Written by William C. Winslow
UCC hosts telecommunicators in Washington
Lobbying may be distasteful to many Americans, but it's "perfectly okay," says Jeffery Birnbaum, a columnist for the Washington Post, who spoke on Sept. 14 at the 22nd annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture, a UCC-sponsored event in Washington, D.C.
The first amendment, Birnbaum says, guarantees "the right of citizens to petition for redress of grievances."
While Birnbaum concedes that campaign contributions do play a role in public policy outcomes, the most effective form of lobbying is still the organization that organizes and mobilizes voters willing to express their opinions.
Senators and representatives do respond to voter groups, Birnbaum explains, especially when less than half the population—at best—regularly participates in elections. Motivated voter blocs can be very effective in bringing important issues to the attention of Congress.
Birnbaum—a stand-in for the event's scheduled speaker, Michel Martin of ABC News' Nightline, who was unable to attend due to a last-minute assignment—says small non-profit groups, often using the internet, need to be heard in the halls of power. While religious bodies are prohibited from direct involvement in electoral politics, they still can advocate for the poor and the powerless in society, and they can educate their members on legislative matters.
That's what the UCC's Office of Communication, Inc., has done so effectively on telecommunications issues for almost half a century, first under the Rev. Everett C. Parker, who directed its work from its founding in 1959 until his retirement in 1982. Today, the UCC's OC, Inc. remains a key player in advocating for the public interest in telecommunications.
It's why politicians, advocates and telecommunications executives flock each year to the Parker Lecture, because its namesake, still going strong at age 92, is recognized as the conscience of the telecommunications industry.
Also during the luncheon, OC, Inc. presented awards to Dennis Swanson, executive vice president of Viacom Television Stations, and David Honig, co-founder and executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.
Meanwhile, earlier that day, U.S. Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) addressed the fourth annual UCC legislative breakfast, held in conjunction with the Parker event.
"I believe we are at a dramatic crossroad in the fight for greater media diversity," Watson said. "Today, decades of irresponsible deregulation in telecommunication policy has created great discontent among consumers who are angry at the lack of choices among an extremely concentrated media market."