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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 13, 2017

Trust in media varies by distance
perhaps from the Sun

Trust being an emotional quality surveys of such tend to show attitudes based more on mood than thought. GfK Verein, the non-profit majority shareholder of market researcher GfK, reported this week its Global Trust Monitor, issued every other year. People in 25 countries were asked about trust in various institutions, media being one.

On average trust in media “completely” or “mostly” stands at 54.3% of those interviewed. By country the extremes are noteworthy. Greatest trust in media, according to the separately conducted surveys, can be found in India (74.8%), Indonesia (69.2%) and South Africa (64.1%). At the other end of the scale are Mexico (21.5%), France (28.6%) and Japan (29.4%). Far more countries were below the mean (20) than above (5).

Among European countries surveyed, the Dutch have the highest trust in media (51.3%), followed by Austria (49.2%), Belgium (46.7%) and Germany (44.9%). After the aforementioned French citizens, least trustful in Europe are the British (29.8%) and Italians (31.7%). Danes were not surveyed.

Financial publisher with financial problems tries reorganization
"No easy solutions exist"

Italian media has been going through a rough patch. This week an interim editor was named at major financial publisher Il Sole 24 Ore as employees went on strike, brought on, largely, by several executives falling foul of authorities for, allegedly, cooking the digital books. The newspaper suspended publication during the four-day strike and its website was not updated.

The week began with editor Roberto Napoletano being placed on unpaid leave and Guido Gentili assigned to sit in, reported ANSA (March 13). Italian tax authorites paid a visit to to the newspaper’s offices the previous Friday (March 10) looking for clues to a “misappropriated” €3 million. Individuals under investigation include Sr. Napoletano, former group chairman Benito Benedini and former CEO Donatella Treu. It is suspected that digital subscription data reported to tax authorities had been fudged. (See more about media in Italy here)

In his first editorial (March 15), Sr. Gentili seemed to conflate the state of Il Sole 24 Ore with the state of Italy. “No one has a magic wand. No easy solutions exist.” Italian employers association Confindustria principally owns Il Sole 24 Ore as well as business radio station Radio 24. Market-liberal Il Sole 24 Ore has been published since 1965. Confindustria agreed to make up to €30 million available for a yet to be announced recapitalization plan. Some Italian media watchers suggest “at least €100 million,” reported (March 16), might be necessary.

A few months ago French investment house Vivendi fled an agreed acquisition of pay-TV operator Mediaset Premium citing inaccuracies in financial and subscriber data.

Total eclipse of the news media
endless battle, not unwinnable

In August 1999 people across Europe and the Middle East witnessed a total eclipse of the sun. Slobodan Milosevic, then president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - then essentially Serbia and Macedonia, issued warnings through State media, telling people to stay indoors and draw their curtains due to certain risks of cardiac distress, elevated blood sugar and eye damage. Coming just a few weeks after NATO bombing of urban centers, people complied to the fullest. Streets were empty. Protests against the regime, gaining strength since the bombing, were effectively curtailed.

Serbian journalist Denis Kulundzija recalled this episode at a recent conference on fake news and the post-truth era to illustrate how “fabrication” isn’t new or news, reported news portal (March 6). “This pseudo information has nothing to do with journalism. People are left with the impression that they know something; that's nothing new. A spade should be called a spade. It’s fabrication.”

"Fake news can be anything from satire to the strategically made-up story that aims to trick someone,” said Zagreb, Croatia ad agency 404 director Nikola Vrdoljak. “I think fake news is nothing new but using such stories through new channels has allowed us different possibilities.” The conference was held at the Belgrade Parobrod cultural center March 3rd.

"We love to read what we like,” observed Belgrade news magazine Nedeljnik columnist Zeljko Pantelic. “If the news is bad about our political opponent or someone you do not love, we will believe it. Voters often behave as fans rather than as citizens.” During the US presidential campaign the usually reliable Nedeljnik was caught out after publishing a very fake email interview with, allegedly, a Trump campaign spokesperson. They were scammed. They apologized. (See more about media in Serbia here)

After news portal BuzzFeed reported (November 4, 2016) how teenagers in Macedonia were making spare cash writing and posting fake news favorable to Donald Trump, Skopja investigative journalist Sasha Cvetkovska took up the task of exposing the fakers. "Whether a teenager in Veles, or an authoritative government somewhere, the method to verify stays the same,” she said quoted by USA Today (February 27). “It looks like an endless battle, but I don’t really think it is unwinnable,”

Last November a special prosecutor opened an investigation into the Macedonian Security and Counterintelligence Administration wiretapping Ms Cvetkovska and Nova TV director Borjan Jovanovsk who were at the time investigation the secret service agency.

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