Public Spectrum Project

Type of Activity: Project
Grantee: Free Press Action Fund
Amount: $60,000 in 2016

What is the Public Spectrum Project?

In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission will begin its “incentive auction.” This is likely to bring about significant reorganization of the public airwaves, in which some broadcasters will sell their channels and receive a portion of the proceeds from the national sale of spectrum to wireless companies. Across the country, state and local governments, along with public and private universities, hold non-commercial television licenses likely to be included in the auction.

The Public Spectrum Project will explore the possibility of an advocacy campaign that aims to see revenues from the sale of non-commercial TV licenses invested to sustain local journalism and community information needs. The Free Press Action Fund will research and analyze the stations likely to be sold, identify communities most negatively impacted, develop a campaign proposal, and test the idea with stakeholders and the public.

Why do we think the Public Spectrum Project is important?

The public square is a place where discussions about local civic news and information gathering occurs which we consider to be essential to a vibrant democracy. As news and information providers shift to new media practices, such as digital and cable news, we believe that the American people must have effective ways to gather information.

Our hypothesis is that funds realized in the incentive auction may be very substantial. If a small percentage can be directed back to revitalizing the public square or to new resources for local news and information, then the resulting positive impact on information challenged communities could be considerable.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting the Public Spectrum Project?

In 2016, Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant of $60,000 in 2016 to the Free Press Action Fund’s Public Spectrum Project to test the viability of a campaign that will work to ensure some of the funds raised from the incentive auction go towards sustaining local journalism.