The Stop Online Piracy Act is a nasty little bit of legislation that threatens the very existence of the Internet, though the law and its implications have s received almost no coverage from American network and cable television.
That’s what Ben Dimiero reports for Media Matters in America.
Here’s the introduction to his analysis:
Controversial legislation that the co-founder of Google has warned “would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world” has received virtually no coverage from major American television news outlets during their evening newscasts and opinion programming. The parent companies of most of these networks, as well as two of the networks themselves, are listed as official “supporters” of this legislation on the U.S. House of Representatives’ website.
As the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) makes its way through Congress, most major television news outlets — MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and NBC — have ignored the bill during their evening broadcasts. One network, CNN, devoted a single evening segment to it. (The data on lack of coverage is based on a search of the Lexis-Nexis database since October 1, 2011. The Nexis database does not include comprehensive daytime coverage, and also does not include Shep Smith’s 7pm nightly Fox News program, so both are excluded from the study.)
Over the past few months, debate over SOPA and its companion Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act (also known as PIPA) has boiled over online. Numerous tech writers, experts, and companies have spoken out against the bills, warning that while they ostensibly target online piracy and “rogue” foreign websites hosting pirated copyrighted content, the bills could severely limit internet freedom and innovation.
NY Times media columnist David Carr, who described the legislation as “alarming in its reach,” explained in a column earlier this week that “digitally oriented companies see SOPA as dangerous and potentially destructive to the open Web and a step toward the kind of intrusive Internet regulation that has made China a global villain to citizens of the Web.”
The legislation also has powerful supporters. As Carr laid out in his article, “Virtually every traditional media company in the United States loudly and enthusiastically supports SOPA.” This includes the parent companies of the TV news outlets now ignoring the fury over the bill during their primetime broadcasts, as well as two of the channels themselves.
ABC and CBS are listed as supporters of the bill on the House Judiciary Committee website, along with Comcast/NBCUniversal (which owns MSNBC and NBC News), Viacom (CBS), News Corporation (Fox News), and Time Warner (CNN). Disney Publishing Worldwide, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Corporation, which owns ABC, is also listed as a supporter, as are other Disney properties such as ESPN and Hyperion publishing.
As we reported Thursday, new rules from the Federal Communications Commission will allow broadcasters to own newspapers in major cities, ensuring that the media will sing in ever-greater harmony on issue like SOPA.
Because SOPA pushes the burden of proof onto the accused and mandates site takedowns on solely on the basis of a corporate complaint, websites will be increasingly vulnerable to intimidation, and given that many bloggers lack the financial resources for lengthy legal battles, it’s likely that many voices of dissent will be stilled.
Big Brother, Inc., is watching.