Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy

Free Press

  • Florence, MA
  • www.freepress.net

Mission Statement

We're working to create a world where people have the information and opportunities they need to tell their own stories, hold leaders accountable, and participate in policymaking. We fight to save the free and open Internet, curb runaway media consolidation, protect press freedom, and ensure diverse voices are represented in our media.

Today, Free Press is the nation's largest organization advocating for media and technology policy in the public interest, with 900,0000 members and a staff of 25 based in our offices in Washington, D.C., and Florence, Mass.

Main Programs

  1. Free Press Core Strategies and Issue Areas

service areas

National

Self-reported by organization

ruling year

2004

chief executive for fy 2011

Craig Aaron

Self-reported by organization

Keywords

Media, Media Policy, Media Reform, Internet, Broadband, Internet Freedom, Journalism, Press Freedom, Public Media, Public Broadcasting

Self-reported by organization

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EIN

41-2106721

Physical Address

40 Main St. Suite 301

Florence, 01062

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Civil Rights, Social Action, and Advocacy N.E.C. (R99)

Media, Communications Organizations (A30)

Censorship, Freedom of Speech and Press Issues (R63)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Impact statement

In just 10 years, Free Press has become one of the most effective advocacy organizations in the nation with 900,000 members who demand better media. Among our top accomplishments:
•Net Neutrality: On Feb. 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission voted to protect real Net Neutrality and in favor of reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. This moment was 10 years in the making and marks the biggest public policy victory in FCC history and the biggest win ever for the media reform movement.
•Spying and Surveillance: In February 2014, Free Press helped organize “The Day We Fight Back,” an online action protesting mass surveillance. Five thousand websites participated, and, in one day, we drove 89,000 calls and 555,000 emails to leaders in Washington.
•Community Broadband: Free Press has worked for years to overturn laws that prohibit local communities from building affordable, high-speed broadband networks. In February 2015, the FCC voted to pre-empt restrictions in Tennessee and North Carolina that ban the expansion of existing community broadband networks. President Obama also endorsed the rights of municipalities to build their own broadband networks last year, and new legislation was introduced in Congress to overturn state bans.
•Mega-Mergers: Free Press was a leading voice of opposition to the failed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. In May 2014, we organized a protest outside Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia in which hundreds participated and hand-delivered more than 400,000 petitions opposing the merger. Under heightened public scrutiny, review of the merger intensified and delayed a decision. In April 2015, Comcast
•The 2011 defeat of the proposed merger of AT&T with T-Mobile, an anti-competitive deal that would have resulted in higher prices for consumers.
•Media Consolidation: In March 2014, the FCC moved to roll back media consolidation for the first time in decades, closing a loophole that TV broadcasters had been exploiting to evade long-standing limits on how many stations one owner could control in a single market. Free Press research and advocacy helped prompt the FCC’s decision.
•Low-Power FM Radio: In 2014, we saw the fruits of years of work when thousands of new LPFM stations were licensed. Thanks in part to our advocacy at the FCC and the passage of the Local Community Radio Act in 2010, the airwaves were opened up to these community-based nonprofit stations. And in the next few years, thousands of them will go on the air.
•Political Ad Disclosure: In 2014, the FCC expanded its political ad disclosure rules to apply to radio and cable outlets in addition to all TV stations. Free Press’ groundbreaking research and advocacy pushed the FCC to issue the initial rules in 2012 for local TV outlets. In the next election cycle, journalists and any citizen will be able to go online to see who is trying to sway votes on all full- power TV and radio outlets.

Programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Self-reported by organization

Program 1

Free Press Core Strategies and Issue Areas

CORE STRATEGIES
Free Press combines public education efforts and innovative organizing strategies with policy and legal expertise, advocacy in Washington, and media outreach. This potent combination of grassroots engagement, ally collaboration and policy advocacy is essential to our success. Using these strategies, Free Press pursues the following core objectives:

1. Establish the intellectual arguments for public interest policy. Free Press’ research exposes threats to a healthy media system, rebuts industry propaganda, explores new media models, and provides roadmaps for future policies. Each year, we file extensive public comments with the FCC. In Congress, we testify on behalf of the public interest community. Free Press acts as a watchdog on policymakers and industry lobbyists — investigating whether policy proposals and government actions serve corporate interests at the public’s expense, speaking out against ethical lapses, and exposing conflicts of interest. We also serve as a go-to resource for scores of allied organizations and journalists covering media and technology issues. Our press outreach expands coverage of media policy, shapes key debates, and earns Free Press thousands of media hits each year.

2. Educate and mobilize the public to fight for change. Free Press uses a range of communications, public education and popular engagement strategies to shape policy debates and inspire people to take action. We use innovative digital strategies to run our campaigns and communicate with our growing list of more than 900,000 members. We engage our members by offering trainings, resources and a range of activism opportunities. We organize dozens of local and regional events, rallies, public hearings, strategy sessions and briefings every year. We also raise awareness through our popular blog posts and active social media channels.

3. Build power outside and inside Washington. Free Press amplifies the public’s voice and influence in crucial policy debates. To create lasting change and meet our ambitious long-term goals, we mobilize our members, expand and coordinate coalitions, deepen ally relationships, and build reliable champions in Congress and other key posts. To assemble winning and diverse networks of allies, we prioritize outreach to groups representing women and people of color, artists, journalists and the tech community. We also cultivate leaders through our year-round internship and fellowship programs.

CAMPAIGNS AND ISSUE AREAS
Free Press employs the strategies described above to run issue-based campaigns, initiatives and projects that are designed to achieve progress on the following.

1. Internet Freedom: An Uncensored and Open Internet Everywhere
The Internet is now the primary engine of commercial, cultural, democratic, economic and educational innovation and exchange. It is also the foremost battleground for free speech in the 21st century. Yet Internet users’ rights to free expression, communication and privacy are under constant attack.

Free Press ignited the fight for Net Neutrality more than a decade ago and has been at the center of the campaign to secure pro-Net Neutrality policies ever since. In the biggest public policy victory in FCC history — and the biggest win ever for Free Press — the FCC voted on Feb. 26, 2015, to protect real Net Neutrality and reclassify Internet access under Title II of the Communications Act.
Free Press is also an outspoken voice against unchecked government and corporate surveillance.


2. Media Diversity: More Competition, Less Consolidation
At the same time, the even playing field that has allowed the Internet to thrive is at risk because a lack of competition and consumer choice in the broadband market created by failed policies in Washington has made it easier for phone and cable companies to get rid of longstanding consumer protections, refuse to connect underserved communities, and upend the level playing field. Free Press works to stop harmful mega-mergers and to advance policies that promote access, competition, diversity and choice.

3. Journalism’s Future: Protecting Press Freedom and Building Community Around the News
Free Press has long been concerned with the crisis in journalism and committed to finding ways to sustain and improve the quality of the news. Now, more than ever, our communities need information, resources and media access to participate in our democracy. Having media that is accessible, diverse, independent and responsive to communities’ needs is critical to civic engagement.

Category

Civil Rights, Social Action & Advocacy

Budget

$2,850,000.00

Population Served

Adults

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)

None

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Self-reported by organization

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    Long-term goals:

    1. Internet Freedom: An Uncensored and Open Internet Everywhere
    The Internet is now the primary engine of commercial, cultural, democratic, economic and
    educational innovation and exchange. It is also the foremost battleground for free speech in the 21st century. Yet Internet users’ rights to free expression, communication and privacy are under constant attack. Free Press’ aim is to promote policies that protect and expand the Internet’s free and open architecture; enable everyone to get online; and safeguard our fundamental rights and freedoms.

    2. Access and Choice: Universal Connectivity for Local Communities
    Most people in the United States have little or no choice for high-speed Internet service, and many are stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide. The lack of real broadband competition is the primary obstacle to universal Internet access in the United States. Americans are paying twice as much for service that is half the speed typically available throughout the developed world.
    Meanwhile, powerful phone and cable companies are trying to undercut the FCC’s authority and rewrite the rules so they have no public obligations or genuine competition. Major decisions are being made now about broadband deployment, universal service and allocation of the public airwaves.

    3. Press Freedom: Media Diversity, Quality Journalism and Public Media in the Digital Age

    The Internet and new technologies have democratized media making and empowered more people to take up the tools of journalism. But the digital age has also sparked new threats to press freedom — from police crackdowns on reporters trying to cover protests, to Justice Department dragnets ensnaring journalists, the criminalization of investigative reporting, and the commercial pressures squeezing newsrooms everywhere.

    A healthy media system is characterized in part by the diversity of owners, perspectives and sources of news, information and cultural fare available to the public. The widespread consolidation of media companies may be the leading factor in the failure of U.S. media to meet the needs of the public. Free Press has repeatedly mobilized millions against attempts to cut federal funding for public broadcasting. And we have developed and advocated for long-term policy changes to bring about a more robust and wide-ranging public, noncommercial media system.

    4. Transparency and Accountability: Responsive Government and Public Information

    The media are supposed to be guardians of democracy — alerting the public to injustice and corruption and bringing transparency and integrity to the democratic process. But when it comes to their own interests and aims, media companies hide their activities and oppose greater disclosure. And policymakers are too often captured in a revolving door spun by the industries they are supposed to regulate.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    Free Press uses a proven outside-inside strategy to advocate for media and technology policies in the public interest. We combine public education efforts and innovative organizing strategies with deep policy and legal expertise, advocacy in Washington, and media outreach. This potent combination of grassroots engagement, ally collaboration and policy advocacy is essential to our success. Using these strategies, Free Press pursues the following core objectives:

    Establish the intellectual arguments for public interest policy. Free Press’ in-depth research exposes threats to a healthy media system, rebuts industry propaganda, explores new media models, and provides roadmaps for future policies that promote the public interest. Each year, we file extensive public comments with the FCC. In Congress, we testify on behalf of the public interest community. Free Press acts as a watchdog on policymakers and industry lobbyists — investigating whether policy proposals and government actions serve corporate interests at the public’s expense, speaking out against ethical lapses, and exposing conflicts of interest. We also serve as a go-to resource for scores of allied organizations and journalists covering media and technology issues. Our press outreach expands coverage of media policy, shapes key debates, and earns Free Press thousands of media hits in prominent outlets each year.

    Educate and mobilize the public to fight for change. Free Press uses a range of communications, public education and popular engagement strategies to shape policy debates and inspire people to take action. We use innovative digital strategies to run our campaigns and communicate with our growing list of more than 900,000 members. We engage our members by offering trainings, resources and a range of activism opportunities. We organize dozens of local and regional events, rallies, public hearings, strategy sessions and briefings every year. We also raise awareness through our popular blog posts and active social media channels, which have attracted 150,000 fans and followers.

    Build power outside and inside Washington. Free Press amplifies the public’s voice and influence in crucial policy debates. To create lasting change and meet our ambitious long-term goals, we mobilize our members, expand and coordinate coalitions, deepen ally relationships, and build reliable champions in Congress and other key posts. To assemble winning and diverse networks of allies, we prioritize outreach to groups representing women and people of color, artists, journalists and the tech community. We also cultivate leaders through our year-round internship and fellowship programs.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    Structure: Free Press is a 501(c)(3) organization that amplifies the public’s voice in U.S. media policymaking. Our Massachusetts-based staff educates and mobilizes our 900,000 members to write letters to government and corporate leaders, file comments at the Federal Communications Commission, attend public hearings, and participate in other targeted actions. Our team in Washington, D.C., crafts policy proposals, conducts research, testifies before Congress, and argues in court for policies that serve the public interest.

    All of Free Press’ educational and organizing activities are bolstered and complemented by the work of the Free Press Action Fund, our 501(c)(4) companion organization, through which we meet with elected representatives and lobby members of Congress and the White House.

    Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund are independent, interrelated and autonomous organizations governed by separate and overlapping boards of directors. We currently have 23 staff members.

    Finances: Free Press has from its inception chosen not to accept money from business, government or political parties. We are supported solely by individuals, private foundations and public charities. We are currently supported by more than 100 sources ranging from $5 online donors to $700,000 foundation grants. Free Press has an operating reserve balance of $1,000,000.

    Contribution to the Movement for Better Media: At its best, Free Press is the leader for the broader media movement, setting the agenda, convening key allies, and informing the public about the most pressing issues. We take a big-tent approach that strategically engages many other international, national and local organizations focused on narrower issues.

    Free Press is a leading resource on media technology issues for a broad range of groups, as well as for members of Congress, the FCC and the press. We offer both policy and organizing expertise to allied groups. Building and leading coalitions in partnership with allies both outside and inside the Beltway is a key element of Free Press’ strategy for achieving change. Our aim is to include as many voices as possible in advocating for the change we seek. Free Press works diligently to support and encourage groups with unique and diverse capacities to join together — whether in long-term coalitions or short-term actions.

    Free Press is adept at several roles — leader, supporter, and capacity builder — and we employ those roles strategically in service of our long-term goals and the needs of partnering organizations. And to more closely link media reform with other causes, Free Press works with an array of major public interest groups to alert and educate their activists about key media and Internet issues.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    Free Press is committed to the ongoing use of data to evaluate our effectiveness and to adjust our strategies as needed to achieve our goals and advance our mission. We use a variety of data-gathering tools to collect feedback from constituents, funders, donors, staff, board members, event participants and peer organizations — and to assess the effectiveness of our day-to-day work, particularly our online campaigns. We use our findings to inform every aspect of our work, from field organizing and event planning to online actions, research and fundraising.

    While we do not expect to see the immediate passage of our full slate of policy proposals and recommendations, we aim to see expanded endorsement of our public interest-driven agenda, increasing the likelihood that portions of it will be adopted in the near future. We take the following into consideration when measuring our effectiveness:

    • Campaign Progress. We examine how our work advanced a public interest agenda or halted threats from government and industry. We look for qualitative and quantitative evidence that our work results in real benefits for people.

    • Degree of Activist Engagement. We measure our power not only by the size of our list, but also by the number and type of actions our activists take. We continually work to expand the diversity of our activists, and inspire activists and supporters to engage with Free Press more deeply.

    • Research Impact. We consider how peers and policymakers use our work and also pay attention to the energy our opponents expend in trying to challenge our findings. We want our research to be widely quoted, especially by lawmakers, so that we are invited to testify before Congress and play a key role in shaping policy debates.

    • Media Coverage. We aim for consistent coverage of our work in high-profile print, TV, radio and online outlets, and social media.

    • Engagement with New Audiences and Allies. We aim to increase the number and diversity of our coalition partners and deepen their involvement in our work. We look for engagement with organizations both inside and outside the media reform movement.

    • Success of Convenings. We use participant surveys to evaluate our events’ success and assess levels of post-conference engagement (e.g., participants’ requests for resources) and indications of outgrowth (e.g., the formation of related groups and projects). We also gauge the press coverage and social media buzz as well as levels of participation to determine the event’s social and political impact.

    • Fiscal and Operational Health. Each year, independent auditors review our financial statements and systems to confirm that all donations are used for the intended purposes. And our reports document our operational and programmatic outcomes to our philanthropic partners, activists, allies and the public to demonstrate that all donations are put to the best use and result in lasting change.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    In 2003, Free Press joined a movement at its nascent phase. Initially we focused on building the visibility and legitimacy of our organization — and of the media reform movement as a whole. Now we are focused on shaping a bold long-range vision that will bring in many more people and will result in the resources and capacity need to win. Among our top accomplishments we:

    -Built a base of 900,000 people engaged in the fight for our rights to connect and communicate. Through a combination of online and in-person work, we are developing a better understanding of how to maximize and expand this power.

    -Won big on Net Neutrality. On Feb. 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission voted to protect real Net Neutrality and in favor of reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. This moment was 10 years in the making and marks the biggest public policy victory in FCC history and the biggest win ever for the media reform movement.

    -Defeated Mega-Mergers: Free Press was a leading voice of opposition to the failed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. In May 2014, we organized a protest outside Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia in which hundreds participated and hand-delivered more than 400,000 petitions opposing the merger. In April 2015, Comcast abandoned the deal after regulators indicated they would not approve it. In addition, Free Press advocacy in 2014 helped build opposition to the AT&T-DirecTV merger and prevented Sprint’s proposed merger with T-Mobile.

    -Curbed Spying and Surveillance: In February 2014, Free Press helped organize “The Day We Fight Back,” an online action protesting mass surveillance. Five thousand websites participated, and, in one day, we drove 89,000 calls and 555,000 emails to leaders in Washington. In June 2015, the USA Freedom Act was passed, the first time since the 9/11 attacks that the government reined in NSA operations.

    -Advanced Community Broadband: Free Press has worked for years to allow local communities to build affordable, high-speed broadband networks. In February 2015, the FCC voted to pre-empt restrictions in Tennessee and North Carolina that ban the expansion of existing community broadband networks.

    -Promoted Low-Power FM Radio: In 2014, we saw the fruits of years of work when thousands of new LPFM stations were licensed. Thanks in part to our advocacy at the FCC and the passage of the Local Community Radio Act in 2010, the airwaves were opened up to these community-based nonprofit stations. And in the next few years, thousands of them will go on the air.
    -Political Ad Disclosure: In 2014, the FCC expanded its political ad disclosure rules to apply to radio and cable outlets in addition to all TV stations. Free Press’ groundbreaking research and advocacy pushed the FCC to issue the initial rules in 2012 for local TV outlets. In the next election cycle, journalists and any citizen will be able to go online to see who is trying to sway votes on all full- power TV and radio outlets.

service areas

National

Self-reported by organization

Blog

The organization's Blog

Social Media

@freepress

@freepress

@113940063652061501620/posts

@videofreepress

@themediafix

@freepress/

Videos

photos




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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

FREE PRESS
Fiscal year: Jan 01-Dec 31
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Free Press

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2014, 2013 and 2012
  • Board Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Knowledge Base Search
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CHIEF EXECUTIVE FOR FISCAL YEAR

Craig Aaron

BIO

Craig has led Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund since 2011. He joined Free Press in 2004 and speaks across the country about media activism and the future of journalism and the Internet. Craig is quoted often in the national press on media and technology issues and is a frequent guest on TV and the radio. His commentaries appear regularly in The Huffington Post, and he has written for The Daily Beast, The Guardian, The Hill, MSNBC, Politico, The Progressive, The Seattle Times, Slate and many others. Before joining Free Press, he was an investigative reporter for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch and the managing editor of In These Times magazine. He is the editor of two books, Appeal to Reason: 25 Years of In These Times and Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @notaaroncraig.

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Ben Scott

Open Technology Institute

Term: Dec 2014 - Dec 2015

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices. Self-reported by organization


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Yes

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?