Sixteen False, Misleading, Unsupported, or Libelous Statements in Republic Articles on Minority Organizations and the Open Internet Proceeding

by mmtcbbsj on August 7, 2014

Recently, Republic Report posted two articles (here and here) containing 16 false and misleading assertions. Other publications have reposted the articles without confirming their accuracy. We are setting the record straight with this point-by-point rebuttal.

True FalseThe Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) and dozens of other national minority organizations were recently attacked in two articles that were posted on Republic Report. Subsequently, these articles spread to several other online publications, some of whom further exaggerated the original stories’ false assertions.

Below is a summary of the 16 false, misleading, unsupported, and in some instances racially stereotypical statements made in the articles.

July 25, 2014, Article (“Leading Civil Rights Group Just Sold Out on Net Neutrality”)

  1. “[S]omething close to half of the entire civil rights establishment just sold out the Internet.”

MISLEADING. Virtually all (and not just “close to half”) of the national minority organizations opposed Title II reclassification, favoring Section 706 regulation instead. Thus the article incorrectly suggests the equivalence of both sides. Further, the suggestion that dozens of national minority organizations would “sell out” their own people is a racial stereotype dating to Reconstruction and has, until now, generally been deployed only by segregationists and other race-baiters.

  1. “[T]hese groups, many of which claim to carry the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr., are saying that Comcast and Verizon should be able to create Internet slow lanes and fast lanes[.]”

FALSE. In their comments, the National Minority Organizations endorsed a presumption against paid prioritization, with the burden on the carrier to show that there should be an exception (e.g., for tele-health). See http://mmtconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Natl-Minority-Orgs-Open-Internet-Comments-071814.pdf. Dr. King had no position on the open Internet; however, several of his disciples faithfully shepherd many of the national minority organizations and follow his example. The misappropriation of Dr. King’s memory is offensive.

  1. “[C]ivil rights groups willing to shill on behalf of the telecom industry.”

FALSE. The leading minority organizations formed their views on the open Internet in the 1990s, and many of the organizations have had a keen interest in closing the digital divide as part of their advocacy work. Contrary to the representations in this article, their views as expressed in their comments are quite different from the views of the telecom carriers. The carriers generally want little or no regulation and only modest consumer protection and transparency, while the civil rights groups want Section 706 regulation (as the DC Circuit Court of Appeals suggested) and strong consumer protections and transparency. CWA and many others independent of the industry also agree.

  1. Asian Americans Advancing Justice “actually support[s] net neutrality” [i.e., Title II reclassification, using the author’s conflation of that term with “net neutrality”]

FALSE. AAAJ-AJC filed a letter that endorsed neither Section 706 nor Title II regulation. Instead, they are awaiting the development of the record to take a more granular position.

  1. MMTC and HTTP are “K Street consultants.”

FALSE. MMTC was founded in 1986 to fight for diversity in media and telecom. It is the leading national civil rights organization focused on these industries. MMTC is a nonprofit membership organization, not a consultant, and to suggest otherwise does not reflect our nonprofit status. HTTP is an umbrella organization that brings together 18 national Hispanic organizations. They are also not a lobbyist organization. Neither MMTC nor HTTP has an office on K Street; MMTC is in Adams Morgan.

  1. MMTC “attacked the Obama administration’s first attempt at net neutrality.”

FALSE. MMTC generally supported the proposal of the Administration’s appointee, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Genachowski’s plan closely resembles the Wheeler plan.

  1. MMTC “celebrate[d] the proposed (and eventually successful) merger between Comcast and NBC.”

MISLEADING. For 17 years, MMTC has operated a full service media brokerage that has helped dozens of minority owners acquire broadcast stations and spectrum. NBC is a client of MMTC’s media brokerage, which helped broker the history-making merger spinoff of Los Angeles Channel 23 to an Hispanic-owned broadcaster. While the merger was pending, MMTC did not issue an endorsement of the merger. MMTC congratulated the parties after the merger closed in light of the community benefits that included a national broadband adoption program and the creation of four new minority cable networks. In 28 years, MMTC has endorsed only two mergers.

  1. OCA claimed in 2010 “that Asian-American entrepreneurs would benefit from having ISPs able to discriminate based on content.”

FALSE. OCA and others did not endorse content discrimination, but did note that Title II regulation could bar affirmative action in contracting, including arrangements favoring new entrants such as minority digital entrepreneurs.

  1. LULAC partners with Comcast “for a $5 million civic engagement campaign.”

MISLEADING. LULAC has earned near-universal praise for its public technology centers, which are supported by a variety of public and private donors. The reporter did not bother to consult LULAC’s leadership before making this misleading statement and smearing this worthwhile and much-needed STEM program.

  1. “Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and other telecom companies have donated…to nearly every group listed on the anti-net neutrality letters filed last week.”

UNSUPPORTED. Several of the organizations do not receive significant or any corporate support, or receive only routine or programmatic support. Further, Republic either did not perform, or performed but did not report on, any survey of the groups. Thus its conclusion that “nearly every group” has received support is a fabrication.

August 1, 2014 Article (“Comcast Affiliated News Outlet Censored My Article About Net Neutrality Lobbying”)

  1. “[A] telecom industry-affiliated lobbying group successfully persuaded an African American news website to remove an article that reported critically on the groups advocating against Net Neutrality.”

FALSE ON EVERY LEVEL:

  • MMTC is a nonprofit membership association, founded in 1986, and is not a lobbyist. It has never registered as a lobbyist or been required to do so.
  • MMTC is certainly not “telecom-industry affiliated.” The organization’s mission is focused on expanding and preserving minority ownership and closing the digital divide. MMTC has also trained 52 lawyers in FCC practice. The reporter should have researched around the wide range of issues we cover and our specific positions. We are quite diverse and often not on the side of industry. Our policies reflect a focus on MBE and consumer advocacy from a social justice perspective.
  • Currently, MMTC generally opposes industry positions on minority ownership, EEO, redlining, universal service, and the transparency and consumer protection provisions of open Internet regulation. MMTC favors Section 706 regulation with stricter consumer protections than the FCC Chairman proposed; the industry generally opposes such regulation.
  • Categorically, MMTC did not “persuade” or attempt to persuade NewsOne.com to take down an article. MMTC’s President had confirmed to Republic’s reporter by e-mail that “our only question to [NewsOne.com] was whether they would afford us an opportunity to tell our side.” The reporter was dishonest in writing otherwise. And as noted below, both parties to the conversation emphatically confirm that there was no take down request.
  1. “NewsOne is owned by Radio One, a company with a 50.9% stake in a business partnership with Comcast known as TV One.” The headline of the story is “Comcast Affiliated News Outlet Censored My Article about Net Neutrality Lobbying,” implying that Comcast’s affiliation drove News One’s editorial judgment.

COMPLETELY FALSE. A NewsOne.com spokesperson has confirmed that:

  • MMTC never asked the company to take down the post;
  • The decision to take down the article was not made because of a request by MMTC President David Honig or MMTC; and
  • Comcast has no role in selecting content that appears on the NewsOne.com website.
  1. MMTC Vice President Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee “resigned her previous position at a nonprofit after allegations of financial impropriety[.]” [Republic has since indicated that it will correct its reporting of this libelous statement.]

The author must have known, yet failed to report, that (1) Dr. Turner-Lee was completely exonerated – all of the false allegations from an anonymous source were found by the nonprofit (NAMIC) to be without basis; and (2) she left NAMIC to become Vice President/Research and Policy of MMTC, a larger, DC-based organization and one more appropriate for her skills as a research and policy expert. She did not resign under a cloud, and the public press releases confirm such. See: http://mmtconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/MMTC-Nicol-Turner-Lee-Release-080813.pdf

Dr. Turner-Lee’s record throughout her long research and policy career, including at One Economy Corp., the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, NAMIC, and MMTC, has been beyond reproach, and she has been duly recognized for her expertise over the years.

  1. “NewsOne was not the only outlet lobbied by MMTC. The blog Field Negro was also contacted by MMTC’s” President, David Honig.

There is nothing wrong with an organization asking a publication to allow the organization to tell its side of a story. In this instance, a July 28 posting on Field Negro openly asked, “I wonder how David [Honig] and the folks at MMTC will react to the following story?” There followed Republic’s July 25 post (discussed above). In response to this open invitation, Honig emailed his thoughts to the Field Negro blogger and his long-time colleague, Wayne Bennett. Bennett asked Honig if he could print it; Honig agreed, and it was printed. The implication of intimidation or impropriety is out of line.

  1. “[I]n Honig’s latest letter on behalf of the Japanese American Citizens League, Net Neutrality is needed, but only if adopted through FCC Chairman Wheeler’s terms, which is to say, with Internet fast lanes and slow lanes.”

FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposal does not support fast and slow lanes, and the Comments (which are not a “letter”), like Wheeler’s proposal, advocate for a presumption against paid prioritization (fast and slow lanes). The Comments also go further than Wheeler by proposing an aggressive consumer protection plan modeled on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

  1. “Honig’s board of advisors includes Joe Waz, an executive who has led Comcast’s policy outreach.”

Mr. Waz is one of thirty members on MMTC’s non-fiduciary Board of Advisors. Each member serves independently of his or her employment relationship. Title II reclassification proponents Angela Campbell, Moctesuma Esparza, and National Hispanic Media Coalition President Alex Nogales have each served for many years on the MMTC Board of Advisors.

About MMTC: MMTC is a nonprofit founded in 1986 to promote minority participation and inclusion in the media and telecommunications industries. After many years of promoting minority ownership of broadcasting properties, with the convergence of technologies and the Internet, we expanded our mission in 2010 to include closing the digital divide and promoting minority ownership of telecommunications. This is the mission to which we are still dedicated.

MMTC encourages all sides of the issue to read our filings and analyses concerning our position on the Open Internet proceeding:

 

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