Media and Technology Program

Type of Activity: Project Grant
Grantee: Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Amount: $50,000 in 2019

What is the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights?

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights was founded in 1950 by a coalition of civil rights activists. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Leadership Conference advocated for the passage of civil rights legislation in Congress. Their efforts resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1960, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Today, the Leadership Conference is a coalition of over 200 member organizations and continues to coordinate advocacy and lobbying efforts in support of  legislation that protects and expands civil and human rights. 

Why do we think this project is important?

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Media and Technology program works to ensure that new technologies enhance civil rights protections, expand media diversity,  and increase access to broadband. Their focus includes challenging media platforms to take responsibility for their role in public access to information, which will lead to increased transparency on how platforms conduct business and raise public pressure for better policies governing how platforms operate. 

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights?

In 2019, Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant of $50,000 to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights for their Media and Technology program. 

News Leaders Association: Executive Search

Type of activity: Project Grant
Grantee: News Leaders Association
Amount: $50,000 in 2019

What is the News Leaders Association?

The News Leaders Association is a merger of the American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Managing Editors. Founded in 1922 as a nonprofit professional organization, the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) promotes fair, principled journalism, defends and protects First Amendment rights, and fights for freedom of information and open government.  The Associated Press Media Editors is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization of newsroom leaders and journalism educators that works closely with The Associated Press to promote journalism excellence.

Why do we think this project is important? 

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Associated Press Managing Editors association saw significant overlap in their efforts — both in the members they were serving, and the shared challenges they have faced in adapting to the changing context and needs of the news industry.

This is a critical time of growth and change for the newly formed News Leaders Association, and it is important that it has a strong executive to guide the direction of the organization, ensure its adaptability in a rapidly changing industry, and explore how best to center issues like diversity and engagement with current and emerging leaders in this context.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting the News Leaders Association?

In 2019, Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant of $50,000 to the News Leaders Association to support their search for an executive leader. 

Change the Terms

Type of Activity: Project Grant
Grantee: Color of Change
Amount: $200,000 in 2019 over two years

What is Color of Change?

Color of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. Through integrated strategies and activities, they mobilize 1.4 million members to act on a range of intersectional issues. Color of Change organizes its members to combat racism, injustice, and attacks on freedom wherever they occur — in democracy, media, the economy, or the criminal justice system. 

Why do we think this project is important?

Change the Terms, a project by Color of Change, organizes stakeholders from civil society, government, and technology to hold social media platforms accountable to the American public in order to advance America’s democratic promise. This grant will fund activity to encourage content moderation and advertising policies on social media platforms. Change the Terms’ coalition, consisting of 40 civil rights, anti-hate, and open-internet organizations, has worked on a set of corporate policies to help tech companies reduce hateful activities on their platforms.

Digital and social media platforms have become a primary source of information for many Americans, and the major role these platforms play in shaping national conversations cannot be denied. But people of color and women in general are too often the victims of harassment and threats, actions that are not protected by the first amendment. Change the Terms’ campaign challenges social media and digital platforms to take more responsibility for their role as stewards of the digital public square. For a democracy to remain healthy, it is vital that voices are not silenced by fear of harassment and violence. 

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting Change the Terms?

In 2019, Democracy Fund Voice approved a two-year grant to Color of Change for their project Change the Terms in the amount of $200,000. 

Free Press Action Fund: Civic Information Bill

Type of Activity: Advocacy Grant
Grantee: Free Press Action Fund
Grants Total: Three grants of up to $560,000 in 2016-2018 

What is the Civic Information Bill?

In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission began its “incentive auction.” This brought about significant reorganization of the public airwaves, and some broadcasters sold their channels and received 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, held non-commercial television licenses that were included in the auction.

The FCC’s Broadcast spectrum incentive auction generated significant funds for the public broadcasting stations. In New Jersey those funds went to the state, which held the broadcast licenses. The Civic Information Bill argues that a portion of the proceeds from these public airwaves should support public interest media.

Why do we think the Civic Information Bill is a good idea?

Free Press Action Fund works to develop and realize creative policy solutions to ensure that all Americans can connect and communicate. This grant supports their work to advocate for the creation of a new civic information consortium in New Jersey which could expand access to news and information for the state’s residents.

We believe that if a portion of the the income generated from the spectrum auction is redistributed with a focus on journalism in the public interest, then it could create a powerful new source of revenue for local news and serve as a model for other places.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting the Civic Information Bill?

Democracy Fund Voice approved two grants totaling $510,000 during 2016 and 2017, and a grant of up to $50,000 in 2018 to the Free Press Action Fund to lead a campaign that will work to ensure some of the funds raised from the incentive auction go towards sustaining local journalism. In the summer of 2018 Free Press Action Fund was successful in getting the Civic Information Bill passed with broad bipartisan support, securing $5 million for civic information and local community news in New Jersey.

Tow Center Terrorism and Media White Papers

Type of Activity: Project Grant
Grantee: The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York
Amount: Up to $150,000 in 2016-2017

What is the Tow Center?

The Tow Center operates as an institute within Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. It is poised to take advantage of a unique combination of factors to foster the development of digital journalism. This grant will explore the relationship between terrorism, policy, and all media.

Why do we think this project is a good idea?

We believe that the emerging dynamics of a media system which fosters real time coverage and responses are largely unexplored and are increasingly influential. This project will generate papers reporting on emerging practices and their relationship to the current elections cycle, and convene media industry decision-makers to discuss the findings. This aims to inform  pre-election discussion regarding reporting trends, and the effects of social media on the racist and/or Islamphobic rhetoric that has become prevalent.

How is Voice supporting the project?

Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant to The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York in the amount of up to $150,000 to support the Tow Center within Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2016-2017.

Public Spectrum Project

Type of Activity: Advocacy Grant
Grantee: Free Press Action Fund
Amount: Up to $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 a good idea?

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 Voice supporting the Public Spectrum Project?

Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant of up to $60,000 in 2016 to the Free Press Action Fund 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.