Monday, January 31, 2011

What You Missed About The Peacock Changing Its Feathers

There may be those who criticize us today for not exclusively focusing on Egypt and the turmoil occurring over there.

Our long-term readers are well aware that we have our eyes and ears on what's going on over there, and we continue to monitor any news coming out of that part of the world. Every media organization worth its salt is paying attention to the full depth of events there, and we're no exception. You'll find a full list of related stories in our news links section today that will give you a good look at what's happening in Egypt.

One of the more important things that has already occurred in that ancient nation on the Nile has a strange connection to an event that just finished happening in the U.S. over the weekend.

In case you missed our linked stories on Friday, the Egyptian government shut down internet access for most of its people at the end of last week. It was a display of government control over the internet that no other country in the world has exhibited - not even China, Iran, or North Korea. The Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak used what's been termed an "internet kill switch" thanks in large part to its connection with a small number of media corporations, including some that control both Egyptian content AND delivery.

That's just like the new owners in the United States of NBC Universal, Comcast.

The idea that a small number of corporations - and even more accurately, a small number of executives in those corporations - could choke off access to some First Amendment rights for all Americans is a scary thing indeed, for both those on the right and left alike. Like some ever-hungry, multi-armed leviathan, large media consolidation in the United States has been swallowing up and silencing local voices in newspapers, radio, and television for nearly 15 years.

Until Comcast took over radio and TV giant NBC, and movie giant Universal, Americans have always been able to say that they could change the channel if they didn't like the fare that was delivered to them.

With this new breed of media conglomerate, if Comcast decides to only allow positive stories through its delivery pipes, technically, they can do that. If their chief executive decides he hates a specific college or pro sports team, they'll be able to create "accidental" technical difficulties any time they like. In the case of Comcast, if NBC is broadcasting a game, no matter who your internet or cable provider is, they may be able to hold you down and force you to pay them exorbitant rates if you want to view the programming to which they own the rights.

That there are also concerns being raised that some in the Congress and the White House are both looking to add an "internet kill switch" for the United States simply adds to our overall concern about our First Amendment protections.

While you're watching the chaos continue in Egypt today, remember that it was the government there that shut down access to the internet for its citizens.

As of today, in America, we could very well be on the edge of seeing a situation whereby a corporation (Comcast) has that same level of control over what what you see and hear - or don't see and hear. The idea that you could be receiving propaganda instead of unbiased, factual news is a frightening prospect. It is a lot more frightening and real than the crackbrained notion that the government might restrict the right of "sportsmen" to own weapons like the AK47 or the Uzi or Glock pistols with large-capacity magazines.

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