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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

With digital transition there are leaders, followers and politicians
progress isn't relative

Next winter seems a long time off, even in Norway where the cold and snow starts early and lasts. In the midst of next winter Norwegian national radio channels will shed the FM band and plunge into the new world of digital audio broadcasting. On January 11, 2017 DAB+ will become the dominant platform for radio broadcasting, Norway becoming the first in the world to, mostly, make the switch-over.

The radio platform switch-over plan, known since 2011, has held up reasonably well against questions, complaints and distractions. Big radio broadcasters – public broadcaster NRK and commercial operators Modern Times Group and Bauer Media – signed on. It will be a big change and that doesn’t always go down well. (See more about digital radio here)

Progress Party culture spokesperson Ib Thomsen wants, at this late date, to put the switch-over on hold. In an official letter to Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland this past week, he asked that the big change be coordinated with neighboring Sweden and Denmark, reported lokalradio.no (May 19). He cited “the large bill consumers will get when millions of FM radios must be replaced.” The Progress Party opposed digital transition in 2011. (See more about media in Norway here)

Minister Helleland responded, essentially, with “Oh, please,” reported kampanje.no (May 24). “The main reason that Norway is the first is that Norwegian topography has deep fjords, high mountains and a scattered population, which makes it expensive to operate the FM network.” She also offered that Denmark and Sweden will certainly follow the Norwegian example.

Broadcaster mills reliable revenue stream
rice is nice

Many radio broadcasters across the world are occupied with managing staff, negotiating with media buyers and maintaining a competitive edge. Digital and mobile audiences demand special attention, too. In the great scheme of things, that’s the easy stuff.

Radio Television Communautaire 117 operates from Kimbombo, in the far south of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With no electric utility access the community radio station relies on gas generators. “There is no advertising market in Kimbombo and the radio station struggles to make ends meet,” noted media development agency Internews DRC director Karim Benard-Dende in the agency’s newsletter (May 18). “The only reliable source of income in the region is agriculture.” (See more about media in Africa here)

Necessity being the mother of invention, station manager Bernard Djunga Mashka acquired a rice mill with an Internews/USAID grant, enlisted the local radio listeners club and began processing rice. The station now produces programs about rice farming and nutrition. “A part of the processed rice is also given to journalists and staff, who prefer to get a part of their salaries in food rather than money.”

Radio broadcasting is the main source of news and information in the DRC. People living in major cities have access to many stations as well as TV channels and newspapers. Rural areas are served by an array of community stations, many funded by NGOs and religious organizations, operating only a few hours a day. Twenty years ago there were roughly 20 radio stations in the DRC, now over 300.

Growth industries need more policies
Remember Area 51

After rejecting an Australian ad featuring a “plus size model” gigantic social media portal Facebook reversed the decision fearing rejection. The ad for a Melbourne event promoting “body positivity,” as described by the organizer, quoted by ABC News (Australia) (May 24), was pulled as deviating from Facebook’s health and fitness policy. Changing course, the Facebook Ad Team apologized for “any offense this caused.”

Yes, Facebook has a health and fitness policy. There are, obviously, ad and accounting policies. There’s a foreign policy. Facebook is now the world’s fourth most valuable company by market capitalization – US$340 billion, rising by US$40 billion in the first quarter – and reaches more than a billion people around the world each day. With scale like that Facebook has policies about policies.

While Facebook engineers race into the virtual reality future, top executives faced down a grumpy US right-wing thought patrol over what is and what is not presented on the Facebook Trending Topic news feed. Tech news portal Gizmodo published earlier this month an account by an anonymous “former Facebook contractor” of systematically suppressing right-wing views. The Trending Topic news feed only appears on the US Facebook version and is quite different from the Instant Articles feature. (See more about social media here)

Calling together several notable “conservative” politicians and radio talk-show hosts at Facebook HQ in Silicon Valley company executives – including chief executive Mark Zuckerberg – explained how things work, possibly in simple sentences. US Senator John Thune had “demanded” the meeting, suspecting censorship and intimated possible government action. Facebook’s internal investigation revealed “no evidence of political bias,” reported Reuters (May 24).

But, conspiracy theories never fade away.

The editor’s job is minding the details
Out the door and on to court

Slander has been charged by Danish investigative author Per Michaelsen against former Politiken chief editor Bo Lidegaard. Proceedings began this week in Copenhagen City Court. An article Politiken published in 2012 intimated that Mr.Michaelsen may have been in the service of East German spy agency Stasi during the Cold War.

“It was very bad to read that I was branded a spy,” said Mr.Michaelsen to the Court, quoted by public broadcaster DR (May 23). In the 1960’s he had been East Berlin correspondent for Danish daily Information. He recounted those experiences in several articles and two books, naming Danes who had cooperated with Stasi. (See more about media in Denmark here)

The Politiken article in question quoted a historian suggesting Mr.Michaelsen’s relationship with DDR spys, claims the newspaper was unable to substantiate. “I never raised a charge against him,” said Mr.Lidegaard in court, noting that the article was only reporting the historian’s opinion. The article’s headline (May 26, 2012) was, however, a bit more blunt. Mr.Lidegaard faces a fine and possible jail term.

Mr.Lidegaard was replaced as Politiken’s editor-in-chief in late April after five years in the position. His appointment in 2011 raised eyebrows as he arrived from the Danish diplomatic service rather than from journalism. He will be replaced by Christian Jensen, editor-in-chief of Information.

Seriousness and the serious business
fun to follow

The Cannes International Film Festival and its prizes from the Palme d’Or on more often than not reward art, forsaking the box office. It is one big difference from the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual Oscars. Both film industry celebrations lavish adulation on important directors, important actors and, often, important stories.

The Cannes jury picked weighty films for the highest honors. Esteemed British director Ken Loach now holds his second Palme d’Or; I, Daniel Blake being heavy, vital and timely. The 79 year old Loach, “a tireless filmmaker of movies that matter, has delivered perhaps his finest work ever at a time when even he apparently thought he had nothing left to say,” said Deadline Hollywood’s Pete Hammond (May 22). “Obviously he did.”

The youngest director of those short-listed, Canadian Xavier Dolan’s Just The End Of The World was awarded the Grand Prix. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s film The Salesman won best screenplay, haunting Arthur Miller’s masterpiece Death Of A Salesman for the 21st century, and best actor, Shahab Hosseini. Heavyweight and high IQ stuff; it’s the season. In February the best picture and best screenplay Oscars were awarded to Spotlight, a dramatization of the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting of sexual abuse and subsequent cover-up within the Roman Catholic Church.

The Cannes Film Festival is, of course, about more than awards. Distribution rights are bought and sold, that utterly strange publicity stunt notwithstanding. Video on demand (VoD) is the next big money-pot, Amazon Prime somewhat favored over Netflix. European Commission executives telegraphed warm words to the ears of film producers that VoD services will likely be required to fill 20% of their catalogues with European productions and contribute to national funds supporting film production.

Alas, the movie people have moved on giving Cannes hoteliers but a short month to prepare for the advertising people.

Radio reporter asks question, gets fined
“state of helplessness”

Catalunya Ràdio legal reporter Mercè Alcocer has been fined €601 for crossing a press barricade and approaching a Catalan politician heading to a court appearance in Madrid, reported El Norte de Castilla (May 20). He said he stopped when so ordered and didn’t notice the fence. He was charged with disobeying a police order under the Public Security Law, referred to as Ley Mordaza or Gag Law, established last June.

Sr Alcocer was covering a court appearance in February by former Catalan president Jordi Pujol related to money laundering and tax evasion charges. The story has captivated Catalonia as the region has been seen as relatively free of corruption unlike the rest of Spain. And, too, Sr.Pujol has been a major figure in the Catalan independence movement. Sr.Alcocer had attempted to question Sr.Pujol’s lawyer. (See more about media in Spain here)

In April Basque photojournalist Axier Lopez was the first to be punished under the gag law for posting photos on Twitter of a police raid. His employer, news magazine Argia, has refused to pay the fine as “unjust and against the right to press freedom.” Pending cases include a Facebook comment about police and a photo posted of a police car parked in a spot reserved for disabled persons. (See more about press/media freedom here)

Catalunya Radio indicated it would appeal the fine, reported La Vanguardia (May 21). "News professionals have self-regulatory measures, through standards and codes of conduct, and to coerce us and treat us like criminals leaves us in a concerning state of helplessness and that is not exactly the best solution because we do our job well." Catalunya Radio is the Catalan regional public broadcaster.

Social media’s development path looks a lot like everything else
less happy

After pounding losses in 2015 professional social media portal Viadeo is retrenching, cutting a quarter of its French workforce and concentrating on the French market, reported Les Echos (May 20). “The company has fragmented… and has neglected its flagship products and its home market,” said CEO Renier Lemmens. “Instead of trying to conquer the world, we will focus on France and out flagship products.” M.Lemmens was named CEO in January, replacing founder Dan Serfaty.

Viadeo is, for all practical purposes, a jobs site, biggest in that category being LinkedIn. Based in Paris, it got off the ground in 2004, raised some money and pushed forward. The company turned a profit in 2009. There was expansion, largely through acquisition, into China, India, Spain and Canada. A partnership with Finnish publisher Sanoma in 2011 took Viadeo into Russia. The French government became a strategic investor through public start-up fund BPIFrance. (See more about social media here)

The widely anticipated IPO in 2014 raised about €20 million, earmarked for the traffic-rich but revenue-poor Chinese product. Investor interest was dampened by the contemporaneous LinkedIn announcement of 8 million French followers, about a million short of Viadeo’s French support. Last year’s new product connecting freelancers with employers, for fee, hasn’t worked out well.

“In the past, the company was distracted by international development in China and Russia, the two markets most difficult to penetrate,” said M.Lemmens, quoted by Le Monde (May 20), “and therefore neglected the heart of the job.” Global ambition, like happiness, paraphrasing F. Scott Fitzgerald, is so over-rated.

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

Teens and their smartphones, radio envy
tuning in later, of course

About one in eight radio listeners in France hear their favorite channels via a digital device, reported measurement institute Médiamétrie this week (May 18) in its Global Radio report for the first quarter 2016. French teens – 13 to 19 year olds – are even more attached, 27%. Comparative data from previous periods is, unfortunately, not available.

Mobile phones, PCs, TV sets, tablets and iPad-type devices are used by 12% of French radio listeners 13 years and older. Nearly half – 5.8% - are listening on their smartphones, PCs next at 3.2%. Certain to awaken the curiosity of French broadcasters and media buyers, digital device listening peaks, Monday through Friday, at 10:00 rather than 8:00 for those listening via more traditional devices. (See more about mobile media here)

Also this week, UK radio measurement joint industry committee RAJAR reported 25% of persons 15 years and older listening via a mobile device in the first quarter 2016, up year on year from 22%. Among young people 15 to 24 years, mobile device listening rose to 36.9% from 33.9%. Earlier this year Spanish media research institute AIMC reported 35% of all persons using the internet had downloaded a mobile app for radio listening.

Ad limits could be lifted just as people hate ads more
These things take time

Invited each year to the Cannes Film Festival come European Commission (EC) executives carrying messages to movie and TV people and the wider media world. And this year’s message from EC vice president for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip relates to quotas and restrictions, semantic difference notwithstanding. Television ad restrictions, as inscribed in the Audiovisual Services Directive (AVMS), “should be relaxed,” he said, quoted by Les Echos (May 17).

Most TV broadcasters in EU Member States are limited to 12 minutes of commercial advertising per hour averaged between 7:00 in the morning and 11:00 in the evening. Several EU Member States, notably Spain, vigorously opposed this restriction now set in EU law. It is far from clear what, exactly, would be the effect of a “relaxed” commercial ad restriction. Would the number of ads per hour float up or down?

Publishers sorting through their won advertising peril may have insight to share. This year’s WAN-IFRA World News Media Congress will feature a “high-level discussion” on ad blocking, universally recognized by online publishers as the end of the digital dividend. More mobile users leads to more mobile ads, often to a nauseating level; hence, ad blocking on digital devices soars.

Ahead of the World News Media Congress WAN-IFRA teased with a report on ad blocking. There are no easy solutions but, said the WAN-IFRA rpreview statement (See here), “readers are actual people. If publishers are going to stop more people from resorting to ad blocking, everything must flow from… trust.”

Commissioner Ansip’s other Digital Single Market priority is holding Netflix at bay. The EC seems ready to place European content quotas on SVoD services, perhaps 20% on their catalogue. A precise figure is still under discussion.

No proposed change to the AVMS – or a succeeding Directive – will happen quickly. First, the EC needs to draft something (perhaps appearing rather soon), then the 28 Member States, individually, will debate the changes. Then the European Parliament gets its word.

Gutting public broadcaster not a government priority
Bake Off not moving

A buoyancy in the voices of BBC hosts and reporters from late Thursday afternoon was palpable. There will be no massive roll-back in services or funding cuts, said the Culture Ministry’s white paper, the UK government’s position paper on the BBC Charter Review released last week. The world’s most admired public broadcaster lives on… for another decade plus one year so not to interfere with general elections.

Changes below the level of basic funding and services will be part of the package. Under the bus goes the BBC Trust as a single “unitary board” is created for big picture governance. It will have 12 or 14 members, the BBC appointing a majority, the government the rest. UK media regulator OFCOM will, then, treat the BBC as any other broadcaster. (See more about the BBC here)

In the days and week ahead of the white paper’s release Culture Minister John Whittingdale sowed fear in the hearts of BBC supporters suggesting top-rated TV shows not be scheduled to interfere competitor’s less than stellar offerings, including news programs, and license fee revenues be shared with newspapers. To a private meeting with conservative students at Cambridge University he “joked” that the demise of the BBC was “a tempting prospect,” reported the Guardian (May 4).

Clearly cooler heads in the current UK government prevailed. With four of five British finding the BBC doing very well, thank you, it would be an unnecessarily contentious debate as the referendum on European Union membership looms larger. After the summer holidays Members of Parliament, knowing the BREXIT vote results, will debate the BBC white paper and move on with the Charter Review.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File


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week of May 23, 2016


In The Numbers

The Audience Is Amazing… And Rational
tiny creature The audience is changing. On this there is total agreement. Everything else is a debate. Traditional platforms are waning, digital ascending, says conventional wisdom. But new platforms are evolving requiring people to constantly adapt or return to tried and true media consumption. The enduring question for media people is where should the investment go.

In Reaching Out

Where Independent Media Falls, It Is Not The Market
odd shape Total media control is the dream of "illiberal" autocrats. Provoked by critics, irked by nosey reporters they prefer soft news sprinkled with a good dose of conspiracy theory. Secrets must always be kept, never spoken or written. Their prism is, however, so last century. Distortions inevitably find light.

Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in Show Biz

Absolutely Live And Right Now
is it live? The media trend of the decade is right now. People want that drama at the moment they want it and they want to be in it. Delivering that means lots of bandwidth, literally and figuratively. For some media watchers live television is over. For others it isn’t just the future it’s the only future.

 

 

new ftm Knowledge

Investigative Reporting – new

Investigative reporters have a storied honor among journalists. Praise is less forthcoming from those with secrets, often ready to use all possible means - legal and otherwise - to avoid detection. New tools are emerging to shed light and tell all. This ftm Knowledge file explores methods, old and new, and the forces prefering darkness. 54 pages PDF (May 2016)

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Media in the Middle East and North Africa – new

The striking contrasts in the MENA region’s media are the hopes for new media, fears for traditional publishing and broadcasting amidst conflict and insecurity. This ftm Knowledge file notes the accomplishments and the reversals. 90 pages PDF includes Resources (April 2016)

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Media Measurement - Changing Times

The times are changing and so is media measurement. Everybody wants more, faster and better. As online and mobile metrics grow measurement of all other media must adapt. 101 pages PDF (March 2016)

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Friday May 27, 2016
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