New Jersey Governor Signs Literal State-Funded Media Bill

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Amber Athey Podcast Columnist
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New Jersey governor Phil Murphy is expected to sign a bill that would dedicate $5 million in government funding to local media projects.

The so-called “Civic Info Bill” was passed by the state legislature in June and will create the Civic Information Consortium, a nonprofit organization that gives grants to promote media in “underserved communities, low-income communities and communities of color.”

Applicants apply for grants by proposing a “collaboration” between one of five public universities and a community organization, a media outlet, or a member of the state’s technology sector. The proposal must also “offer a clear benefit to communities.”

One goal of proposed grants should be to “better meet the information needs of low-income communities and racial and ethnic communities that have been underserved by the media.”

Beyond just funding, the government will have a large role in deciding who is eligible to receive such grants.

The 13-person board of directors in charge of approving grants will have two appointees each from the governor and the legislature, as well as five picks from the universities. Those nine directors will, by majority vote, choose the last four members.

Some activist organizations that have expressed support for the bill include Action 21 Immigrants Rights Advocacy Group, LAP Latino Alliance for Progress, and the Latin American Democratic Association. Just one Republican member of the state legislature voted in favor of the bill.

The bill was extensively lobbied for by Free Press, an organization who has the goal of promoting “diversity in media ownership” and is co-founded by at least one progressive journalist. Free Press Action Fund launched a campaign in 2017 to pass an earlier version of the bill.

“Companies led by White men own nearly all of our media — which is why women and people of color are so often depicted in stereotypical terms or ignored altogether,” Free Press states on its website.

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