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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

New government pressed to re-open public broadcaster
"symbolically and practically"

Amidst the daze of a new political reality in Greece, within certain circles attention has turned to the return of public broadcaster ERT. On the campaign trail new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised to do away with state broadcasting operation NERIT that the previous government launched several months after abruptly closing ERT in June 2013. Few definitive announcements about ERT or NERIT have come from new government officials.

"The commitment is there and will be implemented soon," said SYRIZA Party official Nikos Filis, quoted by news portal (January 28). ERT will be "re-established, symbolically and practically, with attempts at reforms."

"We have already worked out a plan for re-opening ERT," said SYRIZA MP and former ERT journalist Alexandros Triantafillidis, quoted by (January 28), "away from the sad past, to serve and be judged by citizens." (See more about media in Greece here)

"All productive structures" will return, he said, presumably meaning the 27 radio channels and 5 TV channels replaced by NERIT's 3 TV channels and 3 radio channels. All former employees will be re-hired "as the morality of the left does not allow the vindictiveness of the right."

A time line for re-introducing ERT remains hazy. Unions, significant SYRIZA supporters, will have a voice. Current NERIT employees, it seems, will keep their jobs. Then there's the problem with ERT facilities closed and sold by the former government. But, as Mr. Filis said, ERT is a symbol. Money to do it all is something else.

In the meantime, NERIT will in the first week of March broadcast the Greek selection for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Radio station rebrands to make everyday Friday
most popular day

Radio Friday is set to appear in Ukraine, replacing national channel Super Radio. Media regulator National Council for Radio and Television approved the changes this week, which go considerably farther than just a new name. The station is owned by United Media Holding (UMH), one of Ukraine's biggest media houses.

"Knowing the situation in Ukraine, we decided we would do much better with a radio station for the middle class and slightly raise the age to make a station for people who work a lot," said an unnamed station spokesperson, quoted by Telekritika (January 29). "Friday is the most popular day for those who work."

Super Radio has targeted young people with foreign hit music, earning a warning from the regulator last September for falling far below the 50% Ukrainian music quota. "We will play over 50% Ukrainian music," said the station spokesperson. "We will have many Ukrainian artists." Radio Friday's target audience will be people 30 to 50 years. (See more about media in Ukraine here)

The license renewal for Retro FM, also owned by UMH, was delayed at the previous weekly meeting of the regulator. There seems to be a slight issue with payment of the broadcasting license fee. UMH is owned by reclusive energy sector billionaire Serhiy Kurchenko, who fled Ukraine a year ago, assets frozen by European Union sanctions. He hasn't been heard from since.

Gala Radio, an early foreign investment arrival in Eastern European media, has also undergone a name change to Radio EU. The new station's focus is, obviously, all things European, sort of. The music format targets women 25 to 49 years, 50% Ukrainian music quota observed. The Ukrainian regulator did not disclose new ownership, believed to be domiciled in the Netherlands.

News media revolts at whistleblower threat
bad for business

Secrets attract attention; always have, always will. Keeping secrets is difficult, even contentious in the digital age. Trading in secrets is lucrative, and not just for spies. Investigative journalism trades on secrets, knowing them and, occasionally, sharing. Those who want - or need - to keep secrets really don't like nosey reporters.

An omnibus economic reform law, proposed by and, commonly, named for French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, is meant to sweep away rules and regulations that stand in the way of growth, jobs and every other good thing. In the draft, for example, shops in France would be allowed to conduct business twelve instead of five Sundays a year. The French public is fully engaged in debate about the Macron Law, recent demonstrations in evidence. (See more about media in France here)

The French news media has taken note of one particular provision meant, say supporters, to protect trade secrets. They don't like it and very nearly every major news outlet took to the pages of Le Monde (January 28) demanding "pure and simple withdrawal." If enacted as written enterprises can ask a judge to prevent publication of investigations that may involve loosely defined trade secrets. Damage to "the sovereignty, security or essential economic interests of France" can land whistleblowers in jail. "It will now be impossible to inform (the public) about whole swathes of economic, social and political life." (See more about press/media freedom here)

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin hustled over to the RTL studios (January 28) for an explanation and promises of revising the text. The law isn't meant to punish whistleblowers and jurnos, he said, just to protect the "ingenuity" of French businesses. He promised to add an amendment to protect whistleblowers. "It will be done."

Government not quite ready to push the off button
yet to come

Decisions to fully convert radio broadcasting to digital from analogue platforms have slowed considerably from the excitable days earlier this century. Inevitable as it might seem from throngs chanting "the future is digital" media regulators have become more cautious about shutting down FM broadcasting. Only a few have set clear deadlines and those who have are having second thoughts.

Switzerland's government and media regulator BAKOM were early adopters of digital radio platforms, allowing broadcasters to experiment and multiplex operators to look for business models all the while staying attached to FM. A broad industry consortium recently informed the government that FM could be shut down by 2024. So, is the government ready to make it official?

"This is not quite so," said BAKOM head of media services Marcel Regnotto, "at least not yet," quoted by Austrian newspaper Der Standard (January 27). "There is a proposal from the industry leading to a date and a whole outline of scenarios of how to get to that point. But the government has not pressed the red button. That is yet to come." (See more about digital radio here)

When the Swiss government pushes a red button, as we've seen in recent days, many people notice. That could come for FM broadcasting, he said, sometime in 2016.

Mr. Regnotto also noted that the digital context for radio broadcasting now includes internet distribution. An "industry solution" is essential, he said, with "clear signals from the regulator. If the industry does not know where policy stands, it is a bit helpless."

Click bait and tasteless, why stop now?
all about the boobs

When British tabloid Sun dropped momentarily the infamous Page Three photographs of topless models and starlets tabloid editors around the world were shocked, shocked, shocked. Other British tabloids, quite naturally, seized the immediate opportunity with a bounty of bare naked ladies. The more guarded media, meanwhile, grumbled about tastelessness, a term unknown to the tabloid world.

"I think it's a shameful decision," said Slawomir Jastrzebowski, editor in chief of Polish tabloid Super Express, referring to the trumpeted end to the Sun's Page Three girlie shots, quoted by media portal (January 22). "If it worked for 40 years, why stop now?" Super Express offers its readers vicarious titillation but not with an assigned page.

"I don't think social pressure is the best advisor for shaping a newspaper's editorial line," said Robert Felus, editor in chief of Poland's leading tabloid Faktu. "The most important voice belongs to readers." Faktu is published by Axel Springer, which dropped revealing photos from the front page of German tabloid Bild in 2012.

Tabloids invented the term 'click bait' a generation before there was anything to click. And succeeding with that, they are seriously scanned by radio and TV talk show producers in need of an idea. German radio station Radio Bob has gone all out with a special competition built around the theme of "Bob's rockin' boobs," revealed a couple of days before the initial story about the Sun.

The Radio Bob 'click bait' promotion appears on YouTube, reported media portal (January 26). It features Las Vegas specialty performer Sara X, known in some circles for "Boob Twerkerin." Sara X performs to music, inaudible to listeners or whoever, and folks guess the tune. Winners get concert tickets.

Masked agents surround TV station, seize video files
not leaving

After Russian Federation forces seized the Crimean Peninsula a year ago February quickly swept away was all Ukrainian media outlets, replaced by pro-Russian radio, TV and newspapers. One exception was Simferopol television channel ATR that serves the Tatar community, a significant minority in the Crimea. That respite ended as masked OMON security forces, said to include agents of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and Investigative Committee, raided ATR's offices and studios, reported Ukrainian Pravda (January 26).

The agents searched the surrounded facility, holding staff inside and disabled the analogue transmitter. "I think it will last a long time," said station spokesperson Lily Budzhurova. "We were told that we should not expect to get home tonight... maybe the morning. No one was released and no one admitted." (See more about media in Ukraine here)

Computer servers containing video archives were removed. Apparently Russian agents were looking for video files of a meeting last February at the Crimean parliament. Tensions have risen as occupying Russian agents have put pressure on Tatars to toe the line or leave. (See more about media in Russia here)

"It is crucial for the Crimean Tatars to be able to receive and obtain information and news from ATR," said OSCE media representative Dunja Mijatovic in a statement (January 26). "ATR must be allowed to resume its broadcasting as soon as possible."

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

Unwanted license revoked, only pirates circle
employee cooperatives rise

The final chapter on Athens radio station VFM finally closed this week as the Greek broadcast regulator National Council for Radio and Television (ESR) officially revoked its license, reported media portal e-tetradio.g (January 20). VFM has been off the air since December 2012, forced by the bankruptcy of owner Liberis Group. Pirate broadcasters appropriated the FM frequency, something the ESR has never liked.

Several Greek radio stations have tumbled into bankruptcy in recent years becoming distressed properties owned by banks. Liberis Group also owned Best FM, as well as newspapers and news portals. Best FM employees essentially took over the station when buyers could not be found, a solution allowed under Greek law when worker's salaries remain unpaid. An auction for VFM attracted no bidders, largely due to high debts. The license revocation is the first for an Athens radio station since 2001. (See more about media in Greece here)

Dormant Athens radio station Flash 96 returned to the airwaves earlier in January, operated by a cooperative of former employees. It had been off the air since November 2012. Several FM frequencies throughout Greece vacated by the government closure of public broadcaster ERT have become a playland for pirates.

Stations know their place and stay there
some do, however, jump out

French media watchers paid less than usual attention as Médiamétrie released Greater Paris (Ile de France - IDF) radio listening estimates for the period September through December. Most are waiting for first quarter results, which will show effects from the dreadful murderous attacks in Paris that stunned the whole of France. Indeed, market share rankings year on year were largely unchanged even as overall listening dropped to 77.4% from 79.6%. Average time spent listening was up slightly.

The big national general interest channels - largely news, talk and related variations - lost audience share on aggregate, dropping to 40.0% of all listening from 42.9%. Within that grouping defined by Médiamétrie there were no changes in rankings though individual channels swung rather dramatically. RTL kept top spot, increasing audience share one year on to 13.4% from 12.4%. The others, generally at the top of overall rankings, all lost audience share; public radio channel France Inter (2nd place) dropped to 9.8% audience share from 11.1%, Europe 1 (3rd) fell to 8.9% audience share from 10.1% and RMC (4th) posted 7.0%, down from 7.9%.

Public regional network France Bleu, also among the general interest channels but with limited coverage in the IDF, dropped to 0.9% from 1.5% year on year. FIP, the Paris-oriented public station, jumped to 2.9% - reaching 10th in the ranking, best showing in several years - from 2.2%. FIP programs a rather eclectic music mix along with local newscasts. All-news national public channel France Info held 5th place in the IDF audience share rankings, up to 4.9% from 4.4%. France Culture and France Musiques were also up one year on. On aggregate Radio France channels dropped in audience share to 23.0% from 23.4%. (See IDF radio audience trend chart here)

Among music channels, NRJ kept 5th place in the IDF rankings with 5.0%, up slightly. Skyrock was unchanged at 4.1% and 7th place. Radio Classique moved to 8th with 3.7%, up from 3.2% and Nostalgie bolted to 9th with 3.1% audience share, up from 2.4%. Most other national music channels were either up or down slightly except RTL2, which fell to 2.0% from 2.4%. On aggregate the national music channels were up slightly to 25.4% audience share from 24.8% year on year.

Audience shares for local channels, as usual, moved around quite a bit. Generations, Oui FM and suburb-oriented Evasion made noticeable gains while Radio Nova was unchanged. Radio Latina, regularly at the head of the local radio list, was off slightly and TSF Jazz was significantly lower, perhaps effected by the gains for FIP. On aggregate stations defined by Médiamétrie as local increased market share to 18.2% from 17.4% one year on.

The world changes, troglodytes grumble
"haters gonna hate"

A fixture in British media disappeared this week as tabloid Sun did not publish its notorious Page Three photos of young, attractive and quite typically topless young women. Media watchers around the world - well, not exactly - noticed. The Page Three nudies have appeared each week for 44 years, commencing shortly after Rupert Murdoch acquired the newspaper.

The Sun's Page Three still exists, slightly toned-down in the print edition with frolicking babes in bikinis and in usual form on the website. The change was acknowledged in the Times, also owned by News UK. "This comes from high up, from New York," said an anonymous senior executive, quoted by the Guardian (January 20). News UK is owned by News Corporation and was known as News International before June 2013.

Internal research by News UK, cited by the Independent (January 20), showed regular Sun readers holding a favorable opinion of the Page Three girls. The Sun battles the Daily Mail for top honors in the British tabloid circulation war. News Of The World, the tabloid owned by News International, was closed after phone hacking and other charges in 2011. The Page Three decision, noted most UK media watchers, could be "reversed" if circulation is affected. "It's a movable feast," said an anonymous spokesperson for the Sun to the Wall Street Journal (January 20). And it was. The Sun's Page Three tittie shots returned Thursday (January 22), a decision ascribed to "the boss" not wanting to give those who have lobbied for political correctness one tiny victory. The Wall Street Journal is also owned by News Corporation. (See more about Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation here)

The right-wing troglodyte blogosphere, noting the change, ranted about "political correctness gone mad," a subject near and dear to Mr. Murdoch - The Elder. "Political correctness makes for denial and hypocrisy," he expressed on social media (January 10) in the quite different context of the Charlie Hebdo staff murders in Paris. Critics of political correctness (PC) in the current pejorative sense yearn for the days when chauvinism and hate-speech prevailed.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo expressed frustration with media incorrectness to CNN's Christiane Amanpour this week (January 20). US cable channel Fox News, owned by 21st Century Fox, made assertions in several recent programs about "no-go" zones for non-Muslims in Paris. "The image of Paris has been prejudiced," she said suggesting legal action could be forthcoming. Fox News "experts" similarly sullied the reputation of Birmingham in the UK leading prime minister David Cameron to label them "complete idiots."

The success of a lawsuit against Fox News in the US is highly unlikely. Fox News is directed, with some autonomy, by former Republican Party operative Roger Ailes. Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff offered several years ago that the Sun editorially represents The Elder's worldview rather than the Times. Fox News is certainly in the equation, perhaps more ego than id.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File

Week of January 26 2015

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Friday January 23, 2015
radio in Greece, radio licenses, VFM, Best FM, Flash 96, radio in France, radio in Paris, Médiamétrie, radio audience, Europe 1, RTL, Radio France, FIP

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