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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

‘Tis the season to get attention
Bah Humbug

Where the Christmas holiday is widely celebrated radio broadcasters, regardless of music format, begin salting in seasonal tunes around the first of December. Some begin earlier and some eventually play all-Christmas music all the time. Radio sales managers favor this to encourage holiday ad sales. The music industry always supplies new gift-giving ideas.

A local UK commercial station is making a big deal out of not playing Christmas music until the very last. Morning DJs at Jack FM in Berkshire have “refused” to play songs of the holiday, reported (November 25). The well-orchestrated “protest” has had a life on social media, of course. (See more about radio audience here)

The syndicated Jack FM brand originated in North America and is based on a television commercial – “We play what we want” – meant to differentiate from tight playlist stations. There are six in the UK, many in the US and Canada, but the format hasn’t translated to the wider world.

From a quick survey of different radio sources it appears that Sweden’s top rated A/C station Lugna Favoriter is the earliest to add Christmas music, starting November 21st.

Court bans corruption investigation coverage
News media thumbs nose

An official investigation into corruption by four former Turkish government ministers is out of bounds to journalists. An Ankara Magistrate’s Court banned all reporting of the parliamentary commission of inquiry until the end of December. The ban on reporting activities of the Turkish parliament is “unprecedented,” said Hurriyet (November 26), though court ordered news coverage blackouts have been issued.

The ban is necessary to protect privacy rights of the accused, said Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag at a press conference, reported by (November 26). “The investigation is confidential.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called the bribery investigation into former ministers aligned with his AK Party a “judicial coup” by opponents. (See more about media in Turkey here)

Some leaders of Turkey’s news media did not take the reporting ban lightly. “We will continue to convey to our readers, in a sober and honest way, any information about an event important enough to warrant an investigation in Parliament,” said Cumhuriyet Publishing CEO Akin Atalay, in a statement. “This decision is clearly contrary to law.” Several news portals vowed to continue following the corruption scandal.

Big city listeners have eclectic tastes… sometimes
Just the way it is

It is as it has always been. Radio listening in Paris is like radio listening in France, except when it isn’t. Measurement institute Médiamétrie released this week audience estimates for Ile-de-France (IDF – greater Paris), one week after the national survey results. Some trends are apparent in both. But, then, “Paris will always be Paris,” noted La Lettre Pro de la Radio editor Frédéric Brulhatour (November 26).

First, RTL is still first. Market share jumped to 14.3% (Monday-Friday) from 12.6% one year on and the national general interest channels’ best result in more than two years. Other national channels in the same category were punished, rankings unchanged. Public channel France Inter dropped to 10.1% market share from 10.6%. Europe 1, which lost to RTL a show host at the beginning of the September-October period, plummeted to 9.3% market share from 10.5%. With few good sports stories to fuel the talk shows, RMC dropped to 7.0% market share from 8.0%. (See September-October IDF survey chart here)

But 5th place in the IDF listening estimates went to public all-news channel France Info, up to 5.2% market share from 4.1% year on year. National hit music channel NRJ tumbled to 4.3% market share from 5.1%, quite similar to recent national results. (See details of September-October national survey here) National rap and hip hop channel Skyrock dropped to 3.8% market share from 4.1%, rather different from the national results.

Two oldies channels, of a sort, posted big gains among greater Paris listeners. Radio Classique – oldies, like Mozart – ranks 8th with 3.4% market share, up from 2.3%. In 9th place is Nostalgie, 3.3% market share from 2.2% year on year. Aggregate market share for French national channels dropped to 23.3% from 24.8%. Big losers include RFM, RTL2 and Rire & Chansons.

Tenth spot in the IDF went to FIP, the local public station formerly known as France Inter Paris. FIP is mostly a music station, well distributed on FM through the IDF, beloved in Paris for its jazzy and somewhat eclectic programming. Folks in southern-most parts of the UK have been known to hoist huge antenna to pick it up. Now they have the internet. Well, FIP posted its best showing in four years, 2.7% market share from 2.3%.

Well connected and still happy
Social media contributes to internet use

As the internet’s web of possibilities extends its reach into the four corners of our planet, most everybody is happy. In its annual Measuring the Information Society report, released this week, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) shows an ever shrinking non-connected world with fewer people isolated from YouTube and Facebook. Developing countries are developing information and communication technologies (ICTs) faster though still significantly less-connected than richer North Americans, Europeans and Asians.

Within the report is the annual ICT Development Index (IDI) ranking 166 UN Member States by a composite score on access, usage and skill. At the top are the wealthy – high GNP – countries of Northern and Western Europe, North America and Asia/Pacific. At the other end of the list are the UN-designated Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in central Africa. (See ITU presser here)

Moving up in the rankings year on year are the UAE, Oman and Qatar in the Middle East, Fiji in the Pacific region, the Atlantic island nation of Cape Verde, Thailand in Southeast Asia plus Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina and Georgia. Pushed down the list in the surge from developing countries were Ireland, Croatia, Greece, Czech Republic, Portugal, Poland and Montenegro. Fiji and Cape Verde are routing points for undersea cables.

Countries ranked highest have not only have well-developed ICT infrastructure but, said the report, “relevant content.” Much of that content is tied directly to big data, the economic driver internet and mobile technologies. “The steadily growing number of Internet users has been reflected in a steep increase in the volume of online content,” said the ITU presser. “Social media applications are contributing significantly to driving Internet use, as more and more people create, share and upload content onto social sites.”

Denmark tops the new IDI ranking, bumping off high bandwidth South Korea, now number two. The Central African Republic is in last place. In the UN’s 2013 Happiness Index Denmark along with Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden topped the chart with Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, Benin and Togo at the bottom. As every statistician knows, correlation is not causation.

Public broadcasting reform to shrink boards, raise money
“no longer assisted-living”

Government movements to reform public broadcasting endlessly swirl like the falling autumn leaves. Italy’s government has floated a plan to shrink public broadcaster RAI’s board of directors and, perhaps, shrink the household license fee. Last week 35% of infrastructure subsidiary RAIWay floated in an IPO on the Milan Stock Exchange.

Details of the reform plan include redefining the general director’s role to that of a company chief executive named by the board of directors then elected by the board of supervisors. There will be fewer directors, from nine to five. Governance and decision making at RAI has long suffered from political infighting.

Financing issues being top of mind in Italy, the most daring proposal would reduce the household license fee from €113 per month to just €65. The caveat – a big one – is the license fee will be charged through household electric utility bills making it rather inescapable. As a significant number of Italians – roughly 30% - shirk their responsibility to support public broadcasting this could raise an additional €1.8 billion a year. The overall intent, colorfully observed La Repubblica (November 23), is for RAI to “no longer (be) an assisted-living company with short-range planning hanging on to the udders of the (State) treasury.” (See more about media in Italy here)

“We need a parliamentary debate, not a decree,” said RAI supervisory board chairman Roberto Fico, quoted by La Repubblica (November 24). “It looks like a campaign ad, typical of (Prime Minister Matteo) Renzi. He knows it is the most hated tax (and) in this way can say it is halved.” Mr. Fico is a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies aligned with the eurosceptic anti-corruption Five Star Movement political party.

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

TV evolves as the world keeps spinning
Back straight, eyes forward

Television people have been out in force for World TV Day trumpeting evolution. It’s true: despite the best efforts of the dark side to weight it down television still stands upright. We are, as occupants of this planet, fixed on TV.

“Television moves the world,” noted ProSiebenSat.1 Media SVP Annette Kümmel in a commemorative statement from German private broadcaster association VPRT. Everyday five and a half billion folks are in front of the screen, or many screens. For “diversity of opinion,” she said, it’s “priceless.” (See VPRT presser here – in German)

TV people are ever defensive about encroaching new media. TV watching has a new companion. “Multi-screening is becoming a mainstream activity in many countries,” observed commercial TV association ACT in its commemoration. As ad buyers consummate their love for mobile media, spurning all others, TV is still in the room. (See ACT presser here)

In earlier years television was called that “vast wasteland.” Media watchers around the world compiled great listicles this week enumerating TV’s greatest accomplishments and nearly all focused on seminal news events that drew people together in awe (the Apollo moon landing), horror (9/11) or hope (fall of the Berlin Wall). Several observers mentioned the 1960 televised Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates as bringing the democratic process into every living room. Now politicians present themselves on television braced by armies of media advisors. (See more about TV news here)

Speaking to the US National Association of Broadcasters in May 1961, barely six months after the aforementioned televised debates turned the course of a presidential campaign, Federal Communications Commissioner Newton Minnow attempted to rally the US TV industry to do better. “I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

And now we have smartphones, which apparently affect posture. Darwin’s theory still illuminates.

Broadcaster violated rules by airing presidential expletives
Push the button

The Czech public broadcaster has been warned of possibly violating the country’s media laws by broadcasting an interview with the country’s president in which he used “vulgar” language, said regulator Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (RRTV). President Milos Zeman appearing live for an interview program broadcast on public radio news channel CRo 1 November 2nd dashed off a few colorful terms disdainfully describing government employees and members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot. The regulator also sanctioned Czech public TV and privately owned TV Nova for using the juicy parts in a newscast. This could get messy.

“We don’t judge the President, only the content of the broadcast,” said RRTV Council president Ivan Krejci,” reported Czech news portal (November 19), noting “more than two hundred complaints.” Czech public radio (Cesky Rozhlas) officials have been asked to explain whether or not the radio interviewer had sufficient control over the program, which is mandated by the code of conduct within Czech media rules. The sanctions bring no specific penalty under current law but can affect licensing and, in the case of the public broadcaster, appointments to governing boards. Czech TV and TV Nova, said Mr. Krejci, “had the opportunity to prevent this occurrence… unlike the live broadcast.” (See more about press/media freedom here)

Czech Radio “is convinced” the episode does not break the code of conduct, said spokesperson Jiri Hosna. “We want to continue (the program) in the same format and believe that a similar situation will not be repeated.” Perhaps, they will be installing a 7 second delay and a bleep button. Imagine, if you will, the radio interviewer and, presumably, technicians charged with producing this live program at the moment the country’s president vocalizes the F-Bomb.

“I am amazed that the (RRTV) Council claims the right to judge what is and is not a vulgarism,” responded President Zeman, who was jeered by crowds in Prague this week at remembrance observations for the start of the Velvet Revolution.  Mr. Zeman has recently sided with riot police action against protesters in 1989.

Reach increases on TV and in English
“decision makers around the world”

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) will expand its profile with an English language TV channel next spring. The new channel, available online and by satellite, will contribute to the goal of increasing DW’s reach to “decision makers around the world,” indicated Director Peter Limbourg in a statement (November 17). DW currently offers audio and video content in 30 languages, largely online.

All of this takes money and DW is funded by the German government, not known for throwing large sums at anything. Director Limbourg is asking for a mere €10 million more for improvements to the Bonn and Berlin facilities. DW’s annual budget was recently increased, judiciously, to €280 million a year, slightly less than the BBC World Service (€305 million) and decidedly less than the €500 million and growing estimated annual budget of the notorious Russia Today operation. (See more about international broadcasting here)

International broadcasting, once suffering from inertia, has returned to favor as a tool of public diplomacy, on one hand, and propaganda, on the other. Influence is delivered on television and in the English language. The new DW English TV channels will operate 18 hours a day with half-hourly newscasts.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File

week of November 24, 2014

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In The Numbers

Details, The Devil And Plunging Audience
red guy The closer we look at a market the more it changes. It is the lesson from physics for those pouring over numbers that dutifully report snapshots. The numbers are, of course, givers of life for all in the media. What was true yesterday is different today. “Let the devil take tomorrow,” said the songwriter.

Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in Spots & Space

More Ads, Less Sex: Another Digital Dividend
no sex appeal Online advertising is soaring. Ad buyers can’t get enough. New platforms and new devices have captured consumer’s attention. But the ad people trade on anxiety as much as optimism. Perhaps social media is replacing the traditional headache.



Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in Reaching Out

There’s No Interrupting The Weather
Japan tsunami NOAA Imagine the wind lifting the roof from your house, water rushing in the windows, the ground shaking or fire inching closer. In highly developed regions systems are in place to provide timely and accurate information. But natural disasters know no boundaries. And where people are most vulnerable the most reliable information sources are the best.


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Media in the Baltics - New World Order – new

By the time Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the European Union they were known as the Baltic Tigers. The media sector grew spectacularly with big multi-nationals investing. Times have changed. This ftm Knowledge file reports the changes, new opportunities and lingering ghosts. 63 pages PDF (October 2014)

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The Privacy Issue

The privacy issue touches every aspect of media. From consumer protection and the rights of individuals to news coverage privacy is hotly debated. New media and old media stumble and the courts decide. ftm offers views from every side of the Privacy Issue. 68 pages. PDF (July 2014)

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Media in Greece, Cyprus and Macedonia

The Greek media world has been turned upside down in recent years. Financial constraints coupled with political confusion seem endless while digital media promises a new future. Media in Cyprus, largely tied to Greece, shows certain signs of stress while media in neighboring Macedonia remains under stress. This ftm Knowledge file explores the bright spots and all the rest. Includes updated Resources. 82 pages PDF (June 2014)

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Public Broadcasting - Arguments, Battles and Changes

Public broadcasters have - mostly - thrown off the musty stain of State broadcasting. And audiences for public channels are growing. But arguments and battles with politicians, publishers and commercial broadcasters threatens more changes. The ftm Knowledge file examines all sides. 168 pages PDF (March 2014)

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Media in Romania and Moldova

The profile of Romania's media scene is complicated. Changes take place often as multi-national media houses exit and "colorful" local owners take over. Neighboring Moldova faces its own set of challenges. This ftm Knowledge file details the rough road to sustainable media. Includes updated Resources. 60 pages PDF (February 2014)

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Friday November 21, 2014
radio in France, Médiamétrie, radio audience, Europe 1, RTL, Radio France, France Inter, France Culture, NRJ, Nostalgie, Skyrock, radio in the Czech Republic, public radio, CRo 1, RRTV, radio in Georgia, Radio Sputnik

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