Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Trump FCC Operating Blind for 15 Years on Equal Employment Opportunity

Today the Trump FCC refused to comply with the law. The Communications Act requires the FCC to collect broadcasting and cable equal employment opportunity (EEO) data. While the Bush FCC voted to collect that data in 2004 under then-Chairman Michael Powell, the FCC's leadership has ignored its statutory obligation for 15 years and reaffirmed that refusal at today's open meeting.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights raised this concern with the FCC last summer when the FCC expended resources to eliminate an inconsequential form while ignoring its must more important legal obligation to collect EEO hiring data. 

 

Commissioners Starks and Rosenworcel raised this question with Chairman Pai this week. Mr. Pai refused to take action to collect the data even though the data collection form is approved and ready to go and one minor open issue has been ready for a decision for 15 years. We are particularly grateful to Commissioners Starks and Rosenworcel for raising these important civil rights issues which were ignored in the draft of the order that was originally released by the FCC.

 

UCC OC Inc. has a special connection to this question. In 1967, Dr. Everett Parker, OC Inc.'s founder, petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to adopt pro-active equal employment opportunity (EEO) rules. The following year, after a significant public outcry and the 1968 Kerner Commission report highlighting the negative impact of media coverage which ignored people of color, the Commission adopted those rules. They stood at the forefront of a series of FCC and EEOC efforts which revolutionized EEO obligations and practices throughout the media and telecommunications industry. In 1992, Congress institutionalized these rules into law.

 

While the FCC paused its data collection in 2002 and 2003 after two problematic court decisions, the Bush FCC affirmed in 2004 that collection of statistical data had no constitutional implications and were not barred by those court decisions. The Commission has only one final loose end to wrap up (on the appropriate confidentiality treatment of EEO data) in order to collect EEO statistics.

 

Without data about who is being hired, the FCC and the public have no idea whether the recruitment rules and efforts are working. Today many Silicon Valley companies voluntarily release employment statistics as a form of holding themselves accountable. There is no excuse that broadcasting, which uses public airwaves to operate, does not face the same accountability.

 

The FCC has been failing to collect and use the data about who owns television and radio stations and today has seemingly committed to completely ignoring who works in television and radio. Chairman Pai just created a new Office of Economics and Analytics, but is not collecting the data his agency is required to collect. 


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Celebrating Christmas with a Suit for Media Justice

Today the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry put the week just before Christmas to good use by continuing its long-standing campaign for equity in communications. UCC OC Inc. joined with allies in federal court contesting the Federal Communications Commission's failure to consider the negative impact the FCC's decisions have had on the total number of TV and radio stations owned by people of color and women. In 2017 the Trump FCC changed several rules that will permit significantly more consolidation, particularly in local television markets. Consolidation means fewer voices in local communities and fewer chances to hear from people underrepresented in television.

 

The case, titled Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, is the fourth law suit since 2002 demonstrating that the FCC has not fulfilled its obligation under law to ensure ownership diversity in broadcasting. The FCC lost all three prior rounds.

 

"The FCC–again–completely failed to lift a finger for people of color and women hoping to own broadcast stations," said Cheryl A. Leanza, OC Inc.'s policy advisor and also lead counsel on the brief. "The federal court in Philadelphia has told the FCC three times that it must take a hard look at how consolidation might harm ownership by women and people of color. The FCC continues to whistle in the dark but take no action."

 

UCC OC Inc. is pleased to work alongside its valuable allies, Common Cause, Communication Workers of America, Free Press, Media Mobilizing Project and Prometheus Radio Project in this important campaign for racial and gender justice in communications.

 

Additional filings will be submitted to the court in February and March. Oral argument is anticipated in Philadelphia in the spring. Best Best & Krieger LLP offered pro bono support on the brief.

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Affordable Communication Is Under Attack

Cheryl A. Leanza published an op-ed today online in Sojourners describing the importance of the Lifeline program, the only federal program targeting the affordability of communications. Read it on the Sojourners web site.



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36th Annual Parker Lecture Mixes Tears, Memories and Inspiration to Honor Three Media Justice Advocates

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (OCTOBER 11, 2018)

Tears mixed with memories, moments of levity and inspiration as three media justice advocates were honored today by the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc. at the 36th Annual Everett C. Parker Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Helen Brunner, a longtime philanthropist and founding director of the Media Democracy Fund, delivered this year’s lecture. Gigi Sohn, a Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Foundation Fellow, received the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of 30 years of work in support of greater public access to affordable and open broadband technologies. And Kevin Sampson, founder and director of the D.C. Black Film Festival, received the Donald H. McGannon Award in recognition of special contributions to advancing the role of women and persons of color in the media.

OC Inc., the UCC’s media justice ministry, created the Parker Lecture in 1983 to recognize its founder’s pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting. In 1963, Rev. Parker filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission that ultimately stripped WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi, of its broadcast license for its failure to cover the local African-American community. The court case also established the principle that the public could participate in matters before the agency.

Brunner recalled that she first experienced the legacy of Parker’s work when she attended the D.C. Public Schools and a teacher assigned her class to monitor how African-Americans were depicted on local television shows. She said that although the District’s population was then about 70 percent black, “Amos and Andy” reruns filled half of daytime programming. Despite the passage of years, she said, we “still have the same problem.”

Brunner devoted much of her address to the audience of advocates, policy makers and faith leaders to the importance of addressing mental health concerns and practicing self-care—particularly as it relates to social justice advocates. She acknowledged that she had “almost died from my own self-inflicted pressures,” but that in the two years since she had stepped down from directing the Media Democracy Fund, she had taken steps to address her own mental health and learn more about the nature of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

She acknowledged that media justice advocates have watched the work of “decades-long battles. . . be destroyed with a stroke of a pen.” Brunner said that “organizers, activists and advocates are … fairly exhausted and overwhelmed” and living in a “fight, flight or freeze mode.”

“The ground has shifted,” she said, “and many things that used to work, don’t any longer.” She encouraged her audience to fight burnout and to recognize that social justice work would “go better if you protect your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Your work will be more effective and creative if it comes from expansive rather than constrictive thoughts, if it comes from love rather than fear and overwhelm.” She emphasized that “the future is going to happen and we have a choice: we can work for the future we want, or we can let it happen. Know that you will have results.” Brunner drove home her message by coaching her audience in a round of meditative breathing, and providing a break of laughter by encouraging them to bat beach balls around the sanctuary of First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Washington.

Sohn recalled her early days at the Ford Foundation, looking through “its dusty basement archives” to learn more about its involvement in supporting communications law and policy advocacy. She said that she found a copy of the ruling that Warren Burger, then chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, made in Parker’s landmark case, with a handwritten note from Burger addressed to McGeorge Bundy, then the foundation’s new president. The note  read: “I think this might interest you.”

“Thanks to Everett Parker’s efforts,” she noted, “a new field was created, along with the resources needed to protect the public interest in communications.”

“In these difficult times,” she said, “when much of what we have worked for so hard and for so long is being dismantled, we should all strive to be like Everett. His was an uphill battle too, also during a dark time in our country’s history. Nevertheless, he persisted as we will, too.” She said she drew energy from the new advocates in the field, looking forward to a time when “the pendulum will swing back in our favor” and “the arc of the moral universe will bend toward media and social justice.”

Sampson recalled that he had been sitting “on the floor of the ping pong room in the Google office of San Francisco” late last year when he received the news that his grandmother had passed. A Google Next Generation Policy Leader, Sampson said that the experience gave him a sense of responsibility to “give back for the sacrifices made for me.” He said his work to increase the voices of women and people of color in the media— “tough and thankless as it is at times”—is “a way to open doors in the way doors have been opened for me.”

Sampson recalled with sadness and concern that coming home from that same trip, he learned that his six-year-old daughter had told her mother that “she wished her skin was white.” Bringing home the urgency of his work to the audience, he spoke about having to teach his three-year-old son that “he can’t act like he’s shooting a gun made out of a plastic card in a restaurant because some people may want to kill him.” Noting the “Making Black Lives Matter Through Film” panel that his festival has organized, he said, “If the stone of a conversation can have a ripple effect in the pond of care and compassion and allow my son to make it home safely in the future. . . it’s worth it.”

Sampson concluded by asking, “What’s the ‘why?’ that will help you push through those late nights, or times when you want to give up? It’s in that pure place that we can combat the injustices in our world in an effort to keep the focus on the beauty of it. Because what I’ve seen is that even when your why comes from a ‘selfish,’ personal place, there’s always someone who can relate and who will benefit from your effort. It’s only truly selfish when we don’t act.”

About the United Church of Christ: The United Church of Christ is a mainline Protestant denomination comprised of nearly 900,000 members and 5,000 congregations nationwide. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, the UCC is a church of many firsts, including the first mainline denomination to ordain a woman, the first to ordain an openly-gay man and the first predominantly white denomination to ordain an African American. The UCC and its members are tireless advocates for social issues such as immigration reform, racial equality, LGBT rights, marriage equality, environmental protection and economic justice. The Parker Lecture is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective. More information is available at http://uccmediajustice.org/content_item/parker2018.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Cheryl Leanza
Cell: 202-904-2168
Email: cleanza@alhmail.com

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Categories: ParkerLecture

UCC’s OC Inc. to Honor Founder of the D.C. Black Film Festival

The United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry will honor Kevin Sampson, founder and director of the D.C. Black Film Festival, when it holds the 36th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast on October 11. 

As previously announced, Helen Brunner, founding director of the Media Democracy Fund, will deliver this year’s lecture, and Gigi B. Sohn, a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award. The event will be held at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 945 G Street NW, in Washington, DC, beginning at 8 a.m.

Sampson will be honored with the Donald H. McGannon Award, which OC. Inc. confers in recognition of special contributions to advancing the role of women and persons of color in the media. As a film critic, writer, producer and director, Sampson has used his talents to promote the work of African-Americans and independent film makers through a wide variety of media.

In 2012, Sampson took his love of film to a new level by creating Picture Lock, a D.C. area entertainment website, TV show and radio show/podcast, which he continues to produce and host. The following year, he became director of the Rosebud Film Festival, dedicated to highlighting the best of independent films. In 2016, he created the D.C. Black Film Festival to promote positive images of African-Americans and exhibit quality video productions by and about people of African descent. He then launched Picture Lock PR to represent and promote some of the independent films and under-promoted stories he sees in his roles as film critic and festival director.

Sampson is a member of the Washington, DC area, North Carolina and African American Film Critic Associations. He holds a master’s of fine arts in film and electronic media from American University and a bachelor’s in media arts from the University of South Carolina.

The Parker Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the 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.  Rev. Dr. Parker died in 2015 at the age of 102.

The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination with nearly 900,000 members and 5,000 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.  

For more information about the 2018 Parker Lecture and Breakfast, or to purchase tickets, go to www.uccmediajustice.org.

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Categories: ParkerLecture



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