Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

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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Worried about Monolithic Local Media? Support the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry

Worried about Monolithic Local Media? The UCC's media justice ministry is with you -- support us!
Right now we're: in court in 2 places to stop FCC rules enabling Sinclair's consolidation, working with civil rights allies at the FCC to increase media diversity, and writing informative blog posts to keep you up to speed. Read all about it and help keep us going!
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By now you've surely heard about or seen the chilling video of local TV anchors at Sinclair Broadcasting stations around the country mouthing identical words that echo President Trump's attacks on the media. This video, while shocking, is only the tip of the iceberg. You may have just heard about Sinclair's most recent efforts, but at the UCC's media justice ministry, we've been tracking--and fighting against--policies which undermine media diversity and local journalism for years. Sinclair is well known for its ultra conservative news coverage, softball questions for the Trump administration, requiring all of its local affiliates to run opinion pieces from former Trump White House official Boris Epshteyn, and racist assumptions about American Muslims and terrorism (highlighted by HBO’s John Oliver).  And much of Sinclair Broadcasting's efforts would not be permitted if the Federal Communications Commission sustained, and enforced, its media ownership rules. Right now the FCC is reviewing Sinclair's proposed acquisition of Tribune Broadcasting, thus increasing this company's reach to 72 percent of the nation's audience -- far bigger than any other local TV broadcaster.

The United Church of Christ's media justice ministry has been working on media diversity, speaking truth to power, since 1959, when inspired by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Rev. Everett C. Parker led the way in holding local television broadcasters to account for failing to serve their African-American viewers. This ministry, called OC Inc., has been working to support media diversity and locally accountable broadcast journalism for decades.

Right now UCC OC Inc. is:

 

Please sign up for our newsletters so we can keep you informed, and make a donation support our work! With donations like yours, we'll be continuing this ministry to make sure media serves all people.

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Categories: media concentration

Inmate Communications Justice Benefits from New Bipartisan Effort

Sens. Duckworth, Booker, Portman, Schatz introduced today a finely crafted bill that will rightfully return to the FCC its authority to stop predatory prison phone rates across the country. 

 

"This bill is a much-needed remedy to an extremely detrimental court decision last year," said Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor to the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc., a primary backer of the bill. "Families, clergy and loved ones have been suffering for decades and the new legislation will restore power to the Federal Communications Commission to establish just and reasonable rates."

 

After a decade of delay, between 2012 and 2016, the Federal Communications Commission began to address predatory rates to telephone people in prison, jail and detention centers. Over those years the FCC reigned in long distance rates to 21 and 25 cents per minute, capped local rates at the same levels with a few exceptions for smaller jails, and imposed limits on the egregious fees which accompany inmate calling. These rulings were viciously attacked in the courts.

 

Inmate calling companies and a few states (led by then Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt) sued to stop the FCC's rules. Partially in response to an FCC that did not fully defend the rules, a federal appellate court blocked the rules and cramped the authority granted to the FCC. In one most egregious example, the court concluded that the term "fair" meant that rates should be fair to phone companies but need not be fair to consumers. 

 

Ms. Leanza explained, "the Inmate Technical Correction Act is a critical step to ensuring that previous efforts at the FCC are reestablished." FCC Chairman Pai and Commissioner Carr articulated the need for legislation in their confirmation hearing; Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel are outspoken supporters of ending the abuse of consumers in this market.

 

"The entire prison phone justice community owes a debt of gratitude to Senators Duckworth, Booker, Portman and Schatz for joining together and backing this legislation. No one believes the inmate communications market is working, and this bill will put fairness to consumers back into the equation," said Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor for the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc.

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Categories: prison phone



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