Why The Hell Is GLAAD Supporting The AT&T And T-Mobile Merger?

UPDATE 6/4/11: GLAAD offered Queerty an exclusive response to this article.

On Tuesday, The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) issued a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supporting the AT&T/T-Mobile merger in hopes it will bring more access, faster service, and competitive pricing. That’s nice except that the merger probably won’t do any of that. And the merger also has nothing to do with defamation, meaning GLAAD has gone beyond its purported mission and needlessly inserted itself into a political dogfight.

Immediately John Avarosis from AmericaBlog pointed out that AT&T was one of the 13 corporations that helped repeal LGBT worker protections in Tennessee, they underwrite the GLAAD awards, and have made substantial monetary grants to GLAAD. Plus, GLAAD has had an ex-AT&T executive on their board. A case of secret backroom circle-jerking?

Most interestingly, AT&T is against Net Neutrality—the principle stating that all information on the web should get delivered at the same speed, not at different speeds and prices depending on who owns the service). Timothy Karr, Campaign Director of Free Press and says that “AT&T is brokering a deal with the FCC to ensure they have the legal right to block online content and charge application developers additional tolls just to reach AT&T customers.”

GLAAD says it doesn’t share AT&T’s stance on Net Neutrality which is a bit like Target saying it doesn’t share a Minnesota Republican’s anti-gay views while still supporting his pro-business campaign—GLAAD can’t support one without also supporting the other, whether they disagree or not.

But the merger has created a political clusterfuck with Democrats and Republicans opposing their usual constituents. AT&T and T-Mobile’s CEOs say the deal will help spread wireless connectivity to 98 percent of the country. Several typically Democrat-voting American labor unions say the merger could help ensure more union jobs. But Democrats worry the merger will create an antitrust-violating “duopoly” between AT&T and Verizon that will reduce choices and raise prices for consumers. The FCC would also have to help regulate a duopoly, something free-market capitalists and Republicans oppose.

Even the right-of-center pro-business magazine The Economist opposes the merger, citing the negative issues above and AT&Ts miserably low customer-satisfaction ratings. Their solution? The FCC should block the merger and help reform the telecom industry.

And don’t forget, AT&T is the Moby Dick of fundraising and lobbying. The company has more than 90 full-time lobbyists. In the 2010 elections alone, they spent nearly $3.5 million on federal candidates and $15.4 million on lobbying. All that cash buys influence, influence that politicians won’t forget when they make their decisions.

GLAAD spends its time castigating adult cartoon shows that say the word “faggot”, rewarding commercials that mock femmes and newspapers that break GLAAD’s style guide, and ignoring one of the most controversial pro-gay documentaries of our time. They can’t even get the WWE to stop saying “faggot” for one week.

We’d rather they go back to being worse than useless rather than spend their time publicly supporting bad mergers. Or they could, y’know actually help create positive portrayals of LGBT on television, something that badly needs help.

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  • Cam

    Groups like GLAAD, HRC, etc… need to figure out what their mandate is.

    If it is gay issues, then stick to that. If it is to whore themselves out to every company that smiles at them, then become Congressmen and stop claiming to fight for gay acceptance.

  • dvlaries

    It’s great to see a picture of Lily from the glory days. :) Of the babyboomers preeminent trio of comics, Pryor and Carlin are gone, and only Lily remains.

    Though it may seem otherwise, she made only four comedy record albums: “This Is A Recording” (1971), “And That’s The Truth” (1972), “Modern Scream” (1975), and “On Stage” (1977). Like most of Carlin and Pryor’s work, they remain as side-splittingly funny today and they were new.

    We love you, Lily.

  • Elloreigh

    @Cam: Seconded. GLAAD has no business getting involved in this merger.

  • David Gervais

    As described above, this merger would be very anti-competitive. Just as in any other part of life, diversity is a good thing.
    Pick up the phone and call your congresscritter.

  • Sam

    Interesting this article went from criticizing GLAAD for getting involved in a non-gay issue, but then itself stated an opinion on the merger.

    Can’t have your cake and eat it too. Is this blog about gay issues or about antitrust law?

  • Prof. Donald Gaudard

    @David Gervais: And while you’re at it, call and send an e-mail to GLAAD to protest their unlawful letter to the FCC. Let them know that you will no longer support anything GLAAD does until GLAAD cleans up its act.

  • Michi Eyre

    I can see HRC also supporting this merger. AT&T has a perfect Corporate Equality Index (CEI) score and they have some of the best trans* friendly policies in the business. T-mobile on the other hand, a German company, is still way behind the curve. They have a CEI score of 50 and no trans* protections whatsoever. The “merger”, which is really an acquisition would likely bring the AT&T policies and cultures to the T-mobile organization, which for T-mobile employees would be a better deal.

    But even with that, my organization, REC Networks, continues to oppose the acquisition of T-mobile by AT&T due to issues relating to handset portability (the ability to change carriers) and roaming by foreign visitors to the United States.

    A few weeks ago when I raised the flag with a few organizations that I was indirectly allied with regarding their support of the Sprint “man-in-a-dress” ad, I noticed that while my open letter received a ton of coverage in the mainstream media, the business blogs and in the advertising and PR industry, much of the mainstream GLB media was very quiet on this. No uproar by GLAAD (and usually, the GLB media gets prompted by this) over this ad. Perhaps it is because they support the merger, they are also willing to throw transsexuals and transgender people under the bus to advance their cause.

    The trans* community, both transsexuals and transgender should now know that GLAAD really cares about their well being.

    When I, a single person, posting an open letter on a website that is visited mainly by a very niche non-GLBT grassroots community and a post on a media justice listserv made a huge impact to the point where I was able to identify issues where these non-profit organizations are approving these campaigns “sight unseen”. I, a single person, made a difference. Where was GLAAD through all of this? It’s apparent that they are not monitoring the media, which is supposed to be what they are supposed to do. Instead, they were wining and dining celebrities who were involved in shows that spewed transphobia at a time when GLAAD cared less about trans* people than they don’t care about trans* people now.

    I came to the rescue this time because of the conflict of interest from a cause perspective, I needed to raise awareness that one cause should not throw another cause under the bus to advance their cause, which is exactly what happened with the concept of the Sprint campaign.

    The lack of GLAAD’s response in the Sprint campaign is even more evidence that they are not interested in supporting the transsexual and transgender community yet some still send them their money.

    Until GLAAD develops an acceptable plan to support the transsexual and transgender community including placing transsexual members on their board (regardless of their current financial situation) and hiring more paid transsexual staff, I can not support this organization and I strongly suggest you sending your dollars elsewhere.

    Michi Eyre
    (opinions are my own and not those of REC Networks)

  • robert in NYC

    According to….an progressive wireless company, the wireless component of AT&T and Verizon, separate from the rest of their respective corporations apparently, each donate to right wing groups who oppose full equality for LGBT people. HRC told me it was unaware but instead relied solely on a corporation’s CEI. It hasn’t even bothered to investigate.

  • Mark

    These people are just fricking nuts!

  • Bobby Christina Crawford

    GLAAD is owned and operated by money grubbing fuckwads.

  • Roger Rabbit

    So now GLADD is a shill for AT&T??

    There are only 2 companies in the USA that use GSM chips. However, everyone in Europe and Latin America use these phones with various countries.

    This Merger will:
    1 – Kill the ability to have competitive GMS phone systems in the USA, thus killing fair competition
    2 – Kill the companies that support unlocking, as there will no longer be any need to unlock these systems.
    3 – Because these phones will no longer be unlocked there will be no ability to use these phones in most other countries without costing bundles of cash.

    Personally, I will be converted back to ATT and end up spending twice as much communicating with my partner in Colombia. For those of us with loved ones in other countries this will create more hardships.

    In this day and age we don’t need higher prices that this merger would bring.
    PLEASE call your congressmen and senators. I HOPE it will do some good.

  • TJ

    at&t is the purest of evil, and GLAAD is mis-informed. What does this merger have to do with defamation? GLAAD needs to sit down – isn’t there some TV network they can protest for not having enough gays on it?

  • David Gervais

    Prof. Donald Gaudard: I’m a Canadian, you people have to work this out for yourselves. Canadians already have experience with a non-competitive market. Most of the country is a duopoly with some minor competitors. The last real third competitor was bought by one of the oligopolists. Service quickly went downhill. Generally, we pay much higher rates than the rest of the world.

    I wrote mostly to show how an issue that is not obviously LGBT is important to us. Diversity is valuable in all areas of life.

  • David Gervais

    To follow on from Roger Rabbit:

    For those who don’t see the importance of GSM, it is the Global Standard for Mobile devices. If the USA does not have a competitive GSM market, it would like having an economy where every imported product had to be repackaged and relabeled to change from liters, kilograms and meters into local forms called gallons, pounds, and pounds. To export and compete in the world market, the process would have to be reversed.

    Right now, non-GSM networks are behind the technological edge because the industry innovates for the large international market before it serves the regional variations.

    This does not mean everyone should be GSM. Diversity of network types is important too. GSM will not always be the best, something new will come along, perhaps evolved from some other standard.

  • libhomo

    GLAAD has betrayed the queer community yet again. I wish I could say I’m surprised.

  • The crustybastard

    I stand to benefit financially from th merger, but I oppose it because it’s anticompetitive.

    There. See? It’s easy.

  • qually

    First of all, the gov’t broke up AT&T in the 80’s for a reason. They are lousy at keeping promises about innovation and service which affects us all as consumers.

    AT&T is the largest political contributor of all the comm companies. Though they contribute to both parties, they lean more right, and the largest recipient of their largess last year was John Boehner at $77,300. Harry Reid placed second with $36,150. This article shows the kind of lobbying power they have and points out that it’s not easy to tell just what pies they’ve got their fingers in. The point being, as robert in NYC pointed out, they are likely funding lots of anti-equality types as well as other heinous activities. Why should we support a corporation that has that much influence and power reaching out to grab even more?

    Then there was their participation in warrantless wiretapping in the Bush years for which they escaped any punishment.

    Finally, net neutrality should definitely be a concern of the queer community. It’s not only about slowing down content speed and raising prices on access but deciding what content should be offered at all. Basically, they would love to turn the net into cable TV, part deux, and offer the same mindless, insipid, brainwashing pap that most of TV is and shut down the freedom and diversity of the internet, especially sites that offer a forum for dissenting and “controversial” voices, such as those of GLBT interest.

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