Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Statement in Response to UHF Discount Court Decision

The following can be attributed to Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor to the United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

Today's decision in the D.C. Circuit rejecting the UCC media justice ministry's and other public interest petitioners' challenge to the technologically obsolete UHF discount does not bear on the validity of the Trump FCC decision to reimpose that rule.  The D.C. Circuit's per curium decision was on a technical point, unique to the D.C. Circuit, that standing (i.e. concrete and specific harm to petitioners) must be shown in petitioners' initial filing.  UCC OC Inc., its members and the members of the other petitioners are concretely harmed when media ownership rules permit consolidation and our court filings demonstrated this.  While disappointing, this decision does not bear on the other cases pending and to come if the Commission's decision-making process continues down its present path of arbitrary, capricious and extra-legal decision-making.

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Pressure to Stop Tribune-Sinclair Merger Bears Fruit

Today Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai announced that he is proposing to designate for hearing several issues surrounding the Sinclair-Tribune proposed merger. Mr. Pai stated he was doing so because "certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law." Commissioner Rosenworcel rapidly signaled her support.


Cheryl A. Leanza, UCC OC Inc.'s policy advisor stated, "The Commission's proposed action is appropriate, as UCC's media justice ministry has pointed out from the beginning, because this transaction deserves serious scrutiny. This is good news for anyone who values competition and multiple viewpoints in news and on television."


Typically, designating a proposed merger for hearing means the transaction is withdrawn, and UCC OC Inc. hopes the same action follows today's announcement. Leanza noted, "All of the merger's opponents deserve recognition for their steadfast opposition to a merger that was previously believed to be inevitable."


Leanza continued, "While we celebrate the likely end to the Sinclair-Tribune transaction, the FCC has taken steps in the last year to invite this kind of abuse of its rules by repealing previous policies that prohibit stations from, as the Chairman said, 'control[ling] stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.'" In particular, under Chairman Pai, the FCC adopted two decisions that treat stations as independent from each other even if they jointly sell advertising time or jointly produce news (to name two examples). The FCC should quickly stop allowing companies to end-run around its rules as Sinclair proposed to do. And Congress should follow suit, by ending its requirement that the FC grandfather existing combinations of this type until 2025.


UCC OC Inc. filings against Sinclair:

Petition to Deny (August 8, 2017)

Petition to Deny (filed June 20, 2018)

Letter supporting delay in Sinclair transaction (filed July 9, 2018)

Reply to Sinclair Tribune (filed July 12, 2018)

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Categories: media concentration

Helen Brunner to Give Parker Lecture; Gigi B. Sohn to Be Honored with Parker Award

Two longtime advocates instrumental in shaping the media justice field will be honored October 11, 2018 at the 36th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture in Washington DC, the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry announced.

Helen Brunner, founding director of the Media Democracy Fund, will deliver this year’s lecture, while Gigi B. Sohn, a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award. 

The event, sponsored by the UCC’s Office of Communication, Inc. (OC Inc.), will be held at 8 a.m. October 11 at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 945 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets or sponsorship information, click here. 

For almost forty years, Brunner has been essential in educating philanthropists—and by extension much of the countryabout the inter-relationships among arts, media, technology and democracy. Her work at the Albert A. List Foundation between 1996 and 2004 led Brunner to launch the Media Democracy Fund in 2006. With MDF, she built one of the first philanthropic organizations dedicated to promoting policies to protect the public’s communications rights in the digital age. She serves as an adviser to the Quixote Foundation’s media reform program and has been recognized by the Council on Foundations with the Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking. 

“We are delighted to recognize Helen’s visionary grantmaking and education in designating her this year’s lecturer,” said Cheryl A. Leanza, the organization’s policy advisor. “Without her support, so many of the visionary leaders in the media justice movement today—particularly leaders of color and women—would not be in the position they are now. This year’s lecture audience will have a great opportunity to hear her insights into the future intersections among technology, justice and democracy.” 

Sohn will receive the Parker Award in recognition of 30 years of work in support of greater public access to affordable and open broadband technologies. Sohn began her work on media policy at Media Access Project, taking a leadership role in the transition to digital television and serving on the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television. She helped to reinvigorate the Ford Foundation’s support of media and democracy during her tenure there. From 2001-2013, she served as co-founder and CEO of Public Knowledge, a leading technology policy advocacy organization. She then moved to the Federal Communications Commission, where she served as counselor to Chairman Tom Wheeler from 2013 to 2016. She is just completing a year as an Open Society Foundations Leadership in Government Fellow and as a Mozilla Fellow and is currently Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate. 

“Gigi Sohn’s name is synonymous with the public interest in technology and media, and has been for almost thirty years,” said Earl Williams, chair of the OC Inc. Board of Directors. “It is difficult to list the policy issues where she made a difference because there are so many of them. We are proud to extend to her this honor.” 

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. 

The Parker Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize 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.

Tickets are availableLearn more about the lecture and its sponsors.

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Categories: ParkerLecture

Predatory Inmate Calling Rates

Categories: prison phone

Celebrating a Net Neutrality Win!

The UCC's media justice ministry, OC Inc., celebrates the historic 52-47 vote in the U.S. Senate to save our net neutrality protections. Cheryl Leanza OC Inc.'s policy advisor said, "Through our Faithful Internet campaign we have worked with people of all faiths and of moral conscience to speak out for our right to fair treatment on the Internet networks we use every day.  We particularly welcome the amazing champions in the Senate and the Republican members who crossed party lines--Senators Collins, Murkowski and Kennedy--to make this a bipartisan vote."


The next step for the campaign to protect Net Neutrality is a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. Right now our Net Neutrality leaders in the house are pushing hard to get a vote there before the FCC's repeal of net neutrality protections takes effect on June 11.


As Valarie Kaur, Faithful Internet's co-founder, said from the beginning "Every issue we care about and all facets of our life’s work require an open online space. We simply can’t talk about immigration or gun violence or anything else without it. Now it’s as though we are being asked to pay for the air we breathe."


The momentum is with us, public opinion is with us, communities of faith and moral conscious are with us. When these things work together, we are united for change and nothing can stop us.


Ms. Leanza urged all communities to speak out leading up to the House vote, "Not only are Net Neutrality protections critical for our political and civic activism, an open Internet is essential for core functions for all faith communities, like bringing elders to worship, fund raising, keeping the lights on, and more. Our U. S. Representatives must hear from all of us. The next step will be challenging, but Net Neutrality supporters are well-practiced at defying expectations because we work together with people across the U.S."

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