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The News Networks' SOPA Blackout

You may have heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Simply put, this Web-censorship bill in the House could open the door to widespread Internet censorship.

Opposition to the bill has reached a boiling point. Millions of activists, hundreds of startups, social media sites like Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter and even big companies like Google, Yahoo! and eBay have joined with Free Press and other Internet advocacy groups against it.

This is one of the biggest tech stories of the year. Yet as a recent report from Media Matters for America shows, TV news has ignored it.

According to the report, SOPA — and Protect IP, its cousin in the Senate — have “received virtually no coverage from major American television news outlets during their evening newscasts and opinion programming.” Among the offenders are ABC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC and NBC.

A likely reason for the media blackout? The big networks — and their parent companies — support these two Internet-censorship bills.

This is what happens when the interests of big business get in the way of the need to inform the public and protect free speech. These same media giants are lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to loosen its ownership rules and allow for even more media consolidation — another issue they’ve failed to cover. If the FCC permits runaway consolidation, media blackouts like the one affecting SOPA could become even more common.

Meanwhile, rank-and-file journalists are coming out strong against these censorship bills. And print media have reported on them. Earlier this month New York Times columnist David Carr wrote that SOPA was “alarming in its reach.” Time, the Atlantic, Forbes and the Boston Globe have all reported on the legislation in the past week.

What is TV news afraid of?

These networks — ABC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC and NBC — need to be held accountable for failing to provide coverage of such damaging legislation.

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