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.