Verizon and Corporate Censorship

Revised September 28, 6:34 pm

Blogger Art Brodsky recaps the de-regulation history of the Federal Communications Commission. These FCC actions result in the current climate of corporate discretion to determine which groups are allowed access to certain media and what messages will be carried.

Verizon’s reversal of its ban on text messages by the prochoice organization NARAL is yet another incident in what will be an on-going test of the limits of free speech in a deregulated communications environment. It’s to Verizon’s credit that the corporation changed its ruling. But it’s a reminder to all that free speech is in peril when corporate values determine which messages can be sent.Corporations protect their self-interest and when controversial social messages put them at risk, as they perceive it, they backpedal. And if they don’t want to listen there is no appeal. We’re left with the goodwill and sensibilities of enlightened executive decision makers.
In fact, I believe audiences are more sophisticated than some corporate leaders assume. We distinguish between the message and the messenger. We know messages sent on a common carrier don’t reflect the corporate stance of the company. But the flip side of this conundrum is that opposing groups can threaten economic boycotts that bring bad publicity at least and economic harm at worst. My hunch is that sometimes the hassle doesn’t seem worth it and corporations are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
But, this discomfort aside, it’s essential to protect free speech. I think it’s unfortunate that deregulation has left us at the mercy of corporate policies. This puts on everyone the responsibility to be an advocate for free speech. It means inconsistent policies with no common foundation. And we’re at a disadvantage because we don’t have the resources to engage the challenges. We must rally public opinion and sometimes that works and sometimes not. So, we’re left with a diminished conversation and a corporation-ruled communications infrastructure that is most concerned about self protection and only secondarily concerned about our right to speak.

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