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.
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
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.
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 tyden.cz (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.
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.