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The Tickle File is ftm's daily column of media news, complimenting the feature articles on major media issues. Tickle File items point out media happenings, from the oh-so serious to the not-so serious, that should not escape a shorter, more informal format.

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Week of March 6, 2017

Sports rights and the rich telecoms
broadcasters fight for scraps

Major football leagues have a particular grip on TV broadcasters. Football is an audience - and subscriber - magnet. Broadcasters stump up ever increasing fortunes to deliver matches to fans. Leagues know they have, to recall Lord Acton, absolute power.

Spain’s National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) has told La Liga president Javier Tebas allow stadium access to TV crews from Mediaset Spain and Atresmedia or pay a stiff fine, €20,000 per day, reports Vozpopuli (March 8). Last week the football league banned Mediaset and Atresmedia crews for breaching rules covering retransmission of match summaries. That particular dispute is being mediated separately by the CNMC, which has over the years set rules governing TV sports rights. A different company, Mediapro, owns rights to match summaries, which it resells. (See more about sports rights here)

Mediaset Spain, subsidiary of the Italian broadcaster, operates broadcasters Telecinco and Quatro. Atresmedia, significant shareholder being RTL Group, operates Antena 3, LaSexta and others. A year ago giant telecom Telefonica, Movistar (owned by Telefonica) and production house Mediapro agreed to pay €2.65 billion for a three-year domestic rights package.

The money just keeps rolling in. BT, the giant UK telecom, just extended its rights package for Champions League and Europa League football another three years (2018-2021). The price tag rose 35%, without surprise, to roughly €1.4 billion.

Cool for kids, investors swoon, ads to follow

The only people over 20 who know about Snapchat are stock traders and media buyers. The rest of us just assume that blank stare of the left-behind. We ask the neighborhood Millennials: nothing registers.

Shares in Snap Inc. began trading on the New York Stock Exchange last week. Snap owns video messaging service Snapchat, a smartphone app. It is “an ephemeral social network,” said stock trader portal (March 3), where everything disappears in 24 hours. They sell ads by the day not click, as much as US$750,000. The initial public offering (IPO) raised US$3.4 billion and pushed market capitalization to US$34.7 billion, bigger all US tech IPOs last year together. (See more about social media here)

OK, billionaires created in a instant, tens of millions for the underwriters. Jumping into the Snapchat frenzy were Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent, followed by US media house NBCUniversal placing US$500 million. The Snap Inc. share price surged for about a day and it’s been downhill ever since. Investors were a bit put off by all shares on offer being non-voting. Oh, well.

The ad people, who love young people most, are a bit concerned about their works of art juxtaposed with the kiddie porn, er, explicit content. "Every platform with user-generated content has that challenge," said WPP digital agency Wunderman CEO Mark Read to AdAge (March 6). "But Snapchat does still have that rep among some clients, which they have to overcome. Part of going public is maturity.”

WPP, in its totality, spent US$90 million with Snapchat last year, a pittance next to US$5 billion with Google or US$1.5 billion on Facebook, reported the Financial Times (March 3).

Reporters have had enough from harassing politicians
“towards self-censorship”

The Press Association of Madrid (Asociación de la Prensa de Madrid - APM) issued a strong complaint (March 6) that journalists are being harassed by the Podemos political party, its “management team” and “people close to that circle.” Reporters, it said, are receiving “intimidating messages and calls” directed “personally and privately” that "aims at persuading them to write according to the dictates of Podemos, as well as leading them towards self-censorship.” (See more about media in Spain here)

A dozen APM member journalists came forward, anonymously, to register their discomfort. Podemos is the leftist-populist Spanish political party formed in 2014, led by Pablo Iglesias, known for antagonizing just about everybody. It has grown to 3rd largest membership in the Spanish parliament. Podamos parliamentary spokesperson Irene Montero, quoted by AFP (March 6), said most Spanish journalists don’t “self-censor their reports out of fear of political parties, but out of fear of their bosses or media owners.” (See more about press/media freedom here)

Intimidating and harassing journalists who chase down uncomplimentary or inconvenient facts is hardly new. Twitter is new. Beating or jailing reporters - and worse - easily becomes the next step. Turning out the light is always the aim.

Publisher fights back by banning dumb trolls
“take the edge off”

Trolls lurking through the forest of online news sites are a frustration for publishers. Many are automated bots, nothing real there. Others are grumpy antagonists, paid or not. Publishers have been reluctant to banish comments sections, a venue attractive to some readers.

Leave it to those Norwegians to invent something that just might curtail the worst of trolling. It’s actually quite simple, this innovation from public broadcaster NRK for its tech news portal NRKbeta. Folks wanting to have their say need to answer three questions about the particular article before commenting. The tool is a WordPress plug-in. (See more about online news here)

“We rely on a very well-founded comment debate with many tech fans and smart readers who know how to behave," said NRKbeta editor Marius Arnesen, quoted by (March 3). ”If you want to discuss something, it is important to know what the article is all about. If you spend 15 seconds on (the quiz), those are maybe 15 seconds that take the edge off the rant mode when people are commenting.”

Big Swiss-German publisher Neuen Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) banished all online comments in early February. “The tone in the comments has deteriorated,” explained social media editor Oliver Fuchs to public broadcaster SRF (February 7). “Readers no longer discuss but abuse each other and insult us.”

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