Pearl Jam Censored At Lollapalooza By AT&T

If we really needed proof that the Big Telcos are lying through their teeth when they celebrate themselves as defenders of free speech and open access, we couldn’t do better than this. AT&T, the sole provider for the webcast of Pearl Jam’s performance at Lollapalooza, and noted opponent of Network Neutrality, cut out politically charged portions of the band’s performance. I’ll let them tell it via their website:

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. [Ed: Save the Internet has clips of both versions of the song here]

Most telecommunications companies oppose “net neutrality” and argue that the public can trust them not to censor.

And if you can’t trust a giant, multinational, consolidated, communications conglomerate like Ma Bell, who can you trust? AT&T has shown that they cannot be relied upon to manage vital national resources like the Internet. They want to own it and constrain its use to the sole purpose of enriching themselves and shaping public opinion to their liking.

Don’t let them do it because, as Pearl Jam says…

This Is Not For You!
“And you dare say it belongs to you…to you…
This is not for you
This is not for you
This is not for you
Oh, never was for you…fuck you…”

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L A Times Downplays FCC Hurdles For Dow Jones Deal

The Los Angeles Times published an article yesterday titled, “Dow Jones deal prompts call to broaden cross-ownership ban,” that included this passage:

“Federal rules try to limit media power by prohibiting a company from owning a newspaper and a TV station in the same city.

Billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. faces no such hurdle in its pending deal to acquire Dow Jones & Co. and with it the country’s second-largest paper, the Wall Street Journal…”

I think it may be something of an overstatement to say that there are no regulatory hurdles. I wonder if the authors were aware of the following:

  • Mr. Murdoch recently told Time Magazine that he would “love to challenge” the New York Times with the Wall Street Journal.
  • Ken Chandler, a former Murdoch protege who once ran the New York Post, told the Boston Herald that Murdoch is, “looking at taking on The New York Times. I think (Murdoch) is going to try to do to The New York Times what his Fox News did to CNN.”
  • The Guardian reported that, “Mr Murdoch is planning to beef up the Wall Street Journal’s political and news reporting so it can compete with the New York Times…”
  • FCC Commissioner Michael Copps recently said, “It’s interesting to hear the ‘experts’ claim the transaction faces no regulatory hurdles. Not so fast! This deal means more media consolidation and fewer independent voices, and it specifically impacts the local market in New York City.”

With Murdoch already owning major newspapers and broadcasters in New York, and the evidence of his own statements and other reporting confirming his intention to compete locally in the city, it seems to me that there is good cause for the FCC to investigate the acquisition. In any case, there appears to be no cause to flatly declare that the deal faces “no such hurdles,” as reported in the L.A. Times (which itself faces regulatory hurdles with its parent, the Tribune Company, owning both the paper and KTLA TV).


Pro Bloggers to get Journalist Shield.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would shield journalists (including bloggers) from revealing their sources . However, the bill includes several exceptions regarding terrorism, national security, imminent death, and trade secret leaks. More ominously, it was amended to define “journalist” as someone who receives “financial gain or livelihood” from their work. That would exclude an awful lot of citizen journalists.

News Nets To Allow Use of Presidential Debate Footage
ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN and NPR have all agreed to make their presidential debate footage available for relatively unrestricted use on the Web and elsewhere. Only Fox News still declines to do so. CBS has not yet carried a debate.

News Corp. Plans to Sell Ottaway Newspapers
Rupert Murdoch said today that he plans to sell the Ottaway newspaper group he’ll acquire with the purchase of Dow Jones. That’s probably good news for James Ottaway, who was amongst the most vocal critics of the DJ sale.

Freakonomics To Appear Under the Banner of the New York Times.
The New York Times has announced that they will be hosting the Freakonomics blog. Recall that the authors of Freakonomics had postulated in their book of the same title, that the drop in crime in the 1990’s was due to the availability of abortions post Roe v Wade. In other words, had the women who had those abortions not done so, their children would have grown up to be criminals.

McDonalds Brainwashed Your Children

If you think the influence of national media on adults is dangerously biased and that dominant players in the press can manipulate public opinion by managing news content, just think how vulnerable our children are. In addition to having less developed skills in critical analysis, they are bombarded with carefully crafted messages that stream from every form of media. These are messages that are designed for the juvenile psyche and they are plastered across the landscape most traveled by unsupervised kids.

A new study now shows the extent to which consumer marketing has succeeded in shaping the young minds of America. In the study, 63 3-5-year olds where asked to taste a variety of foods and indicate which they preferred. The food samples were divided into two groups: those wrapped in plain paper and those wrapped in McDonald’s branded packaging. The samples were exactly the same in every other respect. In most cases, the kids indicated a preference for the McDonald-wrapped samples.

Commenting on the study he led, Dr. Thomas Robinson of Stanford University School of Medicine said…

“Kids don’t just ask for food from McDonald’s, they actually believe that the chicken nugget they think is from McDonald’s tastes better than an identical, unbranded nugget.” And furthermore… “We found that kids with more TVs in their homes and those who eat at McDonald’s more frequently were even more likely to prefer the food in the McDonald’s wrapper. This is a company that knows what they’re doing. Nobody else spends as much to advertise their fast-food products to children.”

Dr. David Katz, the director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, adds that…

“This study demonstrates simply and elegantly that advertising literally brainwashes young children into a baseless preference for certain food products.” And concluding that… “The branding of fast foods and junk foods into the minds of young children is one of those influences. When product familiarity is breeding ill health, it is time to put a stop to it.”

McDonalds is convinced that there is no problem and argue that…

“…parents make the decisions for their children, and our research confirms that we’ve earned their trust as a responsible marketer based on decades of delivering the safest food, the highest quality toys and the kind of choice and variety today’s families are looking for.”

That’s right. McDonalds delivers the sort of safe, high quality food that has sparked an epidemic in childhood obesity and diabetes. And now we learn that the victims of their marketing tactics are suffering from diminished reasoning skills. Certainly blame can be spread around to parents, politicians, and the medical community, but it is the media that is profiting from the mind controlling campaigns of advertisers like McDonalds, and if they had an interest in serving the public, they would employ a greater measure of responsibility with regard to their advertising standards and practices.

Will Bill O’Reilly Demand An Apology From Glenn Beck?

Last week, Bill O’Reilly, Fox’s Father Coughlin, ranted riotously about the “vile hate site”, DailyKos, because of what he deemed an offensive picture that he found there.

I wonder if he’s going to spend this week lambasting Glenn Beck for this obscene swipe at Helen Thomas.

Keep in mind that no one affiliated with DailyKos posted the image that angered O’Reilly so much. It was posted by one user in a comment thread that never appeared on the site’s front page. The image here was featured as the Picture of the Day on Beck’s home page.

O’Reilly wouldn’t turn out to be a hypocrite, would he?

Email Glenn Beck at his web site.
Email Glenn Beck at CNN.

Bill Clinton’s Take On Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal

Blake Fleetwood has a curious article at the Huffington Post that quotes Bill Clinton saying that…

“…the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is even more right wing and irrational than most of the commentators on Fox News.”

That’s the not the curious part. The article continues with Clinton relating an incident wherein the business of a supporter of his was being dogged by the Journal’s editorial board. The supporter arranged a meeting with the board to present his case, but the board told him that they didn’t care to hear it. They told him that they were only going after him because he was a supporter of Clinton. Clinton told him to send a check to Bob Dole, which the supporter did, and the attacks from the Journal stopped.

That’s a story that is both shocking and predictable at the same time. Anybody who’s familiar with the Journal’s editorial bias wouldn’t be surprised by that sordid tale. But anybody who cares about journalistic ethics would still be appalled. The power that is wielded by influential media organs like the Journal is substantial, and that power is magnified in the broadcast media world. Clinton has something to say about that too…

“With regard to media consolidation, the rules were relaxed too much.”

That’s undeniably true. Unfortunately, Clinton doesn’t acknowledge that it was the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which he signed into law, that produced the relaxation of which he now complains. Common Cause documented the legislation, and its impact, in a 2005 study:

The Fallout From the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (pdf)

  • Lifted the limit on how many radio stations one company could own. The cap had been set at 40 stations. It made possible the creation of radio giants like Clear Channel, with more than 1,200 stations, and led to a substantial drop in the number of minority station owners, homogenization of play lists, and less local news.
  • Lifted from 12 the number of local TV stations any one corporation could own, and expanded the limit on audience reach. One company had been allowed to own stations that reached up to a quarter of U.S. TV households. The Act raised that national cap to 35 percent. These changes spurred huge media mergers and greatly increased media concentration. Together, just five companies – Viacom, the parent of CBS, Disney, owner of ABC, News Corp, NBC and AOL, owner of Time Warner, now control 75 percent of all prime-time viewing.
  • The Act deregulated cable rates. Between 1996 and 2003, those rates have skyrocketed, increasing by nearly 50 percent.
  • The Act permitted the FCC to ease cable-broadcast cross-ownership rules. As cable systems increased the number of channels, the broadcast networks aggressively expanded their ownership of cable networks with the largest audiences. Ninety percent of the top 50 cable stations are owned by the same parent companies that own the broadcast networks, challenging the notion that cable is any real source of competition.
  • The Act gave broadcasters, for free, valuable digital TV licenses that could have brought in up to $70 billion to the federal treasury if they had been auctioned off. Broadcasters, who claimed they deserved these free licenses because they serve the public, have largely ignored their public interest obligations, failing to provide substantive local news and public affairs reporting and coverage of congressional, local and state elections.
  • The Act reduced broadcasters’ accountability to the public by extending the term of a broadcast license from five to eight years, and made it more difficult for citizens to challenge those license renewals.

I’m glad to see that the former president finally recognizes the harm he’s done by caving in to Republicans in Congress and putting his signature on that bill, although he didn’t actually take any responsibility for it. By way of restitution, he may want to advise his wife come out strongly in favor of rolling back the media consolidation that he unleashed. A brief statement to that effect would help to repair the damage and advance the issue. She might might want to use this statement by John Edwards as a model for her own:

“It’s time for all Democrats, including those running for president, to stand up and speak out against this [News Corp./Dow Jones] merger and other forms of media consolidation.”

So far, Edwards is the only candidate to address this issue, and he deserves enormous credit for exhibiting such courage. The media is a potentially devastating enemy – just ask Howard Dean. However, Hillary Clinton has the greatest moral obligation to take a stand given what her husband saddled us with. The question is, can we expect her to do so after having accepted $20,000, so far, from Murdoch and his associates, who are still promising to raise more money for her campaign?

Update: Paul Hogarth at Beyond Chron attended a session with Hillary Clinton at the YearlyKos conference and asked her what her position is now on the Telcom bill. “I don’t know,” she said, “ask Al Gore.” That’s a fairly pathetic attempt at displaced blame. Gore does bear some responsibility for the legislative development of the bill, but it was Clinton who signed it. And Gore has redeemed himself by becoming a vocal opponent of consolidation and an advocate of media reform.

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The Blogging Of The President

In a Democratic candidate’s forum at the YearlyKos conference, the participants were asked if they would appoint a White House blogger if elected. All of them said yes.

Imagine for a moment that you are running for the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States. You are appearing on a panel at a conference of progressive bloggers before an audience of 1,500 of some of the most motivated online activists in your party and you are asked if you would appoint a White House blogger if elected. How many answers are there?

To the field of candidates appearing at this conference, there is only one answer, and that is to pander in the most shallow and uncritical manner possible. I can appreciate the pressure that they may have felt in this venue. They may have justifiably feared a hostile charge at the stage had any of them been adventurous enough to actually give the question some thoughtful consideration. But thoughtful consideration is not a trait most politicians spend much time cultivating.

Blogging has certainly made great strides in the realm of new media. It is regarded with a measure of seriousness that was unthinkable a few short years ago. Presidential candidates are now grateful for an audience of bloggers, and TV pundits are shaking in their expensive and anachronistic studios. But I, for one, am not so sure the notion of a White House blogger is particularly desirable. That may appear to be sacrilege coming from a blogger, but if you break down the meaning and purpose of a blog, this position may make more sense.

Merriam-Webster defines a blog as a…

Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.

Hiding in that rather dry definition is the framework for all of the vitality that radiates from the best of blogs.

Key amongst the components of good blogging is personality. The authors who attract crowds and inspire readers are those who give something more of themselves than the typical columnist. They dig deeply and feel fiercely, and aren’t afraid to express themselves with the raw honesty of a confessional.

The commentary featured on blogs is enhanced by the comments of readers that are compelled to praise, argue, and otherwise expand upon the blogger’s original thoughts. It is the presence of a community that ties together the disparate souls that linger in the Intersphere, and transforms a private diary into a social gathering.

The problem with a White House blog is that it would be none of these things I just described. It would not offer the personal reflections of a nation’s leader, or even those of a staffer appointed to feel things for the president. The honesty and spontaneity that infuses superior blogs with essence would be diluted beyond recognition by the expediency and message control of the modern presidential PR machine. And the chance that unrestricted free speech would flourish in freewheeling comments (if comments are even allowed) is roughly zero to none.

More likely, the White House Blog would just be another province of the propaganda branch of administration bureaucracy. It would be employed to further the political agenda of partisans, rather to than to inform and/or inspire citizens. Just imagine the sort of blogging that would emanate from the current White House. Would you rush each morning to your computer to devour the details of the latest musings of Hugh Hewitt or Michelle Malkin? Or perhaps they would find an obscure marcom specialist with YAF credentials who would happily report to Tony Snow.

For these reasons, I don’t think it would be contributory to democracy to establish yet another platform for the disbursement of misinformation. Leave the lying and scheming and obfuscation to the president’s press secretary and his/her designees, where it currently resides.

Leave blogging to bloggers.

Stalking Points Memo: Kos & Effect

Bill O’Reilly: “Many of the Democrats running for president will speak at the DailyKos convention next week. That is a major mistake.”

So says O’Reilly, the renowned Democratic analyst. Listen as he generously contributes his learned advice to the party he dismisses as radical loons.

Visit the growing library of Stalking Points Memos.

John Edwards Takes On The Media

Now he’s done it. John Edwards has unleashed the hounds of hell and will face certain and swift punishment for his petulance. By daring to tell the truth about the risks posed by runaway media consolidation, Edwards now must keep an alert eye over both shoulders. From his web site:

“News Corp’s purchase of the Dow Jones Co. and The Wall Street Journal should be the last straw when it comes to media consolidation. The basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media – all qualities which are pretty hard to subscribe to Fox News and News Corp.”

He goes on to call on all candidates to refuse contributions from the Dark Empire of Lord Murdoch, and to return any donations already received. For the most part, that call is directed straight at Hillary Clinton, who counts Murdoch as a supporter and fund-raiser.

But rather than become defensive, Clinton and the other candidates should stake out their own positions on media reform. To date, Edwards is the only candidate to take a position on the excessive powers that the media have assembled. By overtly challenging the media’s ravenous appetite for consolidation, Edwards is demonstrating a rare courage to seek reforms that are truly in the public interest. But he is also painting a target on his back.

The media are a formidable foe and they don’t like to be challenged. Witness the campaign of Gov. Howard Dean. Early in his campaign for the 2004 nomination, he appeared on Hardball where Chris Matthews asked if he would break up the powerful media conglomerates:

Dean: “The answer to that is yes. I would say there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country.”

Dean went on to say that he would appoint commissioners to the FCC that:

“…believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.”

We all saw what happened to Gov. Dean. His fall from being the front-runner in the Democratic Party to an object of ridicule almost overnight, was entirely the work of a frightened and panicked media. This may be a forecast of what awaits Edwards as he steps into the most shark-infested waters of politics. However, it is exactly this kind of commitment to the principles of freedom that we must demand of our representatives.

Edwards has been more successful in guiding the public debate than in raising his chances for the nomination. He has maneuvered the issues of health care and poverty into the spotlight when no one else was talking about them. One can only hope that he will have the same effect bringing the media’s malignancies into view. He had better, for his own sake. Without widespread support for this issue and/or his candidacy, the media will grind him up and spit him out. Or worse, from a political perspective…they will ignore him.

Rudy Giuliani: Fox Candidate For President

A report in the New York Times reveals that Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, has a special relationship with the front-runner for the nomination of the Republican Party for president. Rudy and Roger go back 20 years and share a level of intimacy that is well illustrated in this paragraph:

“Mr. Ailes served as the media consultant to Mr. Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989. Mr. Giuliani, as mayor, officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding and intervened on his behalf when Mr. Ailes’s company, Fox News Channel, was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.”

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to find politicians and propagandists shacking up with one another. Theirs is an incestuous collusion of benefit swapping that goes back decades. What’s interesting is the specific rewards Giuliani has enjoyed thanks to the generosity of his favorite friend from Fox:

“Since the beginning of this year, Mr. Giuliani has appeared for 115 minutes in interviews on Fox. More than half of those minutes, 78, were spent with Mr. Hannity, co-host of the “Hannity & Colmes” talk show.”

That makes Rudy the most frequent guest on Fox News amongst all presidential candidates. It pays to have friends in high places. And I’m sure that’s exactly what Ailes, and his boss, Rupert Murdoch, are thinking when they throw their considerable weight behind White House wannabes.