Thursday, March 16, 2006

Phone Companies Say Cable Companies Suppress Free Speech

Equal time for the telcos. Since pointing you toward the cable companies calling the Bells liars this morning I found this nifty article wherein the phone companies complain about the cablecos suppressing free speech. The telcos say:

New Jersey cable operators are attempting to stifle free speech by refusing to run TV ads promoting video choice and competition, according to Verizon Communications Inc.

The telco -- which is promoting a franchising-reform bill that will allow statewide franchising on an expedited schedule -- complained Wednesday that Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. have refused to sell it advertising time.

A third operator, Cablevision Systems Corp., didn't even respond to an e-mail inquiry on ad sales, the telco added.

The cable companies are using their systems to promote only one side of the issue, according to Dennis Bone, Verizon New Jersey president. The 30-second spots Verizon sought to place state that cable prices have increased four times as much as the Consumer Price Index since 2001.

The cableco's fire back:

'A $90 billion phone monopoly complaining about high rates and not being able to get its message out is laughable. Is there anyone in New Jersey who hasn't seen hundreds of Verizon ads?' Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella said.

Comcast, the state's other largest operator, issued a statement explaining its policy to reject ads containing unsubstantiated, false and misleading claims.

The sad thing is they're both right. The cable companies are right when the accuse the phone companies of lying advertising and absurd poor-mouthing. But the phone companies are right to accuse the cablecos of the lying and of refusing to carry ads that they don't want heard. Cox gets to tell BellSouth its ads aren't Truthful? Cox!!? Isn't that a case of the pot calling the kettle black? I don't know about you but I don't see much evidence that any cable company worries themselves about misleading advertising the push at us every day. I've never heard of any ad being rejected for ethical reasons. (For being politically "dangerous" to the cableco--yes. But not for simply misleading the public. That's almost the definition of advertising.)

The charge that the cableco's are willing use their dominance in TV to exclude voices they don't want heard is a serious charge and is a dangerous right for the cablecos to claim. Lafayette Coming Together couldn't get a return phone call from Cox's sales people during the referendum. Granted we didn't pursue that very hard; didn't have the cash...but I've been around ad sales people most of my life. A new potential client calls in on their own? That call gets returned. Verizion is right to complain.

A pox on both their houses. (But isn't it fun to watch the bullies beat each other around for a while?)

Update 3/17/06: Newsday has a bit more complete version of this same story.

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