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Posts in category: "press release"

Mourning the Passing of Charles Benton

Charles and Marjorie Benton with Rev. Jesse L. Jackson at the 2012 Parker Lecture

Photo credit: Liz Roll

The United Church of Christ is mourning today's news that Charles Benton, chair and previous executive director of the Benton Foundation, passed away last evening.


"Charles has been a champion of the public interest in media and communications for so long, it will be difficult to imagine the space without him," said Cheryl Leanza, UCC OC Inc.'s policy advisor.  "Charles' passion for improving the lives of others was an essential part of who he was.  He never stopped looking for a way to press ahead."


"Charles was a great of example of using might for right," observed Earl Williams, Chair of OC Inc.  "We were so pleased to give him the Parker Award in 2012 as a tribute to his lifetime of work."


Leanza noted Charles' work included making provisions for the future of the Benton Foundation, "Even as he remained actively involved in media reform and communications rights, Charles was wise enough to put the Foundation in the capable hands of his daughter Adrianne Furniss, thus assuring the continued vibrancy of the Benton Foundation."


The prayers of the OC Inc. Board, staff, and volunteers are with Marjorie, Adrianne, and the rest of the Benton family and the Benton Foundation.

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Categories: press release

Civil Rights, Media Justice, and Labor Groups Applaud the FCC for Further Action on Unfair Prison Phone Rates

Contact Info:
Stephanie Vanegas, 415-495-4200 ext.101 | stephanie@spitfirestrategies.com

Washington D.C. – In response to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voting to approve a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, to comprehensively reform interstate and intrastate inmate calling services for prisons and detention facilities, civil rights, media justice, and labor groups released the following statement:

“The FCC’s plan to address the cost of local telephone calls to prison, jails and immigration detention facilities is another step toward reducing the unfair financial burden on incarcerated people and their families. We applaud Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn’s leadership to ensure that inmates can maintain contact withparents and grandparents, children, spouses, siblings, clergy and friends.

Preserving the most reliable way for inmates to keep relationships that matter is one of the best ways to ensure our communities are safer and to decrease re-offenses and reentry into the criminal justice system.

By taking further action, the FCC can finish the job and eliminate predatory phone rates entirely. The agency has an opportunity to increase transparency in an industry that profits from outrageous fees at the expense of families and address the terrible situation facing inmates with disabilities who often cannot communicate with the outside world.

The civil rights, media justice, and labor community stands behind Wheeler and Clyburn because all families deserve the right to stay connected at reasonable and fair rates, as mandated by the Communications Act.  We look forward to rapid completion of this next phase of the FCC’s work."

American Friends Service Committee
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Center for Media Justice
Common Cause
Communications Workers of America
Free Press
Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD)
Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice of UCIMC
Media Alliance
Media Literacy Project
Open Technology Institute, New America
Prison Policy Initiative
Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts
Public Knowledge
National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low income clients
National Hispanic Media Coalition
New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

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Categories: prison phone  |  press release

UCC OC Inc. Statement Upon Wheeler Confirmation

The United Church of Christ, OC Inc., the UCC's media justice advocacy ministry looks forward to working with Tom Wheeler as he begins his tenure as Chair of the Obama Administration's Federal Communications Commission.  Mr. Wheeler was confirmed by the Senate as Chairman last night, along with Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly.
Mr. Wheeler brings decades of experience from all sectors of the communications industry and an expressed commitment to important public interest values such as universal service and competition.  Because of his background, Mr. Wheeler possesses a unique opportunity to make strides toward including all people in the vibrant world of media and telecommunications.  Our economies, and our telecommunications networks, create the most value when all people can participate as users, creators and entrepreneurs. 
Acting Chairwoman Clyburn's successful term positioned Mr. Wheeler well to address many issues of importance to the civil rights and social justice communities.  In particular, her initiation of the Critical Information Needs research protocol, implementing Section 257 of the Communications Act, has put the agency in a position to adequately assess the needs of the media ecosystem for the first time in more than a decade.  "Ms. Clyburn's tenure demonstrated that the only barrier to advancing the civil rights agenda at the FCC is the determination and commitment of the person leading the agency," noted Cheryl Leanza, UCC OC Inc.'s policy advisor.   "We are gratified she was able to end the 10-year process of evaluating predatory prison phone rates with a detailed and unassailable rulemaking this year."  Earl Williams, Chair of UCC OC Inc. continued, "We praise her commitment to heed every voice from every sector impacted by the agency, reaching beyond the usual suspects in industry to the people most closely linked to the ordinary Americans whose prosperity, education, and safety depends on the nation's communications infrastructure.   Mr. Wheeler will have an able hand by his side to offer counsel as he becomes more familiar with the full sweep of the agency's mandate, and will be able to draw on her inclusive vision of communications policy."
UCC OC Inc. looks forward to continuing to work with Mr. Wheeler, Ms. Clyburn, Commissioners Rosenworcel and Pai, and newly confirmed Commissioner O'Rielly as they address the many critical issues before the agency. 

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Categories: press release

GMP Rev. Geoffrey Black Praises FCC Prison Phone Vote Tomorrow

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), led by Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn scheduled a vote tomorrow on a long-pending petition to reform predatory prison phone rates.  The United Church of Christ's media justice and communications rights ministry, called Office of Communication, Inc., has been active in promoting the cause of justice at the FCC.  In anticipation of the vote tomorrow, Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ issued the following statement:

Less than a year ago, I joined inmate families as they rallied outside the FCC asking for an end to long distance predatory prison phone rates.  Tomorrow the FCC will act under the leadership of Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, who heard the call of justice.  We offer Chairwoman Clyburn and her staff our gratitude for taking action and ending 10 years of delay.  We are very proud of the role the UCC’s historic media justice ministry played in bringing about the FCC vote.

For more information about this issue, visit our web page, www.uccmediajustice.org/prisonphones.

Press contact: Cheryl Leanza, UCC OC Inc. policy advisor: 202-904-2168


The United Church of Christ is a faith community rooted in justice that recognizes the unique power of the media to shape public understanding and thus society.  For this reason, UCC’s Office of Communication, Inc. (OC, Inc.) works to create just and equitable media structures that give meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas.  Established in 1959, OC Inc. ultimately established the right of all citizens to participate at the Federal Communications Commission as part of its efforts to ensure a television broadcaster in Jackson, MS served its African-American viewers during the civil rights movement. 

The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ has 5,700 local congregations across the United States.  It was formed by the 1957 union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

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Categories: prison phone  |  press release

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