March 4, 2013 – The Nonprofit Media Working Group released its report, “The IRS and Nonprofit Media: Toward Creating a More Informed Public” and held a panel discussion on the topic at the Newseum.
The Council on Foundations, with a generous grant from the Knight Foundation, convened the Nonprofit Media Working Group following the Federal Communications Commission’s “Information Needs of Communities” report, authored by journalist and then senior advisor to the FCC, Steve Waldman. In that report, Waldman cast a light on the IRS’s arbitrary, antiquated approach to reviewing and granting nonprofit status on media organizations. That, in turn, has weakened the community news and information ecosystem, particularly as for-profit news has disappeared over the past ten years.
Vince Stehle, Nonprofit Media Working Group member and Media Impact Funders’ Executive Director noted, “This report is the result of a successful collaboration among journalists and foundation leaders concerned about the future of journalism, and I hope it will be instrumental in improving the IRS review process for news organizations.”
One major sticking point that the report uncovered is that journalism itself is not a category that qualifies for nonprofit status, though education does. Many fledgling news operations apply for nonprofit status under the education banner, because of their mandate to educate the public, however the IRS has questioned that interpretation and denied exemption.
For more information on nonprofit news, policy and advocacy more broadly see a roundup on the topic from Free Press.