Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

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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Parker and McGannon Award honorees, Robinson, Kapur announced

Rashad Robinson, Ravi Kapur to Be Honored At 35th Annual Everett Parker Lecture

Rashad Robinson

Rashad Robinson, executive director of the Color Of Change, and Ravi Kapur, founder and CEO of Diya TV, will be honored at the 35th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast, the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, the Office of Communication, Inc., has announced.


This year’s event will be held at 8 a.m. October 24 at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 945 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. OC Inc. previously announced that Rinku Sen, outgoing president and executive director of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, will deliver this year’s Parker lecture.


Robinson will receive the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of his efforts to build Color Of Change into the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, with more than one million members. The Parker Award is given annually in recognition of an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications and the media as demonstrated by the late Rev. Dr. Parker, OC Inc.’s founder.


Under Robinson’s leadership, Color Of Change has championed media justice, developing strategies for changing written and unwritten rules that negatively impact the lives of Black people, people of color and all people. A frequent commentator in broadcast and print outlets, Robinson previously served as senior director of media programs at GLAAD and worked on racial justice and voting rights issues at the Right to Vote Campaign and FairVote.


Ravi Kapur

Kapur will receive the Donald H. McGannon Award, given in recognition of special contributions in advancing the role of women and persons of color in the media. Kapur’s Diya TV is the first 24-hour U.S. broadcast network targeted to serve a South Asian audience, reaching more than 70 million people in a dozen markets.

 

Kapur became the first Indian-American to own a full-power TV station in this country. His first broadcasting venture, KAXT-TV in San Francisco, developed programming to serve the Bay Area’s African-American, Hispanic, South Asian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Filipino communities, and Kapur led the station to its first Emmy Award in 2013.


The Parker Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the late Rev. Dr. Parker’s 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. A list of previous Parker Lecture honorees is available on our web site.

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Categories: ParkerLecture

Support for the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017

The saga of families and children seeking to maintain relationships with their loved ones in prison and jail has been on-going since early last decade. For every step forward toward more just treatment, affordable rates and fees, the prison phone industrial complex strikes back, demonstrating their chokehold on the service offerings for these people. The most recent actions by the Federal Communications Commission have failed these communities, leaving them in a market that all observers characterize as broken. 

 

Senator Duckworth's new legislation, S. 1614, the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017, will eliminate any question regarding the Federal Communications Commission's authority to stop these practices and will address just uses of and charges for video calling services.  

 

Since the bi-partisan leadership of the Federal Communications Commission supports legislative efforts to cement the FCC's authority to act in this area, we urge the Senate Commerce Committee to quickly take up this bill.

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Categories: prison phone



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