Oh say, can you SEE that?

June 4, 2010 in Comment

The battle for control of the mobile internet device market is throwing up problems with satire for cartoonists and publishers. The Pulitzer prize winning American artist Mark Fiore is involved in a prolonged and sometimes acrimonious row with Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, the manufacturer of the iPhone and iPad.

Cartoon caricature of Steve jobs CEO of Apple ©Matt Buck Hack Cartoons

Steve Jobs ©Hack Cartoons

Wired magazine has thorough background details of this running story, here, here and here.

Bloghorn sees the crux of the story as an argument about control of the new publishing platforms (or devices) and of legal responsibility for the material which is published on them. Jobs and Apple are explicit that they own and control the distribution system. This means the right of control or editorship over the content published there.

Fundamentally, the technology company is now more powerful than any individual or publication that wishes to publish content on Apple’s curated distribution systems. This matters in an era when the print industry, the traditional system of mass-market communication, is in sharp decline and is being replaced by digital distribution. And, potentially, it makes Jobs and his firm extremely powerful as both publishers and censors.

Advocates for free speech, which often include political cartoonists like Fiore, argue that any emerging monopoly is undesirable without explicit transparency and accountability and this is what makes the Fiore-Jobs debate interesting.

Jobs attended the D8 – All things Digital conference this week and was asked about his attitude to acceptable content on his distribution systems – and you may find his words reported at the time mark of 7.12 on this live blog from the event.

You can read Fiore’s response to these words here.

If you have any thoughts and opinions about this story and the new gatekeepers to content, please add them to our comments section below.

4 responses to Oh say, can you SEE that?

  1. Without wishing to be a Job’s comforter, if said gent OWNS these items – which we are reliably informed will soon supercede boring old newspapers – then isn’t he entitled to say what does or doesn’t appear on/in them ? Like an editor. Or a newspaper owner.

  2. Just read all the bits again. The cartoonist’s very miffed about big corps controlling content. Haven’t they always ? Its right to get steamed up about it, but its not new.

  3. No, I agree Bill it isn’t new, it is just happening in a new delivery device. In traditional fashion, whoever controls that gate will make a lot of money from delivering content to consumers.

    Apple certainly stand to do well from their work. The ‘issue’ may lie around what sort of content is ‘acceptable’ to them in their role as arbiters. The character of the man at the top of the corporation becomes important. Especially so, in relation to challenging content like visual satire – or, in another instance, photographic reporting from a war zone.

  4. Absolutely. Just as Murdoch R is important. In relatively recent times, especially on TV, “reporting” per se can be slanted by intonation or the raising of an eyebrow by newscasters who once bent over backwards to deliver information in as neutral a manner as possible. “This is the BBC Home Service. Here is the news. Today, government scientists established that there is no Santa Claus. And now, the weather forecast. ”
    Graphic satire, political or otherwise is a bit different in that it comes down to one side or another, but its usually in line with the political leanings of its mentor. I sometimes wonder how many redraws our excellent political cartoonists have to do.

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