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8/9/2007
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Pearl Jam Blasts AT&T For Cut Lyrics In Lollapalooza Webcast

Critics say AT&T's deletion of political statements makes a case for network neutrality and against media consolidation.

Pearl Jam and other groups wasted no time blasting AT&T for deleting non-obscene language from a Webcast of the band's concert over the weekend.

But the telecommunications provider said the incident was a mistake by a content monitor from a contracted company.

The band posted a statement on its Web site Wednesday saying fans had informed them that a live Lollapalooza Webcast did not air certain words of "Daughter," which was sung to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."

The words, according to Pearl Jam were: "George Bush, leave this world alone," and George Bush find yourself another home." The band said the first sentence was uttered once through the Web cast and censored the second time it was sung.

"Our policy is not to edit or censor performances," AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said during an interview Thursday. "This was a mistake, and we regret that it happened. "We're trying to work with the band to post the song in its entirety on our Blue Room." Though the band was aware that AT&T attributed the deletion to a single content monitor, a statement on their Web site said it points to larger issues.

"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," the band stated on their Web site. "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."

Coe disagreed.

"It has nothing to do with net neutrality," he said. "It has nothing to do with media consolidation. We're trying to let music fans see their favorite bands perform live. The Blue Room is not a revenue generating sit for us. It is a free site. I'm not sure where media consolidation comes into play. This is the only media that we offer. ... We are not censoring. The policy is not to censor the performances. That is not what AT&T does. Again, what was edited from this performance should not have been edited."

Nevertheless, the band went on to encourage fans to become informed about net neutrality, while urging other performers to write on their message board if they had similar experiences.

"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," Pearl Jam said in a prepared statement. "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."

Public Knowledge President and Co-founder Gigi B. Sohn called the incident "appalling.

"How can we trust a company that promises not to interfere with content on the Internet when it has its corporate finger on the button to cut off political criticisms it doesn't like?" Sohn asked in a statement.

She said that the incident was "one more reason why content should be protected against the actions of a company looking out for itself, rather than for consumers and the free flow of information."

"We join Pearl Jam in condemning censorship and in promoting Internet Freedom," Sohn said. "We hope the FCC and Congress take note."

Coe said the AT&T complies with every regulation in terms of moving content and makes the Blue Room available to music fans who cannot attend a festival but do have broadband access.

"We work with an agency to work with festival to secure rights for broadcast," he said. "This is obviously not a core competency for A&T. They hire Web monitors. The live concerts, when streamed into the Blue Room, are not age-restricted, meaning anyone of any age can enter the Blue Room. They are told only to edit for excessive profanity, not really for the songs, but the banter going on between band members or band members and the audience, as well as any nudity that can arise."

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