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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

Politicians ask public broadcasting chief about news, ratings
News reported “rigorously”

Responding to written questions from MPs, Spanish public broadcaster RTVE president Leopoldo Gonzalez-Echenique said news is reported “with rigor” and negative news about the government or the People's Party is not “silenced,” said Europa Press (April 24), which has access to the communication. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appointed Sr. Gonzalez-Echenique RTVE’s president in 2012. He had previously been in the hotel business.

Socialist Party MP Juan Luis Gordo asked why “news that irritates” the government is not reported or “slipped into the queue of 20 or 30 seconds… in favor of issues of little or no importance.”

Sr. Gonzalez-Echenique, in his response, rejected “the premise of the question.” News on RTVE channels, he said, is reported “rigorously” and not “politically manipulated.” (See more about media in Spain here

Another question referred to the January appointment of Luis Javier Alcalá as TVE news director. “The criteria… are the same as for all nominations: suitability and professionalism,” said Sr. Gonzalez-Echenique, noting that Sr. Alcalá had been head of news at public radio RNE “with success.” Sr. Alcalá, an RTVE lifer, replaced Cristina Ónega, who resigned after 18 months to take a PR job.

The politicians also asked about the TV ratings. Sr. Gonzalez-Echenique said he has had “no complaints.”

TV channel in trouble for reporting assassination attempt on news anchor
Spies not happy

Pakistan’s media regulator has formed a special committee at the request of the Defense Ministry to investigate a news report on Geo TV implying spy agency ISI had a hand in the assassination attempt on the channel’s top news anchor.  The Defense Ministry accuses Geo TV of “maligning” the spy agency and “harming the national interest,” reported Dawn (April 24). Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has “demanded” the station be closed.

Unidentified gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on the automobile driven by Geo TV news anchor Hamid Mir Saturday night (April 19). He was shot several times and has survived. Reporting the incident in its newscast, Geo TV interviewed Mr. Mir’s brother who called the ISI complicit in the attack. Privately owned Geo TV is the top rated television channel in Pakistan.

All things in Pakistan being complicated, media regulator Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) as currently assembled may be unable to take any action against Geo TV. The investigating committee will certainly perform its task, calling Geo TV executives answer. But Pemra cannot suspend or annul any broadcast license without a duly authorized chairperson.

Last December Pakistan’s president Mamnoon Hussain fired Chaudhry Rashid as Pemra chairperson and appointed somebody else. Mr. Rashid sued and was granted a stay against the removal but was eventually shown the door last week (April 17). He’s sued again, now for unlawful termination.

Not quite an earthquake, but audience shares shift
Rattle, rattle, hummm…

The picture painted by recently released Médiamétrie radio audience estimates for Il-de-France (IDF – greater Paris) is a bit of post-modern art. Hitherto indestructible RTL appears vulnerable, falling to 10.9% market share from 13.0% one year on. The legacy news talk channel remains number one in the IDF but by the thinnest margin. Public channel France Inter gained a full point to 10.8% market share.

Lagardère’s mostly talk channel Europe 1, having a very good year generally, posted 9.3% market share, up from 7.7% year on year. Rounding out the top four, all news or talk channels, is RMC, down to 6.8% market share from 7.8%. Fifth place is hit music channel NRJ, flashing forward to 6.1% market share and its best IDF showing in more than a decade from 5.0%. IDF audience estimates matter, as one executive one told me, because “there are five media buyers who control 90% of ad spending in France and they all live in Paris.” (See IDF audience share trend chart here)

France Info, the all-news channel of public broadcaster Radio France, held 6th place, increasing slightly to 4.2% market share. Local public channel FIP posted 1.9%, up from 1.4%. France Culture, France Musique and RFI were all down. Overall, the aggregate market share for Radio France channels was slightly off, 22.5% from 22.7%

Rap and hip-hop Skyrock, once in the IDF top five, continued sliding with 4.1% and 7th place from 4.8% year on year. Classical music channel Radio Classique, owned by Louis Vuitton and Les Echos, posted 3.7% market share, up slightly to 8th position. Cherie FM, part of NRJ Group, moved into 9th place with 3.2% market share.

Local stations on aggregate increased market share to 18.6% market share from 16.5%, with Radio Latina placing 10th overall. Tropiques FM had its best showing ever at 1.7% market share.

Twitter blocks accounts, avoids tax question
Now toeing the line

The online universe just doesn’t please everybody. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a bit of history last week as the first PM in Turkey to sue the government. Since December he’s made a name for himself as a crusader against the internet, ordering Twitter and YouTube blocked, which was overturned by Turkey’s Constitutional Court. And so, PM Erdogan filed a lawsuit against the court, which accepted the application. PM Erdogan also vowed to “go after” Twitter and other online portals for tax evasion. (See more on media in Turkey here)

Turkish President Abdullah Gül publicly opposed the Twitter and YouTube bans. International publisher association WAN-IFRA, in a letter to President Gül, urged him “to use his outspoken opposition to better protect digital liberties and freedom of expression in general.” Turkey remains one of the world’s most prolific jailers of media workers. (See WAN-IFRA statement here)

Twitter Global Public Policy chief Colin Crowell met with officials last week, acceding to Turkish demands for a personal audience. Twitter has about 12 million users in Turkey. After the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said “Twitter now toes the line,” in a press statement, quoted by Hurriyet Daily News (April 21). There was apparently no movement on either the tax question or suggestion that a Twitter office be opened in Turkey.(See more on social media here)

Twitter accounts were used to post indelicate audio recordings that suggested corrupt practices linked to PM Erdogan. He was not pleased and vowed to “wipe out” or “root out” Twitter, depending on translation from Turkish. The Twitter accounts in question have been blocked, reported Reuters (April 20), after last week’s court order and the meeting between Twitter and Turkish government officials.

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

TV news monitored for propaganda
Another country on edge

Moldova’s media regulator has begun monitoring rebroadcasts from Russian television channels. “Information programs” on PrimeTV, TV7, RTR Moldova, RenTV and Rossia 24 will be viewed for compliance with rules against propaganda, announced the Audiovisual Coordinating Council (CCA), reported by news portal (April 17). CCA president Marian Pocaznoi is asking the Moldovan parliament to revise the Broadcasting Code to “allow prompt action in case of violations.”

Earlier this month Moldovan MP Ana Gutu asked the CCA to take action as the information war intensifies. “Russian media channels indulge in aggressive propaganda by which public opinion is fed lies… to justify aggression in Ukraine,” she wrote, quoted by (April 1). “There is evidence that these channels are feeding biased information inciting separatism, ethnic hatred and war.” She asked that stations rebroadcasting Russian programs replace them with locally produced news and entertainment programs.

Moldovans have been on edge watching events in Ukraine as two semi-autonomous regions – Transdniester and Gagauzia – continue to push for separation from Moldova and alliance with the Russian Federation.

Broadcaster moves quickly into next phase
Employees get cake

The next board of directors meeting of Central European Media Enterprises (CME) will gather several new faces. A new chairman and three board members were appointed at a special general board meeting in Bermuda, where CME is tax domiciled, last week (April 14). The appointments follow the mid-March exit of company founder Ronald Lauder as non-executive chairman and board member.

Former Time Warner Cable COO John Billock was named non-executive chairman. The three new directors are Time Warner people: Gerhard Zeiler from Turner Broadcasting, Iris Knoblock from Warner Bros. France and Doug Shapiro from Time Warner. Time Warner has increased its shareholding in CME through several capital injections and holds a voting share of 49%. (See more about CME here)

Operating television channels – plus production houses and a few radio stations – in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia has been a challenge between recessions and digital transition, certainly not specific to CME. Finding a stable footing has been a struggle. Company CEO Adrian Sarbu was discharged last August and replaced by co-CEOs Michael Del Nin and Christoph Mainusch, both known as change agents with ties to Time Warner.

Country directors have been replaced, some managers and staff following. In Romania, where CME owns the Pro TV franchise, new director Aleksander Cesnavicius irritated the news department by taking up an office next to award winning news director Gabriela Popescu. More impolitic, last week, was informing staff members that the traditional Easter bonus, RON 500 (about €110), must be returned or it would be deducted from the next pay period, reported (April 17). Those who returned the money were given nice cakes. Some staff members responded by making equal donations to an orphanage.

Former CME board member Igor Kolomoisky made a bit of news in Ukraine this week. After being named governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Mr. Kolomoisky offered cash to pro-Russian militants in return for their guns and buildings seized. In 2007 Mr. Kolomoisky, a banker by trade, invested US$110 million in CME, brought along TV channel Studio 1+1 and took a board seat. He exited the CME board on acquiring 100% of the Ukraine broadcast assets in 2010.

Digital switch criteria almost met
Automobiles tough to crack

Digital radio of the DAB variety is “well on its way” to reaching the required 50% listening threshold triggering a shutdown of the FM platform for national and regional broadcasters,” said DAB support group Digital Radio Norge director Ole Jørgen Torvmark, in a statement quoted by Kampanje (April 11). The Norwegian government approved a switch-over from FM to DAB for all but local radio stations in 2017 if the threshold is met by next year. A TNS Gallup survey conducted between October 2013 and March 2014 for Digital Radio Norge indicated 45% of radio listeners using DAB receivers.

Public broadcaster NRK has led the DAB charge, adding coverage and channels. Commercial broadcasters have followed, clearly seeing the handwriting on the wall. Local radio stations will remain on the FM band regardless and, interestingly, newspaper groups have acquired several, clearly seeing the handwriting on the other wall. (See more on digital radio here)

Norway’s Culture Ministry set four basic requirements for DAB migration: national and regional commercial DAB coverage must reach 90% of the population, “digital radio services must represent added value to the public,” half of Norway’s radio listeners must be using DAB services daily and radio reception in automobiles must be “reasonable and technically satisfactory.” If all are in place, including the rather vague automobile reception requirement, Norway will be the first to, more or less, switch off FM.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File


week of April 21, 2014

In The Numbers

The Names In Spain Are On The Radio Large
you tell me Once upon a time, radio broadcasters could count on brand name benefit. Legacy brands have always held value through tough times and new entrants often adopted safe monikers, typically from a consultants list. Fast fragmenting tastes are giving music channels even more branding problems. Talk show hosts have become the new giants.

In Fit To Print

Less Is More Not A Media-Tech Concept
amish wagon Psychiatry often recommends the exercise of committing anxieties to writing. It offers to the therapist insight into the painful world of demons. To the patient it is release, desensitizing the fear. Affirmations, like ‘be happy’, work the same way.



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Public Broadcasting - Arguments, Battles and Changes – new

Public broadcasters have - mostly - thrown off the musty stain of State broadcasting. And audiences for public channels are growing. But arguments and battles with politicians, publishers and commercial broadcasters threatens more changes. The ftm Knowledge file examines all sides. 168 pages PDF (March 2014)

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Media in Romania and Moldova

The profile of Romania's media scene is complicated. Changes take place often as multi-national media houses exit and "colorful" local owners take over. Neighboring Moldova faces its own set of challenges. This ftm Knowledge file details the rough road to sustainable media. Includes updated Resources. 60 pages PDF (February 2014)

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Media in Bulgaria

Media in Bulgaria faces many challenges. After big media houses rushed in with EU accession recession, corruption and confusion have taken a toll. Yet the Bulgarian media landscape is unique and interesting. This ftm Knowledge file highlights the difficulties and opportunities. Includes updated Resources. 46 pages PDF (December 2013)

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Television News - Bright Lights, Big Coverage

The global reach of television news has never been greater. The digital age has expanded that reach to satellite channels and the Web but it has also forced television news to mature. This ftm Knowledge file shows the gains and the pains. 99 pages PDF (October 2013)

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Friday April 18, 2014
radio in Norway, digital radio, digital migration, NRK, radio in France, Médiamétrie, radio audience, Europe 1, RTL, France Inter, NRJ, Radio France

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