Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Budget riders threaten media justice wins

Over the last year, we've had a couple of great FCC rulings.  We were pleased to see the FCC, last year, take a step toward rules that will promote more media diversity.  The FCC eliminated loopholes that allow companies to own more stations than permitted by FCC rules.  This resulted right away in more stations being sold off to women and people of color and increasing media ownership diversity for the first time in years

In addition, of course we're all excited about the FCC's strong net neutrality ruling this year, supported by our fantastic Faithful Internet campaign.

But unfortunately each of these rulings are at risk during the budget process, when members of Congress attach "policy riders" to the budget.  Essentially even if Congress can't blog the FCC through legislation, it can put limits on how the FCC spends its money and that means Congress can block the FCC's decisions through sneaky back-door maneuvers. 

In the last month we've been working with our allies in the civil rights and faith communities to urge Congress to let the FCC's decisions stand.  You can see the Leadership Conference substantive letter on media diversity, their letter opposing policy riders, and our faith letter opposing both media diversity and net neutrality policy riders. 

Read more

Remembering Wally Bowen

We were saddened to learn of the passing of this year's McGannon Award recipient, Wally Bowen, last night after his long battle with ALS.  We at UCC OC Inc. are gratified that we got a chance to demonstrate to him how important his work was nationally as well as in his home community of rural western North Carolina. 

His friend Monroe Gilmour was able to attend the ceremony in Washington DC in October to receive the award on his behalf, and then present it to him at home in North Carolina, as captured in this picture.  Upon learning of his death, Cheryl Leanza, OC Inc.'s policy advisor said, "Wally's lifelong dedication to the cause of media justice was inspirational to me for as long as I knew him.  Wally took policy opportunities created in Washington and made them into real opportunities for his neighbors in western North Carolina.  All the victories in Washington will be for naught without people like Wally to translate them into action on the ground." 

 

Wally Bowen was recognized for his leadership in building the Mountain Area Information Network in western North Carolina, and then working to bring a low-power FM station, local cable access channels and broadband access to his community.

 

Bowen's acceptance remarks highlighted his dedication to his home community,  and noted that his work had been inspired and supported by his own faith community, Jubilee!, in Asheville, NC.  He quoted the words of theologian Frederick Buechner: “Your true vocation is found in that place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.”  He continued, "It has been my good fortune to have found that place of true vocation in my work through the Mountain Area Information Network these past 20 years. On behalf of the rural citizens for whom we advocated, thank you again for this award affirming this work."

 

Thank you, Wally, for doing the work.


The description of Wally's achievements and press release, as well as additional photos of the Parker Awards and of Wally receiving his award are available online.

Read more

Categories: ParkerLecture

Parker Lecture a Strong Success!

The 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast was successfully held on October 20, 2015.  2015. Read about honorees and sponsors, read the press releasePhotos from the event are available on our Flickr stream. Please feel free to download any photo you want using the Flickr download button (the down arrow icon on the bottom right hand side of the photo). Video highlights of the event are also available on the UCC Media Justice YouTube Page.

We were thrilled to have so many guests join us to celebrate our honorees, Wally Bowen, co-founder and executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network, and Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director for Free Press, as well as hear from danah boyd, founder of Data & Society Research Institute.  Although he could not attend in person, after the event, Wally received the award in North Carolina.

Read more

Categories: ParkerLecture

Prison Phone Rate Victory

In anticipation of the Federal Communications Commission vote tomorrow on inmate calling, the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry issued its strong support of the Federal Communications Commission vote tomorrow capping local prison phone rates.

 

"The vote tomorrow is a victory, no questions asked," said Cheryl Leanza, policy advisor for the historic ministry.  "The FCC is not only capping the rates paid by families but cracking down on fees that could otherwise have been a source of abuse."

 

Because of the limits on both rates and fees, the commissions previously paid by phone companies to jails, prisons and detention centers will be severely curtailed.  "I can see why Global Tel Link and some prison phone companies might want the FCC to stop commissions in addition to capping rates," continued Leanza, "those companies would like to keep all of the revenue and pass none of it on to correctional facilities.  But make no mistake, the only entities harmed by tomorrow's vote are the phone companies that have been gouging families and pastors for so long."

UCC OC Inc. and many civil rights and criminal justice organizations signed a letter just before the record closed, laying out their strong support for the FCC's planned vote. 

 

UCC OC Inc. has been working with a long list of allies, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Center for Media Justice, Prison Policy Initiative, many faith leaders, and the Prison Phone Justice campaign and all of its members.  A rally celebrating the FCC's order is planned for Thursday morning at 9:30 am outside the FCC.

Read more

Categories: prison phone

boyd, Torres and Bowen Honored at 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Lecture

boyd, Torres and Bowen Honored at 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Lecture

Leading media reform advocates were honored today as a media executives, faith leaders and media justice advocates gathered at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington for the 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture.


danah boyd, founder of the Data & Society Research Institute, delivered the 2015 Parker Lecture, asserting that “one of the things that I’ve learned is that, unchecked, new [technology] tools are almost always empowering to the privileged at the expense of those who are not.”


    Also honored at the event were Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director of Free Press, who received the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of his work embodying the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications, and Wally Bowen, co-founder and executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), who received the Donald H. McGannon Award for his dedication to bringing modern telecommunications to low-income people in rural areas.


    In her address, boyd described how “digital white flight” from certain technology platforms had mirrored the problem in the traditional world, and how predictive data technologies, if not used thoughtfully, had the potential to exacerbate stereotyping. “More and more,” she concluded, “technology is going to play a central role in every sector, every community, and every interaction. It’s easy to screech in fear or dream of a world in which every problem magically gets solved.  But to actually make the world a better place, we need to start paying attention to the different tools that are emerging and learn to ask hard questions about how they should be put into use to improve the lives of everyday people. Now, more than ever, we need those who are thinking about social justice to understand technology and those who understand technology to have a theory of fairness.”


    The United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc. (OC Inc.), the media justice ministry of the Protestant denomination of 5,700 local congregations, established the Parker Lectureship in 1983 to recognize Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker’s pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting.  In 1963, Parker filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission that ultimately stripped WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi, of its broadcast license and established the principle that the public could participate in matters before the agency. This year’s event included special remembrances of Parker, who died on September 17, 2015, at the age of 102.


    In her remarks, boyd said, “We are here today because Dr. Parker spent much of his life fighting for the rights of others--notably the poor and people of color, recognizing that the ability to get access to new technologies to communicate and learn weren’t simply privileges, but rights.  He challenged people to ask hard questions and ignore the seemingly insurmountable nature of complex problems. In the process, he paved a road that enables a whole new generation of activists to rally for media rights.” Click here for the full text of boyd’s remarks.


    In his acceptance speech, Torres, co-author of News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media, said: “The struggle for racial justice is very much dependent on access to the media so we can tell our own stories. But this is hard to do when you’re dependent on corporate gatekeepers to tell your story, when people of color own few broadcast stations and cable outlets, when our nation’s media policies are shaped by structural racism.


    “This is why the fight over the future of the open Internet, over Net Neutrality, is so central to this struggle for racial justice.  It’s provided the digital oxygen that has helped breathe life into the movement that cries out ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Not One More’ and ‘Say Her Name’.”  Click here for the full text of Torres’s remarks.


    Bowen was recognized for his leadership in building the Mountain Area Information Network in western North Carolina, and then working to bring a low-power FM station, local cable access channels and broadband access to his community. Monroe Gilmour, coordinator of Western North Carolina Citizens Ending Institutional Bigotry, accepted the award on behalf of Bowen, who suffers from ALS.  In a statement that Gilmour read on his behalf. Bowen noted that his work had been inspired and supported by his own faith community, Jubilee, in Asheville, NC, and quoted the words of theologian Frederick Buechner: “Your true vocation is found in that place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.”  Click here for the full text of Bowen’s remarks.


    The Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, president and general minister of the United Church of Christ, recalled the legacy of Everett Parker in his remarks: “Unlike others for whom strong rhetoric was enough, Everett always looked for action that mattered. He was one who got things done--and his commitment to  ensuring that every marginal voice would have access to the airwaves not only mattered . . . not only matters still . . . but was something almost every other justice advocate missed. He didn't.”


    The Rev. Truman Parker, son of Everett Parker, detailed his father’s long list of accomplishments beyond the WLBT case, including creating educational shows for children and preparing reports on the early days of religious broadcasting. Parker recalled a childhood home that was filled with props for the shows his father produced and boxes of filings on the hiring practices of television and radio stations to which his father had demanded access.


    In a review of OC Inc’s successes of the past year, Board Chairman Earl Williams Jr. praised the FCC’s plans to move forward this week on further capping predatory prison telephone rates. He also commended the agency for its Open Internet Order and for moving forward on making broadband Internet access more affordable for low-income households.


    Since its founding in 1959, the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc., has worked to create just and equitable media structures that give a meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas. The Parker Lecture is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective. More information is available at www.uccmediajustice.org/parker.

Read more




Copyright ©2014 OC Inc. | Subscribe to UCC Headlines | Subscribe to our Blog in a Reader facebook icon twitter icon twitter icon

Sign Up for Email