Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

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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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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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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