Office of Communications, Inc.

Posts by: Cheryl

FCC's Shameful Assault on Access to Information, Implications Widespread

The following can be attributed to Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor to the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, OC Inc., in response to several votes today at the Federal Communications Commission:

In today’s string of votes, we see Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai agenda unleashed on the United States.  He coyly waited until after his Senate confirmation vote and the most recent Congressional oversight hearing to unleash an unprecedented attack on civil rights and access to information.  The most vulnerable are feeling the most harmful impact.  Tribes, the most in need of affordable accessible communications, will see their subsidies immediately cut and their lands redefined without intergovernmental consultation.  Low income people must anticipate damaging changes as the Commission plans to cut off almost 70 percent of its subscribers and then proposes to add insult to injury with more draconian cuts in the form of a budget cap, lifetime limits on benefits, and more.

Today’s media ownership vote will take effect immediately:  it is not a proposal.  The ruling cuts back and eliminates rules that have been in place since the beginning of broadcast regulation.  We are losing rules that were designed to protect economic competition as well as competition in the marketplace of ideas.  No one looking at today’s media environment could imagine that the FCC, today, would see a media environment in need of fewer fact-checked news stories, fewer journalists, and reduced numbers of independent locally accountable news outlets--but that is what we will get.

This vote puts the final nail in the coffin for ownership diversity at the FCC.  This year’s Trump FCC fully exploits the failings in last year’s vote, which ignored the record in an effort to hide the connection between ownership and content.  The incubator proposal is meaningless, particularly in a consolidated media environment like the one we are about to experience.

With these actions, the Trump administration lays groundwork for less access to information and less voter education and engagement, which increases the likelihood that elections can be skewed by unverified news stories intent on confusion and manipulation. The forthcoming vote on net neutrality will further diminish freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas online.

One rule now stands between the Trump FCC and approval of the Sinclair merger.  Sinclair is poised to fully exploit the rule rollbacks adopted today and waits expectantly for Chairman Pai’s promised revisions to the national TV ownership cap.  Congress set the national TV ownership cap by statute in 2004, but Chairman Pai has promised to change it, evading the statutorily-set limits on FCC power.  After that illegal change, the Sinclair merger will set the state for a new breathtaking wave of consolidation as other media companies rush to catch up.  Congress must ensure the FCC does not evade the limits of its statutory authority.

Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, founder of the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc., dedicated his life to accountable and local broadcasting.  I am ashamed that so much of his amazing life's work is being tossed in the trashbin today.

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Trump Federal Communications Commission Keeps Its Dark Promises

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, like Donald Trump who appointed him, intends to keep his promises. His dissents as a minority Commissioner made clear his plans. This month, after squeaking through his confirmation vote in the Senate, he finally brings out the big guns.

He is fulfilling his promise to gut the FCC's program to assist low income people with the costs of telephone service and broadband.He is fulfilling his promise to turn over the media marketplace to a few, huge owners, while offering women and people of color a fig leaf of paper ownership that conveys no equity rights. And he intends to fulfill his promise next month to turn over Internet freedom to the control of a few large corporate ISPs. These are just a few examples of the decisions that will be adopted next month and the month after, some of which will be almost impossible to reverse if he succeeds.

Not only is he keeping his promises, he is again attempting to disguise them with technical terms and doublespeak that, heretofore, could only be found in George Orwell's dystopia. Thus, he attacks low-income households in a docket titled, "Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Consumers," and his decision to ignore the pleas of civil rights leaders is called "Rules and Policies to Promote New Entry and Ownership Diversity in the Broadcasting Services." Could it be the Commission is secretly ashamed of its actions, using these euphemisms to disguise their favors for corporate America at the expense of the rest of the country?

Perhaps he uses these terms because he knows he is undermining the chances that anyone can question his decisions. The steps he is taking will tip the balance even more toward benefits for the privileged, leaving the most impacted behind, favoring fake news against fact-checked journalism. These decisions combined will mean less access to the Internet, less free speech on the Internet and more inflammatory, uniform broadcast content in cities and towns across the country. If he succeeds, as long as the names sound pretty, the dark effects underneath will be ignored.

The agenda released last night make clear that the Ajit Pai threat is terrifying, and it is no innocent Halloween joke. The scars of the Trump Administration continue, and with these decisions it may be that no journalists or activists will retain the tools needed to challenge them.

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Next Week's Parker Lecture

by Cheryl Leanza

Check out our blog on Medium....

I’m so excited — next week, Tuesday October 24, 2017, is our 35th Annual Parker Lecture, and I can’t wait to see everyone and receive my annual dose of inspiration for the work ahead. I hope all of you will join us either in person at First Congregational UCC in Washington DC (tickets only $25 this year!) or live online via Facebook.
 
Read the rest on Medium.

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Parker and McGannon Award honorees, Robinson, Kapur announced

Rashad Robinson, Ravi Kapur to Be Honored At 35th Annual Everett Parker Lecture

Rashad Robinson

Rashad Robinson, executive director of the Color Of Change, and Ravi Kapur, founder and CEO of Diya TV, will be honored at the 35th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast, the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, the Office of Communication, Inc., has announced.


This year’s event will be held at 8 a.m. October 24 at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 945 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. OC Inc. previously announced that Rinku Sen, outgoing president and executive director of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, will deliver this year’s Parker lecture.


Robinson will receive the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of his efforts to build Color Of Change into the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, with more than one million members. 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.


Under Robinson’s leadership, Color Of Change has championed media justice, developing strategies for changing written and unwritten rules that negatively impact the lives of Black people, people of color and all people. A frequent commentator in broadcast and print outlets, Robinson previously served as senior director of media programs at GLAAD and worked on racial justice and voting rights issues at the Right to Vote Campaign and FairVote.


Ravi Kapur

Kapur will receive the Donald H. McGannon Award, given in recognition of special contributions in advancing the role of women and persons of color in the media. Kapur’s Diya TV is the first 24-hour U.S. broadcast network targeted to serve a South Asian audience, reaching more than 70 million people in a dozen markets.

 

Kapur became the first Indian-American to own a full-power TV station in this country. His first broadcasting venture, KAXT-TV in San Francisco, developed programming to serve the Bay Area’s African-American, Hispanic, South Asian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Filipino communities, and Kapur led the station to its first Emmy Award in 2013.


The Parker Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the late 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. A list of previous Parker Lecture honorees is available on our web site.

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Categories: ParkerLecture

Support for the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017

The saga of families and children seeking to maintain relationships with their loved ones in prison and jail has been on-going since early last decade. For every step forward toward more just treatment, affordable rates and fees, the prison phone industrial complex strikes back, demonstrating their chokehold on the service offerings for these people. The most recent actions by the Federal Communications Commission have failed these communities, leaving them in a market that all observers characterize as broken. 

 

Senator Duckworth's new legislation, S. 1614, the Video Visitation and Inmate Calling in Prisons Act of 2017, will eliminate any question regarding the Federal Communications Commission's authority to stop these practices and will address just uses of and charges for video calling services.  

 

Since the bi-partisan leadership of the Federal Communications Commission supports legislative efforts to cement the FCC's authority to act in this area, we urge the Senate Commerce Committee to quickly take up this bill.

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Categories: prison phone

I Can See God and Justice Because of the Open Internet

Originally published on http://thesaltcollective.org/god-justice-open-internet/

 

“I can’t stand with you and join you in your struggle if I haven’t heard your story.” — Rabbi Sharon Brous

 

Some of the most influential people in my life are people I’ve never met — or met only once. I’m a white, cis-gendered, middle class, almost-50, married mother of two with a passion for justice and an ever-expanding appreciation of the beauty of God in the world and of the amazing people who have walked before me on a path of faith-inspired justice. I can do this work, in part, because I’ve listened, over and over again, to narratives and videos that bring tears to my face from folks who I visit on the Internet but whose stories I otherwise would have missed. I can learn about justice every day because people who would not be given the time of day by a media conglomerate can bear their souls, share their gifts, and invent new and more creative ways to speak to my heart on the Internet.

 

I remember listening to Cayden Mak, now Executive Director of 18 Million Rising, speaking in 2014 about how the Internet literally saved his life. “Have you ever been young and queer and brown in the great American suburb?” I haven’t. But I can share, just a little bit, his story and bring it into my understanding of the world.

 

Evan Dolive, father and pastor in Texas, who wrote a book stemming from his outrage thinking about Victoria’s Secret marketing sexy underwear to middle schoolers. We spoke once, a few years back, but I get his blogs every week online and while he lives so far away, the perspectives we share are clear to me over the Internet.

 

Rev. Ashely Harness and Rev. Lawrence Richardson, both who publish at the Salt Collective— maybe we crossed paths once in person in Cleveland at the United Church of Christ headquarters. But from then on, I’ve been such a fan, following on Twitter and Facebook, taking in everything from tips on how to write an op-ed rooted in justice and faith, to cheering on Lawrence’s efforts to help care for his precious nephews. A glimpse of the divine in each of them — on the Internet.

 

And my great Faithful Internet co-founder Valarie Kaur, who, drawing on her journey as a Sikh activist, made the most beautiful speech in New York this New Year’s, alongside Rev. William Barber. She told me and a few million others — over the Internet — that the darkness of right now is the darkness of the womb, not the darkness of the tomb. When times seem darkest, replaying that video can get you through. She’ll tell you that her new Revolutionary Love project would not be possible without the open Internet.

 

All these stories are part of the work we do to build a more just world. The Internet is part of the basic building blocks of our work — just like the road outside the front door which takes us to a community meeting, spirit-lifting worship, or to our neighbor’s house to bring chicken soup in the dead of winter.

 

I’ve been working in media justice for more than 20 years, and critical analysis of media has always come down to this (to mangle Marshall McLuhan): whoever owns the medium controls the message. Open Internet policies, protected by net neutrality, mean that whoever owns the medium cannot control the message. An ISP cannot charge more for video to flow without buffering — if it’s good enough for NBC, it’s good enough for all of us.

 

Today, July 12, 2017, miraculously, not only a range of non-profits around the country are joining together to speak out for real Net Neutrality, but also huge corporations that probably could afford to pay for access. We’re all proclaiming the need to protect the fundamental structure of the Internet — which has been with us from the beginning, but is under threat today.

 

The faith community understands the power of story. The Faithful Internet campaign is working to bring that voice to the policy-makers at the Federal Communications Commission who are threatening to turn the Internet over to network owners. You can join us on July 12 via our Thunderclap campaign, sign and share our petition, and visit FaithfulInternet.org where you can learn more and see testimonials from Rev. Otis Moss III, Linda Sarsour, Sister Simone Campbell and Rev. William Barber to name just a few.

The work of healing the world is taking place on the Internet. And that work should not have to bear an additional burden of languishing in an Internet slow lane, waiting until someone pays an additional toll to release it, full force, into the world.

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Rinku Sen to Deliver 35th Annual Parker Lecture on October 24

Ms. Rinu Sen, 2017 Parker Lecturer

Rinku Sen, outgoing president and executive director of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, will deliver the 35th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture, the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry announced.

The Parker Lecture and Awards Breakfast will be held at 8 a.m. October 24 at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 945 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets or sponsorship information, click here.

Sen is uniquely poised to give the Parker Lecture, with expertise in racial justice, journalism, and organizing.   She was instrumental in transforming Race Forward's magazine, Colorlines, into a news website. Colorlines has been able to use journalism to focus on voting rights restrictions, police violence, and immigration.

Under Sen’s leadership, Race Forward changed the immigration debate with its groundbreaking “Shattered Families” report, detailing how record deportations of parents were leading to the placement of thousands of children in foster care. She was also the architect of the “Drop the I-Word” campaign, which led a number of major U.S. news organizations to stop referring to immigrants as “illegal.”

After 16 years on the Race Forward staff, Sen is stepping into a new role as the organization’s senior strategist, following a merger with the Center for Social Inclusion. She will continue to contribute to Race Forward’s award-winning news site Colorlines, which she previously served as publisher.

Prior to her work at Race Forward, Sen served in leadership roles for more than a decade with the Center for Third World Organizing. A native of India, she grew up in northeastern factory towns and learned to speak English in a two-room school house. She holds a B.A. in women’s studies from Brown University and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.    

The Parker Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the late 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.

For more information about this year's Parker Lecture and to reserve your seat, visit our 2017 Parker Lecture web page, or reserve your seat.

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Categories: ParkerLecture

July 1 General Synod Workshop in Baltimore: Break Hate - Stop Online Hate Speech

UCC OC Inc. will lead a workshop on how to fight back against hate speech when the UCC’s 31st General Synod meets in Baltimore this weekend. The workshop, “Break Hate!,” will be held on July 1 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 342 of the Baltimore Convention Center.

OC Inc. Policy Adviser Cheryl Leanza will be joined by Tyler Cherry of Media Matters for America, and Carmen Scurato, of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, founder of the Coalition Against Hate. The workshop will review how to identify fake news and hate speech, and how to influence content online and on television while preserving First Amendment rights.

For more information on General Synod, go to synod.uccpages.org/.

This is the second workshop on this topic, read our blog summarizing our workshop in April, Online Hate Speech: What the Faith Community Can Do.

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Public Interest Groups on Court Ruling Clearing Way for FCC to Erode Rules Allowing Further Media Consolidation

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2017

Contact: Courtney Holsworth, courtney@balestramedia.com, 989.572.8162

 

Public Interest Groups on Court Ruling Clearing Way for FCC to Erode Rules Allowing Further Media Consolidation

 

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied the emergency stay motion filed by public interest groups, including the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Free Press, Common Cause, Media Alliance, and United Church of Christ, OC, Inc., which sought to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from implementing its decision to reinstate the so-called UHF discount. This will allow the FCC to make it easier for the nation’s largest television ownership groups to acquire additional stations, and crowd out diverse and local voices.  The groups are represented by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center. Despite this interim ruling, the Court will hear the appeal later this year.

 

The FCC’s April, 2017 decision issued overturned a ruling issued in September, 2016 by an new Commission majority created after two Obama Administration appointees left the Commission. It allows large TV groups to evade a cap on how many stations they own by counting only half of the audience of UHF frequency TV stations towards a Congressionally-established limit of 39% of the nation’s TV homes. This undermines the goals of the Communications Act to promote localism, competition and diversity.

 

In the wake of the FCC’s decision to reinstate the discount, on May 8th Sinclair Broadcast Group announced plans to purchase Tribune Media TV stations for $3.9 billion. The deal would create a broadcast colossus with more than 200 TV stations, and would result in Sinclair reaching more than 70 percent of the national audience with stations in large cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas. However, by reinstating the technically outdated UHF discount, this large deal would mean that Sinclair would be in compliance with the 39% ownership limit.

 

Read more about the case here: http://bit.ly/2qXEz96

 

“The Court of Appeals’ decision to allow the reinstatement of the UHF discount makes it easier for huge ownership groups to take over the media market, at the expense of Latinos, media owners of color and local voices that seek to serve their diverse communities,” said Carmen Scurato, director of policy and legal affairs at the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “The DC Court has cleared the way for massive consolidation, negatively impacting the thousands of owners and consumers that this appeal represented. The FCC has a mandate to act in the public interest yet by reinstating the UHF discount, Chairman Pai has signaled that he is on the side of big media conglomerates that want more control of what we see and hear on the airwaves.”

 

“We're disappointed by the court's decision to deny the stay, but still plan to show the unlawful nature of the FCC's arbitrary and capricious decision under review in this case,” said Gaurav Laroia, Policy Counsel at Free Press. “Chairman Pai's decision to revive this obsolete rule would allow broadcast consolidation far beyond the already high limits set by Congress. And that would grease the skids for companies like Sinclair to cash in, acquiring other media conglomerates like Tribune with the merger those two companies proposed last month. Runaway broadcast consolidation at the national and local level is bad for competition, diversity and localism in broadcasting. Sinclair's practices are a prime example of how consolidation undermines those three principles, with its penchant for dictating coverage to local affiliates and intervening in the editorial decisions of the stations it owns.

 

“Chairman Ajit Pai, President Trump’s appointee at the Federal Communications Commission, is a full partner in the Trump Administration's attack on the press,” said Cheryl Leanza, Policy Advisor at United Church of Christ, OC, Inc. “With his decision to put an obsolete rule back on the books, Chairman Pai will devastated the American public’s access to multiple points of view from hard news sources. We look forward to a positive result when the court reviews the substance of this irrational and dangerous decision.”

 

“The UHF discount has long outlived its usefulness,” said former FCC Commissioner and Common Cause Special Adviser Michael Copps. “Reinstating it was a huge, unwarranted gift to Big Broadcast. So it is disappointing that the court did not rein in the broadcast-friendly majority at the FCC. We remain committed to halting the wave of media consolidation the FCC majority has sought to unleash.”

 

“The petitioners in this case regret the abrupt reinstatement of the admittedly obsolete UHF discount rule to aid a single corporation. Rushing through yet more media consolidation in a hasty and ill-considered manner is no favor to the public's increasing frustration with the media,” stated Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director at Media Alliance.

 

“This case is far from over,” said Professor Angela J. Campbell, Director of the Communications and Technology Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation. “Most stay motions are denied. The Court’s unwillingness to grant our motion doesn’t change the fact that we have strong legal arguments against Chairman Pai’s unseemly rush to allow the nation’s largest broadcasters to become even larger.”

 

The stay motion and the reply to the oppositions to the stay motion can be viewed here and here.

 

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Categories: media concentration

We Believe in Net Neutrality

A free and open Internet is critical for the people of faith. No matter the faith tradition -- be it Evangelical, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Sikh or Buddhist -- each of us relies on the open Internet to build community, express love for the divine, and stand with others for justice. Most faith institutions do not have the money to compete with corporate commercial media: the repeal of net neutrality protections will put faithful and religious content on the margins of the Internet by granting a preference for those who can pay. 

 

And while the proceeding starting today is focused on net neutrality, its legal implications extend far beyond those rules. Low income access to affordable internet is just one of the policies that could be jeopardized by this proceeding. 

 

Today's vote is a disappointment for anyone who seeks to lift up her voice online in support of the beloved community.

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