Rainbow PUSH founder Rev. Jesse Jackson says that attacks on his group, NAACP, the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council and others over their stand on media issues are unwarranted, counterproductive and are deepening the divisions between social justice groups and advocates working toward the same goal: "social justice and equity."
"We can disagree without dehumanizing others and sending mainstream media mobs to launch targeted smear campaigns on organizations and their leaders," he said in a statement sent to B&C/Multichannel News.
Looking to put more civility in civil rights issues, Jackson said that he found being labeled a shill for big media "highly offensive" as well as inaccurate.
"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose name has been loosely referenced in many of these articles, always strived for civility," said Jackson "[H]e upheld the core values of compassion, suggesting that much is to be gained by understanding rather than denouncing the opposition."
"These efforts are counterproductive to a framework of civility and compromise future collaborations on the range of civil rights concerns that threaten the quality of life in our communities," said Jackson.
Various civil rights groups have come out in support of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to use existing authority to advance universal broadband service (so-called Sec. 706 authority) to justify new network neutrality regulations. That is the position advocated by most ISPs, at least as a preferable to the alternative.
That has prompted some of the most passionate advocates of that alternative—reclassifying Internet access under some Title II common carrier authority—to suggest those diversity groups are simply parroting the big media line.
Those groups argue that Sec. 706 is a way to get the rules returned without discouraging the innovation and investment that could benefit minority and small businesses.
They take issue with the suggestion that the big media companies, some of which contribute to them, are doing their thinking for them.
At a recent conference MMTC president David Honig said that MMTC, Rainbow Push and the over 40 other groups that joined in supporting the FCC's Sec. 706 approach to new net neutrality rules had studied the issue and did not believe a Title II approach made sense, an approach he called risky and irresponsible.
"You can't say these 42 organizations are too stupid to know what the net neutrality issue is about," he said, adding that the smears of his group smacked of....He did not finish the sentence, but if so, it would have been "racism."
Jackson pointed out that the civil rights groups have taken fire from the right as well as the left.
Conservative critics took issue with Rainbow PUSH and MMTC's support of an FCC waiver that will allow Grain Management, a minority-owned tower company—and other similarly situated companies—to earn designated entity (DE) status in FCC wireless spectrum auctions even though they have leases with large wireless carriers that would ordinarily bar them from getting bidding credits.
Designated entity (DE) is the category that the FCC uses to grant bidding credits to small, often minority owned, businesses to give them a better shot at competing with larger companies for spectrum.
The idea behind making the leases attributable is so big companies don't use smaller ones as fronts for their bids. But the FCC concluded it needed to rethink the lease policy and that in this and similar cases it should not preclude a bidding credit.
Rainbow PUSH says minority owned and small business spectrum asset ownership has been "dismal" due to a lack of DE policy reforms, despite Congress' mandate that the FCC promote those small and minority-owned businesses.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler circulated an item two weeks ago proposing changes to the FCC's designated entity and joint bidding rules for spectrum auctions to make it easier for those small businesses to participate, including not making leases de facto obstacles to bidding credits.