Written by J. Bennett Guess
As the media looks back on a volatile summer of war in the Middle East, escalating violence in Iraq, and withering government approval ratings at home, it faces a fall season with mid-term elections that may determine the health of the U.S. democracy. In growing numbers, the American people seem to be gaining their voice in rejecting "truthiness" on the war in Iraq and looking to the media for accuracy in reporting as they prepare to vote.
"The media and the FCC need to get real about accountability and their moral responsibility to serve the public interest so that media works for everyone," said the Rev. Robert Chase, executive director of the United Church of Christ's media justice agency, OC, Inc. "All of us in the media advocacy community would love to see a surge in popularity for that kind of reality programming and reporting."
As media consolidates, says Chase, there are fewer sources of accurate, thorough reporting and the substance and quality of news suffers. Also, with the FCC's move in July to restart its effort to loosen media ownership rules, the big media conglomerates could increasingly control public discourse in local markets.
Former vice president Al Gore added his voice to the debate when he addressed the International Television Festival in Scotland last week and blamed media consolidation for jeopardizing true "conversation about political issues."
"Democracy is a conversation, and the most important role of the media is to facilitate that conversation of democracy," Gore said. "Now the conversation is more controlled. It is more centralized. Individuals have been shut out of the conversation."
Media advocates who work daily to empower individuals and promote diversity and democracy in media will gather at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12 to examine ethics in telecommunications. The 24th annual Parker Lecture brings together media advocates from across the country and honors individuals whose work embodies the principles and values of advocating for the public interest through social communications.
This year's honorees include:
Katherine Grincewich, Associate General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, recipient of the Parker Award. The award is given in recognition of an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications.
Randall Pinkston, CBS News, recipient of the Donald H. McGannon Award. The McGannon Award is given in recognition of special contributions in advancing the roles of women and persons of color in the media.
Ken McEldowney, Executive Director of Consumer Action, recipient of the Consumer Education Leadership Award. This award is given in recognition of efforts to educate and enable consumers to use technology as a toll of empowerment.
This year's Parker lecturer will be Amy Goodman, award-winning host and executive producer of the TV and radio program Democracy Now! Goodman will introduce her new book, "Static" which Publishers' Weekly describes this way: "Mixing investigative reporting and interviews, 'Static' presents voices of dissidents, activists, and others who are too often frozen out of official
debate, to shed new light on urgent issues of war and peace. Ultimately, 'Static' is a hopeful, fighting rallying call."
With this season's mid-term elections possibly changing Congressional leadership and the FCC's renewed efforts to reverse media ownership rules, there's a lot on the line and much work ahead for media advocates. OC, Inc.'s Chase said, "The grassroots nature of the Internet has already affected elections and opened up political discussion, but television is still the most influential form of media and the American people, who own the airwaves, should have more control over its programming."
"Media has the power to shape culture, social policy and politics," said Chase. "Today our communities are comprised of many voices, and media ownership and reporting must reflect that diversity."
The Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize OC, Inc. founder the Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker and his pioneering work as an advocate for the public's rights in broadcasting. It is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications and the digital age from an ethical perspective. Past speakers include network presidents, Congressional leaders, FCC chairs and commissioners, as well as academics, cable and telephone executives and journalists. It is funded by the communications industry, particularly broadcasters, along with the communication offices of major faith groups. The Parker Lecture is sponsored by the United Church of Christ's Office of Communication (OC, Inc.) and the Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC).
As an outgrowth of the UCC's historic commitment to civil rights, OC, Inc. was incorporated in 1959 to advocate on behalf of those who had been historically excluded from the media, especially people of color and women. OC, Inc. was the first voice to demand that those holding FCC licenses and authorizations act on behalf of the public interest and be held accountable as stewards of the public trust.
For ticket information, contact John Breyault at 202.263.2943 or email@example.com.
Read more about the Parker Lecture.
The 1.3-million-member United Church of Christ was founded in 1957 with the union of the Congregational Christian Churches in America and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. It has more than 5,600 congregations throughout the United States.