Posts by: Cheryl
Digital Advertising Targets Youth of Color - Tweet Chat RecapSubmitted by Cheryl 4 days ago
UCC Media Justice participated today in a tweet chat, co-sponsored by the Digital Ads campaign, which is a joint project of Center for Digital Democracy and Berkeley Media Studies Group, discussing the negative impact digital advertising has on children, and in particular children of color. There is much to be said on this topic, including the horrible immorality of targeting children whose health is already in danger. According to the CDC, 17% of kids today obese, higher for African Americans and Latinos: 22% and 20%; 1 in 5 kids! As the American Academy of Pediatrics noted, exposure to advertising is associated w/ child obesity, poor nutrition, and cigarettes & alcohol.
Digital marketing takes advantage of big data to target children in subtle ways. Extensive studies show that younger kids have a hard time understanding advertising -- that the advertisers do not have their best interest at heart in the same way that a teacher who gives advice has. In addition, the tweet chat discussed new marketing techniques using neuroscience to subtly reach around parents into a teen's subconscious to make unhealthful food more desirable. And digital marketing is ubiquitous, as children spend more and more time online.
Digital advertising directed toward kids is based also on the techniques perfected by Big Data, which has begun to gain the attention of the civil rights community. An important safeguard is giving users, including parents, control over their own data. While data can be helpful, it can also target communities and individuals in harmful ways. A large number of public interest organizations encouraged the White House to consider health in its current study of Big Data.
Studies have shown that children of color are on the receiving end of much more advertising than white children. For example, a recent study by researcher Dale Kunkel showed that more than 84% of all foods and beverages advertised to children on Spanish-language television shows are unhealthy. Another study showed African American children and teens see at least 50% more fast food ads than their white peers.
There are more resources online to learn about this issue. Salud Today has several great online videos about junk food marketing to Latino children, including this one. We particularly liked the Rudd Center's resources, including one on the challenges of weight bias and bullying directed toward kids who are overweight, and this report that discusses marketing to African American and Latino children.
As we said toward the end of the tweetchat:
Check out all the great information shared in the tweet chat by searching #DigitalAds and visiting http://www.digitalads.org/ online.
Move toward Competition, But Where is Diversity?Submitted by Cheryl Fri Mar 07 2014 12:00:10 GMT-0500 (EST)
FCC Chairman Wheeler yesterday announced his intention to make an important step forward toward more media competition. The really good news is that Chairman Wheeler is not proposing to permit additional consolidation, which is a significant improvement over the ill-conceived proposal of the prior Chairman, Julius Genachowski.
In addition, Wheeler is proposing to close some loopholes in the existing rules addressing jointly-run (but not jointly-owned) TV stations. Many years ago, the Supreme Court said about jointly-run news outlets, “it is unrealistic to expect true diversity from a commonly owned … combination. The divergency of their viewpoints cannot be expected to be the same as if they were antagonistically run.” The same holds true today. When two TV stations merge, they join staff, news teams and sales teams. There are fewer journalists, and fewer places for members of the community to share stories or to get news. If one reporter isn't interested in a news story, no one is, because there is only one reporter! We see the same effects when those two TV stations are operating together using a complex financial agreement as when the joint ownership is out in the open.
And yet, it is still unclear what Chairman Wheeler is proposing to promote media diversity. Today, ownership diversity is devastatingly low. The inadequately collected and analyzed data released by the FCC in 2012 indicated that we have virtually no TV stations owned by people of color or women in the United States, and that number will surely be lower when the more recent data from last December is released. TV still holds an unprecedented sway over our national conversation, political dialogue and values. Two hundred eighty-three million people (that's out of over 310 million total) in the U.S. watch an average of 146 hours of TV every month. Without owners from all walks of life and reflecting the full diversity of our nation, our national and local dialogues suffer.
The last Obama FCC Chairman Genachowski kicked the can down the road and left office without addressing these issues. The new FCC Chair is pointed in the right direction, but he needs to get across the finish line.
Which is better: Ignorance or Knowledge?Submitted by Cheryl Thu Feb 27 2014 09:21:00 GMT-0500 (EST)
Last week Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler concluded that he was not comfortable with part of a comprehensive study of the media marketplace and decided to eliminate the portion of the study that gave him concern.
Why would the chair of an independent federal regulatory agency want to stop conducting research? Well, in this case he was falsely accused of launching a government effort to tell reporters and journalists what to write and report. If the FCC had been planning to do such a thing, all of us would have breathed a sigh of relief that such an effort was cancelled.
But the truth of the matter is that last week conservative activists scored a victory in favor of ignorance over facts. This so-called controversy has a lot in common with the false debate over whether greenhouse gas causes climate change or whether smoking causes cancer. It is entirely possible next week we'll hear accusations that the studies are really all about affirmative action or voting fraud or some other conservative lightening rod.
But, I can hear even my friends on the left asking, shouldn't the government always steer clear of any hint of impacting journalism? The truth is, a wide variety of laws and policies already impact journalism. Everything from libel laws, to copyright rules, to cable access channels, to broadcast indecency prohibitions impact journalism and media. The real question is, do you want an agency that makes media and communications policy to do so without a fundamental understanding of how the media marketplace works? Apparently the critics last week would rather the FCC function from a place of ignorance rather than knowledge.
This lack of knowledge has been a real problem for the FCC. In fact, a number of policies that many of last week's critics presumably support have been overturned in court because the FCC did not have the facts and analysis to support its decisions. George Bush's FCC tried twice to substantially relax rules that would have led to significantly more consolidation in the media. The courts said no--not because the court has a view on whether big media or competitive media is better--but because the FCC didn't have enough legitimate data to back up its rule changes.
We can all agree that media and journalism functions best when many outlet and many journalists compete with one another for stories. Journalism functions best when reporters reflect the wide variety of people and communities that are part of these United States. Could a reporter that has never set foot in rural Alabama or remote Wyoming do justice to the stories that impact people there? Shouldn't our media cover both Latinos who are personally or professionally impact by immigration reform in addition to people who strongly oppose it? Often our very lives depend on the media. Just ask people out west evacuating from wild fires or people trying to find safe drinking water in West Virginia. People use media of all kinds to find jobs, learn how to safeguard their own health, pinpoint this morning's traffic jam, or figure out which candidate to support in the next election. It matters to all of us that the systems we use work well. We can allow the media to get bigger and bigger and swallow up all different points of view into a single, infotainment-producing monolith. Or, we can adopt policies that promote competition and vibrancy in the marketplace of ideas.
So back to the studies debated so intensely last week. That research protocol was part of a multi-year deliberate process to assemble all the scholarship on the media's function, building on a comprehensive study and a literature review of more than 500 studies conducted by the University of Southern California Annenberg Communications and Journalism School and a phalanx of the leading scholars in the field. The research design was available to the public since last May, when the FCC sought input and comment. The process underway was designed to test the research instrument to verify its effectiveness in the field.
And what of the so-called secret army of "media monitors" spreading out across the country to intimidate journalists into giving the "right" answers and covering the "right" stories? They don't exist. What we did have government-funded researchers conducting a voluntary, anonymous series of questions to understand better the decision-making process in newsrooms generally. The study would have permitted the FCC to start from a place of knowledge and facts when it makes policy, rather than merely guessing about what is driving news and story production in this rapidly-changing media environment. When reporters are sometimes simultaneously video reporters, bloggers, free-lance journalists and ideological activists, when ownership structures of media get more complex and misleading every day, when TV viewers in cities around the country see the same exact newscast on two or three different networks every evening, we know that things are changing at a pretty rapid clip. And it is up to the policymakers to at least try to keep pace.
This data is important. A knowledgeable expert FCC is important. Policies to promote a multiplicity of viewpoints and as many journalists as we can muster (covering stories from all perspectives) are important. Scholars have been working on this type of research for years and hopefully they can continue to do so now that the self-appointed First Amendment defenders have declared victory. Maybe the FCC will at least be permitted to read these studies if they are completed by scholars and academics. Because how can the FCC help safeguard journalist independence if it doesn't have data on how journalists operate?
Open Internet GoalsSubmitted by Cheryl Thu Feb 20 2014 12:20:28 GMT-0500 (EST)
The United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc., released the following statement in reaction to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Wheeler's statement yesterday, indicating how he plans to move forward on Open Internet:
The United Church of Christ is a faith community rooted in justice. Established in 1959 as part of the civil rights movement, UCC’s Office of Communication, Inc. works to replace the media we have with the media we need to create a just society.
Lower Prison Phone Rates Start Today!Submitted by Cheryl Tue Feb 11 2014 06:00:00 GMT-0500 (EST)
For over ten years a coalition of organizations and individuals has been asking the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) to lower the cost of calling prison, jail or detention centers. Finally, last year we won! The FCC’s new rate caps take effect February 11, 2014. The new rates will protect families, pastors, community members and others making phone calls to people in prison, jails, or detention centers. We have prepared a summary and resources to help people apply the new rules.
On February 11, 2014, the new rate caps adopted by the Federal Communications Commission for telephone calls to people in prison, jail or detention take effect. The FCC caps for interstate calls (calls between two different states) are:
- 25 cents per minute for collect calls and
- 21 cents per minute for debit or prepaid calls
The FCC also capped the total cost of a call between two states, including per-call charges. Those caps are:
- $3.75 for a 15-minute collect call and
- $3.15 for a 15-minute debit or prepaid calls
For calls after February 11, 2014, a charge over these limits is in violation of federal rules.
Need more help understanding the new rules? See our Frequently Asked Questions and How to File a Complaint at the FCC for Prison Phone Call Charges that are Too High.
10 Reasons Net Neutrality Matters to Progressive ChristiansSubmitted by Cheryl Fri Jan 17 2014 09:46:41 GMT-0500 (EST)
A guest blog from Kimberly Knight, one of OC Inc.'s board members.
January 17, 2014 By Kimberly Knight
This past fall I accepted a board position on the Media Justice arm of the UCC, OC Inc. Since I care deeply about social justice as part of my duty as a follower of The Way, and since I spend commitment levels of time engaging media of all sorts it seems this is a wonderful fit.
By now most of y ‘all know that a court in Washington DC struck down open Internet rules on Tuesday, also known as Net Neutrality. Is this just a meaningless policy debate? Not on your life! Communication online is one of the most important ways, we as progressive Christians, are called to work faithfully and tirelessly toward realizing a socially just planet (which translates in Jesusy terms as parenting with God to manifest the Kingdom). So I’d like to say a few words about why Christians should give a rat’s ass about this week’s ruling.
Protections that prohibit favoring some content over others were set aside. Which means that service providers such as Comcast and Verizon can choose to allot more bandwidth (a bigger straw) to the content that steps up and pays the most while we are left with our eyes bugging out and veins poppin’ in our heads while we try to listen to everyman’s voice with speeds comparable to sucking on a Zesto’s banana milkshake in January.
Thanks to my friends at OC Inc, most especially the dedicated and talented policy advisor, Cheryl Leanza, I have the following ten reasons why progressive Christians should deeply care about the hit we all took this week when net neutrality was vanquished.
1. So many social justice achievements rely on the spread of information and knowledge. Today’s efforts on climate change, poverty, and gun violence, cannot rely on mass, corporate-controlled media that either ignore or distort the issues. If we hope to see a day when all of creation thrives and swords have been beaten into ploughshares, we need the safety valve, the people’s mic, of an open Internet.
2. The progressive faith community stands for social justice and civil rights. Historically, to protect civil rights, our country has needed rules requiring non-discrimination rules in housing, credit and banking, transportation and scores of other industries. How can these communities tell their own stories if they need to pass by a network gatekeeper? (It was just this imbalance that sparked the media justice work of the UCC 50 years ago).
3. The Internet is supposed to be, and has been most nearly, the great equalizer by making a space for voices that have historically been relegated to the sidelines, like people of color and the LGBT community. As Rashad Robinson of Color of Change said, “Our communities rely on the Internet to speak without a corporate filter, to access information and connect to the world, and to be able to organize and hold public officials and corporations accountable.” The same is true for religious speech.
4. Without protection, we are moving to a day of an Internet for the poor and an Internet for the rich. Much like our deeply striated public school system, what do you think information flow is going to look like for folk on the wrong side of the digital tracks?
5. Policies must protect this world’s most precious resource—its treasure-trove of knowledge and the ability to create and share new ideas. If the ability to create is limited by the ability to pay, we once again relegate the “least of these” to the sidelines of our national conversation.
6. Open Internet will impact churches directly. Remember the advertising line in denomination budgets — when we had to pay to distribute our ads? Go find that money, because we might need it again. What if Darkwood Brew had to pay exorbitant fees for its content to compete with Netflix or NBC. Think it couldn’t happen? Check out the recent decision by AT&T to charge to distribute content.
7. All Internet fundraising could be as vulnerable as text messaging fundraising is now. Did y’all know that Catholic Charities had their text fundraising campaign stymied by Sprint? Internet speech could be subject to the same thing.
8. In this new paradigm, the Internet is destined to become centralized like cable and broadcast TV. Content could be rejected by network owners. The UCC knows first-hand what it is like when big media companies decide our content is “too controversial.” In 2004, the UCC’s ads welcoming the LGBT community were rejected by CBS and NBC affiliates. Could we have to pay extra for our videos to reach their audiences without stopping to buffer on the Internet?
9. Did ya know that downloads of the Bible were blocked because Comcast thought the file was too big in violation of net neutrality…
10. We as compassionate livin’, justice seekin’, radically inclusive Christians can be, should be, role models for the whole world groaning toward justice. As the World Summit on the Information Society found in its 2005 Tunisia Commitment, “access to information and sharing and creation of knowledge contributes significantly to strengthening economic, social and cultural development, thus helping all countries to reach the internationally agreed development goals and objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.” We cannot condone a system that conditions a critical right on the ability to pay.
Prison Phone Court RulingSubmitted by Cheryl Mon Jan 13 2014 13:07:00 GMT-0500 (EST)
In response to the D.C. Circuit’s ruling this morning, Cheryl Leanza, Policy Advisor to the United Church of Christ, OC Inc. said:
The D.C. Circuit left in place today that the interim rates established by the FCC, of 25 cents per minute for debit calling and 21 cents per minute in collect calling. The historic victory remains in place. Once the FCC is able to collect the additional data it needs, these rates will surely come down. The companies resorting to litigation to oppose these rates continue their unconscionable conduct.
New More Just Prison Phone Rates Move AheadSubmitted by Cheryl Thu Nov 21 2013 22:09:00 GMT-0500 (EST)
The following statement can be attributed to Cheryl Leanza, policy advisor for the United Church of Christ's media justice and communications rights ministry, OC Inc.:
"For ten years, the prison phone industry, led by Securus and Global Tel Link, has stonewalled and delayed while families have waited for the Federal Communications Commission to end predatory prison phone rates. Now, at long last, we have rules that will bring to an end the unjustified rates.
"The FCC gave the industry innumerable chances to prove their claims that these extraordinary prices are justified. Not only did the industry refuse to participate, but it asked for even more delay. The FCC has finally heard the call of justice, and rightly refused to make families suffer any longer. As Commissioner Clyburn said, 'Justice delayed is justice denied.'"
Join us! Ideas for an Online Justice Agenda for Extravagance UCCSubmitted by Cheryl Fri Nov 15 2013 09:37:02 GMT-0500 (EST)
Last week I attended an important meeting hosted by the United Church of Christ: a meeting to envision what a UCC community could look like that existed mostly, or solely, online. I attended the meeting as a representative of the UCC's historic media justice ministry, which goes by the name of OC Inc. The leaders of Extravagance asked us to envision a community that could reach people who did not have a local UCC church, or were not comfortable or able to come to a physical building. It was a great treat to be with so many people who were both heavily invested in the church and also deeply immersed in new technology.
During the meeting we spent considerable time discussing what is church and what a church online could be. As I reflected on the meeting afterward, I was excited to see where this next chapter of ministry would lead the UCC. I also was delighted because the UCC has been such a significant leader in communications rights and media justice, and this new ministry is a chance to deepen further the modern connection to this work. As is true with most UCC churches, I hope an important part of the new work is social justice ministry. And the world of communications rights and media justice would be a logical focus. As the UCC and other churches embrace virtual community, it is important that we understand the inherent justice challenges in the new technological landscape. Just as we fight to improve the functioning of democracy even as we advocate as part of our civic institutions, we should maintain a focus on the just use of technology as we utilize it to bring full incarnation to the United Church of Christ online.
To that end, I thought it would be useful to lay out a few of the justice issues that UCC OC Inc. is working on now, to offer them for consideration as the Extravagance team considers how to move ahead.
Social media: making our members into a product? Social media is part of modern life, whereas in previous decades in the U.S. we used to socialize in bowling leagues and church social halls, we now have moved to virtual communities. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, as of May 2013, 72 percent of online adults use social networking sites, even those ages 65 and older have roughly tripled their presence on social networking sites in the last four years. Half of teenagers own smartphones.
But social media is a business; it is not a church-owned social hall. Social media companies have offered many services for free, but as many a wag has noted, if the product is "free" you are the product. For example, Facebook's new policies on including user images in advertising are currently under federal investigation. And this does not even begin to address the data the government might be collecting in violation of our civil liberties, and the civil liberties of perhaps some of our sister and brother faith communities, such as the Muslim community. UCC OC Inc. has been involved in seeking improved choices by the companies themselves, and also improved regulation to protect children and teens.
Social media: who decides what we see? Moreover, social media users cannot make their own ethical choices about what they see and what others see -- so we may not be able to see images of breastfeeding mothers, at the same time that violence against women is distributed widely. It was great to see the successful campaign to persuade Facebook to address violence against women more actively. Twitter just became a public company--the drive to earn revenue will increase. In my conversations with UCC leaders, at least some online users have felt that Facebook's system of advertising feedback lead to their advertisements being pulled--not that different from when UCC's still speaking advertisements were pulled from some television stations.
As we use social media, such as public and private Facebook pages, YouTube, Pinterest and others, it is important to remain aware that we are meeting in a for-profit public space. As we use the technology--which we should--we cannot stop pushing for it to be more just in its implementation.
Fair rules of the road for unpopular or noncommercial content. Today, for the most part, when people view video streaming or other content online, their only limit is in the speed of their broadband connection. But those days are not likely continue, especially absent strong widespread public engagement. This is perhaps one of the most fundamental communications justice issues afoot, largely occurring outside of the public eye. It extends the for-profit meeting hall metaphor to a new level--in the U.S. the physical networks, the wires, that we use to connect with each other are owned by private companies.
While for much of the Internet's history regulations governed the use of these wires, it is no longer the case. For this reason, UCC OC Inc. is part of the effort to persuade the US to adopt policies mandating "net neutrality" or "open access." It is the principle that private companies that own the wires cannot use the wires as a monopoly for their own gain at the expense of other content. In the past commercial networks have removed controversial content and blocked large downloads (of the Bible no less!). Network companies are considering charging content creators to distribute content--like the potential deal between ESPN and Internet companies. But what about noncommercial content? Who can pay for the distribution of church content, social justice advocacy and content serving vulnerable communities? Will church YouTube channels go the way of cable access while commercial content is still as powerful as NBC or ABC today? UCC OC Inc. is a leader in demonstrating open Internet is important to the faith community and others.
A good example of this is text messaging. The parameters for text message donations are set by the mobile phone companies that control them. Currently donations are capped at $10 each. These rules are not designed to undercut noncommercial or church fund-raising, but the impact is the same. And occasional mistakes show that non-profits and churches have little leverage in these relationships. In another recent change, just this week Comcast started to experiment with data caps--one industry publication estimated this might cost 40 cents per hour for Netflix movies. While this is a small sum today, the potential if this were to be a routine industry practice is of concern. Historically we have always set aside space for noncommercial speech and civic discourse--whether that was the town square or public broadcasting. The noncommercial space of tomorrow without net neutrality is fragile, which is why UCC OC Inc. helped lead the National Council of Churches Communication Commission to adopt a resolution supporting net neutrality. But we don't have a UCC synod resolution yet -- maybe it is time?
Access to communications for all. Thirty percent of people (90 million) do not have broadband access at home, for reasons of cost, access, and digital illiteracy. And people of color are much more likely than whites to access broadband via mobile devices, with all the bandwidth and other limits those devices bring--it is still very difficult to apply for a job or write a resume on a smart phone. In fact, the government program to support simple voice telephones for low-income people is under attack. And while UCC OC Inc. and a range of allies have just persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to bring down the price of a long-distance telephone call to prison, the prison industrial complex is developing ways to charge families and inmates for the use of email and video conferencing. A young LGBT person in rural America might not be able to access the many resources available without broadband; an impoverished family in the inner-city might be sending their children to McDonald's to access broadband to do their homework. UCC OC Inc. has been a leader in advocating for policies to support technology for underserved communities.
Ethical use of technology. As we have started to explore what theology might look like and mean online, we also face some practical immediate questions about how to go about using it as ethical people. An obvious point for people of faith is the importance of addressing online bullying. But other questions abound -- the UCC Insurance Boards have started to offer guidance for the appropriate ways for clergy and members to communicate online in a manner that echoes the UCC's safe church initiative. This is a rapidly evolving field where some of the most cautious advice may be hard to implement if we are to truly become an online community.
While technology can improve and augment in-person and long-distance relationships, technology can also become a crutch or a wall between us and our loved ones. There is an emerging community looking at media fasts, technology Sabbaths and other techniques to make sure technology plays a helpful and supportive role, but does not move into negative or obsessive behavior. Check out UCC OC Inc.'s media violence fast next September, and the technology Sabbath March 2014.
Children. As adults we can model appropriate use of technology for our children. An astounding 38 percent of children under two years old have used a mobile device and three quarters of children under eight have access to a mobile device at home, while the under-eight crowd's total screen time still totals almost 2 hours daily. As the technology visionary Sherry Turkle noted in Alone Together, while teens recognize that they often overindulge in technology and communications, they are anxiously looking to see whether the adults in their lives can offer positive role models. Do we stack up? Do we put away mobile phones and blackberries at dinner, when our children are talking to us? A supportive community will both use and manage media well, for example using these resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children's media use.
The world of communications justice is vibrant. UCC is a leader and has partners in organizations like the World Association for Christian Communications. As we move ahead on the grand experiment of Extravagance UCC, it is also time to more fully embrace our long history in justice online. We invite everyone working on Extravagance to join us! Let's start a dialogue about how we can work together.
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UCC OC Inc. Statement Upon Wheeler ConfirmationSubmitted by Cheryl Wed Oct 30 2013 12:56:12 GMT-0400 (EDT)
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.