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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

Like Facebook, like digital radio
Don’t worry about the grannies

Dutch public broadcaster NPO will shutdown AM/MW broadcasting by this time next year, migrating the Radio 5 service to other platforms. Part of the reason is budget cuts, part environmental concerns and part, well, “everything is going digital,” said NPO radio programming director Jan Westerhof to volkskrant.nl (September 16). Radio 5 has been on the air in one form or another since 1985 programming oldies music and daytime talk shows for listeners over 55 years.

“The outdated AM/MW transmission systems are in need of replacement,” said Mr. Westerhof. “That’s an expensive proposition.” Also, those transmitters “consume a lot of electricity.”

Radio 5 will not be migrating to the “overcrowded” FM band: “There’s no more place for Radio 5.” The channel is already available on cable, the web and DAB platforms. Remaining on the AM/MW band in the Netherlands after next September will be two religious stations - Groot Nieuws Radio and Radio Maria. (See more about media in the Netherlands here)

It’s estimated that 200,000 people currently listen to Radio 5’s AM/MW broadcast, mostly folks over 60 years who might not be ready for digital transition. Not to worry, said Mr. Westerhof. “Just look at how many grandparents are active on Facebook.”

Opportunity in the carriage trade
No point waiting for a better deal

For the Netflix launch in France this week a major obstacle looming large has been the lack of carriage agreements with French internet service operators (ISPs). They all sat on their hands, noting implicitly irritation in some quarters for doing business with an outsider. (See longer report on Netflix in Europe here)

That boycott, of sorts, ended abruptly when Bouygues Telecom and Netflix jointly announced agreement for the SVOD service to be hosted through the ISPs set top box from November. None of the other French ISPs followed suit though Numericable launched their own VOD service the same day. ISP Orange moaned that the carriage offer from Netflix was insufficient.

All the expected points of view about Netflix coming to France were aired at the coincidentally scheduled TV Fiction Festival this past weekend. New Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin called the Netflix launch an opportunity, generally echoed by film producers. Groaning were broadcasters: “At this moment Netflix is trying to buy works that we funded… to compete with us,” said TF1 CEO Nonce Paolini. Mobile telecom and ISP Bouygues Telecom is owned by the giant French industrial group Bouygues, which just happens to hold a major stake in French television operator TF1.

Cost saving programming strains measurement
“ominous and detrimental”

The famous Radiocontrol Watch is back in Swiss media news. It seems audience measurement provider Mediapulse made a change earlier this year in reporting the way it reports simulcasting, the exact-time sharing of program content among stations. The result, say some broadcasters, is “distorted audience figures” and they’ve appealed to the Swiss Federal Council for a fix.

In Switzerland radio audiences – TV, too, for that matter – are measured passively using a device – the Watch – that “listens” for audio in the presence of measurement panel and, after intervention to protect privacy, compares it to audio from radio broadcasters. The dataset created is then, after requisite statistical cleansing, turned into the semi-annual reports on radio listening. (See recent Swiss audience estimates compared with previous reports here for the Swiss-German region here, the French-speaking region here and the Italian-speaking region here)

When the Radiocontrol Watch was first introduced more than a decade ago Switzerland’s listeners (and advertisers) had in total about 40 stations to choose from, most all broadcast on the FM or AM/MW bands. Well, times have changed. Swiss public broadcaster SSR-SRG offers, in addition to region-specific radio channels, new nation-wide digital channels.

And, too, private-sector broadcasters have learned the cost-effectiveness of simulcasting. In question are the three Radio Energy stations in Basel, Bern and Zürich, operating under a format license from French broadcaster NRJ Group and served by the same saleshouse but not necessarily the same owner. The three stations broadcast the same program several hours Monday through Friday and totally on weekends. Those individual stations that simulcast all or part of a day appear to benefit as estimated audience for one is a composite of all three.

“This is ominous and detrimental to (our) advertisers because they could be paying for listeners that do not exist,” said Basel local station Radio Basilisk owner Matthias Hagemann to news portal persoenlich.com (September 12). As Mediapulse is government-chartered to supply audience measurement he has appealed to the Swiss Federal Council “to correct the intolerable abuses and distortion of the market before the end of the year.”

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

If the Swiss say it’s over, it’s over
Digital transition needs money

Newspapers in Switzerland are in deep trouble and need new support, said a report from a special commission set-up to review the country’s media sphere. Discounts on postal rates and value added tax (VAT) are insufficient “to preserve freedom of the media.” A foundation independent from but supported by the government should be created to aid struggling publishers.

“The business model of newspapers is no longer viable,” reported the Federal Commission on Media (COFEM). “This has an influence on journalism. The evolution of the media is, first and foremost, a business consideration but it is also a political issue.” (See DETEC statement here - in French) The foundation suggested would be modeled on cultural support foundation Pro Helvetica and could be funded directly from the government, an advertising tax, a tax on online transactions, donations and maybe a slice of the radio and TV license fee.

“The profound change that affects the sector is not only on account of digitization, but new consumer habits, more and more diversified,” said the report, essentially saying: forget print, think digital. The committee of experts also suggested increasing support for official news agency ATS to reduce costs to newspapers but focused on aid to digital start-ups. Later this year COFEM will report on Swiss public broadcaster SRG-SSR.

More politicians slam door on journalists
animals, too

The regional Madeira headquarters of Portugal’s Partido Social Democrata (PSD) is off-limits to journalists “effective immediately,” announced secretary-general Jaime Ramos, reported politico.pt (September 2). Also banned are “non-members, militants and animals” as well as eating on the premises. A spokesperson for Sr. Ramos said there’d be no further comment.

The ban on journalists caught the attention of press freedom advocate Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF), which called the “measure to restrict free access to information extremely worrying.” RSF called the ban “the latest in a long series of attacks by PSD-Madeira against the media.” The PSD-Madeira official party newspaper, Madeira Livre, “has a history of invectives against journalists.” The PSD is rather amorphous on the broad Portuguese center-right spectrum. Madeira is a stunningly beautiful group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, part of Portugal but semi-autonomous since 1976.

Local officials of a far-right political party in Sweden recently advised supporters to phone police if journalists came to their door.

If a reporter knocks on your door, call the police
Elections coming

“Well, to be honest, we laughed right out loud when we saw this,” said Swedish daily Expressen managing editor Thomas Mattsson, to Medievärlden (September 9). From the local Habo, southern Sweden, office of the Swedish Democrat (Sverigedemokraterna – SD) party was sent a notice to members and supporters to “seek shelter” and call the police if reporters from Expressen or any other media outlet came knocking. The far-right SD wants to warn its flock of “extreme left Expressen harassing SD members at home.”

“As we approach the day of destiny, September 14, the evil forces are beginning to send out their foot soldiers,” said the SD notice, referring to national elections. The anti-immigration, anti-EU and anti-most everything else SD party is similar in ideology to the National Front in France, UKIP in the UK and Jobbik in Hungary. It is not part of the ruling center-right coalition nor, obviously, the center-left opposition, which holds a slight lead in pre-election polling, noted Reuters (September 2). The notice grouped together all journalists “because the media cooperates with each other and if you cooperate with one journalist all of them will come.” (See more about media in Sweden here)

Several years ago major newspapers in Sweden, including Expressen, refused to accept paid advertising for the SD party deemed vitriolic. Most relented, for freedom of speech reasons certainly; Expressen did not.

Hours before the SD party urged members to avoid journalists, Expressen broke with an investigative piece about a prominent party leader posting racist rantings anonymously on a far (far) right website. “As an editor, I am proud of Expressen's journalists repeatedly exposing political scandals,” said Mr. Mattsson.

Top stations remain on top, others up and down
Language shifting

Radio listening is quite robust in Latvia, 80% national penetration according to the TNS Latvia audience estimates for the summer quarter. Average daily time spent listening is 4 hours and 11 minutes for people 12 to 74 years. Changes in station rankings are few but interesting.

Public pop music channel Latvijas Radio 2 remains to top ranked national channel and increased average quarter hour share (AQHS) to 24.1% from 21.1% one year on. Public news and public affairs channel Latvijas Radio 1 held 3rd place with slightly lower AQHS 9.4%. Public Russian-language general interest channel Latvijas Radio 4 fell conspicuously to 9th rank to 4.2% AQHS from 4th rank and 6.9% AQHS. Arts and culture channel Latvijas Radio 3 ranked 20th nationally with 0.8% AQHS.

On the commercial side, adult-contemporary Radio Skonto ranked 2nd nationally with 10.2% AQHS, slightly lower year on year. Pop music channel Radio SWH moved into 4th place from 6th one year on with 5.7% AQHS, slightly lower. All-music top 40 channel European Hit Radio fell to 5.5% AQHS and 5th place from 6.3% AQHS. Star FM, the pop music channel owned by Modern Times Group, booted up to 6th place and 4.5% AQHS from 9th place one year on and 3.6% AQHS. (See Latvia national radio audience trend chart here)

Russian-language radio stations in addition to public channel Latvijas Radio 4 appear to have shifted audience. Pop music station Hiti Rossii dropped to 4.4% AQHS from 4.7% year on year while Russian-language dance station Top Radio rose to 4.4% AQHS from 3.9% AQHS. The re-broadcast of Russian contemporary music channel Avtoradio dropped to 1.9% AQHS from 3.0% AQHS while Radio Baltkom, which re-broadcasts programs from Moscow news-talk channel Ekho Moscvy rose to 1.6% AQHS from 0.7% AQHS year on year.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File


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Friday September 12, 2014
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