UPDATE: Comcast Censors Critical Nightline Story

When Consumerist readers and users of Comcast’s tv-over-internet service watched our clip on Nightline, they were surprised to see that Comcast appeared to censor out a part that was critical of the cable operator. Whither the Sleepy Comcast Tech? We pointed this out to the segment’s producer. 50 minutes later, we got this email from Comcast Corporate Communications:

We noticed your most recent post on the Consumerist about the Nightline segment and wanted to clear up the facts. Comcast receives thousands of news segments from ABC for our comcast.net site and has not edited any of those segments, including Friday night’s episode about blogs. We post the segments as we receive them directly from ABC and Nightline.

We have called our contact at ABC and the producer of your segment and they told us that they believe that their encoder may have inadvertently shortened the segment at the commercial break in error. We asked them to re-encode the entire segment, which they agreed to do. We will post the entire segment on Comcast.net as soon as we receive it.

If this is true, it’s strange then that the cut happens several seconds before the commercial and then we cut into a story that followed right after the rest of the consumer piece…

We don’t know who encodes who, but we don’t think episode producers actually have much to do with that process. Therefore, we find it odd that Comcast would declare the ABC producer affirmatively said it was an ABC encoder problem that cause the cut. Either way you slice it, it’s certainly terribly convenient for Comcast.


Comcast Censors Critical Nightline Story
Comcast Censored Nightline. Help Us Nail ‘Em.

UPDATE: ABC said they confim it was an editing error on their part. If so, the gaffe should be seen at any of their ABC News Now vendors, which include which include AOL, Bellsouth, SBC/Yahoo and Verizon. We’re still working on scanning and uploading the AOL manual, so if any readers want to go and try and corroborate with snagged video clips and send them to us, that would be awesome.

UPDATE: Comcast says the feed has been repaired and can be seen on their site here (requires subscription). They also say the problem was replicated for all their outlets, not just Comcast. Without any other verification available at this time, we’ll have to take their word for it. No complaints were heard from users of the four other services.


Edit Your Comment

  1. ModerateSnark says:

    In case anyone missed it, Ben has successfully BoingBoinged himself again.

    No, it’s not a video link.

  2. bambino says:


  3. Lemurs says:

    I find this entirely plausible. If they use automated tools to cut out commercial segments, it’s entirely believable that it mis-identified the end of one commercial segment as continuing onwards, and cut out the next segment of the show.

    I use tools like this all the time on my recorded programs on MediaCenter, and while they can be very good, every few shows it will lop out an entire segment between two commercial breaks by accident because the algorithm is not perfect, and often needs to be tweaked for the formats of individual shows. (Shows with lots of cuts can throw it easily.)

    I’m not the biggest fan of Comcast, but I find this explanation very reasonable and believable.

  4. I second SHENANIGANS!

  5. What they really meant to say is that they never edit any segments unless they get caught. It’s a good thing that you caught them before these little accidents began happening more frequently.

  6. Ishmael says:

    Comcast has dug their own hole. While what Lemurs is saying may very well be true, many people have had bad experiences with Comcast. The ConEds have posted several stories casting them in a bad light. Now that this has happened, the corporate BS answer they gave where they point the finger at someone else makes the situation even worse. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so skeptical if the bit about Tropicana or AOL had been cut, but since the Comcast-only broadcast cut out the bit about Comcast, it’s starting to smell fishy.

    Perhaps if Comcast had responded with an answer closer to Lemur’s, explaining about the technology and how it works, and how likely this could have been an auto-editer’s mistake, I would be more likely to believe them. Instead they point the finger and promise resolution. As it is,


    Can someone follow up and see if Comcast really posts the entire segment as promised? Is the point moot by now?

  7. bambino says:

    ok SHENANIGANS took its phone off the hook due to all the calling

  8. GrnGyant says:

    The only thing that I think lends credence to Comcast’s story, is that it was such an awkward cut. They could have very cleanly and easily cut the story before any mention of Comcast. If you’re editing the feed, why would you let your name be dropped first, then cut away. Only someone doing a direct compare would have noticed otherwise.

  9. Lemurs says:

    That was sorta my point GrnGyant…it was cut perfectly on the commercial boundaries. If it was a censor, they would have gone through the extra effort to drop the Comcast mention at the end of the one segment…instead it appeared strange and awkward, because you had a teaser with no payout.

    Again, I’m not saying I believe them 100%, but knowing what I know about the technology, this is probably the only explanation they could have given that I would have believed…and they used it immediately, instead of waiting a few days, or changing their story around. I’m giving them a pass on this one.

  10. RandomHookup says:

    Consumeristas: We are getting heavily Farked right now by the boys and girls at Fark.com. They have a more free-flowing commentary on both the story and Consumerist.com going on right now. Offered for your dining and dancing pleasure.

  11. mashuren says:

    How could they possibly have thought that the negative attention from this would be better for them than showing a video clip of a sleeping employee that everyone’s already seen?

    Now, instead of bad publicity from just having terrible customer support and one unlucky employee sleeping on the job, the damage from which has already been done, they have even MORE bad publicity from looking like Big Brother, because of this hilariously obvious censorship.

    It’s almost like we don’t even have to do anything – Comcast is doing a good enough job of shooting themselves in the foot.

  12. Well, I just signed up for the free trial membership on the ABC News Now site and it has the full, uncut, video.

    I went to double-check comcast’s “The Fan” site and they apparently put up the full version side by side to the censored version in the search results! The censored version gives a “Playback Error” with the explanation “Unable to retrieve the video at this time. Please select another video.”

    The uncut version on “The Fan” works fine.

    I’ve got a screenshot, it’s pretty funny.

  13. Ben Popken says:

    Alta writes:

    “I can confirm that I saw the edited version of the nightline story on “regular” Comcast cable TV service. Just wanted to let you know, since you had only mentioned their TV-over-Internet as being edited.

    That was a very very odd thing to see — very glaring mistake on their part.”

  14. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    To be fair to Comcast, if they did indeed edit that video, wouldn’t they have cut out all references to Comcast? Why would they leave in the part with Vinny being asked about the “Comcast Video” and rolling his eyes? When following up the AOL story with that event you know without watching that it’s going to be a negative Comcast story.

  15. Ben Popken says:

    Jason writes:

    “I have been a subscriber to Nightline’s audio podcast for months now and I currently have Comcast Internet at home. (I do not use “The Fan,” though.) I was listening to Friday’s podcast this morning and I noticed the exact awkward cut that you specified: the Nightline segment cut out shortly after the Comcast technician was mentioned. Unless Comcast is intercepting requests from iTunes and serving its own content, I agree with the explanation that this was a simple editing error on ABC’s part.

    I should also point out that during the Friday podcast, Martin’s last segment was also cut off and the podcast ended before the usual closing music. I think it was just clumsy editing and there was no foul play on Comcast’s part.

    Thank you for your vigilance about so many consumer news issues.”

  16. Ben Popken says:

    T writes:

    “It’s probably been pointed out already – but the guy being interviewed, his last name is Ferrari – the the clip gets cut to a story about a Ferrari being sliced in two. That’s not very nice. In fact it almost sounds like a stupid threat of some type.”