In Memoriam: Charles Benton

Posted by Mitchell - July 19, 2015 (entry 713)

We have lost another longtime fighter in the struggle for a better media: Charles Benton, who died in late April at age 84.

Chicago Media Action members routinely worked with, and alongside, Charles on various media issues, mostly on media concentration and corporate mergers. Charles lived in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, and Charles was active and present — in the stands, in the seats, in meetings — alongside coalition activist efforts that CMA helped with, in the 2007 Media Ownership Hearing in Chicago, in the 2010 efforts to oppose the Comcast buyout of NBC Universal, and in the efforts to expand community radio, among other efforts.

Charles' had an ostensibly elite pedigree — a graduate of Yale, former president of the Encyclopedia Britannica Education Foundation, founder of a namesake foundation devoted to media that got its startup funds from $8 million in Britannica stock, and funder of the televised presidential forums during the primaries in the 1976 U.S. Elections. But you never got the feeling that he was better than you, I certainly didn't. Far from it: he was always willing to lend a hand, lend an ear, get involved in the nitty-gritty work of organizing and struggle. He knew that it you couldn't win the efforts for a better media by spending your way to victory; he got involved — and his efforts were legion. Just a glance of the Charles Benton memorial page shows the extent of the groups and efforts with which Charles collaborated. And those efforts long predate Chicago Media Action — for example, in 1968, Charles organized the Citizens Committee to Save WFMT in the wake of a sale to WGN Continental Broadcasting.

Those efforts — all of our efforts — for a better media and a better tomorrow will sorely miss Charles. But those efforts will continue. Certainly, the Benton Foundation continues on; particularly helpful is the Benton Foundation's online newswire, an absolute goldmine of news of media and media policy and a must for anyone interested in the latest developments. The Benton foundation's website has also posted the definitive obituary of Charles Benton.

There are also statements by Free Press and by former FCC commissioner Michael Copps.

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