But Trumpism endures and must be confronted.
That’s the hopeful yet harrowing moment we find ourselves in now that the election is over, and the transition has begun. Free Press is ready.
While we’ll remain vigilant for whatever a lame-duck Trump — or let’s face it, the year 2020 — might bring, we will be putting our collective energy toward repairing the damage done over the past four years, while diligently working to expand what’s possible in a Biden administration and new Congress.
We don’t want to put things back the way they used to be or to return to business as usual, especially in Washington. Our goal is to seize this moment as the truly transformative one it can be.
Free Press is going to throw down from day one to push for immediate and concrete action to address the pandemic and economic crisis: We need to invest billions of dollars to get and keep people connected to the internet and to support and fund community-centered news and information. We need to restore oversight and authority over the most powerful media, tech and telecom companies. We need to fight against hate and disinformation and for racial justice.
We will lift up big and bold ideas, challenge corporate capture of Congress and key agencies, and deepen winning alliances with those committed to building a multiracial democracy. We will launch campaigns and make policy changes that will actually improve people’s lives and create a media system that answers to the public and sustains democracy.
At the same time, we will oppose Trumpism — that toxic strain of racism, misogyny, bullying and greed exemplified by the 45th president and amplified by our broken media system. Trumpism must be defeated, not accommodated, and there’s no question that media and tech — from Facebook to Fox News to, God forbid, Trump TV — will remain at the center of this fight.
We don’t know what the final makeup of the Senate will be, but we do know that Wall Street and the big companies are rooting for a divided government that’s easier for them to control. There will be a lot of voices in the days ahead whispering about how little is possible, but they’re wrong. This is not a moment for small gestures and fake compromises.
We will win by playing offense and moving the debates in a more progressive direction, by putting out bold and concrete plans, by listening to our allies on the ground, by reaching out to persuade new groups and supporters. We’ll bring the conversations over the future of the internet, journalism, privacy and democracy out of the backrooms and boardrooms and to the communities and people these decisions most impact.
Our immediate priorities include:
Influencing presidential appointments. It matters who does — and doesn’t — get jobs in the Biden administration. Through meeting with the transition team and key offices in Congress, talking to the press and sounding alarms if needed, we’ll keep a close eye on the FCC, FTC, Justice Department, Commerce Department, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other key places that could shape media and tech policy.
Winning Net Neutrality in 2021. We will push the new administration, Congress and the FCC to quickly restore Title II authority, strengthen the rules protecting the free and open internet, and ensure the agency can take action to get broadband to everyone. A clear commitment to Net Neutrality and strong FCC authority to protect everyone’s broadband rights is a prerequisite for anyone picked to run the FCC.
Ending the digital divide — for real — in the next four years. This effort starts with a major push for broadband in the next massive recovery bill along the lines of the HEROES Act, which passed the House last May. With so many people trying to school their kids and do their jobs from home — the necessity of ubiquitous, affordable broadband is clearer than ever. Now is the moment to put ambitious goals on the table, to move from minutiae to moon shots, and to work to truly end the digital divide by the end of Biden’s first term.
Going to the Supreme Court. Our long-running case challenging the FCC’s repeated attempts to eradicate media-ownership limits without studying the impacts on ownership opportunities for women and people of color is headed to the highest court next year. This could be a monumental decision on media ownership and the future of the FCC. But the case also presents a new opportunity to get Congress to pass laws to rejuvenate local, diverse and independent media while confronting how the conglomerates and their FCC enablers have failed in their responsibilities as stewards of the public airwaves.
Reviving public media and local journalism. As Congress returns, we’ll also be recharging the debate over policies to support journalism — and putting forward bolder ideas on transitioning our media system to one that actually centers communities and meets local needs. This will be a priority for us in any recovery bill, while we’ll also be teeing up much larger questions about how to sustain serious local journalism everywhere and build popular support for major investment in a rejuvenated and reimagined noncommercial media system.
All of this work will happen alongside our ongoing News Voices project to build locally driven journalism alternatives from the ground up, to forge new relationships between newsrooms and communities, to encourage journalists to speak out and challenge their institutions, to change how crime and the legal system are covered, to provide the information communities need and to empower people to tell their own stories.
Making media reparations a reality. The need for repair and reconciliation goes far beyond the past four years. A few weeks ago, we launched a new campaign — Media 2070 — with a powerful historical essay and big questions about what media reparations might look like for Black people in the United States. This has sparked a rich and imaginative conversation that will carry on into 2021 and beyond. We’ll push the new administration to study the government’s role in perpetuating white supremacy through media policy and will highlight tech and journalism in larger cultural conversations and legislation around reparations.
Confronting hate and disinformation on the platforms and the airwaves. The pressure we’ve put on the platforms and newsrooms got real results during the election: warning labels on disinformation, takedowns of violent white nationalists and more cautious election coverage that didn’t just parrot Trump’s lies. Of course there is so much left to do, and we won’t let up just because the election is over.
We’ve seen what happens when propagandists seize our networks and local TV stations. We need to confront the damage they’ve done and take on companies like Sinclair that have exploited the public airwaves to push right-wing messages and spread lies about the pandemic while getting rich off of campaign ads.
And we must confront the clear and present danger Fox News presents to public health and safety, functioning government and the truth. To start, no one should be forced to pay for this propaganda on their monthly cable bill. But we need a much deeper reckoning with what Rupert Murdoch has done to this country and the world.
There is also a reckoning coming for social-media platforms — but we need policies that will actually address the problems. We can’t let legislators or regulators fall for the lazy propaganda around Section 230, one of the internet’s foundational laws — or the bogus claims of anti-conservative bias coming from the right. We will keep urging the companies to crack down on hate and disinformation, push measures to tax them in support of quality journalism, and urge Congress to pass privacy laws that center civil-rights protections.
Defunding surveillance. We’re on guard against any lame-duck attempts in Congress to reinstate Patriot Act spying powers before the end of the year, and we won’t stop fighting unlawful surveillance just because there’s a Democrat in the White House. We’re working with a growing network of allies to protect dissent by Black and Muslim activists and defund surveillance as part of much larger efforts to address police violence and mass incarceration. And we’ll be defending the rights of protesters and the journalists who cover them.
We know the next few weeks could be volatile as Trump resists leaving office or just tries to steal everything on his way out. We’re part of the Protect the Results coalition organizing against any efforts to undermine the vote.
While our policy team is preparing for the transition, we’ll also be watching out for last-minute executive orders, giveaways to big media or telecoms, and other larcenies, large and small, in the last days of the Trump administration.
As you can see, we have a lot of important work ahead of us. You can help us accomplish this ambitious agenda in 2021 by making a gift here. We don’t take a cent from business, government or political parties — our independence is too important — so your support makes a big difference.
In the days ahead, we will continue to dream — of the media we deserve, of the stories waiting to be told, of the world we can build — while making the plans and creating the structures to actually get there. That’s what Free Press does: We connect the dreams with the details, raising hell while still reading the footnotes, winning again and again when we’re told we don’t have a chance.
But now we do have a chance, maybe the best in our 17 years of existence, to spark meaningful and transformative change. And with your help, we intend to seize the moment.