The News Networks’ SOPA Blackout

By Josh Levy, January 9, 2012

originally posted at

You may have heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Simply put, it’s a bill in the House that could open the door to widespread Internet censorship.

Opposition to the bill has reached a boiling point. Millions of activists, hundreds of
startups, social media sites like Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter and even big
companies like Google, Yahoo! and eBay have joined with Free Press and other
Internet advocacy groups against it.

This is one of the biggest tech stories of the year. Yet as a recent report from Media Matters for America shows, TV news has ignored it.

According to the report, SOPA — and Protect IP, its cousin in the Senate — have “received
virtually no coverage from major American television news outlets during their
evening newscasts and opinion programming.” Among the offenders are ABC, CBS,
Fox News, MSNBC and NBC.

A likely reason for the media blackout? The big networks — and their parent
companies — support these two Internet-censorship bills.

This is what happens when the interests of big business get in the way of the need
to inform the public and protect free speech. These same media giants are
lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to loosen its ownership rules
and allow for even more media consolidation — another issue they’ve failed to
cover. If the FCC permits runaway
media blackouts like the one affecting SOPA could become even more common.

Meanwhile, rank-and-file journalists are coming out strong against these censorship bills. And print media have reported on them. Earlier this month New York Times columnist David Carr wrote that SOPA was “alarming in its
reach.” Time, the Atlantic, Forbes and the Boston Globe have all reported on the legislation in the past week.

What is TV news afraid of?

These networks — ABC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC and NBC — need to be held accountable for failing to provide coverage of
such damaging legislation.

Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Free Press does not support or oppose any candidate for public office. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media and universal access to communications.

Josh Levy

Josh is the Internet Campaign Director for Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund.

Read Josh’s full bio »

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  2. Johnny on May 7, 2012 at 7:57 am said:

    It unfortunately doesn’t surprise me that networks haven’t covered this, I just hope enough people understand the intersection of media and business enough to realize that the law is a big deal despite the lack of coverage. Do you know of any good articles that breakdown the main pros and cons of this law?
    Johnny recently posted..Does New Jersey Want to Steal Your Gift Cards?My Profile

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