AT & T Censor Anti-Bush Lyrics During Live Webcast
Chicago Tribune | August 9, 2007
A live Internet broadcast of Pearl Jam's performance at Chicago's Lollapalooza music festival Sunday went off without a hitch -- until singer Eddie Vedder criticized President Bush.
Lyrics critical of the president didn't make it past editors of the show's Webcast, the band complained Wednesday on its Web site.
The performance, sponsored by AT&T Inc. and carried on AT&T's "Blue Room" site, omitted the lyrics "George Bush, leave this world alone" and "George Bush, find yourself another home" as part of a version of the song "Daughter," according to the Pearl Jam Web site.
Fans had complained to the band about the possible censorship, the site said.
"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," the Pearl Jam site said.
An AT&T spokeswoman confirmed the omission Wednesday, saying that it had been a mistake made by someone working for the agency hired by AT&T to handle its Blue Room content.
"We don't have a policy in place to censor," said AT&T's Tiffany Nels. "We have a policy on excessive profanity. This was an honest mistake. There was no censorship intended."
Nels said that there is a delay of a few seconds between the performance and its streaming to the Web so that an editor can cut out profane language because the Web site is available to all ages and AT&T doesn't want foul language going out.
She declined to name the agency in charge of the Web site content or elaborate on why an editor would cut out references to George Bush beyond saying, "We think it was just a little overzealous. It's not our policy to edit political commentary."
While stopping short of calling the omission intentional censorship, the band's Web site said the incident "troubles us as artists, but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media."
The band said it will post the unedited version of its performance on its Web site, and Nels said that AT&T hopes also to post an unedited version on its Blue Room site archives. The comments critical of the president were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" as part of the performance of "Daughter."
Critics of large Internet providers like AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and others seized on the incident as an example of why Congress should pass legislation to guarantee the freedom of Internet content from manipulation by the large corporations that provide Internet connectivity.
This issue, referred to as "net neutrality," has roiled communications policy debates for more than two years. Consumer advocates and large Internet players such as Google have supported the legislation while telecom and cable corporations have opposed it.
The statement from Pearl Jam, a band with strong political views, cited net neutrality in its statement as an issue.
"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," the band said. "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."
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