Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Stop the Vote: 3 Ways to Save Net Neutrality

Stop the Vote: 3 Ways to Save Net Neutrality

This post from UCC Media Justice's Faithful Internet campaign gives you 3 Ways to Save Net Neutrality:

December 4, 2017

Just as I was gathering up my kids to get on the road for Thanksgiving, I heard the disappointing news.  President Trump's communications regulator confirmed what we all feared, and released his draft order to eliminate open internet protections.  He plans a repeal vote on December 14.

I am inspired and grateful that so many people have already spoken out against this -- since the draft's release, we've seen over half a million calls to Congress in defense of net neutrality. And this morning denominations and faith-based organizations representing tens of millions of people opposed net neutrality's repeal.  The letter beautifully described the importance of communications rights like net neutrality:

 

"The ability to learn, to reason, to develop opinions and ideas, to develop plans for further action in concert with others—each of these is essential to the dignity of a human being and is impossible without the opportunity to both absorb existing knowledge and create new communications."

 

We could not carry out our faith and ethical traditions without these protections.  And we have the power to take action. Congress can slow down the FCC vote or even force it to abandon the vote altogether.  Key lawmakers sympathetic to the cause are considering stepping in to do just that--a few have spoken out already.  We need to get their attention so they will demand that the FCC Stop the Vote.

 
 

If you can't imagine the world without the Internet as an outlet for your activism, join in protest.  This Thursday, fellow net neutrality activists are hosting protests at Verizon stores and other locations around the country. 

2. Sign up to join one of 700+ protests around the country on Thursday, December 7.

And if you can come to Washington DC, join me on December 14 for a Voices for Internet Freedom Net Neutrality Wake Up Call Rally.  Show up with a sign showing the faithful and ethical communities care about the internet. I'll be there with my Faithful Internet sign, and I hope you will join me. 

3. Sign up to rally outside the FCC in Washington, DC on December 14.

It's not over after the vote.  Our allies are standing by with court actions, and Congress can stop the FCC's decision.  But they need to hear from us. 

Join with me in using the internet to save the internet.  Share our Facebook post, retweet on Twitter. #FaithfulInternet #NetNeutrality

In solidarity and gratitude,

Cheryl and the Faithful Internet team

P.S. we made a protest sign for you to bring along -- print this one out or make your own!

 

Click on this image to download a printable pdf file!

 

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Denominations, Faith Organizations Representing One Hundred Million Oppose Repeal of Net Neutrality

On December 4, 2017 organizations comprising faith traditions that consist of over 100 million people in the United States filed a letter to oppose repeal of current open Internet protections. These organizations addressed a letter to current Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai, who recently released a draft order rolling back net neutrality protections adopted in 2015. 

The letter cited the importance of communications rights in securing fundamental human dignity, "modern communication tools can be used and designed to maximize individual freedoms and human dignity or they can be developed with an eye only to maximize profit and power by the entities that control them."

The letter further explained the direct importance for faith-based institutions, "Modern communications are essential for our home faith institutions, to share scripture, help neighbors, support each other, and raise funds to support our work."

The letter urges the Federal Communications Commission to "retain the existing protections to protect an Open Internet and to use the strongest legal authority to prohibit paid prioritization."

The letter was coordinated by the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc., and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For further information contact Cheryl Leanza, policy advisor for UCC's media justice ministry at cleanza@alhmail.com.


The letter was signed by: 


Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces

Franciscan Action Network

Islamic Society of North America

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness

Religion Communicators Council

SIGNIS North America | World Catholic Association for Communications

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

World Association for Christian Communication, North America

 

Signatories of the Letter


The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces represents Sisters who, with their Mission Partners address the needs of thousands of low-income people in 28 states of the United States and overseas each year. Dedicated to serving girls, women, and families who experience poverty, exploitation, vulnerability, and marginalization, the Congregation and their lay partners minister to immigrants and victims of human trafficking here and abroad as well as persons in situations of domestic violence. Communication is key to our networking within the US and in the other 71 countries where the Congregation is located in order to positively meet the challenges our program participants face. www.buonpastoreint.org


Inspired by the Gospel of Jesus, and the example of Saints Francis and Clare, the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) is a collective Franciscan voice, with more than 50 member institutions, seeking to transform United States public policy related to peace making, care for creation, poverty, and human rights. https://franciscanaction.org/

Since 1950, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has served as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ.  NCC unifies a diverse covenant community of 38 member communions and over 40 million individuals –100,000 congregations from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African-American, and Living Peace traditions – in a common commitment to advocate and represent God’s love and promise of unity in our public square.  NCC partners with secular and interfaith partners to advance a shared agenda of peace, progress, and positive change. http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/

The mission of the Islamic Society of North America is to provide a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, civic and service organizations. ISNA's annual convention is generally regarded as the largest gathering of American Muslims in the United States. http://www.isna.net/

The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd educates and advocates on social-justice issues for the transformation of society to the benefit of all people. The center reflects the spirituality, history, and mission of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who have had a presence in the United States for over 175 years. http://www.gsadvocacy.org/


The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness is the public policy information and advocacy office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Its task is to advocate, and help the church to advocate, the social witness perspectives and policies of the Presbyterian General Assembly. The church has a long history of applying these biblically and theologically-based insights to issues that affect the public — maintaining a public policy ministry in the nation’s capital since 1946. https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/compassion-peace-justice/washington/

The Religion Communicators Council (RCC), founded in 1929, is an association of communications professionals who work for and with a diverse group of faith-based organizations in the areas of communications, public relations, advertising and development. RCC members promote excellence in the communication of faith and values in the public arena and encourage understanding among religious and faith groups. RCC activities include local chapters and a yearly convention, and annually honors excellence in the communication of religious issues by RCC members and the secular media.http://www.religioncommunicators.org/


SIGNIS North America is a region of SIGNIS, a non-governmental organization that includes members from over 100 countries. As the "World Catholic Association for Communication," it brings together radio, television, cinema, video, media education, Internet, and new technology professionals. SIGNIS's mission is to engage with media professionals and support Catholic Communicators to help transform our cultures in the light of the Gospel by promoting Human Dignity, Justice and Reconciliation. http://www.signis.net/

The United Church of Christ is a faith community rooted in justice that recognizes the unique power of the media to shape public understanding and thus society. For this reason, UCC’s Office of Communication, Inc. (OC, Inc.) works to create just and equitable media structures that give meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas. Established in 1959, OC Inc. ultimately established the right of all citizens to participate at the Federal Communications Commission as part of its efforts to ensure a television broadcaster in Jackson, MS served its African-American viewers during the civil rights movement. The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ consists of approximately 5,000 local congregations across the United States. It was formed by the 1957 union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. http://www.uccmediajustice.org/

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is a nonprofit corporation, the members of which are the active Catholic Bishops in the United States. The Catholic Church, the largest denomination in the United States, has over 67 million adherents in over 18,000 parishes throughout the country.  The USCCB provides a framework and a forum for the Bishops to teach Catholic doctrine, set pastoral directions, and develop policy positions on contemporary social issues. As such, the USCCB advocates and promotes the pastoral teaching of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in such diverse areas of the nation’s life as the free expression of ideas, fair employment and equal opportunity for the under-privileged, immigration, protection of the rights of parents and children, the sanctity of life, and the importance of education. Values of particular importance to the Conference include the protection of the rights of religious organizations and religious believers under the First Amendment, and the proper development of regulations in that regard. http://www.usccb.org/ 

World Association for Christian Communication, North America is a regional association of WACC Global. The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC Global) is a non-governmental organization that builds on communication rights in order to promote social justice with members in 120 countries. WACC offers professional guidance on communication policies, interprets developments in global communications, and discusses the consequences which such developments have for Churches and communities everywhere, especially in the South. WACC works towards the empowerment of women and assists the training of Christian communicators. http://waccglobal.org/our-networks/wacc-regional-networks/wacc-north-america

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FCC's Shameful Assault on Access to Information, Implications Widespread

The following can be attributed to Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor to the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, OC Inc., in response to several votes today at the Federal Communications Commission:

In today’s string of votes, we see Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai agenda unleashed on the United States.  He coyly waited until after his Senate confirmation vote and the most recent Congressional oversight hearing to unleash an unprecedented attack on civil rights and access to information.  The most vulnerable are feeling the most harmful impact.  Tribes, the most in need of affordable accessible communications, will see their subsidies immediately cut and their lands redefined without intergovernmental consultation.  Low income people must anticipate damaging changes as the Commission plans to cut off almost 70 percent of its subscribers and then proposes to add insult to injury with more draconian cuts in the form of a budget cap, lifetime limits on benefits, and more.

Today’s media ownership vote will take effect immediately:  it is not a proposal.  The ruling cuts back and eliminates rules that have been in place since the beginning of broadcast regulation.  We are losing rules that were designed to protect economic competition as well as competition in the marketplace of ideas.  No one looking at today’s media environment could imagine that the FCC, today, would see a media environment in need of fewer fact-checked news stories, fewer journalists, and reduced numbers of independent locally accountable news outlets--but that is what we will get.

This vote puts the final nail in the coffin for ownership diversity at the FCC.  This year’s Trump FCC fully exploits the failings in last year’s vote, which ignored the record in an effort to hide the connection between ownership and content.  The incubator proposal is meaningless, particularly in a consolidated media environment like the one we are about to experience.

With these actions, the Trump administration lays groundwork for less access to information and less voter education and engagement, which increases the likelihood that elections can be skewed by unverified news stories intent on confusion and manipulation. The forthcoming vote on net neutrality will further diminish freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas online.

One rule now stands between the Trump FCC and approval of the Sinclair merger.  Sinclair is poised to fully exploit the rule rollbacks adopted today and waits expectantly for Chairman Pai’s promised revisions to the national TV ownership cap.  Congress set the national TV ownership cap by statute in 2004, but Chairman Pai has promised to change it, evading the statutorily-set limits on FCC power.  After that illegal change, the Sinclair merger will set the state for a new breathtaking wave of consolidation as other media companies rush to catch up.  Congress must ensure the FCC does not evade the limits of its statutory authority.

Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, founder of the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc., dedicated his life to accountable and local broadcasting.  I am ashamed that so much of his amazing life's work is being tossed in the trashbin today.

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Trump Federal Communications Commission Keeps Its Dark Promises

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, like Donald Trump who appointed him, intends to keep his promises. His dissents as a minority Commissioner made clear his plans. This month, after squeaking through his confirmation vote in the Senate, he finally brings out the big guns.

He is fulfilling his promise to gut the FCC's program to assist low income people with the costs of telephone service and broadband.He is fulfilling his promise to turn over the media marketplace to a few, huge owners, while offering women and people of color a fig leaf of paper ownership that conveys no equity rights. And he intends to fulfill his promise next month to turn over Internet freedom to the control of a few large corporate ISPs. These are just a few examples of the decisions that will be adopted next month and the month after, some of which will be almost impossible to reverse if he succeeds.

Not only is he keeping his promises, he is again attempting to disguise them with technical terms and doublespeak that, heretofore, could only be found in George Orwell's dystopia. Thus, he attacks low-income households in a docket titled, "Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Consumers," and his decision to ignore the pleas of civil rights leaders is called "Rules and Policies to Promote New Entry and Ownership Diversity in the Broadcasting Services." Could it be the Commission is secretly ashamed of its actions, using these euphemisms to disguise their favors for corporate America at the expense of the rest of the country?

Perhaps he uses these terms because he knows he is undermining the chances that anyone can question his decisions. The steps he is taking will tip the balance even more toward benefits for the privileged, leaving the most impacted behind, favoring fake news against fact-checked journalism. These decisions combined will mean less access to the Internet, less free speech on the Internet and more inflammatory, uniform broadcast content in cities and towns across the country. If he succeeds, as long as the names sound pretty, the dark effects underneath will be ignored.

The agenda released last night make clear that the Ajit Pai threat is terrifying, and it is no innocent Halloween joke. The scars of the Trump Administration continue, and with these decisions it may be that no journalists or activists will retain the tools needed to challenge them.

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Next Week's Parker Lecture

by Cheryl Leanza

Check out our blog on Medium....

I’m so excited — next week, Tuesday October 24, 2017, is our 35th Annual Parker Lecture, and I can’t wait to see everyone and receive my annual dose of inspiration for the work ahead. I hope all of you will join us either in person at First Congregational UCC in Washington DC (tickets only $25 this year!) or live online via Facebook.
 
Read the rest on Medium.

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