Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

37th Annual Parker Lecture Honorees Underscore the Importance of “Remembering Our Stories”

Press Contact: Cheryl Leanza
Cell: 202-904-2168


Three media justice advocates stressed the importance of retelling stories—and telling them accurately—at the 37th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast today in Washington, DC, sponsored by the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, the Office of Communication, Inc.

The Rev. Julian DeShazier, senior pastor of University Church in Chicago and the Emmy Award-winning hip-hop artist J.Kwest, brought the full range of his skills to his Parker Lecture address. To underscore his theme, he began with a rap:

“. . . Is Chicago making
A different kind of statement, you looking at me

Like please stop rapping! So I can hear what you’re saying

American way, to reject another language
American angst, try to HEAR what I’m saying

I’m saying THAT DAY won’t come, ‘til we make it . . .” 

DeShazier related a parable of the Akan people of Ghana about “Sankofa,” a bird who struck out from her community until she was bullied by “Big Bird,” and returned home, regretting that she had ever left. But then her village told her, “Don’t forget us this time. Don’t forget who are you are.” With her confidence renewed, she returned to confront Big Bird and found that he was gone.

The lesson, DeShazier said, is “you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.” Sankofa, he said, “reminds us that the past and future are tied together, that destiny is not only a matter of will but of knowing where you and your people have been, what that creates in us. Identity formed through the past, which means the story must be told, told well, and told rightly. 

“Sankofa is what reminds embattled people, forgotten people, disinherited people who traverse a sky full of Big Birds – the Big Bird of xenophobia, the Big Bird of poverty, the Big Bird of corporatized education, militarized peacekeeping – Big Bird does not want you to have your story, because with your story comes your identity and with an anchored sense of being no thing and no one can get in your way.

“Sankofa is our reminder that stories carry within them the power to make people and the power to remove them: the power of life and death.”

DeShazier’s message was underscored by the stories told by those who were recognized with awards at this year’s event.

Cayden Mak, executive director of 18 Million Rising, an online organization that builds community in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, received the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of his work in support of greater public access to affordable and open broadband technologies. Mak described how as a queer youth, “the Internet saved by life.” Growing up feeling “isolated and weird,” the Internet enabled him to “find people like me.”

But, he noted, “the social web has become a lot less social.” Before “the ideology,” he said, it embraced “the search for belonging.” But he asserted that he still believed “we can have an Internet built on care,” and a technology that is “expansive not expensive.”

Sarah Macharia, global coordinator of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), traveled from Kenya to accept the Donald H. McGannon Award on behalf of her organization. The McGannon award recognizes special contributions in advancing the role of women and persons of color in the media; the GMMP is the longest and largest longitudinal study of women in the media—both their presence and how they are covered—in the world. The project’s next study, conducted at five-year intervals, will take place in 2020 and is expected to involve volunteers in 130 companies.

Macharia described how the project began in 1995, monitoring the media in 70 countries. The idea “was not an idle curiosity but came out of frustration over the media’s seeming lack of respect for the integrity and dignity of women the world over.”

“Think of the stream that becomes a river as tributaries merge into it, bringing life to the land through which it crosses,” she said.  “So it is with the GMMP, as more countries and tens of thousands of volunteers have joined in.” The project is “three things in one: It is a research project, it is an action network and it is an activist movement.”

Macharia noted that the project had determined that “out of every four people seen, heard or read about in the mainstream news media globally, only one is a woman. Based on the trends, we forecast it will take at least three quarters of a century to reach parity.”  The problem, she said, was “more or less identical the world over, whether in the USA, in Uruguay or in Uganda.”

The event celebrated the 60th anniversary of OC Inc. Participants recalled how media monitoring was important to the early work of the Rev. Parker, who founded OC Inc. in 1959. Parker organized volunteers to monitor television stations in the Deep South to demonstrate that they were failing to cover the local African-American community. In 1963, he filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission that ultimately stripped WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., of its broadcast license.The court case also established the principle that the public could participate in matters before the agency, a principle that OC Inc. helped successfully defend, with other advocacy partners, in a federal appeals court case this past year.

OC Inc. created the Parker Lecture in 1983 to recognize its founder’s pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting.


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, 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 such social issues 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

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Court Victory for Equity in Communications!

The UCC's media justice ministry, OC Inc., won a great victory for racial and gender equity in communications because U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned a decision of the Federal Communications Commission's decision permitting radically increased media consolidation for the fourth time.

The court found the FCC ignores impact of the consolidation on ownership by women and people of color.   The UCC's media justice ministry (OC Inc.) was part of a coalition challenging the rules.  The ruling also affirmed that the challengers had "standing" or the legal right to sue the FCC. The standing decision is of particular meaning to the United Church of Christ because ordinary citizens' right to sue the FCC was first established by the UCC in the 1960s.

Cheryl A. Leanza, who is the ministry's policy advisor and also lead counsel on the case said, "The Federal Communications Commission has not learned its lesson, even after almost 20 years of litigation. The law says the FCC must consider how its rules impact ownership by women and people of color. The FCC treated its obligation as less-important than high school math homework and it got caught turning in work that, according to the court, 'would receive a failing grade in any introductory statistics class.'"

Leanza continued, "Not only did the FCC ignore its obligation to diversity, but the Third Circuit opinion upholds the right of public interest organizations and ordinary individuals to sue the FCC. The UCC's legacy in this regard is critically important. And reasoned federal decision-making should not fear court review."  Members of the UCC assisted in this work by writing declarations showing the harm of consolidation.

As a result of this decision, fewer mergers in local TV and radio will occur and the FCC must return to the drawing board on its most recent proposals for even greater consolidation in local media.

For more background on this case, read our previous blog posts:

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This Year's Parker Honorees: DeShazier, Mak, Global Media Monitoring Project

UCC OC Inc. is pleased to announce this year's honorees.  Learn more about the lecture and obtain tickets.





WASHINGTON—A diverse group of persons and organizations will be honored October 17 for the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry’s 37th annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast.


The Rev. Julian De Shazier, senior pastor of University Church in Chicago, will deliver this year’s Parker Lecture. DeShazier, under the name J.Kwest, is an Emmy award-winning hip-hop artist, featured in the video “Strange Fruit.” He is a faculty member at McCormick Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago Divinity School. DeShazier has been recognized by the Center for American Progress as one of “10 Faith Leaders to Watch” in 2018 and by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of “40 under 40” leaders in that city.  DeShazier was instrumental in establishing an adult trauma center on the South Side of Chicago, currently serves on the University of Chicago Medicine Community Advisory Council (CAC).  He is a regular contributor to Sojourners, ON Scripture, and HuffPost publications and has appeared on ABC, FOX, NPR and Dr. Maya Angelou’s “Oprah & Friends” radio program.


Cayden Mak, executive director of 18 Million Rising, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award, in recognition of his work to provide a voice to persons of color and underrepresented communities. 18MR builds identity, belonging, and community power online in the Asian Americans and Pacific Islander community. Prior to becoming executive director, Mak was chief technology officer at 18MR, leading the team that created VoterVOX, a tool designed to help locate volunteer translation services for voters with limited proficiency in English. In addition, Mak was a cofounder of, New York Students Rising, and an officer and staff organizer for the Communications Workers of America.


The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) of the World Association of Christian Communication (WACC) will receive the Donald H. McGannon Award in recognition of special contributions to advancing the role of women and persons of color in the media. The project is the largest advocacy initiative in the world seeking to improve the representation of women in the media. Every five years since 1995, it has conducted the largest and longest-running longitudinal study of gender in the world’s media, including such metrics as the numbers of women versus men, gender bias, and gender stereotyping in content. It involves participants ranging from grass-roots observers to academic researchers to media practitioners, all of whom serve on a volunteer basis. Its next survey, in 2020, is expected to involve volunteers in 130 countries. Sarah Macharia, the principal editor of the 2010 and 2015 GMMP reports, GMMP global coordinator and WACC’s gender and communication program manager, will be traveling from Africa to attend the Parker Lecture and accept the award on behalf of her organization. Macharia represents WACC on the board of the UNESCO-initiated Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG) that promotes gender equality in the media.


The Parker Lecture and Awards Breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. on October 17, 2019 at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, DC. 


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. Parker founded the UCC’s Office of Communication, Inc., sixty years ago to successfully challenge the broadcast license of a Jackson, Mississippi, television station for failing to serve the public interest and cover the local African American community.


The subsequent court battle established the right of ordinary citizens to participate in regulatory proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission. Today, those battles continue around such issues as Net Neutrality, prison telephone rate reform, and broadcast industry consolidation.


The Parker Lecture is the only event of its kind in the United States to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective.

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Behind the Scenes in Fighting for Media Justice in Court

On June 11, 2019, the UCC's media justice ministry's policy advisor, Cheryl Leanza, argued in federal court against the Federal Communications Commission's new rules that permit significantly more consolidation in radio and television. Ms. Leanza, who is also counsel at the law firm Best, Best & Krieger, argued on behalf of UCC OC Inc. and the other public interest petitioners against the FCC in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which sits in Philadelphia.  

The public interest organizations' core argument is that the FCC failed to consider whether its decision would harm ownership in broadcasting by women and people of color. The court appeared receptive.

In particular, the court was concerned that the FCC had de-linked the impact of consolidation from race and gender ownership diversity based on a flimsy historical analysis that, among other flaws, used racial minority ownership data but did not include data about women. The judges repeatedly pointed out that the FCC had no data on women.  One judge remarked, "Ten times zero is still zero," and "If we approve this, the headlines will read '3rd Circuit flunks statistics 101.'"

Another important point under debate was the effectiveness of two similarly named but slightly different definitions, called "eligible entities," which the FCC supposedly uses to increase ownership diversity. But the FCC conceded the first version of the definition won't help promote diversity--even after the same court had sent back the definition in the last two rounds of litigation. The second version of the term is part of a program to promote diverse radio ownership, but that program left no policy to promote diversity television ownership. And the data the FCC used to create that definition showed that at least 80 percent of the beneficiaries will not be women or people of color.

In addition to the main case about deregulation and race/gender ownership diversity, two other petitioners argued. The Minority and Media Telecommunications Council (MMTC) argued about flaws in the radio incubator program, and a group of television owners (Independent Television Group) asked the court to end the restriction on top-4 TV combinations. 
Listen to a recording of the oral argument. Cheryl’s argument starts around 18:40, and her rebuttal is around 1:14:20.
For more background on this case, read our previous blog posts:

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Sustaining our Leadership Role, UCC Members Speak out in Federal Court to Stop Media Mergers

Friday April 12, UCC OC Inc. continued its effort to block federal rules that are permitting vastly increased consolidation in television, radio and newspapers in local communities. Following up on its opening brief, filed last December, UCC OC Inc. and its allies filed their response to the Federal Communications Commission and industry briefs which defend consolidation. 


The question of legal "standing" is an important issue at this stage of the case. In order to bring a lawsuit, a person or an organization must have standing, that is, must demonstrate that they have been, or will be, harmed by the actions they are challenging. The UCC has a special connection to legal standing, as OC Inc.'s groundbreaking lawsuits in the 1960s under the leadership of Rev. Everett Parker, established the right of viewers and listeners to participate at the FCC and in court. Today, the doctrine of standing has been narrowed over the years by the courts, raising barriers to participation. Without standing, ordinary people and public interest organizations cannot legally protect the rights of viewers, listeners and independent content creators.


In the case of the current suit, UCC OC Inc. showed that the church has standing--through harm to its members and harm to its own work caused by the federal rule changes. To do this, UCC OC Inc. relied on declarations of a proud UCC member and its board chair. OC Inc. is very grateful to Tony Miller, of St. John's UCC in Chambersburg, PA, near Harrisburg. His declaration showed that if local TV news is degraded, he might have trouble protecting the earth by tracking the permit approval process of a local powerline proposal. He would also have less information about his home community of Shippensburg, PA, and would receive even less information about local efforts to protect LGBTQ rights or local primary elections. UCC OC Inc.'s board chair, Earl Williams, Jr., member of South Euclid UCC in Cleveland, explained that the church's work as a whole is harmed by media mergers and the lack of representation in media and news. Citing the General Synod resolutions on Anti-Racism in the Church, Williams explained that when members of the church do not receive sufficient information from local media, the UCC "must work harder to educate our members about the history of race in the United States, the impact of structural racism, and the present-day incarnations of that racism."


Ravi Kapur, winner of OC Inc.'s 2017 McGannon Award and member of Free Press (one of the other participants in the suit) described the impact of consolidation on his efforts, as an entrepreneur of South Asian descent, to serve underserved communities. He owns TV stations in Chicago, San Francisco, and Orlando and in Fargo, ND and owns Diya TV, the first 24-hour U.S. broadcast network serving the South Asian audience, broadcasting to more than 70 million people in a dozen markets nationwide. Kapur described the challenges of expanding his company and successfully serving communities in given widespread media consolidation. He highlighted the innovation creative station owners can bring, explaining his TV station in Fargo "produces more local programming than every other television station in North Dakota combined" and his new efforts to create a new stream of Native American programming there.


These UCC members and allies are helping to push back rules that will permit more consolidation in local media. If these rules had not been changed, mergers like the mega-merger proposed by Sinclair Broadcasting or the Nexstar takeover of Tribune would not be possible. Studies show that people still rely tremendously on local TV news--even people who read their news on the Internet rely on local TV journalism, especially at the current time when so many local newspapers are failing.


Your support of OC Inc.'s work makes this effort possible.

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