Written by Gregg Brekke
Leading off its "Bring Betty Broadband" campaign to promote equal high-speed-internet access for all, a diverse gathering of religious groups has launched So We Might See, a national interfaith coalition for media justice.
"So We Might See is an ecumenical, interfaith coalition that has come together to educate and advocate for media justice, both within our faith communities and beyond," says the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive director of the United Church of Christ's Office of Communication, Inc. "We will work across religious lines to address the social, structural and economic barriers that prevent equal access to the media and telecommunications."
So We Might See plans to develop a network of individuals and congregations that will focus greater public attention on media policy issues, says Guess. "We want to work together to build a more responsible, accessible, and inclusive media."
The coalition includes diverse religious representation, including the National Council of Churches, U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Islamic Society of North America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mennonite Media, United Methodist Communications, and more.
"While we are impressed with our initial partners, we want to increase the breadth of our participating faith groups," says Guess. "By no means is our coalition yet complete, but it's a good start."
The media reform movement traces its roots to several religious leaders who, during the Civil Rights Movement, insisted that TV stations be more responsive to African-American viewers.
"People of faith have been at the forefront of significant legal battles to advocate and safeguard media-related policies that affect children, women and people of color," says Wesley M. "Pat" Pattillo, program director for justice, advocacy and communication for the National Council of Churches. "The formation of this media-focused religious coalition is an important next step in concretizing our shared commitment to media justice."
On July 14, the coalition will launch its first joint campaign "Bring Betty Broadband" to bring increased public attention on those who still lack access to high-speed internet services. The coalition also is planning campaigns this year on internet freedom/neutrality, violence in the media, and over-commercialization.
"Bring Betty Broadband will help engage individuals and congregations into meaningful public dialogue about the development and implementation of policies that will help bring broadband to all Americans," says Cheryl Leanza, policy director of the UCC's OC, Inc. The act calls for the Federal Communications Commission to develop a national broadband plan by the end of the year.
The viral campaign is built around the woes of a fictional-but-reality-based Betty, a new computer owner who lacks broadband access. BringBettyBroadband.org includes advocacy materials to bring greater attention to broadband deployment, affordability and access education.
"Leaders within our respective faith traditions have pledged to engage our members in political education and advocacy on media-related issues," says the Rev. Jerry L. Van Marter of the Presbyterian News Service and chair of the NCC Communication Commission. "So We Might See is committed to producing edgy viral campaigns and sophisticated electronic messaging that will attract thousands to pay attention to important policy considerations that relate to the media and our daily lives."
So We Might See is planning a coalition gathering on September 30 in New York, in partnership with the 27th annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture.