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Wheeler: Benton Legacy Will Live On

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler praised Charles Benton Friday (May 1) as a champion of social justice who improved the lives of those whose access to communications he fought for.

"Charles Benton dedicated his life to ensuring that our communications networks serve everyone regardless of age, race or economic means," Wheeler said in a statement. "He was among the first to recognize that access to communications networks is more than an economic or first amendment issue; it is a social justice issue.  Through his own Benton Foundation and through his support of communications policy advocacy and public media organizations, Charles improved the lives of countless numbers of Americans. Charles’ distinctive voice and style will be missed here at the FCC, but his legacy will certainly live on.”

Benton, chairman of the foundation started by his father, William Benton, died of cancer April 29.

Others were reacting to the news with their own tributes.

"The legacy of Charles Benton will echo throughout historym," said Jessica Gonzalez, executive VP and general counsel for the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "His accomplishments and distinctions are innumerable. He was a trusted advisor and unwavering ally. He was a pioneer in working towards universal, affordable broadband access, leading to policies that have already begun to connect poor Americans to this critical and life-changing resource...He will be sorely missed."

“The public television community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Charles Benton, a man of tremendous wisdom, decency and humility," said Patrick Butler, president and chief executive officer of the Association of Public Television Stations. “We are grateful for Charles’s eternal enthusiasm for the potential of public media. He was a steadfast supporter of APTS and regularly attended our annual Public Media Summit in Washington, D.C. No lay leader spoke more passionately and convincingly about the importance of public television with lawmakers than Charles."

“He was a leader, mentor and trailblazer in the media and telecommunications reform community. Under his direction, the Benton Foundation became a forceful voice for trying to insure that the needs of all Americans were met by the broadcasting and telecommunications industries.  Most importantly, he had the biggest heart of anyone who ever lived.  Born to a family of wealth and power, he devoted himself to providing opportunities for all to share the benefits of technology,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, the Benton senior counselor at the Public Interest Communications Law Project at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation.

"Family, friends, and colleagues remember Charles not just for his many accomplishments, but his passion and enthusiasm; his values and persistent vision; his positive attitude, indomitable spirit and continuous optimism," said Benton executive editor Kevin Taglang, who passed along the following:

“The world feels emptier today,” said Bill Moyers, “like the forest when a great oak falls. And those of us whose lives were touched by Charles are a little lonelier knowing he is gone. What an enthusiast he was for things that mattered to democracy and humanity.”

“I am heartbroken at this loss of a friend and dauntless public interest champion,” said Michael Copps, former FCC chairman and commissioner who is now special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “He did America proud.”

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.