While Pearl Jam doesn't make many appearances on this site, a recent incident involving the editing of a live performance and the band's ensuing reaction is quite significant. The band was performing during Lollapalooza and the always political Eddie Vedder took a moment to criticize George W.Bush. While live attendees heard the words, those watching the webcast saw only a censored version, without the criticism.
The band released a lengthy statement, pointing to the monopoly powers of telecommunications companies, and the ensuring effect on the public:
This 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.
"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.
When pressed on the issue, AT&T quickly deflected, claiming the censorship was the work of an outside (unnamed) company. Regardless of whether the blame falls on AT&T or the other company, the issue is nonetheless the same. In a consolidated market, should telecommunications companies by allowed to affect content or should they act as neutral carriers of information?