Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Faith Community Supports Net Neutrality!

This week is in important deadline for preserving net neutrality for an open Internet. These policies, being considered by the Federal Communications Commission, impact how everyone can use the Internet -- and as you may have heard in the news, a key part of the proposal will permit some companies to pay Internet companies so that their content will be faster and better for users. Here at UCC's media justice ministry, we have been long-time proponents of open Internet, and so have many of our friends in the faith community.

Sign up to receive updates about an open Internet from UCC's media justice ministry, and check out these great posts from around the web about Net Neutrality from the faith community:


10 Reasons Net Neutrality Matters to Progressive Christians  Our own UCC brand of affirmatively inclusive and justice-driven perspective, written by Kimberly Knight of our board. "We as compassionate livin’, justice seekin’, radically inclusive Christians can be, should be, role models for the whole world groaning toward justice. … We cannot condone a system that conditions a critical right on the ability to pay."

Killing Net Neutrality Kills the Dreams of Young Entrepreneurs  Joshua DuBois, the President’s former head of faith-based outreach, connecting Net Neutrality to Obama’s signature initiatives on equity--showing a young African American boy who is helped in so many ways by progressive policies, but is forced to abandon creating his own start-up because he can't compete with the big companies who have a built-in advantage enabled by the paid fast lane.

Life in the Fast Lane: FCC Plan on Net Neutrality Draws Criticism  From the Catholic News Service, "Everyone, at some point, has shifted over from one Communion line to another during Mass because it seemed shorter and, thus, faster.  Now imagine what it would be like if you could always have a ‘fast lane’ to receive Communion -- but you had to pay for it."

National Council of Churches Communications Commission Open Internet Resolution The NCC is a coalition of virtually all major Protestant churches: "We see every day the vital connection between a free and fair communications system and the achievement of important social justice goals… and therefore … urge the Federal Communications Commission to take any and all action to adopt network neutrality, including reclassification of broadband services as a telecommunications service, as a fundamental and necessary part of the framework for all forms of broadband Internet service…"

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Parker Lecture 2014 Honorees Announced

For immediate release

April 29, 2014




Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will deliver the 32nd annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Makani Themba and Catherine J.K. Sandoval will be honored at the 2014 Parker Lecture and Breakfast. The event, organized by the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, the Office of Communication, Inc., will be held at 8 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Newseum Institute. The program will be live streamed at


Wheeler was appointed by President Barack Obama and became the 31st chairman of the FCC on Nov. 4, 2013. For more than three decades, he has been involved with new telecommunications networks and services, experiencing the revolution in telecommunications as a policy expert, an advocate and a businessman. He is the only person to be selected to both the Cable Television Hall of Fame and The Wireless Hall of Fame, a fact that President Obama joked made him “The Bo Jackson of Telecom.” An avid student of history, Wheeler is the author of Take Command: Leadership Lessons of the Civil War and Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War. Wheeler is a former trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a former board member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and the former chairman and president of the Foundation for the National Archives.


Themba, executive director of The Praxis Project, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award, given in recognition of an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications and the media. Themba helped to pioneer the developing field of justice communications, first as media director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Los Angeles and then as a media strategist supporting a range of progressive causes. At SCLC-LA, she first engaged in media policy work to support community engagement around station licensing. During her tenure as director of the Center for Media and Policy Analysis at The Marin Institute, Themba began advancing media advocacy as a mainstream practice in public health. She is co-author of Media Advocacy for Public Health: Power for Prevention, Talking the Walk: Communications Guide for Racial Justice and Fair Game: A Strategy Guide for Racial Justice Communications in the Obama Era.


Sandoval, a Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since 2011, will receive the Donald H. McGannon Award, given in recognition of special contributions in advancing the roles of women and people of color in the media. Sandoval, the first Latino to serve as a commissioner at the CPUC, also serves as a co-vice-chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Telecommunications Committee and as policy chair of the Federal Communications Commission’s Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Telecommunications Services. Sandoval, the first Latina to win a Rhodes scholarship, directed the FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities during the Clinton Administration and is a tenured faculty member of the Santa Clara University School of Law. Sandoval authored and co-authored a number of important FCC filings and articles addressing inclusion in communications policy and published a major study on commercial radio ownership by people of color.  As a CPUC commissioner she helped bring about the first telephone service available to the Yurok nation in Northern California.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker’s petition to the FCC, which challenged the broadcasting license of WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., for its failure to serve the public interest, most notably in its coverage of that city’s African-American residents. Parker’s petition ultimately established the right of individuals to intervene in matters before the FCC.


This year’s lecture, in the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center, will be held in conjunction with the Newseum’s three-year exhibit “Civil Rights at 50,” chronicling major developments in the civil rights movement from 1963 to 1965 through news media reports.


The Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the Rev. Dr. Parker, founder of OC, Inc., and his pioneering work as an advocate for the public's rights in broadcasting. The event is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective. Past speakers have included network presidents, Congressional leaders, and FCC chairs and commissioners, as well as academics, cable and telephone executives and journalists. More information is available at


The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination with more than 1 million members and nearly 5,200 local congregations nationwide, recognizes the unique power of the media to shape public understanding and thus society as a whole. For this reason, the UCC’s OC, Inc. has worked since its founding in 1959 to create just and equitable media structures that give a meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas. 


The Newseum Institute provides a forum for educational programs and thought-leadership initiatives, as well as educational materials, addressing the five freedoms of the First Amendment: speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition. The Newseum's 250,000-square-foot museum in downtown Washington, D.C., offers visitors a state-of-the-art experience that blends news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits.


United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc.

Cheryl A. Leanza, media contact


Jonathan Thompson, manager of media relations


United Church of Christ

Emily Schappacher
(216) 736-2177

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Categories: ParkerLecture

Digital Advertising Targets Youth of Color - Tweet Chat Recap

UCC Media Justice participated today in a tweet chat, co-sponsored by the Digital Ads campaign, which is a joint project of Center for Digital Democracy and Berkeley Media Studies Group, discussing the negative impact digital advertising has on children, and in particular children of color.   There is much to be said on this topic, including the horrible immorality of targeting children whose health is already in danger. According to the CDC, 17% of kids today obese, higher for African Americans and Latinos: 22% and 20%; 1 in 5 kids! As the American Academy of Pediatrics noted, exposure to advertising is associated w/ child obesity, poor nutrition, and cigarettes & alcohol.


Digital marketing takes advantage of big data to target children in subtle ways. Extensive studies show that younger kids have a hard time understanding advertising -- that the advertisers do not have their best interest at heart in the same way that a teacher who gives advice has. In addition, the tweet chat discussed new marketing techniques using neuroscience to subtly reach around parents into a teen's subconscious to make unhealthful food more desirable. And digital marketing is ubiquitous, as children spend more and more time online.


Digital advertising directed toward kids is based also on the techniques perfected by Big Data, which has begun to gain the attention of the civil rights community. An important safeguard is giving users, including parents, control over their own data. While data can be helpful, it can also target communities and individuals in harmful ways. A large number of public interest organizations encouraged the White House to consider health in its current study of Big Data.


Studies have shown that children of color are on the receiving end of much more advertising than white children. For example, a recent study by researcher Dale Kunkel showed that more than 84% of all foods and beverages advertised to children on Spanish-language television shows are unhealthy. Another study showed African American children and teens see at least 50% more fast food ads than their white peers.


There are more resources online to learn about this issue. Salud Today has several great online videos about junk food marketing to Latino children, including this one. We particularly liked the Rudd Center's resources, including one on the challenges of weight bias and bullying directed toward kids who are overweight, and this report that discusses marketing to African American and Latino children

As we said toward the end of the tweetchat:

Check out all the great information shared in the tweet chat by searching #DigitalAds and visiting online.

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Categories: Children

Move toward Competition, But Where is Diversity?

FCC Chairman Wheeler yesterday announced his intention to make an important step forward toward more media competition.  The really good news is that Chairman Wheeler is not proposing to permit additional consolidation, which is a significant improvement over the ill-conceived proposal of the prior Chairman, Julius Genachowski.

In addition, Wheeler is proposing to close some loopholes in the existing rules addressing jointly-run (but not jointly-owned) TV stations.  Many years ago, the Supreme Court said about jointly-run news outlets, “it is unrealistic to expect true diversity from a commonly owned … combination. The divergency of their viewpoints cannot be expected to be the same as if they were antagonistically run.” The same holds true today. When two TV stations merge, they join staff, news teams and sales teams. There are fewer journalists, and fewer places for members of the community to share stories or to get news. If one reporter isn't interested in a news story, no one is, because there is only one reporter! We see the same effects when those two TV stations are operating together using a complex financial agreement as when the joint ownership is out in the open.


And yet, it is still unclear what Chairman Wheeler is proposing to promote media diversity. Today, ownership diversity is devastatingly low. The inadequately collected and analyzed data released by the FCC in 2012 indicated that we have virtually no TV stations owned by people of color or women in the United States, and that number will surely be lower when the more recent data from last December is released.  TV still holds an unprecedented sway over our national conversation, political dialogue and values. Two hundred eighty-three million people (that's out of over 310 million total) in the U.S. watch an average of 146 hours of TV every month.  Without owners from all walks of life and reflecting the full diversity of our nation, our national and local dialogues suffer.


The last Obama FCC Chairman Genachowski kicked the can down the road and left office without addressing these issues. The new FCC Chair is pointed in the right direction, but he needs to get across the finish line.

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Which is better: Ignorance or Knowledge?

Last week Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler concluded that he was not comfortable with part of a comprehensive study of the media marketplace and decided to eliminate the portion of the study that gave him concern.


Why would the chair of an independent federal regulatory agency want to stop conducting research? Well, in this case he was falsely accused of launching a government effort to tell reporters and journalists what to write and report. If the FCC had been planning to do such a thing, all of us would have breathed a sigh of relief that such an effort was cancelled. 


But the truth of the matter is that last week conservative activists scored a victory in favor of ignorance over facts. This so-called controversy has a lot in common with the false debate over whether greenhouse gas causes climate change or whether smoking causes cancer. It is entirely possible next week we'll hear accusations that the studies are really all about affirmative action or voting fraud or some other conservative lightening rod.


But, I can hear even my friends on the left asking, shouldn't the government always steer clear of any hint of impacting journalism? The truth is, a wide variety of laws and policies already impact journalism. Everything from libel laws, to copyright rules, to cable access channels, to broadcast indecency prohibitions impact journalism and media. The real question is, do you want an agency that makes media and communications policy to do so without a fundamental understanding of how the media marketplace works? Apparently the critics last week would rather the FCC function from a place of ignorance rather than knowledge.  


This lack of knowledge has been a real problem for the FCC. In fact, a number of policies that many of last week's critics presumably support have been overturned in court because the FCC did not have the facts and analysis to support its decisions. George Bush's FCC tried twice to substantially relax rules that would have led to significantly more consolidation in the media. The courts said no--not because the court has a view on whether big media or competitive media is better--but because the FCC didn't have enough legitimate data to back up its rule changes.   


We can all agree that media and journalism functions best when many outlet and many journalists compete with one another for stories. Journalism functions best when reporters reflect the wide variety of people and communities that are part of these United States. Could a reporter that has never set foot in rural Alabama or remote Wyoming do justice to the stories that impact people there? Shouldn't our media cover both Latinos who are personally or professionally impact by immigration reform in addition to people who strongly oppose it? Often our very lives depend on the media. Just ask people out west evacuating from wild fires or people trying to find safe drinking water in West Virginia. People use media of all kinds to find jobs, learn how to safeguard their own health, pinpoint this morning's traffic jam, or figure out which candidate to support in the next election.   It matters to all of us that the systems we use work well. We can allow the media to get bigger and bigger and swallow up all different points of view into a single, infotainment-producing monolith. Or, we can adopt policies that promote competition and vibrancy in the marketplace of ideas.


So back to the studies debated so intensely last week. That research protocol was part of a multi-year deliberate process to assemble all the scholarship on the media's function, building on a comprehensive study and a literature review of more than 500 studies conducted by the University of Southern California Annenberg Communications and Journalism School and a phalanx of the leading scholars in the field. The research design was available to the public since last May, when the FCC sought input and comment. The process underway was designed to test the research instrument to verify its effectiveness in the field. 


And what of the so-called secret army of "media monitors" spreading out across the country to intimidate journalists into giving the "right" answers and covering the "right" stories? They don't exist. What we did have government-funded researchers conducting a voluntary, anonymous series of questions to understand better the decision-making process in newsrooms generally.   The study would have permitted the FCC to start from a place of knowledge and facts when it makes policy, rather than merely guessing about what is driving news and story production in this rapidly-changing media environment. When reporters are sometimes simultaneously video reporters, bloggers, free-lance journalists and ideological activists, when ownership structures of media get more complex and misleading every day, when TV viewers in cities around the country see the same exact newscast on two or three different networks every evening, we know that things are changing at a pretty rapid clip. And it is up to the policymakers to at least try to keep pace. 


This data is important. A knowledgeable expert FCC is important. Policies to promote a multiplicity of viewpoints and as many journalists as we can muster (covering stories from all perspectives) are important. Scholars have been working on this type of research for years and hopefully they can continue to do so now that the self-appointed First Amendment defenders have declared victory.   Maybe the FCC will at least be permitted to read these studies if they are completed by scholars and academics. Because how can the FCC help safeguard journalist independence if it doesn't have data on how journalists operate?

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Categories: media concentration

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