Arts, Culture, and Humanities

Free Press Action Fund

Washington, DC


Founded in 2002, the Free Press Action Fund (FPAF) is building a powerful nationwide movement to change media and technology policies, promote the public interest and strengthen democracy. FPAF is the only national, member-driven advocacy organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to reforming media and telecommunications policy in the public interest. We provide the public with a voice in Washington and local statehouses, and educate policymakers with a pro-consumer analysis of the issues.

Free Press Action Fund advocates for universal and affordable Internet access, diverse media ownership, vibrant public media and quality journalism.The Action Fund works alongside Free Press, which conducts education, organizing, communications
and research activities related to media policy reform. 

Our strategies:

*Monitor/analyze federal and state policy; identify legislative goals and threats.

*Cultivate relationships with members of Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and their respective staff.

*Advise Free Press organizing and communications staff on policy-related issues.

*Build coalitions of political allies.

*Speak at Congressional staff briefings, industry events, think-tank conferences, and university symposia.

*Lobby in the public interest on specific legislative proposals and FCC procedures.

*Testify before key Congressional committees on specific policy proposals.

Ruling Year



Craig Aaron

Main Address

1025 Connecticut Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20036 USA


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





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (A01)

Media, Communications Organizations (A30)

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Our programs

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Internet Freedom Campaign

Press Freedom Campaign

Transparency and Accountability Campaign

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Charting Impact

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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.

Free Press Action Fund is committed to an outside-inside strategy to ensure public participation in policymaking. We combine deep policy knowledge, direct advocacy in Washington and media outreach with broad public education efforts and innovative organizing strategies both online and off.

Our strategies include:

1. Establishing the Intellectual and Legal Arguments for Change. Free Press’ original, empirical research documents threats to a healthy media system, rebuts industry propaganda, explores and promotes new media models, and provides roadmaps for future policies. Each year we produce numerous substantial research papers, file extensive comments with the Federal Communications Commission (which are regularly cited in FCC rulings), draft and comment on proposed legislation, and serve as a go-to resource for journalists covering media and technology issues in Washington. We also provide legal, policy and political strategies and resources for the broader media reform and media justice movement.

2. Educating, Convening and Organizing Members of the Public. Free Press uses a suite of strategic communications, public education and popular engagement techniques to reframe policy debates to promote the public interest and to counteract industry misinformation. We get media policy issues featured prominently and regularly in the mainstream and independent press; we place op-eds in newspapers across the country and publish hundreds of blog posts. We use cutting-edge technology and strategies to run our issue-based campaigns and communicate with 600,000 activists; we also interact with more than 135,000 people on social media. We host the biennial National Conference for Media Reform, the nation’s largest conference devoted to media, technology and democracy issues, as well as dozens of local and regional educational events, strategy sessions and trainings every year.

3. Building Power Outside and Inside Washington. Free Press amplifies the public’s voice and influence in crucial policy debates. To make lasting change and meet our ambitious long-term goals, we prioritize member engagement, deepening alliances with coalition partners, and building reliable champions. We constantly seek ways to identify, recruit and motivate people to take part in our campaigns, and we are scaling up our work in the field. To assemble a winning coalition, we prioritize outreach to groups representing women and people of color, artists and musicians, and the tech community. To cultivate champions inside the Beltway, the Free Press Action Fund lobbies Congress and key government agencies and also helps activists to meet with their congressional representatives in their home districts. And we develop future media reform leaders through a year-round internship and fellowship program.

Structure: The Free Press Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that amplifies the public’s voice in U.S. media policymaking. Our team in Washington, D.C., meets with elected representatives and lobbies members of Congress and the White House for media policies in the public interest.

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 34 staff members (27 full-time and seven part-time).

Finances: The Free Press Action Fund 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.

Contribution to the Movement for Better Media: At its best, the Free Press Action Fund is the protagonist 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.

The Free Press Action Fund 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.

We are 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.

We are 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.

In 2003, the Free Press Action Fund 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. In our first decade, we:

• Created an organization with the vision, talent, capacity and discipline to achieve success. We ground ourselves in values, invest in all elements of our work, and seek to balance proactive and reactive approaches to work.

• Fostered crucial, long-term working relationships with hundreds of civic, business, cultural, governmental and nonprofit organizations — nationally and internationally. Washington remains a place sharply divided along political lines — making it difficult to pass proactive legislation in the short term. Much of the work will inevitably be defensive, stopping bad and worse things from happening. The biggest concern is not partisan squabbling but the growing collusion between government and corporate interests in policymaking.

• Built a base of 600,000 people who are engaged in the fight for better media. Through a combination of online and in-person work, we are developing a better understanding of how to maximize and expand this power.

• Navigated external and internal leadership changes. We have weathered three presidential elections, three midterm congressional election cycles, and major leadership turnovers within many of the regulatory and industry groups involved in our media system. At the same time, our own organization’s leadership has changed to a next generation of executive staff.

• Dealt with a volatile economy. We balance our culture of frugality with a good sense of when to take risks and invest resources to advance our priorities. We have established reserve funds, and are now working to ensure a sustainable annual budget.

• Honed and refined our vision, strategies and priorities. The following bulleted objectives will help propel Free Press toward its long-term goals (numbered).

1. Internet Freedom: An Uncensored and Open Internet Everywhere
•Protect Net Neutrality
•End Mass Surveillance of Communications Networks
•Advance Internet Freedom Around the World

2. Access and Choice: Universal Connectivity for Local Communities
•Spur Broadband Competition
•Restore FCC Authority
•Safeguard Open Spectrum
•Expand Video Choices

3. Press Freedom: Media Diversity, Quality Journalism and Public Media in the
Digital Age
•Promote Diverse Media Ownership
•Reimagine Public Media
•Defend Press Freedom

4. Transparency and Accountability: Responsive Government and Public Information
•Increase Political Ad Transparency
•Watchdog the FCC

5. Movement Building: Champions Inside and Outside the Beltway
•Increase Member and Ally Engagement
•Bring Together the National Movement
•Recruit the Next Generation of Advocates
•Expand Legal Capacity

External Reviews


Free Press Action Fund

Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

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

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


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?

Not Applicable


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

Not Applicable


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

Not Applicable


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

Not Applicable


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

Not Applicable