Bil Browning

GLAAD Withdraws Support for AT&T Merger; Supports Net Neutrality

Filed By Bil Browning | July 13, 2011 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: AT&T, FCC filings, FCC letters, GLAAD, Jarrett Barrios, Net Neutrality

GLAADAT&T.jpgIn a letter sent to the FCC today by GLAAD's interim president, the media organization has withdrawn its previous support for the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. The letter also strongly supports net neutrality and cites the rise of the blogosphere as one of the major reasons to keep the web agenda free.

GLAAD's former president, Jarrett Barrios, was forced to resign after the group issued multiple letters to the FCC at AT&T's request - one written entirely by the telecom giant - and Barrios lied to the FCC and reporters about who wrote the letter and why it was sent. Troup Coronado, a board member with deep ties to AT&T also resigned.

GLAAD board member Tony Varona tells us, "GLAAD's acting president, Mike Thompson, reached out to the board of directors before finalizing his letter to the FCC withdrawing GLAAD's endorsement of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger application and clarifying our position on net neutrality. The board was in full support of his letter."

"A number of GLAAD's allies and partners have submitted letters to the FCC advancing arguments in favor of AT&T's proposed merger with T-Mobile that are rooted in their respective missions. A review of the various issues at stake made clear that GLAAD's initial filing in the matter did not articulate an adequate and convincing link to our own mission," he said. "Having written and spoken strongly in favor of net neutrality in my work as a communications law scholar, I am confident that Mike made the right decision both in withdrawing GLAAD's endorsement of the AT&T merger application and in affirming our support of general net neutrality principles."

"We owe the success of much of the LGBT movement's and GLAAD's own work to a neutral and nondiscriminatory Internet - one that has disallowed the creation of premium-priced "fast lanes" for certain content and services, relegating to a low-quality "slow lane" not-for-profit content and services that are vital to our community's survival and quest for full equality."

GLAAD's statement is after the jump along with links to all of our previous coverage of the AT&T controversy with GLAAD and other civil rights organizations. You can download a copy of GLAAD's latest FCC letter here [pdf].

GLAAD RETURNS TO NEUTRAL STANCE ON AT&T/T-MOBILE MERGER

ORGANIZATION AFFIRMS STRONG SUPPORT FOR NET NEUTRALITY TO FCC

July 13, 2011, New York, NY - The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to withdraw its support for the pending AT&T merger with T-Mobile and to return the organization to a neutral position with respect to the deal. GLAAD also submitted to the FCC, in the same letter, a statement strongly supporting the tenets of net neutrality. Today's letter was filed by Mike Thompson, GLAAD's Acting President following extensive discussion among GLAAD leadership and supporters.

"A rigorous review process considered GLAAD's unique mission and concluded that while AT&T has a strong record of support for the LGBT community, the explanation used to support this particular merger was not sufficiently consistent with GLAAD's work to advocate for positive and culture-changing LGBT stories and images in the media," said Thompson.

In affirming GLAAD's support for the principle of net neutrality, Thompson wrote in the FCC letter: "GLAAD is a strong supporter of the general principle of net neutrality. Although this letter is not specific to any proposed or existing regulatory or legislative standards, we acknowledge that net neutrality is one of the principles most responsible for the Internet's emergence as the dominant platform for free expression. A nondiscriminatory and neutral Internet has allowed new digital media initiatives and the blogosphere itself to flourish online. Net neutrality has cultivated the plethora of online resources available to otherwise isolated LGBT Americans seeking help with coming out, coping with and countering discrimination, suicide and HIV/AIDS prevention resources, community building and political organizing tools, and general self-expression. GLAAD's own work has been effective thanks in large part to net neutrality."

Thompson and GLAAD's Board of Directors pledged commitment to GLAAD's mission as they form an Executive Search Committee to identify a new President.

"In just the past few weeks, GLAAD's Media Programs team has continued to move Americans through sharing powerful stories- from African American pastors who support marriage equality in the New York Daily News to prompting professional baseball teams to take a stand against anti-gay and transgender attitudes to demanding action from Jose Luis sin Censura, the most anti-gay show on Spanish-language television," Thompson said. "It is GLAAD's work on the ground with local organizations and behind-the-scenes with national and local media that will continue to grow support for our community's equality."

Catch up on the controversy with additional coverage from The Bilerico Project:


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Regarding this Gay Inc. / AT&T scandal,

1) There is no reason for me or any other low income LGBT person to donate to an LGBT group that has an Executive Director making a 6 figure salary. Defenders argue that a 6 figure salary helps attract "the best" - as we see with Jarrett Barrios, Geoff Kors, and Joe Solmonese this theory is absurd. I have no interest in donating to a gay millionaire. What’s more, a 6 figure salary is an excellent incentive to NOT work harder for advancing civil rights. Why work yourself out of a job if you make a 6 figure salary? A better idea would be to support chapter-based groups with local, grass-roots decision making processes - instead of top town/focus group tested/inflexible concepts forced from the top down. What’s more a better idea capping any ED salaries to two-figures, paying for more on-the-ground proactive field organizers instead of rich EDs, and ensuring paid staffers have livable wages and benefits.

2) Too many LGBT groups, while fostering LGBT label and classism segregation, are duplicating the same objectives and expenses wasting many of the dollars that LGBT people donate to them. The duplication in expenses includes web site costs, Executive Director salaries, and time spent "working on" the same issues/topics - take all of the major LGBT group's actions regarding the Tracy Morgan scandal for example. Really? A handful of the major LGBT groups competed for media time just to repeat the same comments about Morgan while pathetically adding their reaction to him as another example of their accomplishments and why we need to donate to them. Why didn’t they just let one group such as GLAAD deal with it?

If you don’t think there are too many LGBT groups doing the same thing, think hard about why it’s necessary for PGLAG, GLSEN, and GSA to exist as separate organizations instead of them all merging. Does anyone have any comments about how this duplication is beneficial? Why do we need Immigration Equality & Out4Immigration? Why do we need Courage Campaign and Marriage Equality USA and EQCA and Get Equal?

The answer is probably because the most prominent or original group was unaccommodating to new ideas or the founders of the new group are part of a cooperate agenda and/or an executive director needs a new job.

(((( of course most of the major LGBT blogs duplicate the same stories as all the other ones so perhaps duplication does not compute as something odd to them ))))

3) Most of the major LGBT groups and big city LGBT groups do little to reach out to small town/rural/suburbia LGBT populations. Oh sure, sometimes they’re reactive if something happens in the news and presents them an opportunity to seize on a headline-grabbing story they can attach there name to. However, even when they have “field organizers” and/or have “chapter leaders” in regions, they often end up doing nothing proactively to reach out to small town/rural/suburbia LGBT populations – usually only reactive. I recently interviewed numerous LGBT group vendors at LA & SF Pride (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J5MKYLhL9Y and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydRCZ1ru-eo) and I asked the people I spoke with about their advice for small town LGBT folk. They mostly all answered “visit our web site for resources.” Bull! Clearly these groups are doing nothing to build long-lasting LGBT fellowship/socializing opportunities, support, education, and community involvement at the local level for LGBT folk.

Lastly, doesn’t the money that corporate foundations like ATT&T give to groups like GLAAD just come from the profit made off of customers? Wouldn’t it be better to stop donating to social issue causes and put that money into providing a better and cheaper product/service? As we see with the AT&T scandal, we the customers end up paying for nonprofits to be used as lobbying puppets. Here’s another example of waste. Why doesn’t AT&T put the money into improved service instead of lobbying nonprofits to do more lobbying for them? It’s completely insane! There seems to be something conspiracy-theoryish going on with how foundations and nonprofits and lobbying goes together. In the end, the consumer/donor is just paying more and more for less and less.

This is another example of how LGBT organizations taking donations from corporations is not always best for LGBT folk – consider the countless tobacco and alcohol companies that donate to LGBT groups/events and also buy ads in LGBT media.

All the equality in the world will not change anti-gay areas overnight. Even if marriage equality was still legal in California, there would still be many anti-gay areas in this state where LGBT are isolated and in fear. We’ve got to do some re-thinking here. In the meantime, donate to local on the ground activists and ignore the big LGBT groups that ignore you.

If you feel me on this, connect with me at jeff4justice.com - my social media links are on the left hand side.

-Jeff

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Worth reading:
Corporate Philanthropy Inspires Trust: Does It Also Prompt Higher Profits?
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1638