Friday, September 18, 2015

A00545 - Everett Parker, Won Landmark Fight Over Media Race Bias


The Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker in 1981.CreditTeresa Zabala/The New York Times

The Rev. Everett C. Parker, who won a landmark broadcasting case and led a civil rights crusade to hold television and radio stations accountable for presenting racially biased programming and for failing to hire blacks and other minorities, died on Thursday in White Plains. He was 102.
His death was announced by the United Church of Christ, where he was the founder and longtime director of its Office of Communications. With church support, he used the office as his civil rights platform for 30 years.
In a nation with a history of racial discrimination, it was not unusual decades ago for minorities to be ignored or to have their dignity trampled on radio and television. Station executives, under no pressure from federal regulators, gave little thought to segregated shows or on-the-air slurs, let alone to minority hiring.
But as the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960s, Dr. Parker, a minister and director of communications for the socially conscious, 1.75-million-member United Church of Christ, began to survey the performances of radio and television stations in the South. He identified WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., as a flagrant purveyor of racist programming.
While blacks made up 43 percent of the viewing audience, he found, the station did not cover civil rights news or the black community and often referred to blacks pejoratively on the air. Typically the only blacks shown on WLBT were in police custody. Dr. Parker, who had worked in broadcasting, asked the National Association of Broadcasters to issue guidelines to give blacks a more positive presence on television, but the industry group refused.
On behalf of his church and some viewers, he petitioned the Federal Communications Commission in 1964 to deny WLBT a license renewal for failing to serve the public interest, as required by law. The F.C.C. conceded the facts but dismissed the petition, saying the church, and even viewers, had no standing to challenge the license. Only broadcasters or others with an “economic” interest had such standing, the commission said.
“I thought that through,” Dr. Parker recalled years later, “and concluded that the public did have ‘standing,’ and an economic interest, because they owned radios and television sets.”
An appeal was filed, and in 1966, Warren E. Burger, then a federal appellate judge, recognized the right of the church and viewers to petition the F.C.C. But after a hearing, the commission renewed the station’s license, leading to another appeal. In 1969, Judge Burger, soon to be chief justice of the United States, ruled that the F.C.C.’s record in the case was “beyond repair” and ordered WLBT’s license revoked.
“After nearly five decades of operation,” Judge Burger wrote, “the broadcast industry does not seem to have grasped the simple fact that a broadcast license is a public trust subject to termination for breach of duty.”
The decision marked the first time that a license had been lifted for a station’s failure to serve the public interest, and it established the right of ordinary citizens to challenge a license. It began a new era of heightened sensitivity by the F.C.C. and broadcasters to communities and minorities.
Armed with the power to threaten licenses, Dr. Parker, in the 1970s and ’80s, joined other religious and civic groups — the Citizens’ Communications Center, the Media Access Project and Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen organization, among others — in challenging television and radio stations on broadcast content and other issues, including employment discrimination.
After another petition by Dr. Parker showing that minorities were underrepresented in the industry, the F.C.C. issued rules banning unfair employment practices by broadcasters. But Dr. Parker found that informal meetings with station executives, rather than federal complaints, often led to reforms in hiring and content.
Dr. Parker recruited volunteers in many cities to monitor broadcasters’ programs and hiring practices. He widened his campaign to include network, cable and telecommunications policies; set up programs to train minority broadcasters; produced documentaries and children’s programs, wrote several books, and lectured at Fordham University in the Bronx. He became known as the dean of civil rights reforms in broadcasting.
“All we’ve ever wanted to do is make it possible for people to express themselves through the system of broadcasting,” he told The New York Times when he retired in 1983. “If broadcasters are to serve the public interest, they need to be reminded that they serve all the publics.”
Everett Carlton Parker was born on Jan. 17, 1913, in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1935, joined the Depression-era Works Progress Administration in Washington as a radio producer, and in 1936-37 was the station manager of WJBW in New Orleans. In 1938, he opened an advertising agency in Chicago, but gave it up a year later to train for the ministry. In 1939 he married the former Geneva Jones. She died in 2004.
Dr. Parker is survived by his daughters, Ruth Weiss and Eunice Kolczun; a son, the Rev. Truman E. Parker; seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Dr. Parker earned his doctorate in 1943 from the Chicago Theological Seminary. He worked for NBC in New York as a war program manager, and from 1945 to 1957 taught communications at Yale Divinity School. In 1954, he created a public relations office for the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, which became the United Church of Christ in a 1957 merger.
Asked in 2012 by the website Broadband & Social Justice how he would like to be remembered, Dr. Parker said, “I want them to remember that I was a guy who fought like the devil for the rights of minorities.”
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a former executive director of the Office of Communications, suggested in a statement that Dr. Parker’s legacy would be far broader.
“Everett’s lifelong clarity and insistence that ethics, accessibility, diversity and social justice are central to, not peripheral to, a fair and effective media forever changed the landscape of broadcast journalism in this country,” he was quoted as saying on the church’s website on Friday. “By challenging previously unchallenged assumptions about media ownership and access, he altered the course of U.S. media history and skewed it toward fuller inclusion for all people. His remarkable courage and tenacity will be forever remembered by history.”


Everett Carlton Parker (January 17, 1913 – September 17, 2015) was a media activist and reverend.[1][2][3]
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Parker attended the University of Chicago. Upon graduation in 1935, he spent a year with the Works Progress Administration, then another with the radio station WJBW. After returning to his hometown for a job as an advertiser, Parker enrolled at the Chicago Theological Seminary, earning a Ph.D in 1943. He reentered the media world with a stint at NBC in New York, then taught at Yale Divinity Schoolfrom 1945 to 1957. He was the Director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ from 1954 to 1983.[4]
He filed a successful petition to deny licensing renewal of television station WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. The station had a poor record with regards to civil rights for African Americans.[5]

Everett Carlton Parker (b. January 17, 1913, Chicago, Illinois – September 17, 2015, White Plains, New York) was a media activist and reverend.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Parker attended the University of Chicago. Upon graduation in 1935, he spent a year with the Works Progress Administration, then another with the radio station WJBW. After returning to his hometown for a job as an advertiser, Parker enrolled at the Chicago Theological Seminary, earning a doctorate in 1943. He re-entered the media world with a stint at NBC in New York, then taught a Yale Divinity School from 1945 to 1957. He was the Director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ from 1954 to 1983.
He filed a successful petition to deny licensing renewal of television station WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. The station had a poor record with regards to civil rights for African Americans. 

Dr. Rev. Everett C. Parker: The Communication Industry’s Quintessential Fighter for Diversity

“Whatever career you may choose for yourself – doctor, lawyer, teacher – 
let me propose an avocation to be pursued along with it.  Become a dedicated 
fighter for civil rights … It will enrich your spirit as nothing else possibly can. 
It will give you that rare sense of nobility that can only spring from love and 
selflessly helping your fellow man …”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
A person seldom accomplishes something so remarkable that its impact is indelible and felt not only by his generation, but undoubtedly, those that follow.
But at 99 years old, Dr. Rev. Everett C. Parker can stake a claim in helping to develop the public interest standard in broadcast media and laying a foundation to make the nation’s communications industry more diverse and inclusive for years to come.
Establishing the UCC’s Office of Communication
Early in his career, Parker pressed for broadcasters to serve the needs of the public. Over fifty years ago, he founded the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, and sought to use the organization to help fight the nation’s racial segregation.
“The religious element of that time realized that we were facing something new,” said Parker, adding that establishing the Office of Communication was an endeavor he spearheaded alone.   “I was the Office of Communication – there wasn’t anything else but me.”
Parker blazed a trail in the 1960s by focusing the Office’s efforts on ensuring that broadcasters did not suppress the voices and images of minorities on the air and provided news coverage and programming that served their communities of license.
“I was the only one that was trying to do anything that I know of,” he said. “People just didn’t think about challenging the communications entities in those days.”
“If you want to put a mark on me, WLBT is an answer,” said Parker, discussing the challenge of Jackson, Mississippi, station WLBT-TV in the 1960s he led along with attorney Earle K. Moore.
The station participated in egregious racist broadcasts, which prompted Parker and Moore to sue the station, causing it to lose its Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadcasting license.  The case established precedent which gave the public standing to challenge a broadcasting license. Yet, Parker said he was mostly undaunted, despite inhabiting the very racist environment of Jackson, Mississippi, while working on the case.  He also said he never fully appreciated the lasting legacy the case would create in the future.
“I always had my feet on the ground where the action was, and the future had to take care of itself,” said Parker. “But I sure had ideas of what the communications system should do, and one of those ideas was that it should be open to people of color.”
Pressing for Diversity and Inclusion in Communications
The extent of Dr. Parker’s work to make the communications industry more diverse is in no way limited to his involvement in the WLBT-TV case.  Parker is credited with helping to lead the fight for the FCC to establish its equal employment opportunity (EEO) rules in broadcasting.
“It made it more open to minorities, and that meant women too, because for the broadcasting industry, women were a minority,” said Parker about the impact of the EEO rules that the Commission adopted.
Parker also helped found the Emma L. Bowen Foundation for Minority Interests in Media, an organization that has helped to expose numerous minority youths to the communications industry.  He remains passionate about getting more youths engaged in the industry
“I think it is extremely important that young people, [from] other than pure white backgrounds, engage in it,” said Parker. “Young kids of color.  And we should reach out to stay sure that they do, so that the whole population is well represented in the making of communication policy.”
While Parker sees the need for fair representation among those who make communications policy, he does not see the FCC as a “good or bad” organization, but rather, one that is a “creature” of its president and White House.
“What we need is a determination on the part of a majority of people that minorities get a [fair] shake in the operation of the communication system of the United States, and I would say in the operation of the government,” said Parker
Reflections of a Fearless Fighter
When prompted to compare the communications industry of yesteryear to that of today, Parker stated, “There is no comparison between then and now – because we’ve learned a few things, and we can’t go back to nothing from somewhere.”  He emphasized his belief, however, that while there are differences, there are still similarities.
When asked what he views as the most watershed technological advancement in communications, Parker unhesitatingly answered, “Television.”
“Having something more than noise, having some pictures with noise.… It opened up a whole world for people to see things that they would never [have] seen before in motion,” he said.
“It certainly had a big impact on the civil rights movement,” he added.  “[Before television,] you couldn’t see it.  You could have reports in radio days, but you couldn’t see what was happening – you didn’t know if the reports were true.”
Parker, however, said that like years past, many are not aware of how the industry works.
“Nobody knew anything about this business – it was just radio…and everybody listened to the radio, but nobody knew where it came from. There were very few people who knew who put these radio programs on. It was a closed-door industry – still is.”
The 99-year-old also looks favorably upon the advent of broadband Internet.
“ … I think that anything that opens up more possibilities for the public to make use of the communications world is a useful thing,” he said.
To many, Parker had led a life of exceptional accomplishment, distinction, and courage.
But as he reflects on what he wishes to be everyone’s lasting memory of his life, he laughs and states:
“I want them to remember that I was a guy who fought like the devil for the rights of minorities.”

Everett C. Parker played a leading role in the development of public interest of American television. He served as director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ from 1954 until 1983. In that position, he was at the forefront of Protestant communications, overseeing the public media activities of one of the leading mainline Protestant religious groups. He is better known, however, for two other contributions: his leadership in the development of an influential media reform and citizen action movement in broadcasting; and his activism directed at improved broadcast employment prospects for women and minorities. Near the end of his career, he was named one of the most influential men in broadcasting by the trade publication Broadcasting Magazine.
Parker had an early career in radio production. After a year at NBC in New York, he founded and became head of an interdenominational Protestant Church broadcasting organization, the Joint Religious Radio Committee (JRRC). The JRRC was formed to serve as a counterbalance to the dominance of the Federal Council of Churches in public service religious broadcasting. Besides its impact on programming, the JRRC also addressed the impact of media on society and public interest issues in broadcasting. The JRRC was an early vocal supporter of reserved FM frequency assignments for educational use, for example.
From 1945 until 1957, Parker was a lecturer in communication at Yale Divinity School, and from 1949 until 1954, he also headed the Communication Research Project, the first major study of religious broadcasting. This project resulted in the definitive work on religious broadcasting for nearly two decades, The Television-Radio Audience and Religion, co-authored by Parker, David Barry and Dallas Smythe.
In 1954, he founded the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, the first such agency to combine press, broadcasting, film, research, and educational functions in one unit. The office pioneered programs to improve the communication skills of ministers, to improve the communication activities of local churches, and to use television for education. It also participated in the production of some landmark television programs, including Six American Families, a nationally-syndicated documentary series produced in collaboration with Westinghouse Broadcasting Company and the United Methodist Church.
The work of Parker and the Office took an important turn in the 1960s, as the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. After reviewing the civil rights performance of television stations in the South, the Office identified WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi as a frequent target of public complaints and Federal Communication Commission (FCC) reprimands regarding its public service. In 1963, the Office filed a "petition to deny renewal" with the FCC, initiating a process that had far-reaching consequences in U.S. broadcasting. The FCC's initial response to the petition was to rule that neither the United Church of Christ nor local citizens had legal "standing" to participate in its renewal proceedings. The UCC appealed, and in 1966, Warren Burger, then a Federal appeals court judge, granted such standing to the UCC and to citizens in general. After a hearing, the FCC renewed WLBT's license, resulting in another appeal by the UCC. Burger declared the FCC's record "beyond repair" and revoked WLBT's license in 1969.
Based on this new right to participate in license proceedings, Parker's office began to work with other reform and citizens' groups to monitor broadcast performance on a number of issues, including employment discrimination and fairness. In 1967, the Office's petition to the FCC dealing with employment issues lead to the Commission's adoption of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules for broadcasting. In 1968, it participated as a "friend of the court" in the landmark Red Lion case, which confirmed and expanded the Fairness Doctrine.
Parker and the Office continued to play a central role in the developing media reform movement throughout the 1970s and 1980s in cooperation with organizations such as Citizens' Communication Center, the Media Access Project, the National Citizens' Committee for Broadcasting, Ralph Nader's Public Citizen organization, and a variety of other religious and civic groups. The attention of this movement broadened in subsequent years to include cable television and telecommunications and telephone policy. These organizations became active in the developing change in regulation and eventual break-up of AT and T during the period from 1978 to 1984.
In his later years, Parker devoted more attention to issues of employment in broadcasting and the communication industries. In 1974 he established Telecommunications Career Recruitment, a program for the recruitment and training of minority broadcasters, with the cooperation and support of the Westinghouse Broadcasting and Capital Cities Broadcasting companies.
On his retirement in 1983, Broadcasting Magazinesomewhat grudgingly hailed him as "the founder of the citizen movement in broadcasting" who spent "some two decades irritating and worrying the broadcast establishment." In retirement, Parker took up a post at Fordham University in New York at a center named for his friend and colleague, Don McGannon, long-time president of Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. Everett C. Parker passed away on September 17, 2015.

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