Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Fourteen Major Faith Groups Support Full Net Neutrality

Today fourteen major religious denominations and organizations joined the throngs of people in the United States and around the world in calling on the Federal Communications Commission to adopt robust net neutrality protections. The letter, coordinated by the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, OC Inc., and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was joined by the National Council of Churches, the Islamic Society for North America, the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, among others. 


The letter highlighted the importance of free and open Internet communications not only for church and religious organizations own operations, but also for disenfranchised and vulnerable people to access services:


Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members, essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment.


Noting that "the Internet is an indispensable medium for people of faith – and others with principled values – to convey views on matters of public concern and religious teachings," the letter also described the consequences of inadequate protections, "Communication is an essential element of religious freedom and freedom of conscience: we fear the day might come when people of faith and conscience, and the institutions representing them, would have no recourse if we were prevented from sharing a forceful message or a call to activism using the Internet."


The letter urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt the strongest possible rules to prohibit paid prioritization and survive legal challenges.


The full list of signers included:

Church World Service, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, California (CLUE CA), Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Franciscan Action Network, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Islamic Society of North America, National Council of Churches USA, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Trabajo Cultural Caminante, United Church of Christ, OC Inc. and Justice and Witness Ministries, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the World Association for Christian Communication, North America.

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Faith Community Supports Net Neutrality!

This week is in important deadline for preserving net neutrality for an open Internet. These policies, being considered by the Federal Communications Commission, impact how everyone can use the Internet -- and as you may have heard in the news, a key part of the proposal will permit some companies to pay Internet companies so that their content will be faster and better for users. Here at UCC's media justice ministry, we have been long-time proponents of open Internet, and so have many of our friends in the faith community.

Sign up to receive updates about an open Internet from UCC's media justice ministry, and check out these great posts from around the web about Net Neutrality from the faith community:


10 Reasons Net Neutrality Matters to Progressive Christians  Our own UCC brand of affirmatively inclusive and justice-driven perspective, written by Kimberly Knight of our board. "We as compassionate livin’, justice seekin’, radically inclusive Christians can be, should be, role models for the whole world groaning toward justice. … We cannot condone a system that conditions a critical right on the ability to pay."

Killing Net Neutrality Kills the Dreams of Young Entrepreneurs  Joshua DuBois, the President’s former head of faith-based outreach, connecting Net Neutrality to Obama’s signature initiatives on equity--showing a young African American boy who is helped in so many ways by progressive policies, but is forced to abandon creating his own start-up because he can't compete with the big companies who have a built-in advantage enabled by the paid fast lane.

Life in the Fast Lane: FCC Plan on Net Neutrality Draws Criticism  From the Catholic News Service, "Everyone, at some point, has shifted over from one Communion line to another during Mass because it seemed shorter and, thus, faster.  Now imagine what it would be like if you could always have a ‘fast lane’ to receive Communion -- but you had to pay for it."

National Council of Churches Communications Commission Open Internet Resolution The NCC is a coalition of virtually all major Protestant churches: "We see every day the vital connection between a free and fair communications system and the achievement of important social justice goals… and therefore … urge the Federal Communications Commission to take any and all action to adopt network neutrality, including reclassification of broadband services as a telecommunications service, as a fundamental and necessary part of the framework for all forms of broadband Internet service…"

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Parker Lecture 2014 Honorees Announced

For immediate release

April 29, 2014




Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will deliver the 32nd annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Makani Themba and Catherine J.K. Sandoval will be honored at the 2014 Parker Lecture and Breakfast. The event, organized by the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, the Office of Communication, Inc., will be held at 8 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Newseum Institute. The program will be live streamed at


Wheeler was appointed by President Barack Obama and became the 31st chairman of the FCC on Nov. 4, 2013. For more than three decades, he has been involved with new telecommunications networks and services, experiencing the revolution in telecommunications as a policy expert, an advocate and a businessman. He is the only person to be selected to both the Cable Television Hall of Fame and The Wireless Hall of Fame, a fact that President Obama joked made him “The Bo Jackson of Telecom.” An avid student of history, Wheeler is the author of Take Command: Leadership Lessons of the Civil War and Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War. Wheeler is a former trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a former board member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and the former chairman and president of the Foundation for the National Archives.


Themba, executive director of The Praxis Project, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award, given in recognition of an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications and the media. Themba helped to pioneer the developing field of justice communications, first as media director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Los Angeles and then as a media strategist supporting a range of progressive causes. At SCLC-LA, she first engaged in media policy work to support community engagement around station licensing. During her tenure as director of the Center for Media and Policy Analysis at The Marin Institute, Themba began advancing media advocacy as a mainstream practice in public health. She is co-author of Media Advocacy for Public Health: Power for Prevention, Talking the Walk: Communications Guide for Racial Justice and Fair Game: A Strategy Guide for Racial Justice Communications in the Obama Era.


Sandoval, a Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since 2011, will receive the Donald H. McGannon Award, given in recognition of special contributions in advancing the roles of women and people of color in the media. Sandoval, the first Latino to serve as a commissioner at the CPUC, also serves as a co-vice-chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Telecommunications Committee and as policy chair of the Federal Communications Commission’s Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Telecommunications Services. Sandoval, the first Latina to win a Rhodes scholarship, directed the FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities during the Clinton Administration and is a tenured faculty member of the Santa Clara University School of Law. Sandoval authored and co-authored a number of important FCC filings and articles addressing inclusion in communications policy and published a major study on commercial radio ownership by people of color.  As a CPUC commissioner she helped bring about the first telephone service available to the Yurok nation in Northern California.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker’s petition to the FCC, which challenged the broadcasting license of WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., for its failure to serve the public interest, most notably in its coverage of that city’s African-American residents. Parker’s petition ultimately established the right of individuals to intervene in matters before the FCC.


This year’s lecture, in the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center, will be held in conjunction with the Newseum’s three-year exhibit “Civil Rights at 50,” chronicling major developments in the civil rights movement from 1963 to 1965 through news media reports.


The Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the Rev. Dr. Parker, founder of OC, Inc., and his 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. Past speakers have included network presidents, Congressional leaders, and FCC chairs and commissioners, as well as academics, cable and telephone executives and journalists. More information is available at


The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination with more than 1 million members and nearly 5,200 local congregations nationwide, recognizes the unique power of the media to shape public understanding and thus society as a whole. For this reason, the UCC’s OC, Inc. has worked since its founding in 1959 to create just and equitable media structures that give a meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas. 


The Newseum Institute provides a forum for educational programs and thought-leadership initiatives, as well as educational materials, addressing the five freedoms of the First Amendment: speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition. The Newseum's 250,000-square-foot museum in downtown Washington, D.C., offers visitors a state-of-the-art experience that blends news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits.


United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc.

Cheryl A. Leanza, media contact


Jonathan Thompson, manager of media relations


United Church of Christ

Emily Schappacher
(216) 736-2177

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Categories: ParkerLecture

Digital Advertising Targets Youth of Color - Tweet Chat Recap

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 online.

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Categories: Children

Move toward Competition, But Where is Diversity?

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.

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