As part of its dispute with Cablevision over fees for carrying News Corp. channels on Cablevision systems, News Corp. briefly blocked Cablevision's Internet customers from accessing content on News Corp.-owned websites, including Fox content on Hulu.com. This action mirrors its Fox News employees' vehement opposition to net neutrality rules, which would prevent business interests from controlling access to Internet content.
News Corp. temporarily "cut off Cablevision subscribers' access to its shows on Hulu"
From an October 16 article at the technology news website D: All Things Digital (a News Corp. property):
One new twist in the Cablevision-News Corp. fight: News Corp. has cut off Cablevision subscribers' access to its shows on Hulu, the video site joint venture, as well as on its own Fox.com.
Here's a screenshot from Fortune.com columnist Seth Weintraub, taken this afternoon when he tried to watch a Fox show on the site, which is co-owned by News Corp., Disney's ABC and GE's NBC Universal:
News Corp.'s comment, via Fox Networks PR guy Scott Grogin: "Fox.com and Fox content on hulu is unavailable to Cablevision subscribers."
And here's Hulu PR rep Elisa Schreiber:
Unfortunately, we were put in a position of needing to block Fox content on Hulu in order to remain neutral during contract negotiations between Fox and Cablevision. This only includes Fox content. All other Hulu content is accessible to Cablevision internet subscribers. We regret the impact on Cablevision customers and look forward to returning Fox content to those users as soon as possible.
This is an important escalation from News Corp. (which owns this Web site) in its fight to extract more dollars from its cable partners.
In the past, cable subscribers who couldn't get Fox shows during fee disputes were still able to watch some of them via Hulu. I know that News Corp. has discussed shutting off access to the site during past fee fights, but as far as I know this is the first time they've actually done it.
The website later updated the article to include, "People familiar with the situation say that News Corp. is changing tactics and will turn on access to Fox.com and Fox programming on Hulu for Cablevision's customers."
News Corp.'s actions raise concerns from net neutrality advocates
Rep. Markey: News Corp.'s actions are "anti-consumer." From an October 17 article at The Hill:
The development prompted concern from net-neutrality advocates, who believe any Internet user should be able to access any free Internet site regardless of who provides them Internet service.
Usually net-neutrality advocates are concerned about Internet service providers blocking content, rather than content providers doing so, but advocates still saw the circumstances as violating net-neutrality policies.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski on Saturday to raise concerns about Internet openness.
He called the blocking "contrary to the Commission's Broadband Internet Policy Statement of 2005, which states, in part, that '... consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.'"
"The tying of cable TV subscription to access to Internet fare freely available to other consumers is a very serious concern. Consumers are losing their freedom to access the Internet content of their choice -- through no fault of their own -- and this is patently anti-consumer," Markey said, adding that the FCC needs to "actively" defend Internet freedom and consumer rights in this situation.
Variety: Blockage "threw gasoline" on the "fire" of regulatory debate. From an October 18 Variety article:
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and key congressional reps involved in telecom policy are casting the service interruption fights as a consumer protection concern, which could grease the wheels for legislative action.
Fox threw gasoline on that fire Saturday by temporarily blocking access for Cablevision broadband subscribers to the Fox.com website and Hulu. Informed sources say Fox's move was a bid to increase its leverage with Cablevision by making it harder for Cablevision subs to watch Fox programming amid the station shutoff. But Fox backed down after a few hours and restored access to the sites, undoubtedly after realizing the firestorm its move would unleash in Washington.
Consumer advocates were quick to howl as word of Fox's blocking move spread Saturday.
"Consumers should have the right to watch online content, and this access should not be tied to a dispute over cable television carriage arrangements," said S. Derek Turner, research director for journo watchdog Free Press. "This move is also an example of a major user of public spectrum abusing the public interest."
Congress and the FCC are already in the throes of tackling thorny Net neutrality and broadband regulatory questions, aiming to address concerns about Internet access being manipulated by private business concerns. However, Fox's move to block its own website and its co-owned Hulu venture is a new wrinkle, as the Net neutrality policy debate mostly revolves around the prospect of broadband providers favoring some sites and content providers over others because of business relationships.
News Corp. has been silent on net neutrality issue. An August 11 New York Times article on net neutrality reported: "The silence of big media companies like Comcast and the News Corporation on the issue has been noticeable. Media companies' traditional business models have been about controlled pathways to the customer, and they may see benefits in restoring some of that control."
Fox's Beck has repeatedly denounced, fearmongered about net neutrality
Fox's Glenn Beck has led the network's charge against net neutrality, portraying it is a Marxist plot that would stifle innovation. In fact, net neutrality was the law of the land from the creation of the Internet until 2005, and ensured that Internet service providers were not able to control content. Net neutrality has been cited by numerous Internet pioneers as the guiding principle in Internet development and innovation.
Beck: Net neutrality a Marxist plot to take over the Internet. On the October 20, 2009, edition of his Fox News show, Beck said that "we have Marxists that are designing and working on net neutrality -- are big believers in net neutrality, right? Gosh, it does seem that these would be the wrong people to help, you know, innovate business for it. And so what they want to do is, if I can do the third one, control content."
Beck: Net neutrality would "destroy the free market that created the Internet." On the October 29, 2009, edition of his Fox News show, Beck claimed that net neutrality "would take the Internet out of the private hands of private business and into the hands of the government. ... It would destroy the free market that created the Internet."
Beck: Government "going after free speech" through net neutrality. On the April 5 edition of his Fox News show, Beck claimed that "the government, your government, is going after free speech" through net neutrality. Beck then claimed that the group Free Press is using Beck "as their poster boy" to promote the issue.
Beck: People who want to "shut down the Internet" are "selling this as net neutrality." On the April 9 edition of his radio show, Beck said that "Americans have never had a bigger voice than they do now" through the Internet, but that is in danger because people who want to "shut down the Internet" are "selling this as net neutrality and fairness." Beck also portrayed net neutrality as a prelude to a "hostile takeover" of America.
Beck: Share net neutrality scaremongering "while you have access to the Internet." On the April 23 edition of his Fox News show, Beck portrayed net neutrality as part of "the current onslaught against free speech," calling it "insidious." Beck added: "Please share that with your friends on the Internet, please, while you have access to the Internet."
Beck: Net neutrality means "we are losing our country." On the May 6 edition of his radio show, Beck said that implementing net neutrality would mean government could "control every aspect of the Internet," and that "people who praise Chavez and his revolution as an important democratic revolution will control every aspect of this Internet[.]" Beck added, "They open the door, and your rights to speak out, put things out on the Internet, to express yourself on a blog, to be able to make a political video, gone with this administration." Beck concluded: "We are losing our country."
Beck: FCC putting "boot on your throat" by "marching forward" with net neutrality plans. On the May 10 edition of his Fox News show, Beck said that the FCC is "marching forward" with internet plans that involve net neutrality. Beck added, "Marching -- put a boot on your throat."
Beck: "Leave the Internet and man's right to free speech alone." On the June 18 edition of his radio show, Beck implored politicians to "leave the Internet and free speech alone," saying, "The minute they shut down the voice of Fox, or talk radio, or the Internet, especially the internet, there's no turning back." Beck called proposed broadband regulation "bullcrap" and advised listeners to by a shortwave radio.
Beck: "These people will take over the Internet." After attacking the Obama administration on the July 9 edition of his radio show, Beck said, "America, you must use the Internet while you have it." Beck added: "These people will take over the Internet. These people will destroy talk radio. These people will take Fox News off."
Other Fox hosts have attacked net neutrality
Megyn Kelly: "Everything I've read" about net neutrality says it's a "push" to "control the Internet." Discussing net neutrality on the May 11 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Megyn Kelly said that "everything I've read about this says this is a push, the beginnings of a push by the Obama administration to control the Internet to some extent -- more so than they had in the past."
Napolitano: Free Press, FCC want to "control the Internet through net neutrality." On the September 9 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, guest host Andrew Napolitano asserted that media reform advocate Free Press and the FCC want to "control the Internet through net neutrality."