In many countries, organizations dedicated to socially engaged media making have pioneered local broadcasting, distribution systems for non-commercial print media, multi-lingual media, what is now called user-generated media, “narrow-casting”, and citizen's participation in media policy. However, almost everywhere in the world, policies have systematically distorted the mediascape in favour of governmental and commercial media. Media made by and for citizens continue to struggle for funding channels, legality, autonomous means of production and distribution, and against the commercial/governmental enclosures of creative resources. This article, at the intersection of political science and media studies, investigates how civil society engages in media policy. Specifically, it analyzes the democratic media activist movement in Japan in the 2008- 2010 organizing phase. What was the opportunity structure? What resources were available? What achievements were aimed at? Were they achieved? And what other, perhaps unintended outcomes? What does that tell us about the specific challenges of democratic media activism in Japan, and what can be taken from that for other contexts? The methods are qualitative, including a review of the literature on the media reform and civil society media movements and participatory observation in one of the main networks for media reform. The lack of progress on issues for civil society media, it is argued, can partly be explained by the poor political opportunity structure, but also by poor movement resources.