Rosa Mendoza | FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly | Shonda Rhimes | Social Media Blocking Sex Education Information

March 6, 2015

Geek of the Week

Rosa MendozaRosa-MendozaRosa Mendoza is the Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), a nonpartisan coalition of national Latino organizations working to ensure that the full array of technological and telecommunications advancements are available to all Latinos in the United States.  Mendoza has extensive experience in government affairs and building third party engagement strategies with diverse communities. Prior to joining HTTP, Mendoza served as an aossicate and the manager of special projects with The Raben Group, a DC-based consulting and public affairs firm.  In this role, she assisted clients with coalition building, strategic planning, and research, with a particular focus on the firm’s LatinStrategies division. Mendoza has also previously worked with clients such as Google, MasterCard, and Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary.  Mendoza has also served as Assistant Finance Director and Scheduler for Congressman Henry Cuellar.  Mendoza recently moderated the panel “From Silicon Harlem to the Valley: Innovation Labs, Co-Working Spaces, and other Technology Innovation Models for Communities of Color” during MMTC’s Broadband and Social Justice Summit.

People’s Hero of the Week

FCC Commissioner Michael O’RiellyFCC-Commissioner-Michael-OReillyThe nation has recently seen an inundation of content targeting multicultural audiences, but the truth is that diverse ownership of media outlets is still statistically zero.  Would-be diverse owners, though, have a bastion of hope.  For decades, the Federal Communications Commission has limited foreign investment in radio and TV communications channels to 25 percent, stemming from 1912 fears that a foreign country could overtake our communications outlets.  In today’s digital age, with multiple communications channels both off- and online, the landscape is different, and allowing foreign owners to invest more than a 25 percent stake in a broadcasting company could allow opportunity for multicultural entrepreneurs to own new outlets.  In November 2013, the FCC took it first step to relax these outdated rules, allowing exceptions on a case-by-case basis.  Today, FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly wants to take it a step further.  “The Communications Act already affords the Commission the flexibility to relax restrictions on foreign investment in certain radio licensees, including broadcast and commercial wireless,” Commissioner O’Rielly said in a statement.  “What we need is to get the ball rolling by setting rules and policies that affirmatively permit foreign ownership above the 25 percent cap once and for all.”  Commissioner O’Rielly went on to outline many flaws with the current foreign ownership rules, and how removing the restrictions could benefit the U.S. economy.  “First and foremost, U.S. companies, especially smaller ones, stand to benefit from new sources of capital necessary in the super-challenging, ever-changing, consumer-centric, competitive environment that is the U.S. marketplace,” he said.  He added, “Equally important, the Commission’s past reluctance to be receptive to greater foreign investment has been used as an excuse by other nations to retain indefensible trade barriers that harm U.S. companies. … To date, the Commission’s new broadcast case-by-case process has been less than successful. … Moreover, expanding foreign investment in broadcast can be accomplished without jeopardizing or threatening national security in any way.”  MMTC has long been a champion of significant relaxation of the nation’s foreign ownership rules, which would promote diversity in media ownership, and we applaud Commissioner O’Rielly for taking a firm stance in lowering the nation’s antiquated barriers once and for all.

Multicultural Entrepreneur of the Week

Shonda RhimesShonda-RhimesBBSJ has recently lamented the negative portrayals of African Americans and other minorities in the media, which have resulted in the perception of minorities as mere caricatures – often just aimless thugs and criminals – and therefore resulted in police brutality, unfair treatment in the court system, and avoidably tragic deaths in real life.  Last night, African American director, producer, and hit television program creator Shonda Rhimes tackled these issues head-on in her show “Scandal,” which follows the practice of African-American attorney Olivia Pope as she solves issues that affect the American government and its citizens.  Although the show often focuses on the more dramatic – ranging from the kidnapping and ransom of Pope as a bargaining chip to control U.S. policy decisions, to a president murdering his vice president in order protect his legacy – last night’s episode touched on very real social issues that we are facing at this very moment.  The episode centered around an African-American man whose teenage son had just been shot and killed by a police officer in Washington, DC.  The father refused to allow police to remove his son’s body, knowing that his son was a good kid with a bright future, despite growing up in one of the District’s poorer neighborhoods.  However, the media demonized the son as a thief who had stolen a cell phone and pulled a knife on the police officer, resulting in the justification of his death.  Sound familiar?  As it turns out (SPOILER ALERT), the youth was only pulling out a receipt to show that he had indeed paid for the phone, and the officer had planted the knife on the dead body after he killed him.  One of the most powerful moments in the show was the officer’s rant that “all you people” (the blacks in the neighborhood) had no respect for authority, and the dead teen’s blood was not on his hands because the teen “didn’t know how to act.”  While the episode may have been controversial to some, who may think it portrayed police officers in too negative of a light, it also helped shine a light on many of the problems multicultural communities have faced in the nation for decades.  In the end, the father met with the President of the United States, and they lamented the death of an innocent teenager with his whole life ahead of him – as we should all do when an innocent person is killed, regardless of race.  We applaud Rhimes for using her power as a content creator, writer, and director, to give voice to the untold stories of millions of disenfranchised communities in a world where many are voiceless.  We look forward to the start of a trend where the media not only portrays multicultural communities in a positive light, but also brings attention to the injustices that happen within, at the hands of those charged to serve and protect.

Digital Divider of the Week

Social Media Blocking Sex Education InformationNo-Sex-EducationFor years, many states have faced controversy in relation to how they handle sex education.  For example, 20 of our nation’s states require information on abstinence but not contraception, three states must require only negative information on same-sex relationships, and more than half of our nation’s states don’t require sex education at all.  This means that if they don’t learn about it in the home, millions of youth are forced to learn about sex from their peers, or through the Internet.  In fact, 89 percent of teens say they learn about sex online, compared to 70 percent who say they learn in school.  Thankfully, there are several sites (such as the Bedsider Birth Control Network and My Sex Doctor) that use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote informative data about safe sex to ensure our youth avoid teen pregnancies and don’t contract HIV and other life-threatening diseases.  Unfortunately, many of these sites – which are often the first place teens find the latest news and information – automatically ban such pertinent information because it violates the sites’ vaguely-written terms of service.  Twitter, for example, allows information on safe sex, but doesn’t allow the content to be sexual in nature – so companies targeting teens can’t use language that appeals to their audience in their campaigns.  Such campaigns are important in a digital landscape filled with click-bait articles that distract Internet users from information that is actually of value to them.  Facebook has also blocked websites that could help youth understand sex – Facebook recently rejected an ad titled “Six Things You Should Know About Your Well-Woman Visit” with the tagline “You’re So Sexy When You’re Well” because it violated “Facebook’s advertising guidelines for language that is profane, vulgar, threatening or generates high negative feedback.”  It’s been reported that 30 percent of teens will become pregnant at least once by the age of 20, 25 percent of teen moms will have their second child within 24 months of their first birth, 80 percent of fathers don’t marry the mother of their child, and children who don’t live with their fathers are five times as likely to live be poor than in a two-parent household.  Clearly, it is imperative for all of us, as a nation, to ensure our youth have every avenue available to them to learn about safe sex.  In the digital age, we need to ensure that websites that provide responsible information that appeals to teens have the pathways take up the slack where schools fail.