Update: It just keeps getting better. Or is it worse? Guess that depends on your perspective. And with that, from a Wired News article from two days ago,
Crew Member: Previous AT&T Show Had “No Politics” Policy
By Eliot Van Buskirk August 13, 2007 | 10:26:44 AM Categories: AT&T
A crew member who worked on a show webcast by AT&T confirmed that there was a policy in place to remove artists’ political comments from shows before they were webcast.
“I can definitively say that at a previous event where AT&T was covering the show, the instructions were to shut it down if there was any swearing or if anybody starts getting political. Granted, they didn’t say to shut down any Anti-Bush comments or anything specific to any point of view or party, but ‘getting political’ was mentioned.”
The crew member went on to say that the order to mute political speech was issued by Davie Brown Entertainment, which had been hired by AT&T to produce the recordings.
Sure, the policy — which AT&T initially denied was in place — applies to all political speech, not just criticism of Bush. But most bands, when they get political, tend to lean pretty hard to the left (especially when they’re on the stage of Lollapalooza, which is trying to hang onto a rebellious, “alternative” reputation).
Randall L. Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, is also the Vice-Chairman of the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and has motivation to shield Bush from criticism. And as some readers of this blog have pointed out, AT&T is free to do whatever it wants to the audio on its webcasts.
But one has to wonder whether the same political filtering policy applied to AT&T’s webcasts could eventually affect to the company’s portion of the internet backbone, in the absence of the net neutrality legislation it actively opposes.
PLEASE NOTE: I believe it’s important I point out the fact that I personally am not Anti-Bush. In fact, I voted for him in both 2000 and 2004. Did I make a mistake in doing so? Well, that’s neither here nor there as there’s nothing I can do to change the past, only learn from it. Even still, as per a post I made a year ago last February,
As many of you know, I live in the United States. As is probably fairly obvious, generally speaking, I choose not to bash the US Government at any and every given opportunity. I say ‘generally’ as there are those times (like a couple of days ago) when I am just fed up by the idiots who have somehow stumbled their way into power, yet continue forward in their idiotic ways without so much as an effort to try to get a clue.
The type of bashing I involve myself in is not of the type that I feel can be seen as anti-establishment and instead anti-idiocracy. Bashing the US Government at any and every given moment does nothing to help fix the underlying problems, and does everything to undermine the establishment by folks who are ill-prepared to stand up for what it is that they think they believe. Why are they ill-prepared? Because 99.100% of the time the anti-establishment smut is founded on opinion without even so much as a single link to any other source other than the opinion(s) of someone else.  How can I stand up for something, and do so with confidence, that has been built by something that in and of itself contains no representation of meaningful fact, and instead meaningless opinion?
I can’t. I might think I can. But I would be wrong.
My point? In my opinion the comments made by Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, a band and a man I have a *HUGE* amount admiration and respect for, really don’t help the situation at hand and in many cases (as per my point from above) ultimately lead younger folks who are easily impressionable down a course of anger and hate that they have no real understanding of, and instead found their beliefs on the opinions of others. But that doesn’t change the fact that both he (referring to Eddie Vedder) and the rest of us that live in the United States have, amongst other things, the right to speak our minds against our government for any reason we feel justified in doing so.
So in summary: As mentioned at the start of the original post, regardless of yours or my political affiliations or beliefs, this subject matter is of significant importance, and as it has become even more obvious in recent days this goes well beyond AT&T’s obligation to edit potentially objectionable content (such as swear words that have been listed as unacceptable for rebroadcast) and well into editing content based on things they have no obligation by law to edit and instead doing so based on their own personal opinions as to what is acceptable and what is not. Of course AT&T certainly has the right to edit content however they might see fit, but its to this point that brings us back to the importance of net neutrality.
Folks, this is a big deal and its time we start paying closer attention to the corporations that control the data packets that you and I sling around the Internet on a second-by-second basis.
In short: This stuff matters.
Update: The following follow-up comment from W^L+ I believe perfectly encapsulates why both our freedom of speech AND net neutrality are absolutely critical if we are to retain any hope of retaining the principles of freedom the United States of America were founded upon,
While you are correct that AT&T’s editing has nothing to do with the Constitution (the Constitution constrains the federal government’s actions, not commercial entities), it seems to me that name-calling is still protected speech (as far as the government is concerned). Remember that the Bill of Rights was passed in the context of people being imprisoned for calling King George III a “tyrant.” The writers were well aware that citizens may become passionately opposed to an individual or the actions of that individual, and they wanted to ensure that those citizens retained the freedom to speak their minds.
*There is no right not to be called names or insulted.* If you get into public office, you should expect and accept it. Likewise, you cannot truly *honor* the flag unless you and others are also free to *dishonor* it.
Most of these first amendment issues boil down to someone wanting to restrict what others say or write or believe. Others can argue about whether AT&T should be considered a common carrier (not supposed to exercise editorial control), but given that there is likely to be a small group of companies that could provide this functionality, I think this is an excellent example showing just why we need net neutrality. Say for example, your ISP decided to censor your favorite political commentator–would you appreciate that? If not, how is this different?
It’s a wonderful feeling when you read words such as these from those who truly understand both the reasoning behind why these rights were brought into place and why it is so critical that we retain these rights. In fact, I find it inspiring.
Update: As per the update from earlier today to the post linked to and quoted below,
SEE FOR YOURSELF
The edited and un-edited versions of “Daughter” from the Lollapalooza webcast.
[ Original Post ]
Regardless of your political affiliations or beliefs, if you care about your rights for freedom of speech and find it troublesome when these freedoms are violated, the following information may be of interest,
LOLLAPALOOZA WEBCAST: SPONSORED/CENSORED BY AT&T?
After concluding our Sunday night show at Lollapalooza, fans informed us that portions of that performance were missing and may have been censored by AT&T during the “Blue Room” Live Lollapalooza Webcast.
When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them.
During the performance of “Daughter” the following lyrics were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” but were cut from the webcast:
- “George Bush, leave this world alone.” (the second time it was sung); and
- “George Bush find yourself another home.”
This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media.
AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.
Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of “NetNeutrality.” Check out The Future of Music or Save the Internet for more information on this issue.
Most telecommunications companies oppose “net neutrality” and argue that the public can trust them not to censor..
Even the ex-head of AT&T, CEO Edward Whitacre, whose company sponsored our troubled webcast, stated just last March that fears his company and other big network providers would block traffic on their networks are overblown..
“Any provider that blocks access to content is inviting customers to find another provider.” (Marguerite Reardon, Staff Writer, CNET News.com Published: March 21, 2006, 2:23 PM PST).
But what if there is only one provider from which to choose?
If a company that is controlling a webcast is cutting out bits of our performance -not based on laws, but on their own preferences and interpretations - fans have little choice but to watch the censored version.
What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it’s about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band.
The complete version of “Daughter” from the Lollapalooza performance is posted below for any of you who missed it. We apologize to our fans who were watching the webcast and got shortchanged. In the future, we will work even harder to ensure that our live broadcasts or webcasts are free from arbitrary edits.
If you have examples of AT&T censoring artist performances around political content, it’s a good thing for everyone to know about. Feel free to post examples on the official Pearl Jam Message Pit.
So here’s my question: At what point in the history of the United States did the rights afforded to us in the Constitution become optional and/or revocable by the highest bidder?
Just wondering, ’cause I wasn’t aware that they actually had. Guess I was wrong.