Thursday, August 16, 2007

ATT's Pearl Jam story unravels

Last week ATT admitted muting Pearl Jam’s political lyrics during its exclusive webcast of the band’s Lollapalooza show on Aug. 5. ATT rightly apologized, said the silencing was a mistake by a content monitor, and claimed that the company “does not censor or edit performances.” ATT spokeswoman Tiffany Nels also told the Los Angeles Times that it uses the content monitors to block “excessive profanity.”

After being pressed by fans and reporters, ATT admitted on Friday it had muted political lyrics during the webcasts of other bands on its “Blue Room” site. ATT said in a statement: "It's not our intent to edit political comments in webcasts on Unfortunately, it has happened in the past in a handful of cases. We have taken steps to ensure that it won't happen again." Earlier this week, Wired News reported a “Blue Room” crewmember said censoring political speech was a policy for the webcasts.

Fans of Flaming Lips, John Butler Trio, The Nightwatchman and a number of other bands came forward saying the bands' political lyrics/banter had been silenced during other "Blue Room" broadcasts. (Video of these incidents has not surfaced yet, but if you have please post links on the comments section of the blog. We'd love to see it.)

One instance of muting a band’s political comments might be chalked up as a mistake, but multiple instances point toward something much more sinister: a policy of silencing political speech.

The silencing is especially troubling because it appears the content monitor ATT hired to watch the Pearl Jam webcast did not do what ATT claimed he was there to do: monitor inappropriate speech. As we mentioned earlier this week, FMC counted 20 instances of curse words during the Pearl Jam webcast that were not censored by the content monitor, yet Eddie Vedder’s anti-Bush lyrics were muted.

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