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|Headquarters||Denver, Colorado, U.S.|
|Owner||Public Communicators Inc.|
|Roku||Free Speech TV App|
|Website Live Stream||www.FreeSpeech.org|
|Sling TV||Internet Protocol television|
|Facebook Live Stream||Live Stream|
Free Speech TV (FSTV) is an American progressive news and opinion network. It was launched in 1995 and is owned and operated by Public Communicators Incorporated, a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded in 1974. Distributed principally by Dish Network, DirecTV, and the network's live stream at freespeech.org and on Roku, Free Speech TV has run commercial free since 1995 with support from viewers and foundations. The network claims to "amplify underrepresented voices and those working on the front lines of social, economic and environmental justice," bringing viewers an array of daily news programs, independent documentaries and special events coverage, predominantly from a progressive perspective.
Free Speech TV is an outgrowth of three projects that attempted to establish wider dissemination of progressive perspectives on television: The 90's [sic], a landmark television series seen on public television and cable; The 90's [sic] Channel, a network of seven full-time cable channels dedicated to independent media; and the part-time Free Speech TV Program Service, launched in 1995 as an innovative approach to curating and distributing independent media to a distribution network of community access cable stations. Public television stations carried some Free Speech TV's special series, such as Just Solutions: Campaigning for Human Right. The network's pioneering efforts in streaming media online won it accolades such as a 1998 Streamers Award and 1999 Webby Award.
In January 2000 — as the result of an FCC-mandated public interest channel set-aside — Free Speech TV became a national, full-time channel on the Dish Network satellite television system while continuing to build a national network of part-time local cable affiliates. Program highlights from the channel's formative years included live field reporting of the anti-globalization movement spawned at the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle; the 2000 US presidential elections, including Democracy Now!'s premiere as a television program at the Republican and Democratic conventions; the September 11 attacks, to which FSTV responded with a daily news report and weekly current affairs program; and extensive coverage of the large global anti-war mobilization and the subsequent U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2007, FSTV moved from Boulder to Denver, covering events inside and outside the 2008 Democratic National Convention, where Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination for president. Over the following years, the network stepped up its daily coverage of national politics with the addition of GRITtv with Laura Flanders, The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann and Al Jazeera English. FSTV's daily news programs—led by The Thom Hartmann Program and Democracy Now!—became FSTV's top programs in terms of popularity and "stickiness" (a measure of audience engagement and loyalty). During the Arab Spring, FSTV pre-empted much of its regular non-news programming to Al Jazeera English's acclaimed reporting from Cairo's Tahrir Square and other locations.
In 2008, the network piloted its "eStudio" at the National Conference for Media Reform, where it broadcast and streamed conference plenaries, workshops and special interviews conducted by Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders and Jeff Cohen. Since then, FSTV has taken its eStudio on the road, broadcasting exclusive live coverage from the One Nation March, the Netroots Nation conferences, Take Back the American Dream Conferences, talks held by The Nation and The New School, the Homelessness Marathon and the annual conventions of the NAACP, SEIU and the LOHAS Forum.
In 2011 and 2012, FSTV coverage provided a window into efforts to reform workers' rights in Wisconsin and other states, as well as into the Occupy Wall Street movement. To facilitate a national dialogue about growing economic disparities, the network produced Occupy the Media, a weekly, live, call-in program that featured frontline activists, policymakers and those bearing the brunt of economic injustice. The series offered a national television platform for many of our peers in progressive radio, print and online journalism. FSTV served as the broadcast hub for national May Day coverage coordinated by The Media Consortium in 2012.
The network secured a national channel on DirecTV in 2010; piloted its first OTT ("over-the-top") channel, on Roku, in 2011; and launched full-time cable channels in Burlington, Vermont, and Ashland, Oregon, in 2012. The website www.freespeech.org was redesigned to better support online video and aggregated content, and the network stepped up its social media engagement on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites.
FSTV and GM Jon Stout were the recipients of the 2010 National Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award, presented by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. This award recognizes individuals and organizations for "a profound commitment to free expression; ethics; media criticism and accountability; racial, gender, and cultural inclusiveness; and public service." Past recipients include Bill Moyers, George Seldes, Molly Ivins, Noam Chomsky, Nina Totenberg, and Studs Terkel.
In 2013, FSTV started conferring with public television stations to gain over-the-air and cable carriage in major urban markets. Mobile apps for smartphones and tablets are in development. The shutdown of the progressive channel Current TV and its replacement with Al Jazeera America had major ramifications on the network. In August 2013 Free Speech TV lost its popular Al Jazeera English News Hour, The Stream and Fault Lines shows when Al Jazeera launched Al Jazeera America. The news programming was replaced with news from France 24.
On September 9, 2013 Bill Press joined the channel with his simulcast of The Bill Press Show, which moved over from the defunct Current TV. In January 2014 the channel added The Stephanie Miller Show, also from the defunct Current TV after a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to build the show's new radio / TV studio, buy equipment and produce the show. This reunites the former Current TV morning block on Free Speech TV.
In October 2013 Free Speech TV and Karel.Media in association with Brandon Riley Miller Productions launched "Karel's Life In Segments" starring openly gay, history-making entertainer and former KFI AM 640 Los Angeles and KGO AM 810 Host Charles Karel Bouley. The show would pioneer the format of reality-talk, a new hybrid half-hour that takes characters and issues in the day-to-day life of a daily talk show host and turns them in to entertaining and informative talk segments set either in studio, in Karel's home or around his home of Long Beach, CA. The show has also gone on location internationally including Ireland for Season Three.. The show entered its fourth season as a weekly member of the programming lineup in 2017 with a fifth season being planned.
In October 2014, Free Speech TV launched Uprising with Sonali, featuring Sonali Kolhatkar in partnership with Pacifica Radio station KPFK-FM, Los Angeles. Uprising Radio was the longest running daily morning show on Southern California public radio before premiering as a television show on Free Speech TV. The show is the first ever national daily news show hosted and produced by an immigrant woman of color, Sonali Kolhatkar.
In recent years, FSTV's television footprint has grown to more than 40 million homes. The network's monthly viewership (cume) nearly doubled to more than 1 million households over a two-year period between 2012-2014. The closing of Current TV and the accumulation of its popular radio shows and audience combined with the movement of MSNBC out of the progressive sphere have partially contributed to the trend.
Free Speech TV is a project of Public Communicators, Inc., a non-profit, 501c3 tax-exempt organization FSTV is supported primarily through philanthropic contributions from thousands of viewers and from foundations dedicated to independent media and social, economic and environmental justice.
FSTV is currently available in more than 40 million television homes nationwide, airing full-time on Dish Network (9415), DirecTV (348), Burlington Telecom (122) and Ashland Home Net (96). Select programs are syndicated on 177 community cable stations in 40 states. FSTV is also available as a 24/7 linear feed and as videos-on-demand—on freespeech.org and on Roku, an "over-the-top" distribution platform that streams video over the Internet onto connected television sets. Other content is syndicated on Facebook, YouTube, Blip.tv, Vimeo and other social networking sites.
Free Speech TV broadcasts syndicated news programs and documentaries that deal with social, political, cultural and environmental issues. Independently produced news programs broadcast on FSTV include: