The Swarm

August 12, 2007

The Blue Room: Who else did AT&T censor?

David Prince

How many musicians have had their AT&T Blue Room performances edited or censored?

Here’s what we know so far:

- Pearl Jam’s Lollapalooza performance was stripped of its anti-Bush lyrics by an AT&T “content monitor.”

- AT&T claimed:

The editing of the Pearl Jam performance on Sunday night was not intended, but rather a mistake by a webcast vendor and contrary to our policy. We have policies in place with respect to editing excessive profanity, but AT&T does not edit or censor performances.

- A fan emails reporters:

They did the same thing on the webcasts from Bonnaroo in June during the John Butler Trio show when he was talking about the lack of response from our government during Katrina, and also during the Flaming Lips show when the lead singer was talking about how much George Bush had screwed up. I was at both of those live shows and saw the webcasts later. The sound did not cut out at any other time – only when someone was talking about George Bush or the goverment in a negative way.

Now, according the the Sun Times:

- The Flaming Lips are not aware of the cuts, and are reviewing the tapes.

- Jon Butler Trio are unavailable for comment.

- AT&T issues a new statement admitting that political speech has been censored in the past:

“It’s not our intent to edit political comments in Webcasts on the Blue Room,” Tiffany O’Brien Nels, AT&T’s Austin, Texas-based spokeswoman, said Friday in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, it has happened in the past in a handful of cases. We have taken steps to insure that it will not happen again.”

So, big questions remain: Who else was censored by AT&T? How many times has this happened? What was the offending behavior or speech that caused performances to be edited? What exact steps are being taken?

While we’re waiting for answers from AT&T, we’d like to hear from you. If you’re a musician, or work in the music industry, are a journalist covering this story, or are a fan of music, and you have seen or are aware of other incidents of censorship or editing in AT&T Blue Room webcasts at any time since 2005, please let us know. We can be reached via email at ‘editor-at- thedailyswarm-dot-com,’ via this anonymous tip form, or in the comments below.

(We are just rolling out the comments feature for The Daily Swarm, so please be patient as we work out the bugs.)

We will update this post as we get word on other incidents.


Alleged: Nightwatchman (Tom Morello) @ Bonnaroo 2007 (Nightwatchman message board)

Did anyone else watch The Nightwatchman live stream from bonnaroo? Everytime Tom began to talk the audio would cut out. I’m assuming that it wasnt just me.

Alleged: Lupe Fiasco @ Lollpalooza 2007 (Pearl Jam message board)

I actually missed the Pearl Jam set, but I saw Lupe Fiasco’s performance earlier in the day. He has a song called “American Terrorist”, and while the song itself seemed to go by untouched… Lupe’s lead in to the song was. It went something along the lines of “Some of you might know him as George W. Bush… The President. I know him as George W. Bush ___________ (dead air)”. Having seen Lupe in concert before, I know that muted out section was a “American Terrorist”. He pretty much yells it into the mic before launching into the song.

Alleged: Lily Allen @ Bonnaroo 2007 (Lollapalooza message boards)

They were definately censoring what Lily Allen was saying in between songs. When there are technical problems, the picture will stop and sometimes the word playlist above the buttons on the video screen will change to buffering. During Lily Allen my picture would keep playing fine and the sound was gone. The sound while the Roots were talking in between songs just cut out for the first time.

Alleged: Ozomatli (and everyone else!) @ Coachella 2007 (MicheBella on Rotten Tomatoes)

In nearly every band I watched, there was a moment when said band spoke to the crowd. Suddenly, the sound disappeared. I just watched Ozomatli, a very political band, and at the end of a long segment of talking with no sound, the guy turned around and had a picture of George Bush on his back for a split second.

Alleged: Tom Petty (and everyone else!) @ Bonnaroo 2006 (FunknJam Productions messageboard)

A big WTF? to the people in charge of streaming this webcast!! At first I thought that maybe it was a glitch in the streaming or my computer behaving funny. But every so often, the audio would cut out. And it always cut out while there seemed to be some interesting lyrics going on. I didn’t fully realize that the webcast was being CENSORED FOR CONTENT until Tom Petty sang for the third time, and had censored for the third time, “Let’s get to the point, Let’s (dead air) and turn the radio on….” Like that song hasn’t been played on the radio to death?!??! I can’t help but think this all had something to do with…. “Hey Wakarusa Policeman…”

Alleged: Buddy Guy @ Bonnaroo 2006 (webcast setlist)

Talks about Hip Hop/sings about a Cow/Bull/Mule ( censored )

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