On begging for help

Please someone, anyone, offer me alternative internet service. There is yet another reason to despise Comcast, and this one elevates them to an entirely new level of sleaze. It pains me that I pretty much have no choice but to continue giving them my money.

Glenn Greenwald has been writing extensively about the fight against granting the telecoms retroactive immunity. It's an issue that is important to me, and I was impressed with Chris Dodd for putting everything on the line to fight against retroactive immunity. He won my support with that position.

Greenwald and some other folks have decided to actively work on this issue, and they have been going after blue dog democrats that have been enabling Bush. They took a poll about which blue dog to go after first, and after raising something like $75k in a short amount of time, put together an ad campaign to alert the constituents of a PA democrat that he's been voting for the Bush policies, including granting immunity to telecoms. Well, this guy lives in the heart of Comcast country, and Comcast has been very generous in donating to him.

Radio stations, TV stations, and newspapers have been playing the ad, but anyone want to guess which fine, upstanding cable company came up with a bunch of bogus reasons to refuse to run it? Yes, our comcastic friends refused to run a political ad critical of a congressman for taking money from telecoms (including them) to grant them immunity from prosecution.

Read Greenwald's column for more details. I'm going to go fire off a note to Verizon *begging* them to bring FiOS to my neighborhood.


Blogger Sena Fitzmaurice said...

Comcast deeply appreciates citizen concerns regarding alleged wiretapping under the FISA laws. For our part, it is a matter of public record that we have not made our systems available to the government for any customer surveillance without valid legal process, and we have not lobbied on FISA legislation.
While we strongly believe in vigorous debate on these and other issues, we must also respect laws on defamation. Our outside counsel has advised us that the advertising in question could violate laws against defamation because the ads claim or that some companies violated criminal or other laws without any court finding of such a violation. Declining such advertising in these circumstances is standard and responsible practice. Free speech is an essential value, but fairness requires that we all observe the fundamental rules of due process and defamation laws.

Attached is a copy of the letter to Mr. Greenwald from our attorney.

--- Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast

Dear Mr. Greenwald:
We are writing on behalf of our client, Comcast Cable Communications, in response to your request that Comcast run a television spot regarding U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, sponsored by the so-called "Blue America PAC." Since this spot would not be considered a candidate "use" under Section 315 of the Communications Act (47 USC 315), Comcast would face potential liability for any defamation contained in the spot.
As you know, the spot contains the following audio regarding Rep. Carney: "He wants to pardon phone companies who broke the law and gave thousands to his campaign." That audio is spoken over a video image showing the logos of the following entities: AT&T, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association ("NCTA"), Verizon, Embarq and Comcast. A Monopoly-type "Get out of jail free" card is then superimposed over the images of the logos. Thus, the express language of the spot combined with the images shown implies that the entities whose logos are shown "broke the law" and face either "jail" or a potential "pardon," both of which would be applicable to a criminal conviction.
In support of the statement that these entities "broke the law," you have provided links to the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ("EFF") and, in the case of Verizon, the ACLU, "demonstrating that listed telecoms are defendants in the lawsuits based on illegal spying." For the proposition that "[t]hese telecoms broke the law with their illegal spying," you provide a link to your own opinion blog in Salon.com. None of the links provided implicate NCTA in any way.
Moreover, all of the lawsuits for which you have provided links are civil suits that would not result in criminal liability, even if decided against the defendants. More importantly, however, there have been no adjudications in any of these lawsuits against the defendants, including Verizon and AT&T. As I am sure you know, the mere filing of a lawsuit, whether civil or criminal, is not equivalent to a finding of liability or wrongdoing by the defendant unless so decided by a judge following prosecution of the litigation (or, in the case of a criminal complaint, a guilty plea by the defendant). In fact, the EFF website shows that the civil suits against Comcast (and other carriers) have been dismissed: http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/att/mdl3.pdf.
Under the circumstances, the spot you have provided is factually incorrect and potentially defamatory against the entities shown. Under Pennsylvania law, a false allegation of criminal wrongdoing is considered to be defamation per se. While Comcast tries to accommodate all requests to run political advertising, regardless of the position taken (even if critical of Comcast itself), the company cannot accept a spot that is false and defamatory. Accordingly, we have advised Comcast to decline your request to run this spot, and they have concluded that they have no choice but to do so. If you believe you have additional documentation that would alter our conclusion, or if you care to submit an alternate spot that is factually correct, you are, of course, free to do so.

3:17 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home