasting, with Felt and Fur

    Washington Post
    November 5, 2012

    It might have been the friendliest rally to ever come to the Mall -- especially three days before the election. Puppets and toddlers danced. Grown-ups in furry costumes sang. A girl dressed as Cookie Monster handed out Chips Ahoy to passersby. There was even a puppet-themed wedding. The Million Puppet March -- a political rally against Mitt Romney’s debate remarks about Big Bird and cutting funding to public television -- may not have actually been a million puppets strong, but furry monsters came from far and near in a post-Halloween parade of support for PBS.

Learn More

  • Future of Public Media

    Free Press is working to create policies that expand funding for public media and make it more digital and diverse. 

  • Community TV

    Public access, educational and governmental television, or PEG stations, are local TV channels that provide programming as diverse as the communities they’re based in. Public access TV plays a vital role in forging community identity. Offerings range from local music videos to city council meetings to community sporting events, and a whole lot in between.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good