Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Many join in remembering Dr. Parker's life

In the days since Dr. Parker's passing last week, we've received and seen so many kind emails, notes and statements about the impact Dr. Parker had on the media and social justice landscapes.  We wanted to share these kind words with everyone.  Please do share your memories of Dr. Parker with us below.  We'll be compiling these and sharing further at the Parker Lecture with a special celebration of his life on October 20, 2015 in Washington DC.


In addition to the national UCC statement, obituaries ran in the New York Times and the Washington Post.


FCC CHAIRMAN WHEELER STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF EVERETT PARKER

--WASHINGTON, September 17, 2015

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler issued the following statement today on the death, at the age of 102, of Rev. Dr. Everett Parker, the man responsible for the public having the ability to challenge FCC actions:

“It was with a heavy heart that I learned of the passing of Rev. Dr. Everett Parker this morning. Dr. Parker was instrumental in ensuring the public could have its voice heard at the FCC, and perhaps no single person has had a greater impact on this country's communications landscape. I was privileged to know Dr. Parker and see his work close up.”


FCC COMMISSIONER MIGNON L. CLYBURN STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF REV. DR. EVERETT PARKER
 

I just got word that a civil rights giant, Rev. Dr. Everett Parker, passed away this morning. Considered by many a founder of the “Media Justice Movement,” he established the United Church of Christ Office of Communication, “a media reform and accountability ministry with a civil rights agenda.” He was committed to improving the coverage and employment of women and people of color in broadcasting and other media before it was “cool."

In 1964, along with the NAACP and at the urging of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Parker petitioned the FCC to deny the license renewal of WLBT, a local broadcast station in Jackson, Mississippi with ties to the White Citizens Council. The station openly used its platform to oppose the integration of the local universities. While the FCC denied their petition, the Supreme Court – in 1969 – ruled that the broadcast industry was required to serve the public interest and the station was ultimately stripped of its license. This case was foundational in determining that there is a recognized connection between the use of publicly-owned airwaves by private companies and a duty to serve the public.

 

I met this incredible man around the time of his 97th birthday. He was engaged, supportive and sage (forecasting the day when there would be a female chair of the FCC). I never forgot those words and sent him a note thanking him for voicing that sentiment during my term as Acting Chair.

 

As an FCC Commissioner completing her sixth year of federal service, I will never turn my back on the important legacy and work of Everett Parker. Too many take for granted the fruits of his labor. I never will.

 

Well done. Rest in Peace.


Everett Parker was a special hero of mine.  I counted on his wisdom, his unique perspective, and his impassioned commitment to media justice and the public interest while I was at the FCC and after.  He made history in opening up the media, not just in the south, but across the land.  He kept up the fight for media that reflect the great diversity of America long after his historic victory on WLBT.  Our best memorial to this truly great American is to keep fighting for the principles he fought for and personified.

-- Michael J. Copps, Common Cause, former FCC Commissioner and former Acting FCC Chair


I join the United Church of Christ-Office of Communications  family in mourning the transition of Reverend Everett Parker. His visionary leadership opened the doors of opportunity to broadcast media for me and thousands of others.

 

The landmark UCC v FCC case had its roots in challenging racially discriminatory broadcast practices at Lamar Life Broadcasting licensee WLBT TV in Jackson, Mississippi. It was the same station that civil rights leader Medgar Wiley Evers began petitioning in 1957‎ for an opportunity to speak on behalf of the black community. He was finally permitted time on WLBT in 1963. One month later, Evers was assasinated. Many believe that his appearance on WLBT made him a target.

 

Two years later, Reverend Parker began what would become a decades-long license challenge to WLBT-TV,as well as a battle against the FCC which wanted to renew WLBT'S license (The saga is described in meticulous detail in CHANGING CHANNELS by Kay Mills). I do not know for sure, but I would like to believe that Reverend Parker selected WLBT, in part, to finish the work that Evers so bravely began.

 

During his years in Mississippi, Reverend Parker also faced threats to his own safety and that of others who assisted him in the complicated and expensive effort leading to the landmark  UCC  v FCC decision. When broadcasters realized that "...public interest, convenience and necessity.." in the 1934 Communications Act meant  all  of the public, barriers to hiring , promotion and, eventually, ownership began to crumble.  Reverend Parker cannot receive too much credit for triggering  a revolution in media licensed by the  FCC.

 

After retiring from active status with the UCC-OC, Reverend Parker shared his wisdom with students and colleagues at Fordham University, where he served as an adjunct professor. He was also a  founder of the Donald McGannon Communications Research Center.

Randall Pinkston
Lamar Life Broadcasting /WJDX-FM & AM, WLBT-TV 
Post-Newsweek Stations /WJXT-TV, WFSB-TV 
CBS / WCBS-TV, CBS NETWORK NEWS 
Al Jazeera Media/Al Jazeera America 


Benton Foundation Celebrates the Life of Reverend Everett C. Parker

Reverend Everett C. Parker, director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ from 1954 until 1983, died on September 17, 2015. Parker played a critical role in the development of public interest of American television. His leadership led to the development of an influential media reform and citizen action movement in broadcasting; and his activism directed at improved broadcast employment prospects for women and minorities. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss:

“All of us at the Benton Foundation are saddened by the news of Rev Parker’s passing. His work inspires us, the public interest community, and all advocates for a better world. His mission, shared by the Benton Foundation, is to give help to people who are voiceless, so that they may be heard. In 2012, our founder, Charles Benton, received the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of his many years of leadership and support for promoting the public interest in traditional and digital media. In accepting the award, Charles highlighted three lessons from Rev Parker’s life that serve for a model for us at the foundation: 1) The work has to be driven by an ethic. 2) You need patience; it takes a while to accomplish things. 3) Don’t be afraid of difficult challenges. We are thankful for these lessons today and embrace them as we endeavor to carry on Rev Parker’s work for years to come.”

Please also see:

Finding Your Voice” by Charles Benton (30th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Award)

Reform: The Everett Parker Way” by former FCC Chairman Michael Copps


I shouldn't feel sad. His life was a real beacon, and lived to 102, so what's to feel sad about? But I do. I met him only twice and just plain admired him.  I guess he makes me wish I had done more. He also gives me hope that I still can.

- Mike Hickcox

 former president of Religion Communicators Council, communications director Society of St Andrew


I am so sorry to learn of Dr Parker's passing.  He was and is one of the true models for me of living the life God gives us to the fullest of our potential and using that full life in service to others.

--Nicholas Miller, Best, Best & Krieger


World Association of Christian Communication
By Staff on September 17, 2015

Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker passed away on 17 September 2015 at the age of 102.

Dr. Parker was a member of WACC's Central Committee in the 1970s, representing both the North America Regional Association (NARA) and the North America Broadcast Section (NABS).

Dr. Parker had previously been a founding member of the US-based Radio, Visual Education and Mass Communication Committee (RAVEMCCO), one of the groups that later joined with the World Association for Christian Broadcasting (WCCB) to form WACC. 

From 1945 until 1957, Parker was a lecturer in communication at Yale Divinity School, and from 1949 until 1954, he also headed the Communication Research Project, the first major study of religious broadcasting. 

The project resulted in the definitive work on religious broadcasting for nearly two decades, The Television-Radio Audience and Religion, co-authored by Parker, David Barry and Dallas Smythe.

In 1957 he was the first director of Communications for the newly-formed United Church of Christ. In that role he founded the United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc., a media reform and accountability ministry with a civil rights agenda, that worked to improve the coverage and employment of women and people of color in broadcasting and other media.

Dr. Parker was named one of the most influential men in broadcasting by the trade publication Broadcasting Magazine and is featured in the Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television.


 
Democracy Now!

Remembering Everett Parker

(1913-2015), Father of Media Reform Movement


Broadcasting & Cable

Everett Parker Dies at 102

Tributes Continue for Everett Parker


Communications Daily

Everett Parker, 102, civil rights defender, founder of the United Church of Christ Office of Communication (UCC OC) and trailblazer in setting a precedent for public participation in FCC proceedings, died Thursday, longtime friends and allies told us. He died after a possible stroke at a hospital in White Plains, New York, said Cheryl Leanza, policy adviser to the UCC. In a 1966 U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision against the FCC, UCC OC under Parker established the right of anyone to participate in proceedings before the agency, the group said. He directed UCC OC until 1983. Parker is survived by a son, a daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Funeral details will be forthcoming, and donations can be made in his honor to UCC. Statements honoring Parker flowed in the hours after UCC OC announced his death Thursday, including from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Parker was “the man responsible for the public having the ability to challenge FCC actions,” noted Wheeler’s statement. “Perhaps no single person has had a greater impact on this country’s communications landscape,” he said. Parker “was special hero of mine,” said ex-Commissioner Michael Copps, now Common Cause special adviser.


What Everett C. Parker Gave Me (intersections)

Editor’s note: Everett Parker was tough and feisty. He had to be in order to take on the racism during the civil rights movement and beyond through his pioneering work on behalf of the public interest in media. But as his wife, Geneva, became ill towards the end of her life, I was privileged to witness his softer side as he cared for her, fed her, spoke gently to her. These very private moments convinced me that his righteous anger was rooted in kindness and compassion, the surest way to accomplish sustained and transformative change. — Bob Chase

Everett C. Parker died this week at the age of 102.

Parker changed America and the world by leading the movement to hold broadcasters accountable to the public interest. Among many important accomplishments, he dedicated his life to establishing diversity in the media and opening opportunities to minorities and women. He understood and taught us that how news, art and programming is created makes a difference in the end-product. It does matter if women and people of color are behind the camera, in the anchor chair, running the stations, or even owning the stations.

On a personal note, my relationship with Everett taught me a lot about relationships, mentorship and love.

My own career started as a lawyer, working in 1970 with Ralph Nader in the public interest law firm called “The Public Interest Research Group” or PIRG. After a stint in Army JAG and a law firm, I returned in 1978 to take over an organization then called the National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting (NCCB) at the request of Nader and Nicholas Johnson. NCCB was a citizen membership organization devoted to “talking back to our television station” as Johnson would say. NCCB had emerged based on the work of Everett Parker. The group challenged the license of broadcasters and established the rule that broadcast licenses were temporary grants to operate on behalf of the viewers and listeners, and therefore viewers and listeners could challenge how the broadcasters operated.

It was during this time that I met Everett. He wasn’t happy to see me — a new guy on the block, a kid who really had no experience in communications advocacy. Everett wanted to be sure that I was not in this for myself; but rather for the sake of the cause. It took me a good while to win his confidence.

There was a time in my career where my work became controversial among some of those in the “public interest community.” A lot of folks then (and still) see the world in “either/or” terms, and my work seeking middle ground with business angered a number of advocates. Everett reassured me and urged me on, believing that more gets done with building bridges than digging trenches. When the kitchen got hot for me I would often seek time with Everett who would not turn down the heat as much as reassure me that it came with the territory and that I should stay the course and sweat it out.

There are many things that I am thankful to Everett for, but one that stands out is his introduction of me to the Rev. Robert Chase who was Everett’s third generation successor at the Office of Communications of the United Church of Christ. Everett somehow knew Bob and I would become great collaborators and deep friends.

In some ways, I am here today writing this blog, performing my play (The Actual Dance), and doing the work that I was meant to do because Everett Parker loved me and supported me and introduced me to Bob.

I know I am not the only one who owes much of their own opportunity and success to his great spirit. My hope is that I can be as generous and loving to others as Everett was to me.

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