Monday, April 19, 2010

WTF or pwnd?

One of the best things about the Internet Age is the rapid access to information. One of the worst things is that it’s often very difficult to tell if something is true or not. This is one of those times.

There is—apparently—a new right wing media network starting up called “Right Network” (usually one word). Now, I thought the name was a bit suspect, and their “Company Overview” is so over the top that it had to be a joke (you can find a copy at Crooks and Liars).

Their TV programming “…focuses on entertainment with Pro-America, Pro-Business, Pro-Military sensibilities—compelling content that inspires action, invites a response, and influences the national conversation.” That’s what Fox “News” is and, really, the others, too: They’re all owned by corporations, after all, and not even liberal-ish MSNBC is anti-war. So, a joke, right?

What about their mission: “to entertain, engage and enlighten Americans who are looking for content that reflects and reinforces their perspective and worldview” [emphasis added]. That’s what we liberals say about Fox—so, it’s a joke, right?

Their web page (at rightnetwork.com which you’ll have to copy and paste; I don’t link to wingnut sites, and this could be real) features videos with the frankly proto-fascist “Right Anthem” and spokesperson Kelsey Grammer, among others. Kelsey’s a comedy actor, so it’s a joke, right?

Back to the Company Overview. Said Comcast-Spectator’s Chairman, Ed Snider, “We’re creating a welcome place for millions and millions of Americans who’ve been looking for an entertainment network and media channel that reflects their point-of-view. RIGHTNETWORK will be the perfect platform to entertain, inform and connect with the American majority [sic] about what’s right in the world.” Snider is a conservative of the Ayn Rand style, as are many of the teabagger leaders. But Comcast-Spectator, a subsidiary of Comcast, is primarily a sports and entertainment company. So: WTF, then?

Kesley Grammer, A Republican who campaigned for John McCain, says: “RightNetwork is filling a big gap with entertainment programs that combine compelling content with a perspective we don’t generally get from the media. We’re bringing outstanding talent and production values to our television, internet and mobile platforms. I’m proud to be part of this team!”

Their YouTube Channel has a lot of videos promoting the teabaggers and they’ve been allied with one of the teabagger astroturf groups. That’s kinda real. One of their supposed programmes is a reality show called “Running” where they follow teabagger candidates for Congress.

Comcast itself is the largest cable operator and largest home Internet service provider in the US. It’s in the middle of an effort to take over NBC, which, if successful, will make it the largest media company in the US, and possibly the world. Among other things, that would give it control over MSNBC, the only network with anything resembling liberal programming. It’s also been argued that it could mean the end of free-to-air television in the US as it and Fox take their programming to pay-TV only.

If Comcast fails in its bid to take over NBC, it’ll need someone to handle production of programming for the new network, which is likely where Comcast-Spectator fits in.

Comcast is also one of the largest corporate opponents of “Net Neutrality”, which requires Internet companies to treat all data traffic equally. Not only has Comcast fought that politically, it’s also been caught throttling traffic it doesn’t like, redirecting traffic to pages it controls, and other non-neutral offences. If they use their network for programming dedicated to only one point of view, and also make it difficult or impossible for their customers to get alternative views or even fact-check Comcast’s offerings, then there’s a clear and present danger to democracy.

In the US media, Conservatives already outnumber Liberals by 3 to 1 (20-1 on talk radio). They also have Fox, which is nothing but a 24-hour far right propaganda channel. Why on earth would they need another network?

So, I don’t know if it’s real or a sick joke. If America’s really being punk’d by some conservatives who think it’s funny to get liberals and moderates worried over a threat to democracy, that’s pretty sick and twisted. But it’s no less sick and twisted if it’s real.

Update: Comcast has issued a statement denying any connection to Right Network: "The blog reports that Comcast is an investor in, or partner of the Right Network are inaccurate. We have no partnership with this venture and have no plans to launch or distribute the network. As we have done with hundreds of other content providers, we have met with the network’s representatives. We do carry a number of independent networks on Comcast representing a wide variety of interests and diverse viewpoints."

The New York Times' "Media Decoder", in a slightly bitchy swipe at the "Huffington Post", implied the site didn't check the connection with Comcast, yet provides no evidence to support their assumption. However, they do add a plausible explanation for the endorsement and involvement by Ed Snider, the chairman of Comcast-Spectacor: "Mr. Snider is apparently a personal investor in RightNetwork, separate from Comcast." Unlike the "Huffington Post", the New York Times didn't state what the source of its claim was.

So, the network is real. It may not be entirely honest, however, and that just isn't right.

Tips o' the Hat to Simon and Roger for the links to updated information.


toujoursdan said...

There's a reason why cable TV news is on the decline and National Public Radio has nearly doubled its audience. Washington Post: Good New for NPR

The sad thing is that NPR has had to sell its soul for funding to stay afloat and that has been showing in their programming: more right wing voices, more infotainment and more corporate sponsorship adverts. I hope people in New Zealand are paying attention to this as your government tries to chop up RNZ, and TVNZ and sell it off.

I live in New York but get almost all my news from foreign sources. I lost interest in NPR when they went pro-Iraq war and started to air corporate biased news while increasingly playing-down labour and environmental issues.

I hate to go Godwin but sometimes it's hard not to think of this place as Germany in the early 30s. My biggest fear is that another major economic convulsion in such a toxic media and political atmosphere will send this country over the edge. All they need is a smarter Sarah Palin to pull it off.

Roger Owen Green said...

Comcast Denies Connection to RightNetwork, NY Times, 4/19. So it sounds like it's real.

Arthur Schenck said...

toujoursdan: I agree with you, which probably isn't really a surprise. But about the Godwin's Law thing, it's hard not to draw that conclusion from this and from the US Supreme Court saying that corporations can spend unlimited money in political campaigns. But really, I can't imagine anyone but the far right looking at the promos for this outfit and not thing they sound or look awfully proto-fascist.

Roger: Thanks for the link; I've added it to the post in an update. When I searched online last night, there was nothing apart from blog posts about it. I think that may change now.