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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

Broadcasters and telecoms prepare for next meeting
“you can’t always get what you want”

Radio spectrum is as good as gold. The laws of physics limit the supply. The laws of digital economics keep demand robust. All this understood, shifting one purpose for radio spectrum to another is not without consequence.

At the first of the year European Commission vice president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes named a high level advisory group to negotiate the wants and needs of various stakeholders in the UHF portion of the radio spectrum. Heading the committee would be former World Trade Organization (WTO) director general and EC Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy. “Nobody will get everything they want, but I am confident that, based on an open discussion and a willingness to engage at the strategic level, we can deliver a coherent vision for Europe,” he said on appointment.

His report has been submitted to Commissioner Kroes and recommends awarding the upper chunk of the UHF spectrum, referred to as the 700 MHz band, exclusively to mobile telecoms by 2020 “give or take two years,” allowing terrestrial broadcasters to hang on to the lower chunk (470-694 MHz) until 2030 and opening a window to rethink it all in 2025. Mobile telecoms, of course, want it all; bigger data plan charges to customers being the future. Signals transmitted in the 700 MHz band travel easily through building walls.

Broadcasters are not all that pleased. “There is a danger that this will not give broadcasters and viewers enough time to adapt to appropriate spectrum arrangements and ensure the necessary upgrade of DTT networks and consumer equipment, especially in countries where DTT is the main TV platform,” said European Broadcasting Union (EBU) head of technology Simon Fell in a statement. Those broadcasters potentially chased off the 700 MHz band should be compensated, too. (See EBU presser here)

The radio spectrum came to be several billion years ago in the Big Bang when there was no design to send pictures through the airwaves. At the very low end there’s atmospheric noise, at the very top x-rays and microwave ovens. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), part of the UN, allocates radio spectrum chunks to different applications by a treaty in place since the middle of the last century. ITU’s big World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), a very diplomatic affair, will be held next year in Geneva to shuffle how countries and regions use this particular gift. The EC report on UHF spectrum will form the European Union’s negotiating position at WRC 2015.

The propaganda meme as political tool, aid notwithstanding
Raising awareness, good or bad

Wealthier nations consider development and humanitarian assistance necessary and important contributions to the more needy. That assistance quite often goes unnoticed by the public, foreign outreach initiatives rarely make headlines. Development work, in the age of austerity, is just another budget line questioned.

Denmark’s Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Mogens Jensen wants a bit more visibility for development outreach and has increased the media budget to DKK 70 million (€9.4 million) for 2015. Total Danish development aid spending will be increased to DKK 16.8 billion (€2.25 billion), less than 1% of GDP. In the new budget development aid is being shifted to humanitarian relief, substantially in Africa. The media budget will be spent as grants for film and television production projects. (See more about media in Denmark here)

Opposition politicians howled. “We see no need to spend more money to teach Danes where Danish development assistance goes,” said People’s Party culture spokesperson Alex Ahrendtsen, quoted by Politiken (August 27). “It may be OK… as long as there are funds for independent critical journalism and not rosy State propaganda,” offered Liberal Party media spokesperson Ellen Trane Nørby.

This will not be State propaganda, said Minister Jensen. “There will be no political constraints on where the money goes. If you need to create a commitment in the Danish population and an understanding of what is happening in the world…I think it is money well spent.”

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

Fired editor launches new project across the border
Stay tuned

Russian newspaper Izvestia (August 27) reported the tax registration in Riga, Latvia of a new company, The Medusa Project, owned by Galina Timchenko, once managing editor of respected independent Russian news portal And, too, on several Latvian online recruiting sites offers have been placed for editors, reporters and photographers conversant in Russian and English. When a new Russian-language news portal could be launched remains a bit of a secret.

It was a sad day last March when Ms Timchenko was fired. About half the staff subsequently walked out as the owner, billionaire Alexander Mamut, changed the news portal’s editorial direction to one decidedly in line with official Russian news policy. So much for independence; only one struggling TV channel, one beneath-the-radar radio channel, an untouchable (so far) foreign-owned business newspaper and a handful of web portals remain. (See more about media in Russia here)

Ms Timchenko, according to Izvestia, called it a “micro-project,” other details yet to be determined.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File

week of September 1, 2014

Several service changes have come into effect, benefiting ftm Members and site readers. Check them out here

In Lingua Franca

Languages Carry Messages, Media Holds Its Breath
hold it Language holds people together and tears them apart. In this post-modern media environment language crosses boundaries easily, conveying aspiration, nostalgia and every image in between. People are drawn to television, radio, newspapers and websites in the languages with which they feel most comfortable. This pluralism is widely admired, a freedom to sustain. Diversity, linguistic and cultural, can also be exploited.

Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in Big Business

Could Television Go The Way Of Newspapers?
reality Television is in big trouble. Media buyers under the internetís spell are pushing ad rates lower. At the same time new digital choices cannibalize audience and revenue streams. The result is painful and may send free to air TV the way of newspapers.


Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in Brands and Branding

You And The Great Adventure
Outer Limits Consumers like to believe it. Businesses want to believe it. Governments try to insist on it. But power and control shifts quickly in the digital age with information flying through the ether. If the picture seems fuzzy, just wait.



new ftm Knowledge

The Privacy Issue – new

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 August 22, 2014
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