If economics truly is that dismal science, media economics is just painful. When industry and government leaders plan and plot, failure is just around the corner, said Norwegian Business School BI Drammen professor Erik Wilberg to the MBL media conference last week in Drammen, Norway. “They are welcome in class.”
Dr. Wilberg took shots at both industry – “failed to keep up with the transition to the digital world” - and government – “mired in something that really no longer exists,” quoted by Kampanje (June 18). One simple example is tax policy. Newspapers in Norway are exempt from VAT (value added tax) while digital media are not.
“When someone comes and takes 25% of your revenue, the willingness to invest and, therefore, the ability to get good owners will fall,” he observed. “It is a major obstacle that has not occurred to those who talk about media diversity. Who the hell would buy a newspaper in Norway? Nobody wants that. A lack of good owners is part of the media economic reality.” Wilberg also mentioned that no European country has platform-neutral VAT.
By the way, Dr. Wilberg is a long-time ftm Member. You can join, too. Follow this link.
The digital dividend for most radio broadcasters has been slow in coming. In the most mature digital markets broadcasters are seeing a positive effect, however slight. Others are waiting and rather impatiently.
Poland’s public broadcaster Polskie Radio (PR) does have ambitious plans. “Everything has been long and very carefully planned and we are ready to implement it.” said PR digital director Krzysztof Luszczewski in an interview with wirtualnemedia.pl (June 18). “We are well prepared in terms of internal infrastructure. This work has been in progress for a long time, as early as last year we were planning for this test run at the Euro 2012 (football championships). The problem is, however, funding for the project.”
Polskie Radio was ready to go with digital radio last year, he said. The board, however, put that on hold until financing sources were clarified and regulator KRRiT took the same position. The Polish government is hesitant to invest in infrastructure when private sector broadcasters are resisting. (See more on digital radio here)
“We have certain responsibilities under the law including, among others, innovation,” he explained. “The whole is now digital, so we cannot say what we have now will last forever. There is no exemption. Unfortunately, however, this project is quite complicated and expensive. We are willing, of course, to take on the role of the leader.”
Mr. Luszczewski is mindful that private sector broadcasters prefer web distribution “completely different medium “ over DAB broadcasting. “Digital radio allows radio to remain radio, a medium for everyone. Radio is probably the most democratic medium. You can turn it on and listen regardless of financial status, place of residence and access to the internet.” (JMH)
News coverage inside Turkey of events and issues surrounding the Gisa Park protests over the last three weeks has concerned media watchers. Privately owned television channels avoided all controversy, preferring games shows, cooking shows and other light fare. While international channels – from CNN to BBC World Service – broadcast on-the-scene reports of water cannons, tear gas and riot police as well as a broad range of interviews, State broadcaster TRT, NTV and CNN Türk were conspicuously absent.
News channel NTV has since 2008 broadcast the Dunya Gundemi (World Agenda) program produced by BBC World Service Turkish service three times a week. When NTV refused to air the program, obviously laced with references to protests in Turkey, last Friday (June 14) BBC WS director Peter Horrocks “suspended cooperation with NTV with immediate effect.” NTV had previously given assurances that the programs would be broadcast. (See more on media in Turkey here)
Dogus Media Group CEO Cem Aydin told staff “critiques were largely justified” and “audiences felt betrayed,” quoted by gazeteciler.com (June 13). “I’m exhausted,” he said, announcing that he’d be taking a leave of absence, which media watchers in Turkey took as telegraphing a resignation. News outlets in Turkey have taken the hint and are covering the nationwide disruptions even as media regulator RTüK issued fines for “shocking” reports on opposition television channels.
The European Commission DG Enlargement will host in Brussels (June 20) the SpeakUP!2 conference focused on media freedom in the Western Balkans and Turkey. (JMH)
The saga of Greek public broadcaster ERT has continued into this week. The government of Prime Minister Samaras is saying very little publicly although several unconfirmed tidbits have surfaced. The ruling Greek political coalition is reportedly meeting but minority members – and the entire opposition – are staking out separate positions. (See a wrap-up of last week’s events and the broader impact here)
Late last week, widely reported, European Broadcasting Union (EBU) engineers strapped together a satellite link allowing some distribution of the main ERT news channel NET, largely outside Greece and Cyprus. A few stations in Greece - one owned by the Communist Party, another a municipal station and maybe another – began rebroadcasting NET programs produced by former ERT employees. According to an internal email reported by The Dawn (June 14) – which cannot be independently confirmed - Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is ready to revoke licenses of any broadcaster carrying the NET signal. A similar threat was directed at satellite operators. EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre urged the government to withdraw the threats (June 17) as “contrary to the offer… last Fridayby the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, to resume certain public news broadcasts.” (See EBU statement here)
Opposition party SYRIZA took its shot at the Samaras government. “Such practices are reminiscent of authoritarian regimes like (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan,” in a statement “What’s the next step for the Samaras government? Will they send prosecutors to the EBU as well as other stations abroad?”
Pressure to cut the satellite signal reached the diplomatic front, again reported by The Dawn, as a Greek diplomat in Israel contacted a senior executive at satellite operator RRSAT demanding the NET transmission be cut because ERT no longer exists. The satellite operator refused, deferring to the EBU, which has contracted for the satellite time. During a conference call Sunday (June 16) with EBU Director General Deltenre and President Jean-Paul Philippot – again, unconfirmed – Finance Minister Stournaras asked that the NET broadcasts be discontinued because of the “climate created.”
Over the weekend more details from leaked government memos suggest the proposed new Greek public broadcaster will appear in mid-July rather than September with between one and three TV channels and three national radio – news, sports and culture – operated by about 800 employees. (JMH)
From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File
As broadcasters reach for that digital dividend emerging strategies show attraction to the web, mobile media, second screens, games and, above all, keeping a sharp eye out for the next big thing. Modern Times Group (MTG) has launched its latest digital initiative, called MTGx, led by former Google Europe, Middle East and Africa product marketing chief Rikard Steiber as chief digital officer. Mr. Steiber met investors and analysts in Stockholm this week to lay out the plan.
MTGx will attempt to cover all the hot spots in the digital agenda. Xplay and Xventures will develop games and game distribution for the web and second screens. Xcreations will produce content for digital platforms as well as “extend the life cycle of traditional linear TV content, focusing on the digital environment and social media.” Xlabs will search for new digital stuff.
The digital dividend for MTG is “in the long term,” said Mr. Steiber, quoted by kampanje.com (June 13). “I also believe the world is moving towards the digital and if we can identify the new trends we are a ‘first mover’ who can profit from it.”
This is not a new MTG, said new CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindeman. “But I think it’s important that we explain the new things we’re doing and bring out the new faces who will deliver all the new things we’re talking about.” This week (June 12) MTG acquired UK distribution company Digital Rights Group, venture capital firm Ingenious Media Active Capital cashing out, and Norwegian video production house Novemberfilm. MTG also secured a free-to-air TV channel in Tanzania, the company’s second in Africa.
Traditional TV, free-to-air and pay channels, remains MTG’s focus, said Mr. Lindeman. “Many are still sitting at home on the couch. I don’t buy the premise that linear viewing is slowing.”
On the difference between working for Google and a broadcasting company, the question everybody wants to know, Mr. Steiber said, yes, it’s different. “Google is a wonderful organization with many young and talented people who will change the world. It’s very engineering-driven and centralized while, here, there are more people form media and content production and it’s also more locally driven.” (JMH)
Protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park have certainly distressed Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who warned via Twitter (noon local time June 13) that “police will continue doing their duty…to deal with the fringe terrorist groups.” Events of these tumultuous days have been covered the country’s media, finding it all difficult to ignore. That, too, has distressed Turkey’s government.
Media regulator RTüK levied fines against several television channels, reported Hurriyet (June 12), for “harming the physical, moral and mental development of children and young people” by offering live news coverage. Censured were Ulusal TV, Cem TV, EM TV and Halk TV, which has been covering the Istanbul protests 24/7. Halk TV has been linked financial to supporters of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and has been warned by the RTüK before. None of the fined channels are in the big leagues of Turkish media, which were rather slow to acknowledge the widespread protests.
“You have fined the media organizations that told the truth, “ tweeted Turkish members of international hacktivists Anonymous as they busted the RTüK website. “Now Anonymous is punishing you.” Turkish hacker RedHacker then busted websites of the Ankara police and the Istanbul governor’s office.
Alternative station not lost on design
Poster campaign wins award
A poster series designed for Czech public radio CRo channel Radio Wave was awarded the top prize for poster at the European Design Awards in Belgrade last weekend. It’s a smart looking series that rolled out last summer. The campaign also placed fifth overall for graphic design.
Czech artists Olga Benesov and Radek Sidun created the series, meant to give Radio Wave a new visual image. The design theme is used on posters for the channel’s music, personalities as well as sponsored events. Large format posters have been exhibited in Prague and Brno.
Radio Wave is CRo’s youth-oriented alternative music channel with a compliment of current affairs programming. It’s available on all the digital platforms. When launched in 2006 Radio Wave had an FM frequency in Prague. That was lost in 2008 when the Czech media regulator acceded to demands from commercial broadcasters and relegated Radio Wave to the digital platforms. CRo director at the time, Richard Medek, was less than supportive.
But Radio Wave’s particular style has held the interest of a certain listener segment. Current CRo director Peter Duhan seems more supportive and, at least, ordered up a very cool poster campaign. (JMH)