TV News Turns Blind Eye Towards SOPA Coverage

By: Chris Richardson - January 6, 2012

Here’s an interesting query: If you were a general manager of local CBS affiliate and you noticed a great deal of Internet traction concerning steps the US government is trying to take in its efforts to eliminate online piracy, how would you cover the story? What if the general public’s reaction was largely negative, how would you cover the story? Lastly, what if the company that owned your station — CBS, Fox, NBC, ABC — was a listed supporter of a bill that’s being trashed by just about every tech writer in the land, how would you cover the story?

Another question, would your station cover the subject at all?

According to findings by the Media Matters group, the answer is no, your station would not even pay lip service to the topic, at least when SOPA/PIPA is concerned. Because SOPA has been the topic of discussion on many online outlets, Media Matters investigated whether or not the network news channels — not just local affiliates, either; CNN, Fox News and MSNBC were included in their study — were covering the topic. The answer, once you consider which companies support the bill, is not surprising.

While the online outlets of these news properties have indeed offered SOPA articles with regularity, the televised broadcasts continue to neglect the subject, almost to the point of willfully ignoring it:

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.)

Does the fact that the companies that own these broadcast news outlets are listed supporters of SOPA play a part in the coverage? Perhaps. Media Matters also points out the ownership dilemma in their findings:

ABC and CBS are listed as supporters of the bill on the House Judiciary Committee website, along with Comcast/NBCUniversal (which owns MSNBC and NBC News), Viacom (CBS), News Corporation (Fox News), and Time Warner (CNN). Disney Publishing Worldwide, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Corporation, which owns ABC, is also listed as a supporter, as are other Disney properties such as ESPN and Hyperion publishing.

The question is, how would these companies cover SOPA/PIPA if they were opposed to the bills? Would all the Internet chatter concerning the bills influence the positions these companies would take if they didn’t have a vested interest in seeing the bill(s) passed?

Considering the abject lack of coverage, especially for a topic that’s getting so much traction online, such a conclusion doesn’t require a massive leap in logic to reach.

Lead image hat-tip.

About the Author

Chris RichardsonChris writes about the Internet, in all of its unpredictable glory. You can find him on Google+, Twitter, and, of course WebProNews.

View all posts by Chris Richardson
  • Eric

    I’d rather that they do not talk about it at all, because I know they’ll do everything they can to brainwash viewers into thinking the bill is any good. I just can’t wait until the big tech/internet companies do the freaking blackout on the 23rd so the congress and the senate will be flooded with calls and requests to veto SOPA and PIPA and any internet censorship law forever!

    • peter

      Black out? You can’t possibly think google will black out do you? How would they explain that to their business clients? Do you think gmail will be unavailable too?

  • Redditor

    Why would companies who want a bill to go through, who have distributed the ‘sharing’ tools in the first place, who have have already purchased their votes to pass the bill, want the general public to have an idea of what this is about so they could try and change the minds of Congress?

    They wouldn’t.

    • peter

      Why are so many people freaked out in the first place? If you have nothing illegal on your site(s) you should be fine, and if you do, now would a really good time to clean it up.
      Censorship free speech the world will end if SOPA passes … it was the same silliness with the copyright act, the DMCA Act, the Extension Act, the Sony Bono Act … the world didn’t end folks, and I think it highly unlikely the world will end if and when SOPA passes. What will hopefully end are the millions of dollars made daily by pirates at the expense of both the companies who created the material’s and the public who are unknowingly paying for knock-offs.
      And most importantly the the websites that keep popping up selling medical drugs at cheap prices that do more harm to people’s health than anything else! It’s not all about Hollywood people, as much as the tech community wants us to think that, it goes much further than movies and music.
      I have no interest in limits on my rights to freedom or my rights to free and open speech, but I refuse to get dragged into the scare tactics that are being put out there by the same people who are responsible for creating what is now very clearly the perfect storm. Did they really think time wouldn’t catch up with them?
      Sure SOPA isn’t perfect, what new bill would be? But it won’t get any better if the focus is always pulled from the real issue with is piracy.

      • http://Geoff

        Hey Peter, out of curiosity; what’s your stance on bills H.R. 645, S510 and the 2012 NDAA. You say you value your freedoms; do you support these bills or not?

        • peter

          Hello Reygeoff2009,
          RE: sub-sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA)for the fiscal year 2012, which deal with detention of persons the government suspects of involvement in terrorism; I’m shocked that anyone would consider that detaining someone without due process and the right to legal counsel is the right approach.
          I for one do not support such an approach.

          RE: H.R. 645, S510, unfortunately I am not as familiar with this bill as I think one would need to be to make an informed comment.

          Out of curiosity, what do either of those bills have to do with SOPA or the Protect IP Acts?

          Can I ask what your stance on SOPA and Protect IP is?

      • Ernest

        Peter, the problem is not US having infringing content on our sites. The problem is user-generated content. Such as these comments.

        Let’s say, I, as a user pasted an excerpt from a copyrighted book as a comment on this page. The copyright owner does a google search, sees the infringing text, and without any due process, has the entire domain shut down. Boom. Gone. No appeal, it’s just gone.

        THIS is the problem that SOPA presents to the internet. Facebook, Google, Youtube, every major site that consists of user-generated content would have no way to protect itself.

  • Jerry

    Everyone, we MUST stop the SOPA bill. Please, sign my petition telling congress not to pass SOPA. also, ask all of your friends to sign, and have them ask their friends as well. spread the word if you want to help stop this bill

    • peter

      No thank you

  • peter

    Ernest says:
    “Let’s say, I, as a user pasted an excerpt from a copyrighted book as a comment on this page. The copyright owner does a google search, sees the infringing text, and without any due process, has the entire domain shut down. Boom. Gone. No appeal, it’s just gone.”

    If what you described was the factual reality of both SOPA/PIPA then I would agree both bills went to far.
    However what you described is paranoia and a complete misunderstanding of the language of the Bills.

    No offense intended Ernest, but before attempting to sway people (that you do not know) into believing your personal version of the Bills, first find out whether or not the person on the receiving end of your rhetoric is gullible enough to be spoon-fed. I am not.

    Thanks for the (well intended?) help, but I am more than capable of thinking for myself; something I would suggest you should do.

  • Esbee

    I am so glad to see so many up in arms against Sopa and Pipa (sounds like a Mexican dessert!).

    But not too long ago, and still being fought, is a war against the USDA and corporate ag/factory farms against those who own livestock on a private scale.

    It is the battle you probably have not heard about no matter how much we tried to get it in the media.

    And the broad wording in that plan is just like the broad wording in these “anti-piracy” internet bills. Neither would stop what they intended to stop (piracy/animal disease) but only punish the little guy (average computer user/animal owner) in favor of corporations. (disney, viacom/ factory farms)

    It was called NAIS (national animal id system) but now called ADT (animal disease traceability). It would require that everyone who own even one animal (cow, horse, pig, goat, chicken, etc) to register with the govt, microchip all animals, file birth death movement reports then face depopulation should animals disease be suspected. It was written to benefit big ag/factory farms who were exempt from those rules but would put those who want to raise grass fed beef or have a chicken for eggs or pony to ride under extreme regulation and costs/fines, making organic foods impossible to raise. And would do nothing to stop disease. I hope these internet bills are stopped but I can live without the internet, I cannot live without food.

    see for more info—btw that site also blacked-out out to protest sopa pipa

  • garrett

    what if SOPA/PIPA were active right now whose to say that if i posted a copyrighted quote with out posting who its by or anything or the writer and on this website the reviewer or who ever edits the webpage sees it or the people who maintain the bill or made the bill or the guys “censoring the web” ran accrose it whos to say it wouldnt be taken down

    • garrett

      the webpage that is

  • garrett

    what if i was a hacker and i “hacked” in to a major corp. and edited their webpage to say an ililgale quote would that site betaken down. how are buisness spota work if they are socialy bound