Press Release Archives

Andrew Jay Schwartzman Leads Important New Public Interest Law Project With Benton Foundation and Georgetown’s Institute for Public Representation

February 18, 2014

Contact:
Adrianne B. Furniss
Executive Director
Benton Foundation
202.638.5770

Andrew Jay Schwartzman Leads Important New Public Interest Law Project
With Benton Foundation and Georgetown’s Institute for Public Representation

(Washington, DC) - The Benton Foundation and Georgetown Law announced today that they are establishing the Public Interest Communications Law Project, under which Andrew Jay Schwartzman will serve as the Benton Senior Counselor at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation (IPR). The Benton Senior Counselor position is supported by generous grants from The Alphawood Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the Media Democracy Fund.

IPR is a public interest law firm and law school clinic. Under the supervision of Professor Angela Campbell, IPR students and Graduate Fellows represent leading media reform organizations, civil rights and civil liberties groups, children’s advocates, consumer and religious groups, and other non-profits before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Federal Courts. The addition of the Benton Senior Counselor will expand IPR’s capacity to give voice to the needs and concerns of the nation’s most vulnerable populations in telecommunications policy debates.

“Our goal is to create a cohort of younger and more diverse advocates to work on closing the digital divide, so our most vulnerable populations can participate fully in a diverse media system and our democracy,” said Charles Benton, Chairman of the Benton Foundation. “What’s critical here is that the experiences of all people inform media and telecommunications policy decisions.”

Schwartzman, who led the Media Access Project for 34 years, is recognized by many as the “dean” of public interest communications attorneys. At IPR, he will continue to mentor and develop a new generation of media and telecommunications lawyers and represent organizations on telecommunications and media issues.

“Andy and I have worked together for many years,” said IPR Co-Director Angela Campbell. “IPR’s students and clients will benefit greatly from his participation.”

Schwartzman’s appointment will expand IPR’s capacity to provide public representation in such critical areas as the transition of traditional wireline telephone service to broadband (known “the IP transition”), Universal Service Fund reform, particularly of Lifeline and E-Rate, Diversity of Media Ownership and Spectrum Policy. Under this arrangement, Schwartzman will be able to continue his service as senior advisor to other DC-based public interest groups and his private law and consultancy practice.

“I have long sought to help create a new generation of public interest advocates able to promote the public’s First Amendment rights to have access to a diverse and vigorous debate on important issues,” said Schwartzman. “This position is an ideal way to continue and extend that mission.”

“Because diversity in the marketplace of ideas is at stake,” said Mr. Benton, “it is imperative that allies like Alphawood, Benton, Ford, the Media Democracy Fund, Georgetown’s IPR and Andy Schwartzman join together to help educate young law students and advocate for the public interest in communications."

Project Partners

Alphawood Foundation is a Chicago-based grant making private foundation working for an equitable, just and humane society. It awards grants to more than 200 organizations annually, primarily in the areas of advocacy, architecture and preservation, arts, domestic violence prevention, the environment, promotion and protection of the rights of LGBT citizens and people living with HIV/AIDS, and other human and civil rights.

The Benton Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting communication in the public interest. The foundation works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public and enhance our democracy. We pursue this mission by seeking policy solutions that support the values of access, diversity and equity, and by demonstrating the value of media and telecommunications for improving the quality of life for all. The Benton Foundation will support the Public Interest Communications Law Project’s mentoring and representation efforts with advocacy, communications, convening, fundraising and administration. Amina Fazlullah, Benton’s Director of Policy, will work with IPR and Schwartzman on media policy areas of mutual interest, including filings and testimony. Benton and Campbell will work with writers, including Schwartzman, on articles highlighting the work.

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 75 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The Institute for Public Representation (IPR) is a public interest law firm and clinical education program founded by Georgetown University Law Center in 1971. Attorneys at the Institute act as counsel for groups and individuals who are unable to obtain effective legal representation on matters that have a significant impact on issues of broad public importance. The Institute works in the areas of first amendment and media law, environmental law, civil rights and general public interest matters. IPR’s recent actions include requesting the FTC investigate websites and mobile apps that are failing to comply with rules protecting children’s online privacy; assisting non-profit community-based organizations in filing applications for low power FM licenses; commenting on proposed FCC rules that will make internet-delivered video programming accessible to persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing; opposing broadcast mergers that lessen diversity and competition in local news; and asking the US Court of Appeals not to stay an FCC order that would lower the rates paid by inmates and their families for interstate phone calls.

The Media Democracy Fund, partners with foundations and donors to award grants that protect and promote the public’s rights in the digital age. MDF helps grant makers of all sizes and issue areas amplify their impact.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman

Andrew Jay Schwartzman is recognized by many as the “dean” of public interest communications attorneys. He is a leader in promoting civil rights and civil liberties in media and telecommunications. For nearly four decades, he has gained extraordinary knowledge about the affected industries and this has afforded him the opportunity to forge close ties with stakeholders. Because of his seniority and litigation successes, he is widely regarded as a leader in the communications bar, and thus has unique access to high-level decision makers. He is a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age.

From 1978 through 2012, Schwartzman headed Media Access Project (MAP). MAP was a non-profit public interest telecommunications law firm which represented the public in promoting the First Amendment rights to speak and to hear. It sought to promote creation of a well informed electorate by insuring vigorous debate in a free marketplace of ideas. It was the chief legal strategist in efforts to oppose major media mergers and preserve policies promoting media diversity. MAP also led efforts to promote openness and innovation on broadband networks and to insure that broad and affordable public access is provided during the deployment of advanced telecommunications networks.

Schwartzman appeared on behalf of MAP before the Congress, the FCC and the courts on issues such as cable TV regulation, minority and female ownership and employment in the mass media, and on FCC jurisdiction with respect to the Internet.

One of Schwartzman’s greatest legacies and contributions to the media reform and public interest field is the cadre of highly capable attorneys who came under his tutelage during his years running Media Access Project (MAP). He devoted himself to training and motivating young law students and lawyers to engage in public interest advocacy. As Schwartzman said, “About 20 years ago, Gene Kimmelman and I spent an afternoon brainstorming about the problem that the media reform community largely consisted of aging baby-boomers. Although Media Access Project had always had law student interns, and some of them had remained in public interest work after law school, our conversation impelled me to redouble my efforts to create a cohort of younger advocates.”

Many of Schwartzman’s mentees have gone on to serve as public interest advocates and government policymakers. For example:

  • Gigi Sohn is Special Counsel for External Affairs for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Sohn, who worked for Schwartzman for 10 years, during which time he urged her to take leadership roles, and encouraged her to undertake her campaign to be the first openly gay member of the DC Bar Board of Governors. She cofounded and served as president of Public Knowledge, which has some twenty people working on communications and IP issues.
  • Cheryl Leanza, another long-time MAP attorney, now works on media issues for the Office of Communication, Inc. United Church of Christ (OC, inc.) and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
  • Harold Feld is Legal Director at Public Knowledge and considered to be the leading theorist in the field.
  • Parul Desai, after her service at MAP, joined the staff of Consumers Union, and is now with the Media Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission supervising low-power FM policy.
  • Matthew Wood now serves as Policy Director for Free Press.

Other former MAP staff continue their work at Public Knowledge, the New America Foundation and on the Hill. MAP succeeded in efforts to channel the organization’s student interns towards public interest work as well. Former MAP interns, among others, work on media and telecommunications issues at Free Press, the New America Foundation, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the FCC, the City of Portland, and Walnut Creek (California).

In recognition of his service as chief counsel in the public interest community’s challenge to the FCC’s June, 2003 media ownership deregulation decision, The Scientific American honored Mr. Schwartzman as one of the nation’s 50 leaders in technology for 2004. Schwartzman is also the 1994 recipient of the United Church of Christ Office of Communication’s Everett C. Parker Award and the 2004 recipient of the Media Matters Life Achievement Award. In September, 2012, Public Knowledge gave him its IP3 award “for a lifetime of work on promoting the public interest in a diverse media market place.”

Schwartzman has been a faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University School of Arts and Sciences Department of Advanced Academic Programs since 2003, where he teaches “Communications Law for Professionals.” He serves on the International Advisory Board of Southwestern Law School’s National Entertainment & Media Law Institute and was the Distinguished Lecturer in Residence at the Institute’s Summer 2004 program at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University. Mr. Schwartzman is a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Minority Media Telecommunications Council. He served the President of the Board of the Safe Energy Communications Council from 1991 through 2003, and of the Media and Democracy Coalition from 2007-2009.

Schwartzman was the Law and Regulation Contributor to Les Brown's Encyclopedia of Television, and is the author of the telecommunications chapter in the Encyclopedia on the Consumer Movement. His work has been published in major legal and general journals, including Variety, Electronic Media, The Washington Post, COMM/ENT Law Journal and The ABA Journal. He has been a frequent guest on television and radio programs such as The Today Show, Nightline, Marketplace Radio, network evening TV newscasts, and All Things Considered.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, and its law school in 1971, Schwartzman was staff counsel to the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ. From 1974 until 1978, Schwartzman worked for the U.S. Department of Energy and predecessor agencies. He is married to Linda Lazarus, an attorney/mediator practicing in Washington, DC.

Benton Welcomes ConnectED Progress

Earlier today, President Barack Obama announced a $2.75 billion down payment to bring high-speed broadband to every student in America. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will invest $2 billion over the next two years to dramatically expand high-speed Internet connectivity for America's schools and libraries -- connecting more than 20 million students to next-generation broadband and wireless. In addition private-sector companies have committed more than $750 million to deliver cutting-edge technologies to classrooms. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

Basic Internet connectivity is no longer sufficient to meet our 21st Century educational needs. High-capacity broadband is critical and necessary infrastructure for our nation’s schools and libraries – and modernizing the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program is the centerpiece of solving the infrastructure challenge. But modernization of this crucial program cannot happen overnight. Today’s commitments announced by President Obama accomplishes two important things: 1) it starts getting high-speed broadband into America’s schools and libraries now while 2) providing the FCC some time to maximize the cost-effectiveness of E-rate funds and streamline the administration of the E-rate program. These are important steps. We look forward to aiding the FCC as it completes the task of updating the E-rate program to ensure that schools and libraries have affordable access to 21st Century broadband in support of digital learning.

Benton Applauds FCC's Invitation for IP Transition Tests

On January 30, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to allow regional trials in which phone companies may switch networks in a particular area to newer digital technology and gauge the impact on consumers and small businesses. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

The Benton Foundation welcomes today’s important step taken by the Federal Communications Commission to update the nation’s existing landline telephone system, while preserving the traditional values that have made that system the best in the world. The FCC’s Order aims to ensure universal availability and accessibility, competition, trustworthiness, robustness and resiliency for a new, digital-based network. Moving forward, as the FCC considers applications to conduct trials and as it evaluates these trials, Benton urges the Commission to also consider how the transition will result in a network that is fast and open, and reflects our nation’s diversity.

In December 2013, Benton released The New Network Compact: Making The IP Transition Work For Vulnerable Communities in which we asked the Commission to be mindful of a wide array of vulnerable communities that could be unfairly disadvantaged during this conversion. Depending on how this transition is done, these communities stand to benefit immensely or be disproportionately harmed. Only by fully understanding the possible pitfalls and opportunities of such a change can the FCC develop a set of “rules of the road” that will best serve all of the country’s residents.

SHLB Coalition Pleased with the Obama Administration’s Call for Greater Broadband Investment for Schools and Libraries

SHLB Coalition Pleased with the Obama Administration’s Call for
Greater Broadband Investment for Schools and Libraries

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced that, with the help of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and Sprint, he has a “down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students [to high-speed broadband] over the next two years.” FCC Chairman Wheeler followed the speech by saying, “[b]y applying business-like management practices to E-Rate, we can take steps this year that will make existing funds go farther to significantly increase our investment in high-speed broadband connectivity for schools and libraries for the benefit of our students and teachers.”

The following statement concerning these announcements can be attributed to the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition (pronounced “SHELL-bee Coalition”):

“The SHLB Coalition is very pleased that the Obama Administration has pledged to invest in high-speed broadband for schools and libraries. The SHLB Coalition was formed almost five years ago to promote investments in open, affordable high-speed broadband connectivity to community anchor institutions. The Internet is fast becoming the primary distribution medium for education, for research, for health services, for job training, for free expression and the free flow of information. Many residential consumers still do not have access to broadband or the skills to use the Internet, and they rely on community anchor institutions to provide computers, Internet access, training, and services that will improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, many anchor institutions are finding it difficult to obtain the affordable, high-capacity broadband connections they need to help their students and patrons obtain Internet access and develop the high-technology skills that are needed to be full participants in the modern work-force.

Anchor institutions are equivalent to the “third leg of the stool” for a healthy and economically vibrant community. Schools, libraries, health care providers, community colleges, community centers, and public media all across America, especially in rural areas, need super-fast broadband connections so that ALL members of the general public can participate in the 21st century economy. We especially appreciate FCC Chairman Wheeler’s recognition that the E-rate program includes libraries as well as schools, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Obama Administration as it moves forward to modernize the E-rate program.”

The SHLB Coalition is a broad-based coalition of non-profit and for-profit organizations that share the goal of providing anchor institutions and their communities with open, affordable, high-capacity broadband. Enhancing the broadband capabilities of community anchor institutions promotes economic growth and enables the most vulnerable segments of our population to be equal participants in the 21st century society and economy.

For further information, please contact, John Windhausen, Executive Director of the SHLB Coalition, at (202) 256-9616 or [email protected], or visit us at www.shlb.org.

Benton is a member of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition.

Benton Statement on Appointment of Gene Kimmelman as Public Knowledge President and CEO

On January 15, 2014, Public Knowledge announced the appointment of Gene Kimmelman as its new President and Chief Executive Officer. The following statement can be attributed to Benton Foundation Chairman Charles Benton:

“I am thrilled to congratulate Gene Kimmelman and Public Knowledge on the appointment of Gene to be the organization’s second President and CEO. Gene has been a leader in the communications and technology advocacy community for nearly 3 decades. Since its inception, Public Knowledge has been a leading voice in preserving the openness of the Internet, the public’s access to knowledge, and the rights of consumers to use innovative technology lawfully. What a great combination of the right leader with the right organization at the right time!”

Benton Foundation Statement on Open Internet Ruling

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its opinion today on a challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules. The following statement can be attributed to Amina Fazlullah, Director of Policy at the Benton Foundation:

“We are disappointed in today’s Court of Appeals ruling. The decision puts at risk the Internet we have come to know and rely upon. While we continue to digest the opinion, we look forward to policymakers taking the appropriate steps to continue to maintain the open and neutral Internet which has made the rapid innovations in Internet-enabled products and services possible – and revolutionized the way we communicate, participate, create, and do business. Americans deserve a continued level playing field where consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use, and where consumers are free to decide what content they want to access, create, or share with others.”

Contact:
Amina Fazlullah
Director of Policy
Benton Foundation
[email protected]
202.638.5770