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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 January 29, 2018

Change of heart - or something - keeps TV trained on dictator
about communicating

The Polish Foreign Affairs Ministry has extended financial support of Belsat TV, a satellite television channel broadcasting to Belarus, announced station director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy, quoted by (January 31). Through last year questions were raised within the Polish government about costs of the service. The PLN 20 million (€4.8 million) stipend is earmarked for continuing operations through 2018.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry, largely, and state broadcaster TVP has financed and operated Belsat TV for ten years. BBC Russian service will provide assistance and programming to Belsat TV operations. Separately, Polish and UK governments jointly contribute to “projects fighting Russian disinformation,” some of which flows to Belsat TV. US-funded Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) contributes to Belsat TV’s online presence. Belarus sits on Poland’s eastern border.

At the first of this year Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski, interviewed on RFM FM (January 2), said Belsat TV would close. “Money is needed to help Syrian refugees. We will broadcast in Polish, because it is about Poles in the East, and not communicating with Belarusians.” Minister Waszczykowski was dismissed by newly named prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki a week later.

Belarusian authorities have never been happy with Belsat TV’s intrusion in its tightly held media space. Belsat TV staff working in the country have been fined for “illegal manufacture of media products.” A slight warming of relations in 2016 allowed some Belsat TV employees to work in Belarus as employees of TVP. The Belarusian Association of Journalists reported (February 1) 69 journalists fined for “cooperation with foreign media without accreditation” in 2017 and two so far this year. (See more about media in Belarus here)

Attempts to register Belsat TV with the Belarusian Foreign Ministry have been rejected. A trademark was registered in Belarus by a Belarusian person and that has allowed authorities to continue to harass Belsat TV staff for trademark infringement. But last March Belarusian authorities seized and confiscated equipment from the Belsat TV offices in Minsk. The broadcaster has registered a trademark and internet domain name in Poland.

Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with help from other countries, also funds Belarusian-language Radyio Racyja, which broadcasts on FM from Polish territory neighboring Belarus.

TV disconnected before political rally
no news is no news

In our world of reality TV politicians and news that is fake except when it isn’t, TV news producers rally to each and every bit of street theater. So it was in Kenya when a presidential candidate who didn’t win staged a swearing-in ceremony. A few thousand supporters showed up for the twenty minute episode, slightly longer than the Warhol rule of fame.

But TV broadcasters were shut out. The Communications Authority of Kenya “disconnected” several privately owned TV and radio channels, reported The Standard (Kenya) (January 30). “There has been no official communication as to why this action was taken,” said Royal Media Services managing director Wachira Waruru. “We hope to resume normal transmission as soon as possible. “ Royal Media Services owns Citizen TV and Inooro TV. NTV and KNT TV were also cut off. Local reports, including Daily Nation (January 30), said broadcasters were called to a meeting last week when government officials “expressly threatened to shut down and revoke the licences of any media house that would broadcast live the planned purported swearing-in.” (See more about media in Africa here)

Raila Odinga lost to Uhuru Kenyatta last year in a widely criticized presidential election process, run twice. He arrived to cheering supporters in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park at 2:30, was given the oath as “president of the people,” gave a short speech and exited by 2:50. The current government declared Mr. Odinga’s political movement an “organized criminal group” and referred to the ceremony as “treason,” reported the BBC (January 30). Kenyans remain deeply divided.

The Kenyan constitution protects press freedom and freedom of expression. That has been severely tested in recent years.

All the heat in sports moving behind the pay-wall
"serious fans"

Motorheads are scratching their carburators over where they will be watching Formula 1 (F1) races live. F1s principal owner Liberty Media has been reported planning its own streaming service for the 2018 season; one free-to-access, another behind a pay-wall for “serious fans.” Fortunate for UK racing fans seeking respite from Brexit complications, Sky Sports (UK) is taking exclusive F1 rights after Channel 4 was excluded.

For Italian zoom fans the destination will almost certainly be pay-TV. Negotiations with public broadcaster RAI crashed. Sky Italia will broadcast four races live on its free-to-air channel TV8, the rest delayed, for the next three seasons. Dedicated pay-TV channel Sky Sport F1 will show the entire three seasons live, reported La Repubblica (January 26). There will be streaming on Sky Go. RAI, which has broadcast F1 free-to-air in Italy for years, will carry only Monza.

Sky Deutschland came up short for German F1 rights leaving a clear course to RTL through the 2020 season. Sky Deutschland preferred not sharing with free-to-air RTL. Then, too, Sky is paying a fortune for Bundesliga football rights. (See more about sports and media here)

“We have made Formula 1 big here,” said RTL managing director Frank Hoffmann to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (December 20, 2017). “It’s thrilled an audience of millions and has become an important building block."

Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland are wholly owned by Sky plc, which is, so far, principally controlled by 21st Century Fox. After Liberty Media acquired controlling interest in Formula 1, former 21st Century Fox COO Chase Carey was recruited as chief executive.

To the joy of motorheads everywhere, BBC produced Top Gear is beginning its 25th season, third without former star host Jeremy Clarkson. The Amazon Prime produced The Grand Tour, staring Mr. Clarkson, has run two seasons.

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