Office of Communications, Inc.

UCC Media Justice Update

Structure of and Access to Technology is the Key to Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (OCTOBER 15, 2020)

 

Today's 38th Annual Parker Lecture and Awards Ceremony highlighted the importance of communications policy in ensuring justice for all people. 

 
Karen Peltz Strauss with the Parker Award plaque
Karen Peltz Strauss

Karen Peltz Strauss was honored for four decades of work in support of access to media and communications for people with disabilities. In her acceptance speech, Strauss explained that it took years of work and many laws and policies for people with disabilities to gain access to television. Strauss emphasized the broad importance of disability access beyond the disability community, noting for example, that the features which aid people with disabilities also often ensure aging adults—who sometimes face declining vision, hearing and cognition—are not left behind. "This award acknowledges that these on-going struggles for disability justice are part and parcel of civil rights so important to Dr. Parker," she said.

 

Valarie Kaur, founder of the Revolutionary Love Project and author of the newly-released book See No Stranger, also spoke to the importance of the Internet in achieving social justice, describing how, even though today the Internet is used to spread hate, it also powered the public response in support of the Black Lives Matter movement this year. Praising the work of media justice advocates who have fought for net neutrality and universal access, she challenged the audience to continue the work.

 
Valarie Kaur with Parker Lecture plaque
Valarie Kaur

Kaur told the story of her own grandfather, who arrived as an immigrant in 1913 the same year Dr. Parker was born. Kaur compared the work of Dr. Parker to the work of media justice advocates today, "Everett Parker envisioned a world where people of color like my grandfather had the ability to organize, to tell our own stories, to write our own destinies. Everett Parker fought to ensure that all people could speak and be heard on the most important mass media of his time: broadcast television. Today, we are fighting to ensure that all people can speak and be heard on the most important media of our time: the Internet." Kaur laid out three policy objectives that will ensure the work for social justice will continue: changing the terms of service by social media companies, closing the digital divide, and reestablishing net neutrality. In closing, she exhorted the group assembled on Facebook Live to remember the generations of people who will come after us, "if we show up now and we do the brave thing now, they will inherit a world, and an internet, where at last we see no stranger."

 

Also participating in today's ceremony were the Rev. Lawrence Richardson and Rev. Hyo-Jung Kim of the UCC OC Inc.'s board of directors, Rachel Chapman of the national denomination's board of directors and Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, one of the United Church of Christ's three elected officers leading the church. The event closed with an example of how the denomination's churches are thriving online with a remote, digital version of The Welcome Table by the Holmdel Community United Church of Christ's in-house band.

 
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OC Inc. created the Parker Lecture in 1983 to recognize its founder’s pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting. This year's event took place entirely online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The complete lecture is available on the UCC Media Justice Facebook page now, and excerpts and highlights will be available shortly. The event is also a fundraiser, and donations can be made at www.uccmediajustice.org.

 

The United Church of Christ is a mainline Protestant denomination comprised of nearly 900,000 members and 5,000 congregations nationwide. Headquartered in Cleveland, the UCC is a church of many firsts, including the first mainline denomination to ordain a woman, the first to ordain an openly gay man and the first predominantly white denomination to ordain an African American. The UCC and its members are tireless advocates for such social issues as immigration reform, racial equality, LGBT rights, marriage equality, environmental protection and economic justice.

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Categories: ParkerLecture

Supreme Court grants Certiorari in FCC v. Prometheus

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in Federal Communications Commission v. Prometheus Radio Project this morning, October 2, 2020.

Cheryl A. Leanza, counsel for Prometheus Radio Project, et al., including the United Church of Christ, OC Inc., issued the following statement:

 

We're confident that on the merits, the Supreme Court will conclude that the Third Circuit properly turned back the Federal Communications Commission's last quadrennial review decision. The FCC blundered on the most basic level--as the Third Circuit found--using a numerical analysis that would fail statistics 101. The FCC continues to hold media ownership diversity as a key priority and yet repeatedly takes action that undermines that goal. The Third Circuit's analysis was fully in accord with settled law.

 

Further, I want to extend our gratitude to Best Best & Krieger, LLP which leant pro bono and professional support in the litigation before the Third Circuit;  Andrew Jay Schwartzman and Angela Campbell, co-counsel; Professor Brian Wolfman of Georgetown University Law Center for his advice; and Ruthanne M. Deutsch and Hyland Hunt of DeutschHunt  PLLC, of who will be counsel of record before the Court.

More background on this case; Prometheus, et al.'s brief in opposition.

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Just Rates for Incarcerated Communications

Today a group of almost 80 organizations wrote to Senators McConnell, Schumer, Wicker and Cantwell to request that the Senate include the COVID-19 Compassion and Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice provisions, H.R. 6800, §§130701-03, in the next COVID-19 package enacted into law. Those provisions would: 1) immediately reduce rates for voice calls, capping the cost of all calls at $0.04 per minute for prepaid calls and $0.05 per minute for collect calls, 2) end site commission payments between phone companies and correctional agencies; and 3) clearly establish the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) jurisdiction to limit predatory rates for local, intrastate communications as well as fees of all kinds.

Cheryl A. Leanza, OC Inc.'s policy advisor said, "In a time when our country is focused on the importance of affordable communication during a pandemic, the value of Black Lives, and the systemic flaws in our criminal justice system, it just makes sense for Congress to ensure that no one can be charged predatory rates to talk to their loved ones in prison, jail or detention. The Christian tradition teaches us that incarcerated people are worthy of dignity and respect in every way--whether it is the right to fair treatment inside, support reintegrating into society or the ability to speak to a child without sacrificing economic security. The time for Congress to act is now."

The letter and petitions with a total of 75,000 signatures were discussed at a press conference on August 11, 2020. A recording of the press conference is available here.

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Categories: prison phone

Civil rights & non-profits seek help for low-income consumers

United Church of Christ, OC Inc., the National Consumer Law Center and the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council collaborated to submit a letter asking the Federal Communications Commission to take steps to assist low-income consumers. Specifically, the letter asks the FCC to:

  • Extend COVID-related waivers through the end of the year;

  • Restore Lifeline voice support to the $9.25/month subsidy;

  • Freeze the Lifeline minimum service standards for broadband service until the FCC completes a pending study on the program or increases the existing Lifeline benefit amount.

The letter was signed by a diverse array of civil rights, anti-poverty, consumer, labor, faith and technology rights organizations, specifically:

Access Humboldt
Black Female Founders (#BFF)
Center for Rural Strategies
Common Sense Media
Communications Workers of America
Dialogue on Diversity, Inc.
Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP)
Japanese American Citizens League
LGBT Technology Partnership
MediaJustice
Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC)
NAACP
National Blacks In Government, Inc.
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients
National Digital Inclusion Alliance
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Organization of Black County Officials (NOBCO)
National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women
New America's Open Technology Institute
Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, on behalf of our low income clients
Public Knowledge
Florida State Senator Audrey Gibson, Senate Democratic Leader
United Church of Christ, OC Inc.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


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Prison phone justice needs Congress, FCC Action Welcome

The helpful, but limited, action today by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to the predatory costs of communication between incarcerated people and their loved ones demonstrates the need for federal legislation to address this issue. As has been widely documented, including most recently by the FCC, the costs of calling incarcerated people are "egregiously high." People are sometimes paying almost $25 for a 15-minute call. Further, as the FCC explains, the vote today will address only 20 percent of relevant calls. Congressional action is needed so that the FCC can address the remaining 80 percent.

 

Nonetheless, the FCC today is appropriately voting to reassert its authority over almost all fees, because it is impossible to distinguish between fees related to in-state calls or calls between states. In addition, the FCC is initiating a proceeding to propose lower rates for the 20 percent of calls over which it has jurisdiction. Cheryl A. Leanza, the UCC's policy advisor stated, "The vote at the is a welcome redirection under the present FCC." Ms. Leanza explained, "Our conversations with the FCC about the Further Notice were productive and we look forward to actively participating in a wide-ranging proceeding. The additional questions will enable the FCC to move more quickly to make changes in the future. But it is unfortunate that this vote took so long given that the initial remand from federal court occurred three years ago."

 

In addition, Ms. Leanza noted, "because the FCC's analysis concluded GTL misrepresented its costs to the Commission and the record showed that Securus is imposing fees not permitted by the FCC's rules, I hope to see the FCC move quickly to take enforcement action against those companies."

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Categories: prison phone



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