How is a protest on Wall Street not news?

I had slacked off reading some of the latest news, so I missed some of the events going on. I particularly missed that a major protest had been going on near Wall Street, and more particularly has received a lack of coverage by the news media. If anyone needs evidence of the perils of corporate-owned mass media that have the power to band together and censor the free flow of information when it is bad for corporate interests as a whole, this is it.

For those new to this whole thing, the following makes for good background reading (note that most of these will display in reverse chronological order, so you might want to page to the end and read up):

  1. The AdBusters site for Occupy Wall Street.
  3. Reader Supported News coverage.

The most important events so far are that Yahoo censored emails about the demonstrations, and that dozens of protesters have been arrested (at least 80 at last count).

This is the problem with trusting large for-profit corporations to give us our news: Disney, Comcast, GE, News Corporation, CBS Corporation, Time Warner, Clear Channel, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Hearst Corporation, Gannett Company, just to name a few. No one corporation of these wants their own media outlets reporting on what could be considered an embarrassment to their own interests. Am I against the idea of for-profit media in principle? No. But something is really broken when a protest like this can go on for a week with barely any coverage in the major media outlets.

Worst of all is the flagrant censorship by Yahoo, a company I had honestly held in high regard and considered above such actions. Shame on you, Yahoo. You have no business scanning your users’ private emails for mentions of Occupy Wall Street. This in addition to being censorship is an invasion of user privacy and a betrayal of trust.

And shame on every so-called “news media outlet” that has chosen to ignore this, who has put their own corporate self-interest above doing what they have been entrusted to do: report the news. Occupy Wall Street is news. To ignore these protests is to ignore news.

I should have jumped on this sooner, and I apologize for not being more timely with this post. But the protests are still ongoing and the cause that the protests are being held for is still relevant, so I figure it is still not too late to spread the word.

Media giant vs. media non-profit: Comcast’s mistaken snap decision

A recent Ars Technica story simply must be read to be believed. The official Twitter account for the non-profit Reel Grrls, based in Seattle, WA, posted a tweet highly critical of Comcast, and particularly FCC Commissioner Merideth Baker’s acceptance of a lobbyist position immediately after approving the Comcast-NBC merger.

The vice president of communications for Comcast, Steve Kipp, took exception to this. So much exception, in fact, that he immediately sent an e-mail to the non-profit slamming Reel Grrls for “shaming us on Twitter” and stating Comcast’s funding to the nonprofit was withdrawn. Comcast’s spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice then says this was a mistake:

“At the corporate level, we had no information on this action taken by a single employee in Seattle,” Fitzmaurice told Ars. In a released statement, Fitzmaurice noted that Comcast apologized sincerely for the “unauthorized action” of their employee.

In the end, Reel Grrls decided to pursue other funding sources, rather than rely on money which could again be withdrawn when the organization says something else Comcast doesn’t like. From the article:

“We appreciate Comcast’s desire to rectify this situation and hope to encourage them to craft a corporate policy that clearly defends freedom of expression in order to ensure that this situation does not arise again,” said Teresa Mozur, administrative manager of Reel Grrls in a statement. “[I]t is exactly this type of public debate that can be squelched by mergers that threaten to raise the price for access to information, limit consumers’ choices in entertainment and news and give large media corporations the power to decide which opinions will see the light of day.”

I applaud Teresa for this decision on principle. It is difficult for a non-profit, particularly an arts-related non-profit, to be in a position to turn down funding. However, I also feel Teresa should never have been in the position to have to make such a choice.

It goes back to Mr. Kipp’s actions on behalf of Comcast, whether approved at the corporate level or not, and which I find to be absolutely despicable and patently devoid of respect for the mission of the non-profits which Comcast claims to support. This kind of heavy-handed action is exactly the reason I’m leery of making blogs like this one entirely funded by advertising or sponsorship.

(Note that by “like this one” I am referring to controversial, on-the-edge, not-for-the-easily-offended posts. As a marketing/PR consultant, I am obviously not averse to advertising in general; I did add advertisements to my other blog Quinn’s Big City in hopes of making it at least a break-even operation by the end of the year. As the topic of QBC is completely different, I endeavor to keep it as close to controversy-free as feasible; alienating advertisers is thus far less of a concern on that blog as it is here.)

Here’s hoping next time Comcast supports a non-profit, they really mean it, and don’t decide on a whim to defund that non-profit over justified criticism. Actually, I have even better advice for Comcast: don’t hire someone straight out of the FCC to be your lobbyist if you don’t like the criticism so much.

Net neutrality: why we need it, now

Okay, for those of you who don’t know, I’m going to try to explain just what net neutrality is, and why we need it now more than ever.

First, we have the recent attempt by Comcast to block Internet-based video services such as Netflix and Hulu. (Most of the news reports about this have only mentioned Netflix, however some Twitter users I am following seem to have implied that Hulu might be getting blocked as well.) There is no good reason for this other than a control freak mentality on the part of Comcast, who might block YouTube and Vimeo next unless they are stopped.

That’s bad enough. But you know what really hacks me off? This article on Engadget which shows what some Internet providers want to do: charge specific tolls and set specific bandwidth limits and restrictions on access to selected Internet sites. Facebook will cost, say, an extra 2 cents per megabyte, and YouTube will be capped at 60 kilobytes/second with an extra 50 cent fee per month. The frightening thing? There’s nothing stopping an Internet provider from just up and blocking blogs like the one you’re reading now, or to charge an arbitrarily high fee to read them.

I pay very little to keep my blogs online; the traffic charges are at worst $1 per gigabyte (and go down as I accumulate more total traffic over the lifetime of the account). And none of that is paid by my readers. I intentionally accept no advertising on this blog; I am open to the idea of accepting it on my other currently active blog, Quinn’s Big City, but as a practical matter the readership numbers are not high enough to make it feasible right now.

This is about profit for Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone don’t want you to hear. I’m getting the message out now while I still can. Because there’s no telling when it’ll cost you an extra 25 cents per megabyte to read my blogs, if you can at all. Every blogger should be worried about this, especially those who blog on controversial topics and call out the corporations, particularly those in the large to gargantuan size range, for greed like this.

The last thing the Internet needs is a bunch of greedy companies throwing up tollbooths in front of Internet services “just because.”