If you havenâ€™t seen the â€œPentagon Channelâ€ produced by the Department of Defense, youâ€™re missing a classicâ€”and outrageous–propaganda effort aimed for U.S. audiences. This 24/7 â€œvideo newsâ€ network, as it calls itself, outshines even Fox News in its fealty to the official U.S. government line about Iraq. But since one of the channelâ€™s star â€œtalentsâ€ is Don Rumsfeld himself, itâ€™s not surprising. What is shocking is that the U.S. is producing a channel for domestic use that is clearly propagandaâ€”and should be taken off the many U.S. cable systems and satellite services that carry it.
With a program line-up that includes the daily â€œFreedom Journal Iraqâ€ and
â€œAround the Servicesâ€ (from the Pentagon â€œNewsCenter-dailyâ€¦military news from top Defense officialsâ€) to â€œInside Afghanistan,â€ and the â€œStallion Reportâ€ ( â€œa bi-weekly news program from Mosul, Iraq”), the Pentagon Channel airs the official view. We are all fighting for â€œfreedom.â€ We are winning the â€œhearts and mindsâ€ of the Iraq people, says one reporter for â€œFreedom Journal Iraq.â€ Scenes of â€œhunting bad guys,â€ and â€œmissions of good willâ€ are shown (including pictures of renovated schools displaying posters of Disney characters).
Major cable, satellite and telephone companies have given the U.S. government channel free carriage, including Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, Cox, and Echostar. The channel reaches about 12 million cable and satellite viewers; itâ€™s also distributed in the U.S. and around the world on military bases. The channel is working to expand its distribution, including going after space reserved for public access channels (which were created to promote free speechâ€”not governmental PR). This week the channel launched itself as a video and audio podcast via the Internet. Secretary of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld declared that he was â€œâ€¦pleased that we are using video casting and other increasingly important technologies to reach our global audienceâ€¦â€
The Voice of America is prohibited from airing its service in the U.S. The Pentagon Channel should also be similarly banned. We hope the Pentagon Channel will be scrutinized by more media critics and policymakers. Having a taxpayer-backed channel that promotes itself as â€œnewsâ€ when itâ€™s really about pushing an Administrationâ€™s political agenda should clearly be unacceptable policy.
Butâ€”now for the connection with network neutrality. In a world where the big cable and phone companies can dominate the U.S. broadband and TV marketâ€”expect more favorable treatment for such official government PR efforts. Whether itâ€™s giving the Department of Defense a helping hand with its propaganda channel or turning over to the NSA and other agencies our personal communicationsâ€”the big cable/telco broadband monopoly will strive to please officials. Thatâ€™s where the quid pro quo deal makingâ€”letâ€™s us control the network and we will treat you `right,â€™ is likely to occur. You can be sure that when Ed Whitacre of AT&T charges a Google for using what it considers its â€œpipes,â€ it will give the official view–such as the Pentagon Channel–a free, high-speed broadband ride.