AT&T Censors Pearl Jam's Anti-Bush Lyrics During Live Webcast

AT&T did a live stream of Lollapalooza in their Blue Room broadband portal, and apparently, during Pearl Jam's set (Pearl Jam? Lollapalooza? What is this, 1992?), they censored some anti-Bush lyrics from their songs. Boy, that sure is great to see, isn't it? Thanks for deciding what we should and shouldn't see, AT&T. You're really trying to live up to that "worst company around" title, aren't you? Pearl Jam issued a really articulate statement on the subject via their website that we happen to agree with wholeheartedly. [Update: AT&T responds, stating that an outsourced company was the culprit. Statement included after Pearl Jam's.]

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.

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.

Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of "NetNeutrality." Check out The Future of Music or Save the Internet for more information on this issue.

Most telecommunications companies oppose "net neutrality" and argue that the public can trust them not to censor..

Even the ex-head of AT&T, CEO Edward Whitacre, whose company sponsored our troubled webcast, stated just last March that fears his company and other big network providers would block traffic on their networks are overblown..

"Any provider that blocks access to content is inviting customers to find another provider." (Marguerite Reardon, Staff Writer, CNET News.com Published: March 21, 2006, 2:23 PM PST).

But what if there is only one provider from which to choose?

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.

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.

Couldn't have said it better ourselves. AT&T responded, however, and claimed that it was the work of an outsourced company editing the feed for profanity and was a mistake. If that's the case, this is less of a big deal than initially reported.
The editing of the Pearl Jam performance on Sunday night was not intended, but rather a mistake by a webcast vendor and contrary to our policy. We have policies in place with respect to editing excessive profanity, but AT&T does not edit or censor performances. We have that policy in place because the blue room is not age-restricted.

We regret the mistake and are trying to work with the band to post the song in its entirety.

[Pearl Jam via Broadband Reports ]