The Decisions Made in the Next Two Weeks Will Shape our Media for Years to Come

There are three huge decisions happening in the final weeks of 2010 that will reshape our media. Free Press is working hard on these issues and others (like defending public broadcasting from ongoing attacks from lawmakers who want to defund it). Here’s a quick rundown of what’s at stake between now and New Years. After you read this, I hope you’ll consider supporting our work. Here is the link to donate: https://freepress.actionkit.com/donate/staff_challenge_2010

LPFM – a big win

When I started at Free Press my first job was organizing in-district meetings with local citizens and members of Congress around an issue I had never heard of before: low power FM radio (LPFM). That was almost four years ago. This weekend, that bill was finally voted through both the House and the Senate, and when President Obama signs it, the Local Community Radio Act will open the door to thousands of new nonprofit community radio stations around the country.

For years huge media conglomerates like Clear Channel have served as absentee landlords over the radio dial, piping generic top forty pop music and conservative talk radio into local communities throughout the US. This bill puts more of the public airwaves back in the hands of the people, will amplify local voices and will expand the opportunities for noncommercial radio. (Find out more about LPFM here:  http://huff.to/f7cMsW here:  http://bit.ly/e9xHge and here: http://n.pr/hdHJDF)

Net Neutrality – a big decision

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, December 21, the Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on the future of the Internet. For years we’ve been fighting for Net Neutrality – the simple idea that your Internet company shouldn’t be allowed to have a say in where you go or what you do online. The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all. As more of our country’s and our communities’ vital news and information moves online, think of Net Neutrality as the first amendment of our digital age.

We should be celebrating this momentous vote at the FCC, but the Chairman has buckled to industry pressure and his version of Net Neutrality is a fake – so full of loopholes it is nearly useless. We are working tirelessly to try and improve the FCC version of Net Neutrality before the vote. Just last week we hand delivered more than two million petitions to the FCC from local people around the country. The mission of Free Press is to amplify the voice of citizens around the country in Washington, DC, where policy is made by those who have a seat at the table. Everyday, we are fighting and will continue fight to put the public at that table. (Find out more about the Net Neutrality vote here: http://bit.ly/eXJ6Os here: http://bit.ly/hbc2vW and here: http://nyti.ms/gYteFa.)

Comcast/NBC Merger – a big merger

According to press reports, immediately after the FCC votes on Net Neutrality, the chairman will start the process to approve the biggest media merger in a generation. He is trying to sneak through a vote on Comcast’s proposed takeover of NBC-Universal in the dark of night while people are home for the holidays. I have been running our anti-merger campaign for the past year (see here for more: http://comcast.freepress.net) and can tell you, this merger will reshape our media for years to come.

Comcast has spent millions in campaign contributions, hired 30 lobbying firms and employed more than 100 former government employees and lawmakers to win support for this deal.  We’ve gotten over 75,000 petitions signed, we’ve submitted hundreds of pages of original research and legal arguments, we’ve built a diverse coalition of public interest groups and businesses, we’ve taken out full page ads and created innovative web resources. But it seems this FCC chairman is intent on putting big business over local communities.

What It All Means

This is a huge moment for our work and we are in it for the long haul. Our media is changing at a breakneck speed and we are trying to be sure that when the dust settles America has a media system in place that inspires and empowers us, with hard hitting investigative journalism, vibrant public media, and a democratic Internet that serves all people.

Free Press is up against the one of the biggest lobbying operations in history at a time when the Supreme Court has seen fit to allow corporations a free pass to write blank checks for campaign spending and bank roll elections with little or no disclosure about where the money is coming from. Free Press doesn’t take money from any government agency, political party, business or industry group. We are funded entirely by foundations and people like you.

If you think this work is worthwhile please consider donating to Free Press before the end of the year. Last year my friends and readers of this blog donated almost $5,000 all through small 10, 50 and 100 dollar donations. Every little bit helps.

Here is the link: https://freepress.actionkit.com/donate/staff_challenge_2010/

Thanks so much and best wishes for the New Year!

Josh Stearns

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