Last week, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council held its 11th Annual Access to Capital and Telecom Policy Conference, drawing hundreds of participants, both in person and online. During this year’s awards reception, “Celebrating MMTC’s Success in Advancing Minority Entrepreneurship,” MMTC conferred its first ever Entrepreneur of the Year Award, in addition to its Everett C. Parker Lifetime Achievement Award.
The inaugural Entrepreneur of the Year award went to David J. Grain, Founder and Managing Partner of Grain Management, LLC, and MMTC’s highest honor – the Everett C. Parker Lifetime Achievement Award – went to the dynamic duo of Former FCC Commissioners Jonathan S. Adelstein and Robert W. McDowell. Both awards were presented by MMTC Vice Chair and former FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate.
Grain’s specialization in the communications sector made him an outstanding candidate in MMTC’s collaborative search with the National Urban League (NUL), National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and Verizon Wireless to identify qualified minority and women owned telecommunications companies and entrepreneurs to participate in Verizon’s sale of 700 MHz of B Block spectrum.
This February, after working with Grain, MMTC’s Media Brokerage, NUL, and NCLR, Verizon Wireless announced the sale of spectrum licenses in the Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham Cellular Market Areas to Grain Management in a transaction valued at $189 million.
While Grain graciously accepted his award, he expressed caution that the deal isn’t done until the “ink is dry.” A serial entrepreneur, Grain was inducted into the MMTC Hall of Fame at MMTC’s Broadband and Social Justice Summit, held in January 2013, and his award was for his history-making efforts in the Verizon-spectrum deal and success in his past ventures.
Everett C. Parker Lifetime Achievement awardees Adelstein and McDowell were honored for their long-standing commitment to achieving diversity within the regulated communications industries and, most notably, for teaming up to achieve a unanimous vote on the FCC’s Advertising Nondiscrimination Rule – the nation’s first new civil rights mandate in over 30 years, and the first ever that drew no opposition. This rule outlaws a practice that has cost minority broadcasters an estimated $200 million every year in revenue lost as a result of discrimination against advertising products on “urban” or “Spanish” formatted radio stations. Thanks to both commissioners’ support and unrelenting oversight, minority broadcasters can finally access a fair share of the advertising revenues that keep their stations alive. When accepting the award, both Adelstein and McDowell lauded the efforts of Sherman Kizart and the 4A’s for championing the rule’s passage at the FCC.
Former Commissioner Robert McDowell’s signature cause at the FCC was minority ownership and entrepreneurship in the nation’s most influential industries. McDowell retired from the FCC on May 17, 2013, and he currently serves a Visiting Fellow at the Hudson Institute. Tate lauded McDowell as a friend of MMTC and an avid champion of diversity, who proudly touts his record of never missing an MMTC conference during his service as an FCC Commissioner.
Known as a diversity champion during his FCC tenure, Jonathan Adelstein currently serves as the chief executive officer of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, the trade association representing the companies that make up the wireless telecommunications infrastructure industry. As PCIA’s leader, Adelstein is continuing to advocate for his signature cause at the FCC and RUS – expanding wireless broadband and diversity & inclusion in the telecommunications industry. Prior to joining PCIA, Adelstein served as the Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (USDA-RUS).
The Everett C. Parker Lifetime Achievement Award, MMTC’s highest honor, is awarded for leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion in the media and telecom industries. The Parker Award is named after Dr. Everett Parker, who in 1955 founded the modern media reform movement as the founding Director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ. Dr. Parker’s pioneering work in challenging the FCC licensee qualifications of segregationist southern television stations formed the basis for the FCC’s present-day civil rights jurisprudence. Dr. Parker remains active in the civil rights movement, serving in many capacities, including that of a Director of MMTC.
Dorrissa D. Griffin, Esq., serves as Chief of Staff and Staff Counsel for the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council. She works to advance the civil rights of minorities and women in the nation’s media and telecommunications industries. Dorrissa is a graduate of Florida A&M University College of Law, a member of the Florida Bar, and awaiting membership to the DC Bar.