It’s time to start charging for that information super-highway, said Italian communications regulator Agcom president Marcello Cardani to Il Sole 24 Ore (May 28). Free access, “fine for the pioneering phase of the web, is no longer adequate.” Everyone should be paying, he seemed to say, from search engine Google to news consumers.
“We built highways on which trucks full of goods pass,” he explained. “What a utility generates has a construction cost. This cost must be passed on to those who take advantage.” How that redistribution should take place, he admitted, “I wouldn’t venture.”
"Online copyright is difficult to manage,” he continued.” Where the product is intangible, there is always tension in the assignment of rights. There must be a system that brings peace to the world of news. Currently, that system is not here.” The recent agreement between Google and some European publishers on a financial contribution “cannot be considered the definitive solution to the dispute.”
Another German court tossed a lawsuit against technology company Eyeo over its AdBlock Plus software. TV broadcasters RTL Group and ProSiebenSat1.Media complained that allowing consumers to block ads on its web portals endangers programming free-to-air (or stream). Eyeo’s “whitelisting” policy allowing online ads to pass through the screen for a price is even more irritating. The Munich commercial court shrugged, reported media portal wuv.de (May 26), calling Eyeo’s business “within the limits of fair competition.”
The court also said AdBlock Plus usage is too small, in the great scheme of things, to raise its ire. Instead, the judges offered advice to the broadcasters: up your game and give web users an option to opt-out. In April a Cologne court dismissed a similar lawsuit from Handelsblatt and Die Zeit Online against Eyeo over AdBlock Plus. Both RTL Group and ProSiebenSat1.Media indicated appeals would be forthcoming. (See more about media in Germany here)
Recent figures from the German advertising association ZAW showed TV advertising up 4% this year and online ads up 6.6%. The big difference is TV ads account for 28% of all German advertising with online ads but 8.7%. Advertising people, almost unanimously, favor ad blocking software as a means of limiting the public’s exposure to ads they hate.
It could be argued that no advance in technology has grown as fast as information and communication technologies - the ICTs. That includes the wheel. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) released is annual report on global ICT development, mindboggling what changes have come to pass in just 15 years.
Certainly adoption rates for all technologies have increased at staggering rates, largely because the means to communicate smarter, better, faster to the world has never been greater. Mobile technologies are a case in point: this year 69% of the world’s population will have access to 3G mobile broadband. In 2011 it was 45%. Across the globe there are more than 7 billion mobile service subscriptions. Fifteen years ago it was but 738 million. Among the 4 billion urban dwellers a staggering 89% will have 3G access. Catching up are the 3.4 billion living in rural areas, 29% with 3G access this year.
Internet penetration has reached 43% of everybody, from 6.5% in 2000. Household internet access is 46%. The ITU notes, however, the 4 billion people in developing countries remain without internet access and about 85% of those in Least Developed Countries do not use the internet. (See ITU presser here)
“These new figures not only show the rapid technological progress made to date, but also help us identify those being left behind in the fast-evolving digital economy, as well as the areas where ICT investment is needed most,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao in the statement.
His Holiness Pope Francis told Argentine newspaper La Voz del Pueblo (May 25) he’s never used the internet and stopped watching TV in 1990. Perhaps Secretary-General Zhao should ask for an audience.
Listeners to Denmark’s Radio24syvs were subjected to a show host either making a deep philosophical point or raising his social media profile. In any case, it was rude. During a Monday program host Asger Juhl took a nine-week old rabbit and broke its neck with a bicycle pump. An animal rights activist in the studio at the time could be heard screaming.
“We wanted to expose the hypocrisy that exists among many Danes,” he told tv2.com (May 25). “Danes eat meat every day but think it is a sin to kill animals. It simply makes no sense.” He went on to explain that a zookeeper had been consulted on the method as “each week they kill baby rabbits as food for snakes.”
In February 2014 a Copenhagen zoo caused considerable outrage by publicly slaughtering an 18-month old giraffe, complete with the butchering live-streamed. Social media erupted then as it has now. A Florida radio shock jock was indicted in 2001 for animal cruelty after presiding over the castration and slaughter of a boar live on-the-air. He was later acquitted.
Radio24syvs was created in 2010 as a semi-private news-talk alternative to Denmark’s public broadcaster DR. The non-commercial station is jointly owned by publisher Berlingske Media and advertising company People Group. It has struggled for both ratings and credibility. (See more about media in Denmark here)
Mr. Juhl took the dead rabbit home, he told TV2, and made stew.
Russian news outlets are often excoriated by Western reporters, analysts and others as under the thumb of an authoritarian regime, ample evidence cited. Critical voices are rarely heard, they say. There are exceptions.
“I’m still working, though after this speech perhaps not,” said renowned talk show host Vladimir Posner to a Russian Human Rights Council and Press Complaints Board conference, quoted by RBC (May 25). Mr. Posner hosts a talk show on State TV Channel One. As the Soviet Union crumbled he was often seen on Western TV news programs explaining events in a perfect New York accent. And, yes, his long career began with Radio Moscow.
“I am convinced that either the media are independent from the State and then the Fourth Estate or dependent on the State… becoming an instrument of State propaganda,” he offered. “It is enough to watch the news on Federal TV channels to know that they are all the same.” (See more about media in Russia here)
“Today in Russia you can count on one hand the real independent media.” Radio channel Ekho Moscvy, often praised by foreign observers, is “pseudo-independent,” he said. “We all know that 65% of that radio (channel) belongs to Gazprom-Media and we all know who owns that. Today there is no professional journalism in Russia, there are journalists.”
He added that the guest list for his television show is censored. “I know there are people that I cannot ask on the program although they are of great interest. I would have very much liked to invite (Boris) Nemtsov and asked many times. But now it just cannot be.” Activist Boris Nemtsov was murdered near Red Square in February.
It must be noted that several Russian news portals in addition to RBC reported Mr. Posner’s comments.
From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File
Big data leaks play a large role in news reporting, corruption and related tangles always headline and hashtag grabbing. Leakers become heros to many. News organizations stake their brands on comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, paraphrasing American editorialist Finley Peter Dunne in 1902.
In this post-modern, post-recession and purely digital age, afflicting the comfortable comes with a high price for publishers, reporters and editors, noted Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger (May 21). “The economics of the (newspaper) industry are changing and not many people are doing this kind of work. Local newspapers, they basically can’t fight. They basically can’t afford the cost of even a couple of solicitors’ letters.”
Not just local newspapers hear from the lawyers. Actor John Malkovich feels big French newspaper Le Monde “damaged his honor” by including his name in the list of 12,000 individuals who held accounts at HSBC and predecessor banks, the notorious “Swissleaks”, suggesting tax avoidance. A French lawyer representing Mr. Malkovich filed suit in a Paris court against Le Monde, and editor and two reporters, reported 20minutes.fr (May 21). Separately, Mr. Malkovich has asked the US Federal Court in New York to allow discovery of correspondence between television network CBS employees and Le Monde reporters.
Since the “Swissleaks” publication Le Monde has been in constant upheaval. Co-owner Pierre Bergé questioned, notoriously, the editorial decision: “Is it the role of a newspaper to throw the names of people out there? It wasn’t for this that I allowed them to gain their independence.” The editorial staff, who are allowed by statute decision making independence, indicated he should mind his own business and, more recently, rejected his preferred managing editor candidate.
As the “Swissleaks” story unfolded in February, Daily Telegraph (UK) chief political reporter Peter Oborne resigned in a fury saying Telegraph Media Group chief executive Murdoch MacLennan was “determined not to allow any criticism of the international bank,” posted to opendemocracy.com (February 17). “The Telegraph’s reporting only looked up when the story turned into claims that there might be questions about the tax affairs of people connected to the Labour party.” Daily Telegraph billionaire owners David and Frederick Barclay are long-term residents of Sark in the Channel Islands and Monaco, known for lenient tax haven laws.
UK media regulator OFCOM “carefully assessed” a public complaint that major commercial broadcaster Global Radio paused “Swissleaks” news coverage before concluding that no action would be taken, reported the Guardian (May 19). The company did confirm to the regulator that “it had advised all of its radio stations to drop the HSBC story.” Global Radio owns LBC London News among many others.
Ad forecast: could be good if bad things don’t happen
dependent on level playing field
Improving consumer sentiment will held the ad business will grow a bit this year, reported the German Advertising Federation (Zentralverband der deutschen Werbewirtschaft - ZAW) this week. Total ad spending should be €25.3 billion, roughly the same as 2014, said the forecast based on a survey of advertising people. Media advertising will increase 1% to €15.3 billion, roughly two-thirds of all ad spending. The monthly GfK German household confidence index for May reached its highest level since 2001.
Online advertising is taking an ever bigger piece of the action, forecast for €1.35 billion this year, up 6.6%. Television remains the biggest at €4.3 billion, rising 4%. Outdor advertising will also be up 4%, to just under a billion. Net ad revenue for newspapers will be €2.85 billion, dropping 2.8%. Slightly more than half of ZAW members (52%) expect no change in 2015 ad revenues, 31% expect more and 14% less.
There is, of course, turmoil. “Now more than ever companies encounter comprehensively informed customers,” said ZAW president Andreas Schubert in a statement. “The variety of information sources” has changed the way people hear and see advertising. “Different from the past, consumers have the possibility via social media to communicate directly with brands, companies or products.”
Private broadcasters association VPRT sorted the numbers a bit differently. Traditional TV advertising for 2015 should be up between 2% and 3% and online video ads, forecast for about €320 million, will rise between 25% and 30%. Add them together, as they did, shows video advertising at €4.715 billion this year. Traditional radio, under pressure from cheaper video ad rates, will fall 1.1% from 2014 but online audio advertising off-sets the expected loss. Trends, said VPRT spokesperson Frank Giersberg, “are subject to cyclical fluctuations… and remain highly dependent on a level playing field against global market participants.” (See VPRT statement here - in German)
Politicians might get in the way of the good times. “The fundamental concern is advertising regulation; competition and consumer protection less so,” said ZAW managing director Manfred Parteina. “Many politicians want to protect supposedly overtaxed citizens from themselves.”
“Unmotivated” management blamed for public broadcaster ills
“without meaningful future”
Government demands for cost cutting is not news to public broadcasters. When Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) Director General Radoslav Yankulov recently announced severe salary cuts the broadcaster’s staff - editorial, in particular - expressed themselves. “Where does the money go?” said a sign posted on a BNR headquarters door. They called for Mr. Yankulov’s resignation and the entire BNR Council.
“Beneath the surface of all this,” offered capital.bg media critic Vesislava Antonova (May 17), “the problems are much more serious.” BNR employs 1450 people and operates four national radio channels, seven regional channels and an international channel. “All this provides great opportunities for a larger audience and quality content, but only if (it) is well managed.” (See more about media in Bulgaria here)
“BNR seems like an archaic media without meaningful future,” observed Ms Antonova with typical blunt verbal instrument. Constant policy changes have led to institutional inertia not limited to management, which she called “unmotivated,” but also with the media regulator, which appoints upper management, and the Bulgarian government. “BNR has no long-term vision.”
In reply, Mr. Yankulov said the salary reductions will prevent cuts to non-labor costs. “As you can see, there are not many options that will not provoke discontent and tension.” The debate continues.