Photo by Rodney Choice, courtesy of Free Press.
From television and radio to newspapers and the Internet, media outlets have traditionally provided the information and analysis that shape our understanding of the world and help us hold our leaders accountable. Today, however, some would argue that the media have increasingly abandoned their responsibility to serve the public interest and that the American people now need a strong advocate to improve the media through better media policy.
That's where Free Press comes in. Founded in late 2002 by media scholar Robert W. McChesney, journalist John Nichols, and Josh Silver, Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. With nearly half a million activists and members participating in its campaigns, Free Press is the largest media reform organization in the United States and a leader in the movement for a more diverse and democratic media system.
According to Executive Director Josh Silver, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have for far too long made media policy behind closed doors "in the public's name but without public consent". Free Press aims to shape media policy by engaging the public in national campaigns to battle unchecked media consolidation, promote diverse and local media ownership, and safeguard the free and open Internet.
The organization harnesses the power of the Internet for grassroots organizing to build the movement for better media and make media policy a major political issue. Through its Web site, people can sign petitions, send messages to their elected officials, and network with other activists. Free Press's SavetheInternet.com coalition has 1.5 million supporters fighting to protect Net Neutrality, the principle that prevents Internet Service Providers from blocking or slowing down Web content transmitted on their networks. To raise awareness about the growing media reform movement, Free Press also hosts the National Conference for Media Reform, the largest and highest-profile gathering of media reform advocates in the country. The conferences regularly bring activists, educators, and elected officials together to discuss media policy, movement building, journalism, and social justice.
According to Silver, Free Press "is like a hurricane that's gathering strength." As the organization continues to build constituencies and political will behind media reform, they plan to intensify campaigns to prevent media consolidation, protect Internet freedom and promote public media. Most important is getting Americans to understand that media reform affects everything they care about, from civil rights to consumer choice to freedom of speech. "If media is not your first issue," said Silver, "it should be your second."
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