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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  • Hey FCC, Come Visit Me!

    It’s been five years since the FCC left Washington, D.C., in an official capacity to hear how its policies affect real people. It’s time for the agency to schedule meetings in communities around the country to give people a real voice in the policymaking process.

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Press Releases

  • Free Press Hails FCC Plans to Expose Covert Consolidation, Promote Broadcast Diversity

    March 6, 2014
    WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the agency will take a closer look at television station "sharing arrangements." These agreements allow a single conglomerate to control multiple stations in the same market, skirting FCC rules that are supposed to preserve independence and diversity on the airwaves.
  • 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."
  • Promise of Low Power FM Radio Moves Closer to Becoming Reality

    November 30, 2012

    WASHINGTON -- On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to clear space for hundreds of new community radio stations around the country and set the process to begin taking new applications for Low Power FM licenses in 2013.

    These radio stations give community voices a place on the radio dial. They give underserved populations, non-English speakers, local artists, grassroots advocates and religious organizations a chance to make their messages heard and find space in radio markets typically saturated by media conglomerates.

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News from Around the Web

  • Roots, Radio and Social Change: Why Low Power FM Radio Is About You

    Moyers & Company
    October 25, 2013

    In an environment in which corporations and the government increasingly control the airwaves, where can social justice movements and marginalized communities go to have their voices heard? Enter low power FM radio (LPFM).

  • 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.

  • FCC Approves LPFM Item

    Broadcasting & Cable
    December 3, 2012

    The FCC voted unanimously to allow for more Low Power FM stations, particularly in urban areas where adjacent-channel restrictions had limited the number of LPFM stations.

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  • Low Power FM Radio

    Low Power FM radio stations are community-based nonprofit outlets that broadcast to neighborhoods and small towns throughout the country.

    LPFM stations have a limited broadcast range of just a few miles, but their impact on communities can be immense. These noncommercial stations inject vibrancy into a radio dial that has suffered from years of media consolidation.

    LPFM stations offer a platform for content and viewpoints that traditional media overlook. These stations foster community identity and serve as hubs for vital safety information during local emergencies.

  • Attacks on Public Media

    Every year, for almost a decade, Americans have ranked public television as the institution they trust most. And more than 70 percent of Americans see funding for public television as money “well spent.” Exactly how much do Americans spend to support this resource? Pocket change: The United States spends less than$1.50 per person on public broadcasting — 20 times less than Germany and a whopping 70 times less than Denmark.

  • Future of Public Media

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

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good