Study Confirms: News Networks Owned By SOPA Supporters… Are Ignoring SOPA/PIPA

from the but,-of-course dept

While the debates about SOPA/PIPA have been raging all over the internet, and appearing regularly in all sorts of mainstream newspapers, they still have been almost entirely absent from TV news. We’ve discussed this in the past, noting that the major TV news players are all owned by media conglomerates who have been major backers of SOPA/PIPA. There was some indication that cable news was starting to pay attention… but things have gone quiet since then (perhaps upper management sent out a memo…).

The folks over at Media Matters decided to check in on this and have confirmed that the big TV news players have almost entirely ignored it, despite the widespread controversy found elsewhere in the mainstream press:

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 report does note that there have been articles online… but very few TV segments. It also discusses how much attention SOPA/PIPA is getting, concerning all the companies who have come out against it, the media coverage in the NY Times among other places, and the big GoDaddy flip-flop — to highlight that this is a big story making waves.

Despite all of this, the response from American television news outlets has been to almost completely ignore the story during their evening programming. The lone exception was a segment on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer in December, during which CNN parent company Time Warner’s support for the legislation was not disclosed. (Though Fox News Channel has apparently not touched the story during evening programming, conservative/libertarian host Andrew Napolitano has run several segments vocally opposing SOPA on his program, which runs on the separate Fox Business Network.)

It’s postulated that perhaps the issue is the fact that SOPA/PIPA don’t fall along easily scripted left vs. right lines:

The fight over SOPA does not fit into the usual left vs. right narrative that occupies so much of the political horserace coverage with which TV news outlets fill their schedules. The cosponsors of SOPA come from both sides of the aisle. Likewise, the most vocal opponents of SOPA in Congress are an ideologically diverse bunch, including Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX) and Darrel Issa (R-CA).

Either that… or the corporate folks upstairs don’t want to allow this to become an even bigger story.

Of course, as I was writing this up, Tim Cushing was writing up the same story (coordination, people, coordination!), with an alternate theory — which makes sense too. So, everything below the line is his read on the situation:

Tim Cushing’s analysis: Gray areas seldom make compelling news, especially when there’s no political angle to take. Beyond that, I think the mainstream media silence is also explained by the outdated thought process that still believes that the Internet Is Not Real.

First and foremost, the evening news is generally a broad overview of the days’ happenings. Not only do they not have the time to delve into an issue that mainly affects an “ethereal” service like the web, but they also (ignoring any corporate bias for the sake of argument) have no interest in doing so. The cliche that “if it bleeds, it leads” likely eliminates a war that involves a bloodless dismantling of the internet. The internet is generally trotted out only as an example of how things are bad (online bullying, etc.) or how things are cute/weird (any crossover meme that can be easily brought up, discussed and dismissed forever in less than 60 seconds).

Even though many news teams invite you to follow them on Twitter or Facebook, the connection seems to go no further than that. The percentage of the population that still relies on the evening news to get them caught up on the world is unlikely to care about legislation that affects the internet.

In essence, the internet is still treated like some sort of fad infested with tech-y nerds and thus can be safely ignored when dealing with Real Issues on the nightly news. This attitude is pervasive, both within content companies and among our representatives. The gatekeepers pushing the legislation need the internet as much as it claims it needs them, but they want their own internet, one closer in spirit to The Village than the Wild West.

Our legislators are still amused by their own lack of internet prowess, indicating that they still believe the web to be some sort of “outlier” whose opinions can be easily dismissed. It’s a cognitive gap, but it explains why the mainstream TV news so willingly ignores SOPA and the building momentum of its opposition: it’s just the internet. It can be either humored or feared, but never respected.

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Comments on “Study Confirms: News Networks Owned By SOPA Supporters… Are Ignoring SOPA/PIPA”

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:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Alternate Explanation

I like your “incompetence rather than malice” explanation (paraphrasing Napoleon) but it does seem more likely this one really is due to malice.

Controlling peoples’ thoughts can be as simple as controlling what they know. Religion has been used in this way be governments for millenia, and it has only recently been supplanted by mass-media outlets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Alternate Explanation

“Controlling peoples’ thoughts can be as simple as controlling what they know. Religion has been used in this way be governments for millenia, and it has only recently been supplanted by mass-media outlets.”

and the internet is the one thing that breaks through it

funny how this is all working out huh?

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Ha! As a matter of fact I was en route to Seattle on vacation that day. I stand corrected, however. I just watched the dueling interview and must say that they both held their own pretty well. The pro-SOPA guy came off as kinda sleazy but that may be my own preconception.

Now to make me look even dumber I’m sure both hosts will cover the bill on tonight’s episodes.

Violated (profile) says:

Added Heat

Well the situation in the UK is not much better. TV news is a total void from what I have seen. The BBC have mentioned SOPA about 3 times on their news website but usually as a minor addition to a bigger story.

I don’t think they act with malice or negligence. The BBC is usually happy to mainstream news anything that reaches number one most read story on their website.

What I think is happening is that they are waiting for something to blow up. So much for politics, or even the future of the Internet, if you can get some nasty riots, shootings or other bloodthirsty events. So should things get more visual and heavy then we may get there.

Larry says:

I’m surprised anyone needed a “study” to validate this.

I’ve seen nothing from anyone but CNN (and that was small coverage too).

The News arm of the Disney corporation won’t say anything about it at all anywhere, anytime. .

This is an important point for anyone(!) that gets their “news” from very few sources. Bias exists. Sometimes, that bias is financially motivated.

Blaine (profile) says:

TV News still exists?

I know my parents used to watch it, but I thought it died years ago.

Every once in a while I see a short 15 second commercial that looks like those old news shows and they will say something like “Can the food you’re eating kill you?!?!?!!? News at 6.” This is usually followed by me pulling out my smart phone typing in a quick search and thinking, “no, I guess not, but I’m glad that someone was worried enough about me to pay for a commercial encouraging me to go to the net.”

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s sad, I was having dinner with my parents this evening when I brought up SOPA/PIPA. My dad, who represents the typical blue-collar worker that gets all his daily news from TV or the newspaper, had no idea what I was talking about.

I told him that was because media companies are the ones who started these bills, and it didn’t surprise me to see that he had no knowledge of them.

He laughed and said “only Congress can start a bill, son.” Like I was a complete idiot. Its sad, really. Mass media is a powerful thing, it will take a large force to overcome the brainwashing they have inflicted on the less-open minded citizens in this nation.

arentol says:

Simple fix...

If SOPA/PIPA passes the fix is simple. A bunch of major corporation that are against this should produced one copyrighted song, story, and video each. Then every individual and company who is against this should seed the entire internet with this stuff the day the law goes live, and send links to a central site for each corporation. Then the corporation that has the copyright should have that site set to automatically record, verify, and file a lawsuit to shut down every site reported to it.

The courts would be inundated with millions of cases, and if they do what the law tells them to the entire internet would be effectively dead in a few weeks… At which point the congress would have to reverse the law if they hadn’t done so already.

Believe me, it would be trivial to get copyright violations onto almost every site in the world. If users have ANY form of input on the site then they can make it a violator.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would have to disagree with Tim Cushing’s perspective.

In my own new market — Chicago — the five local television news broadcasts are now increasingly citing and showing, during the broadcast, Facebook use. At least one station has taken to segments with the anchors sitting around a large monitor, pointing out items on Facebook.

These news broadcasts have been “engaging” with the Internet for some time — prominently promoting their web sites, soliciting pictures and other email from viewers, etc. If anything, what is interesting in this past year is the transition from traditional web sites to Facebook. For these broadcasters, for advertisers running commercials, for nearly everything on the screen, Facebook has become “the Internet”. The web site address is no longer first; rather, it’s the organization’s Facebook ID.

These broadcasters “get the Internet”. They hope, in their silence on SOPA/PIPA, to further co-opt it to their commercial interests.

(And while Facebook may officially oppose SOPA/PIPA, I think that position in ancillary to the activity and positioning I describe above. Further, they know that as one of the already cooperative, “900 pound gorilla” in the room of entrenched media interests, they have, in a word, the “moxie” to survive any pending legislation.

Not to disparage their opposition to SOPA/PIPA. But, restated, I think their opposition will have zero meaning to and affect upon these broadcasters and similar, SOPA/PIPA supporting interests — regardless of these business relationships.)

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re:

News stations and newspapers are happy to talk about their own websites, and it’s okay to mention facebook and twitter because they’re “mainstream” (i.e. the people at the station use it and the marketing people love it), but as for the rest of the world wide web, it’s pretty much non-existent unless it’s some dumb viral video.

My newspaper’s website is so print-oriented that they often don’t include live links for URLs. You have to copy and paste the URL from the article to go to a website (and then they sneakily attach all this “read more at…” that ruins the URL.” They also run a bunch of articles together, because that’s how they do it in print.

At the TV station website you can watch their newscasts, but their players are all low res with messed up aspect ratios even though their broadcasts are hi-def.

I can honestly say that of all the local content websites, the big newspaper and the TV stations are the worst. I think at one time they ignored the internet because they thought not everyone was online, and they wanted to be universal.

Now I think they view the internet is competition. Ignore it and it might go away, except for their own websites of course.

They’d be very happy to have an internet where only big companies that could afford to create or license all of its content got to publish stuff online. After all, they don’t get to publish anything online without a license – why should anyone else get to?

That said, I don’t think they’re ignoring SOPA because of their owners. I think it’s just not interesting enough for TV news. When was the last time free speech made headlines?

celoe says:

I think the bigger picture is being ignored.. again.

American politics/business has always been one in the same. Much like this the cherade of political partisanship (Democrats/Republicans are one in the same). They employ the same people in the background, all answering to the same constituencies. Sorry, until you so called “democrats” or “republicans” get over yourselves and accept this truth. Anyone unable to see this distinction is part of the problem. Our government has historically used its business infrastructure to manipulate foreign and domestic policy. Period. We don’t stick riflemen in Starbucks looking over your shoulder. We’re a bit more ‘sophsiticated’. We use our corporations to manipulate our societal structure. We think it’s the ‘right’ way to do it. We tell other countries that dictate their mandates through other means are less than ourselves. Let’s get the fuck over ourselves. Please.

scott (user link) says:


Of course the news media ignores potential censorship, they are the masters of censorship, information control, absolute fascists.
I have already stopped watching FOX news, for Gods sake, we warned by Jesus, beware of Wolfs in sheep’s clothing, the fox channel is that wolf, with a watered down image, I am a republican since Reagan, who since 2005 have walked, no …run away from the establishment republicans, they are at war with main street america, and wrap them selves in the flag, homo phobia rants, and pro life speech, when in reality they hate the freedoms of america(PATRIOT ACT/NDAA), are all a bunch of cok sucking guy men(Rick Sanatorium connections to group connected to coach loves young boys, Lanny boy lawyer), who hide and cover it up, and once elected don’t do a thing for families and there well being to curb abortions. They are frauds.
And SPOA is another feather on the breaking back of patient Americans preparing for war with the government and the elite they do the bidding for.
Keep your Powder Dry.

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