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    UCC Media Justice Update

    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 http://www.digitalads.org/ 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?

    Read more

    Categories: media concentration

    Open Internet Goals

    The United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc., released the following statement in reaction to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Wheeler's statement yesterday, indicating how he plans to move forward on Open Internet:

    Everything about Open Internet policy seems to be a compromise in this politically polarized and legally challenging environment. At the same time, the Commission's decisions in this matter will impact the right to communicate, which is fundamental to a series of questions that impact all aspects of social justice.
     
    Can all people speak with their own, God-given, voices regardless of their incomes or race? Will government actors be able to ensure all children and families have access to broadband in their homes and schools? Will our ability to speak and participate in civic discourse depend on whether we reach the internet via a smartphone or a computer? Can all speech be heard, regardless of its commercial popularity?
     
    We will judge the Commission's ultimate action on whether the communication rights of all people are protected.

    The United Church of Christ is a faith community rooted in justice.  Established in 1959 as part of the civil rights movement, UCC’s Office of Communication, Inc. works to replace the media we have with the media we need to create a just society.

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    Lower Prison Phone Rates Start Today!

    For over ten years a coalition of organizations and individuals has been asking the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) to lower the cost of calling prison, jail or detention centers. Finally, last year we won! The FCC’s new rate caps take effect February 11, 2014.  The new rates will protect families, pastors, community members and others making phone calls to people in prison, jails, or detention centers.  We have prepared a summary and resources to help people apply the new rules.

    New Rate Caps

    On February 11, 2014, the new rate caps adopted by the Federal Communications Commission for telephone calls to people in prison, jail or detention take effect. The FCC caps for interstate calls (calls between two different states) are:

    • 25 cents per minute for collect calls and
    • 21 cents per minute for debit or prepaid calls

    The FCC also capped the total cost of a call between two states, including per-call charges. Those caps are:

    • $3.75 for a 15-minute collect call and
    • $3.15 for a 15-minute debit or prepaid calls

    For calls after February 11, 2014, a charge over these limits is in violation of federal rules.

    Need more help understanding the new rules? See our Frequently Asked Questions and How to File a Complaint at the FCC for Prison Phone Call Charges that are Too High.

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    Categories: prison phone

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