Media titan Viacom restored episodes of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" to their respective websites on Tuesday, hours after Comedy Central host Jon Stewart compared their brand of capitalism-fueled Internet censorship to the way China's authoritarian regime handles online dissent.
On Viacom's orders, full episodes of both shows, along with a host of others, vanished from the Internet last week amid a dispute between the media juggernaut and satellite television carrier DirecTV. That dispute has escalated to such a degree that DirecTV customers are currently without access to Viacom's most popular channels like MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, VH1, BET and others.
Returning from a two-week vacation on Monday, Stewart wasted no time ripping into his parent company.
"You're pulling the shows from the Internet?" he asked, looking shocked. "Viacom! What are you, China? And by the way, you don't think the kids already have a workaround? This morning when I woke up, my 8-year-old son was watching Dark Knight Rises in 3D. They're already figuring it out. So, basically you're blocking old people from watching the show and just giving people a chance to discover that there's other entertaining shit in the world."
A segment that followed featured "Daily Show" contributor John Oliver relaying events earlier in the episode to a couple of DirecTV subscribers who wanted to watch the show but couldn't. Mere hours later, full episodes of both "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" were back online.
Interestingly enough: Though Stewart did not specifically criticize DirecTV's role in the dispute, Viacom seems to want its followers to believe as much.
"'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' and 'The Colbert Report' returned from their annual two-week summer hiatus last night, the former wasting no time in weighing in on DIRECTV's ongoing blackout of Viacom channels," a Viacom blog explained. "'The Daily Show' continues to exercise the creative and editorial freedom that makes it consistently great."
They add: "Despite reports last week that we had pulled all our full episode content from the web, we still have literally thousands of full episodes available online for free, and we brought 'The Daily Show' and 'Colbert' back online to coincide with their return with new episodes."
Stewart's incredulity seems understandable, considering that the hosts of 'The Daily Show' and 'The Colbert Report' have never seen their prior vacations accompanied by a corporate-imposed blackout of their own work on their own websites.
For its part, DirecTV continues to insist that Viacom is trying to extract an additional $1 billion to keep their 26 channels on the service. Viacom acknowledged that they demanded greater fees to air their channels on DirecTV, but they believe the price they named is roughly equitable to going market rates.
No resolution between the two companies is in sight, but at least fans of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can still get their fix online. For now.
This video from The Daily Show was broadcast by Comedy Central on July 16, 2012.