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Public Knowledge Criticizes Viacom Web Move

Viacom's decision to no longer allow free online access to dozens of free, full-length episodes of its shows has drawn fire from Public Knowledge (PK).

The move came after DirecTV promoted the Viacom sites as an alternative way to access shows no longer airing on DirecTV due to a carriage fee dispute.

The shows include The Daily Show and The Colbert Report; Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants; Nick Jr.'s Dora the Explorer; MTV's Jersey Shore; and TV Land's Hot in Cleveland.

In a statement, PK senior staff attorney John Bergmayer said Viacom had overreacted. "Viacom has decided to take a service away from all Internet users in its attempt to punish DirecTV. It is apparent that Viacom puts little stock in the Internet and the online future of video if it is willing to use all Internet users as a pawn in its negotiations," he said.

Viacom said in explaining the takedown that the company still offers hundreds of free episodes and that free online airings were intended to be a promotional tool for its affiliates.

DirecTV subs lost access to the Viacom networks a little before midnight Tuesday and steered them to episodes on its, although at press time the site was steering them to paid version on Hulu, Amazon, Netflix and iTunes.

In a video on the site, DirecTV President Mike White says" "Rest assured, both sides will come to an agreement," but there was no comity at press time. "Viacom is now not only holding DirecTV customers hostage, but all online viewers as well," said a member of DirecTV's PR department in an e-mail late Wednesday.