Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, Father of the Media Reform Movement, Reaches 100 Years

Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, Father of the Media Reform Movement, Reaches 100 Years

Everett ParkerEpic battles over the limits on the number of TV or radio stations one company can own…the fight for open Internet …the biggest fine in FCC history …the current fight against predatory prison phone rates…rules promoting transparency for political advertisingpublic participation in merger reviews, like AT&T’s attempted purchase of T-Mobile.

What do all of these events and decisions have in common?  None of them would have been possible without the efforts of a man who turns 100 this week—Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, founder of the media reform movement and founder of OC Inc.  Thanks to Parker’s  efforts,  members of the public can make their voices heard at the Federal Communications Commission, whether that means weighing in on the importance of media in our democracy or making sure people in prison are not exploited by telephone company gouging.

But that was not always the case. Back in 1959, Everett Parker was serving as communications director of the newly formed United Church of Christ when the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Young asked the denomination for its support in the early days of the civil rights movement. King complained that southern television stations were editing the nightly news shows to remove all coverage of the civil rights movement, and asked the denomination to help.

With support from the national church, Parker traveled throughout the South, watched TV, recruited monitors and eventually challenged the broadcast license of WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi. At first the FCC refused to acknowledge that individuals could challenge the awarding of broadcast licenses, but Parker and his supporters continued to pursue their fight.  In 1966, a federal court agreed that individuals had standing before the FCC and in 1969, the court ordered the FCC to strip WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi, of its license. In 1980, the license was awarded to a minority-controlled group, the first time African Americans were put in charge of a powerful VHF station.  

Everett Parker and FCC Commissioner CoppsParker turns 100 years old today.  The work that the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc. (OC Inc.) started under his leadership more than 50 years ago continues to be carried out, even as technologies evolve and the media landscape changes.  OC Inc. and the wider United Church of Christ continue to advocate for policies to promote diverse media voices and to protect the access of underserved people to telephone and Internet services. Parker’s legacy is also celebrated at the annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture, which recognizes persons who have pursued the ideals that characterized his work.

Read the United Church of Christ's tribute and former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps's tribute honoring Dr. Parker's centennial. He is featured in the Nation today.  Read more about Dr. Parker and the organization he founded.

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