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AT&T;'s Pearl Jamming?

by Josh Grossberg
Thu, 9 Aug 2007 01:49:17 PM PDT
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Pearl Jam's ready to ready to reach out and slug someone at AT&T.

The grunge icons, who closed out last weekend's Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago with a raucous two-hour set, are taking the telecommunications giant to task for allegedly editing out some political remarks made by frontman Eddie Vedder from the Webcast on AT&T's Blue Room site.

During Sunday's show, Vedder was performing the band's hit "Daughter" when he segued into a version of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" with pointed new lyrics.

"George Bush, leave this world alone!" Vedder shouted twice, before concluding with, "George Bush, find yourself another home!"

But fans tuning in to the live Internet broadcast from AT&T, the chief sponsor of the two-day music and arts extravanganza, only heard Vedder's first line. The rest of his message wound up on the cutting-room floor.

The band was unaware of the cuts until fans began hitting the message boards and emailing in. That led the Seattle quintet to a post a message Wednesday on the band Website.

"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," the band wrote. "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."

AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said the cuts were unintentional and insisted the phone company does not censor political speech. Coe said the company did employ a few-second delay between the actual concert and the Webcast but only too catch any "excessive profanity or unexpected events such as "wardrobe malfunctions."

Instead, AT&T blamed an unnamed "Web content editor" from the vendor AT&T hired to produce the Webcast.

"Basically, as we broadcast to the Blue Room Website, we have an agency that handles this for us and has a production team onsite including someone who watches the broadcast," Coe told E! Online. "AT&T's not into censoring lyrics. We really regret this has happened."

Coe said the company was talking with Pearl Jam about posting the song online in its entirety; however, because AT&T bought the rights for the live broadcast only, it will have to go back negotiate archival rights with the group.

"We're trying to work with our vendor to ensure something like never happens again," he said, adding that AT&T showed 21 other festival acts and no one else has complained about censorship.

The vendor in question, music consulting firm Davey Brown Entertainment, also regretted the censorship.

"It was a mistake," Adam Smith, the company's executive vice president, told MTV News. "Our policy is not to edit any performance at all—never, ever. We take responsibility for the mistake."

But Pearl Jam didn't seem quite satisfied.

"Why did the 'content monitor' for AT&T think 'George Bush, go home; George Bush leave this world alone' sound like the word 'f---'? AT&T says he was there to monitor only for swear words," said the band's spokeswoman, Nicole Vandenberg. "I'm curious what he thought he was supposed to be monitoring and why he made this call. What were his instructions?

"Let’s just say it was a 'mistake' as AT&T has said. Mistakes are made every day and they will continue to be made because that is human nature," she continued. "So it begs the question: Can the system and structures be changed to avoid mistakes like in the future, and what are the broader and more serious implications if they’re not?"

Pearl Jam noted that the incident showed the need to protect "Net Neutrality," ensuring that telecommunications companies treat all content equally instead of giving preference to partners or those willing to pay more.

"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," the band said.

While Pearl Jam did not immediately comment on whether it would allow AT&T to post the "Daughter" performance online, it has since put up the uncensored clip on pearljam.com.

Vedder and mates have long been critics of the current administration. The track "Bushleaguer," off 2002's Riot Act, slammed U.S. policies. The band has openly supported Democratic candidates in the past and was one of the headliners on the Vote for Change tour in 2004.

 

Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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