Washington Post Fails To Ask NBC's Rick Cotton Any Tough Questions
from the ah,-the-press dept
Dark Helmet was the first of a few of you to send over this interview by the Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang of NBC’s Rick Cotton. Cotton, of course, is one of our favorite quote machines. He’s the guy who famously claimed that movie downloading was hurting corn farmers of America, because people wouldn’t buy popcorn at movies any more (a factually ridiculous statement, considering that (1) box office sales keep going up (2) corn is one of the most heavily subsidized markets and continues to grow and (3) people watching movies at home still eat popcorn). He also considered it a victory, that his efforts made it more difficult for legitimate viewers to watch the Olympics. Kang, by the way, has actually been pretty good in interviews when it comes to telco/broadband stories, so I had high hopes that she would at least ask a couple of tough questions.
Instead… she basically accepts his (extremely faulty) premise that all copyright infringement is evil and must be stopped at all costs, talking about how ACTA is “evidence of progress,” with a brief aside that “some public interest groups don’t like” ACTA. But, then we get to the questions, which are basically “please give us all your talking points, and I won’t challenge you on a single one of them.” It kicks off with this one:
How do you think Washington needs to approach such a big problem?
But, uh, is it really a problem? I mean, this interview takes place just a week or so after the GAO pointed out that the claims of losses from folks like Rick Cotton are basically made up and that there’s little evidence to support them. The next question suggests the entire problem is with everyone else on the internet and not, say, NBC’s failure to adapt its business model:
What would be a wake-up call for those users to make them change their behavior?
Why not ask when will NBC wake up and fix its business model?
From there, the interview veers into Cotton’s favorite talking point: that ISPs should be forced to police the interwebs, because his company is too incompetent to do so itself. None of the questions really challenge the basic premise of what he’s saying. They only weakly push back, questioning why ISPs would want to do that. The only question that touches on pushback is when she notes that deep packet inspection could be misused, which Cotton brushes off.
But, really, the final question is the kicker. It’s sort of the opposite of the “and when did you stop beating your wife” variety, in that it sets up a totally false premise as a layup for Cotton:
Are you saying the opponents of the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement aren’t offering solutions?
To which Cotton slams the ball home by lying:
Yes. They are about just saying no. No is the only answer. That is not only not constructive, I think it is actively destructive. What strikes me is that everyone marvels at technology of a search engine that can go out and identify 10 million returns in 0.002 of a second. But they say that that same technology has nothing to contribute or can only be a destructive force.
But, of course, none of that is true, and you would think that a reporter for the Washington Post would be armed with the facts to question such blatantly wrong talking points. Opponents of ACTA have detailed over and over again the serious problems of what’s in it. They’ve talked about the faulty premise that Kang and Cotton keep up through the whole interview that infringement is a legal problem that requires getting the gov’t to prop up NBC, rather than a business model problem of NBC refusing to adapt to a changing market.
Opponents of ACTA offer up all sorts of solutions: starting with NBC no longer running to the government demanding protection, but instead updating its business model and focusing on offering more products that its customers actually want. This was an incredibly disappointing interview. I would have expected better.