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Week of October 9, 2017

Rumors abound. Pressure rises. Stock traders gorge
wheeling and dealing

Breathless stock trading this week came after widely circulated rumors of< a deal to settle a contentious dispute between French media house Vivendi, principally controlled by Vincent Bollore, and Italian media house Mediaset, principally owned by the Berlusconi family. Vivendi backed out of an agreement to acquire Mediaset’s pay-TV subsidiary Mediaset Premium fifteen months ago. Mediaset sued, asking €3 billion for pain and suffering.

At first Italian daily Il Sole-24 Ore (October 7) followed by French business publication Les Echos (October 9) reported “an honorable” settlement might be reached “within 2 to 4 weeks.” Bloomberg (October 10) followed with a figure, nearly €1 billion in cash and shares, adding that Vivendi’s Canal Plus and Telecom Italia, which M. Bollore controls, could form a joint-venture with Mediaset to take-over Mediaset Premium, similar to the original agreement. Rumors of a settlement sent Mediaset shares on the Milan exchange up 5% on Monday (October 9) and another 2% the next day. (See more about media in Italy here)

There are pressure points. There’s a court date in December set with the< Milan judge who ordered the parties to find an agreement or else. And, too, bids for Italian Serie A football rights, currently held by Sky, principally controlled by 21st Century Fox, are due in early December. In the midst Italian media regulator Agcom is after Vivendi to reduce its Mediaset stake, currently 29%, to below 10%.

Unwelcome reporting pinched, trouble whistles
Who's zooming who?

One more little tit-for-tat between Americans and Russians is just the daily dose of diplomacy by other means. State-funded media outlets are easy targets. Big international channels not so much, certainly with World Cup football soon to fill screens.

Russian authorities suggested they might place “restrictions” on US-funded news outlets operating in Russia as “foreign agents.” The Justice Ministry sent warning letters to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America (VoA) operated Current Time TV and RFE/RL’s Radio Svoboda. Also warned were the Crimean office of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and Tatar-Bashkir Service Idel Realli, which also serves the Crimea. “We trust we will be able to continue our work,” said RFE/RL VP Nenad Pejic in a statement (October 9).

This quickly followed the US Justice Department (DoJ) request that RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik networks register as a State-sponsored entity and disclose financial accounts under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). That 1938 law, originally drafted to blunt Nazi influence, has a media exemption so long as the organization is not in contact with US officials outside journalistic activities. That would include lobbying. (See more about international broadcasting here)

Outraged Russian politicians have suggested regulations might be put in place to “balance” the footprint of US-based news outlets if clamps are put on RT and Sputnik. Multi-service regulator Roskomnadzor opened an investigation of CNN International one day after the DoJ had words with RT and Sputnik. It was a “technical matter” and quickly closed to the satisfaction of all, said agency director Alexander Zharov to RAI Novosti (October 10). “We will observe,” he added. “At the same time, there is no need for Roskomnadzor specialists to travel to the United States.” (See more about media in Russia here)

In August Roskomnadzor “recommended,” reported Meduza (August 17), Russian domain registrar Ru-Center remove US neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer from the .ru domain, which it had acquired just hours earlier after US web hosts booted it from their services. It vanished within hours. Roskomnadzor has played blocking-tag for a couple of years with US-based social media platforms LinkedIn and Facebook.

Broadcasters pool strategies, plan more hit series
and defend the talent pool

Television viewers - and broadcasters - are now accustomed to a rich selection of productions from Scandinavia. From Nordic Noir to Slow TV, releases have traveled and been acclaimed near and far. We will be seeing more.

Public TV general directors from Denmark (DR), Finland (YLE), Iceland (RUV), Norway (NRK) and Sweden (SVT), meeting in Stockholm (October 6), have formed an alliance, Nordic Public Service Originals, for a common strategy on co-productions. Part of this is to increase output and streamline decision making. It’s also, quite clearly, a streaming media strategy. Members of the group will have one year exclusive rights to drama co-productions.

“When we get a series from DR, for example, we have to remove it quite quickly from the NRK player,” said NRK general director Thor Gjermund Eriksen, quoted by NRK (October 6). “That means we have not been able to build up a catalogue of Nordic dramas like Netflix has.” (See more about streaming media here)

Both Netflix and HBO recently announced new series commissions rooted in Nordic countries. Netflix will have its first Swedish-language series, Quicksand, developed by the creators of crime series The Bridge (Bron, in Swedish). The four seasons of The Bridge were a joint production of DR and SVT. HBO commissioned comedy/drama Gosta from Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson and producer Lars Jönsson. Movie-land journal Variety noted (September 19) that the big international streaming video services are “tapping into Scandinavia’s growing talent pool.”

"This Nordic drama cooperation makes us stronger in an increasingly international market,” said DR director general Maria Rorbye Ronn, quoted by (October 6). “We are simply stronger when we as public broadcasters are united in the Nordic region.”

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