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The Independent Media Center is a network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth. We work out love for, and are inspired by, people who continue to work for a better world, despite corporate media's distortions and unwillingness to cover the efforts to free humanity. For more about the IMC and its core principles, see the Indymedia Documentation Project, from which the preceding language was taken. People use "IMC" to mean different things at different times, and this can be a potential source of confusion. Depending on context, it could mean:
There are two ways to look at the structure of the IMC network: the organizational structure and the legal/fiscal structure. So much of the workings of the IMC network on a day-to-day basis are related to the organizational structure that many IMCistas are surprised to learn that there even is a legal/fiscal structure alongside the organizational structure.
Here is the rationale, as given when UC-IMC first made the proposal to the IMC-Finance working group (link):
This diagram isn't meant to be all-encompassing, but to give a general idea of the flow between IMC collectives, the projects associated with those collectives, and the Global Indymedia network. For example, NYC-IMC has, along with their Indymedia site, a print newspaper called the IndyPendent. UC-IMC has a series of projects along with this site.
A considerable amount of discussion was involved in the first years of the Indymedia project. Documents about the founding of Indymedia can be found here.
In a nutshell -- there's more detail below -- it's like this. UC-IMC is a non-profit organization under US tax law. UC-IMC extends this non-profit status to some other organizations through a process known as fiscal sponsorship. Some of the projects allied to UC-IMC through this process are other IMC collectives (such as NYC and Michigan).
Another project allied to UC-IMC in this way is the Global Indymedia network itself.
Again, this diagram doesn't encompass the entire network, but is meant to show the fiscal/legal relationship between UC-IMC, other IMC collectives -- some, like NYC, fiscally allied with UC-IMC, some not -- and the Global Indymedia network.
Therefore, in the strictly legal sense -- that is, on paper -- UC-IMC serves as the fiscal/legal headquarters of the Global Indymedia Network. This important distinction -- between the organizational structure and the fiscal/legal structure -- has been a source of confusion. UC-IMC makes no claim that it is organizationally the headquarters of the Global Indymedia Network. Organizationally, we are simply one IMC collective among many.
UC-IMC makes no claim that it is organizationally the headquarters of the Global Indymedia Network. According to the consensus of the IMC-Finance working group (as documented in the next section), however, UC-IMC is -- on paper -- currently the fiscal/legal headquarters of the Global Indymedia Network. Financial donations made to the Global Indymedia network, rather than to individual IMC collectives, are sent to and disbursed by UC-IMC, as noted here on the Global Indymedia site, indymedia.org.
The process can be tracked by reading correspondence available on the imc-finance working group list for 2001 and 2002; follow the links for the details.
This arrangement does not imply that UC-IMC is in any way owner of the Global Indymedia network, or Indymedia as a whole. Nor does UC-IMC have any intention or desire to change the fundamentally autonomous nature of the IMC collectives. The autonomous media collective is the cornerstone of the IMC movement.
There is no standard IMC model for handling finances, and such decisions are left to the local collectives.
In the US, there are advantages to the tactic of either
If the IRS agrees that you are a non-profit organization, it grants you something called 501(c)3 status. The benefits of gaining this status include:
If you fiscally ally with a 501(c)3, then the same benefits also apply. The process of allying with a 501(c)3 is called "fiscal sponsorship." This should not be interpreted to mean the 501(c)3 organization somehow owns the organizations fiscally allied with it in this way. Such ownership of one IMC collective by another would be against the autonomous spirit of Indymedia.
UC-IMC has been a 501(c)3 organization since June, 2001. The process of registering as a 501(c)3 organization involved, among other things, the writing of bylaws, the election of officers, and interacting with the IRS.
On paper only. The first act of the organization officers was to disempower themselves and devolve decisionmaking to the UC-IMC consensus process. This is a legally binding process; the board can't make decisions against the UC-IMC consensus.
UC-IMC does not intend to hold the fiscal sponsorship of Global Indymedia Network permanently, nor should it. We actively encourage working toward other solutions:
Yes. This is not unique to UC-IMC; it's a standard operating procedure for 501(c)3 organizations. We know of no 501(c)3 offering such a service for free. The fees are on a sliding scale negotiated up front with the organization seeking to ally financially with UC-IMC, and range from 5% upward. Money raised by this fee currently covers only part of the expense of bookkeeping, auditing, and filing costs involved and was not used as a source of funding for purchase of the UC-IMC collective's building. In effect UC-IMC is currently subsidizing the accounting out of our general operating funds.