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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

All about the base, er, coverage
tunnels and vision

Supporters of DAB digital radio platform have lobbied long and hard for coverage competitive with FM distribution. Multiplexes offering digital radio - DAB in some countries, DAB+ in others and something altogether different in France - have sprung to life with a variety of radio channels, often changing. And, so, folks have been buying those digital radio receivers, more often for the kitchen, less often for the automobile.

DAB+ receiver sales in Switzerland hit 382 thousand in 2014 bringing the country's total digital radio receiver supply to 1.9 million, reported Zürich-based digital broadcast development consultancy MCDT (February 26), 250 thousand of which are in automobiles. DAB+ signals now cover 99% of the Swiss population, "the world's highest coverage, except for Denmark and the Netherlands." In the Swiss-German speaking region listeners can find about 60 DAB+ radio channels.

"Compared to FM and internet radio, DAB+ is democratic, economical and environmentally friendly," said MCDT, which has strong ties to Swiss public broadcaster SSR-SRG, a major financial supporter of DAB/DAB+ development. Swiss media regulator BAKOM recently indicated transition from FM to DAB+ platforms will take place around 2024. (See more about digital radio here)

Moving more quickly to digital radio transition are the Norwegians, all but local radio stations to vacate the FM band in 2017. The coverage requirements set out by broadcast and telecom regulator NKOM have been achieved. "If the other criteria are met, Norway is ready to turn off the FM band, as I see it," said executive director Torstein Olsen, quoted by Telemarksavisa (February 17). "The vast majority now have access to digital radio and it's time to also introduce modern technology for this media as wee did for TV in 2009."

The big sticking point remaining in Norway is, understandably, automobile access. Existing digital multiplexes are focused on urban areas highways, particularly highway tunnels, are dead-DAB spots. "Of course, we had hoped that the development went faster here," said Digital Radio Norge managing director Ole Jørgen Torvmark. "The State highways (department) said the tunnels, which currently have FM (repeaters), will be DAB-ready by 2017."

Young people aren't like old people
what to do?

German audience research institute released this week top line data on radio listening for the second half 2014. After a week's pause, the details will follow. Until then German broadcasters and certainly media buyers will feast on a significantly leaner market. Radio's daily reach fell by about a million listeners.

Among listeners most coveted by media buyers - 14 to 49 year olds - time spent listening Monday through Friday dropped by 11 minutes compared with the previous survey. Those under 29 years spent 15 minutes less with radio stations, 2 hours 6 minutes, compared with 30 to 50 year olds listening 3 hours 42 minutes. It's a pattern seen across Europe. (See more about radio audience here)

Young people typically resist just about every life pattern established by, well, older people. Forging their own way is, therefore, their way. None of this is new. Plato complained about it once upon a time.

Following the Radio MA 2015 I audience estimates detail by a week will be a new survey of internet listening, presumably where young people will be found.

News channel gets needed cash injection
"no comment"

Egyptian telecom billionaire Naguib Sawiris has acquired a majority stake in TV news company Euronews, first reported by Le Figaro (February 25). Euronews was formed in 1992 by a group of European public broadcasters, organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and funded in part by the European Commission (EC) to compete with CNN. Over these two decades Euronews, based in Lyon, has been through several changes in shareholding. Last year CEO Michael Peters enlisted investment bank Lazard to identify possible new investors.

Mr. Sawiris, founder of Orascom Telecom and investor in a variety of enterprises, is acquiring a 53% stake in Euronews for €35 million. Public statements, widely reported, indicate the European Commission has given its blessing so long as "European public interest is preserved" and editorial separation maintained. Ubiquitous in European hotel rooms, Euronews is best known, arguably, for its "No Comment" video segment. (See more about TV news here)

The standing of legacy shareholders is unclear. French public TV broadcaster France Televisions has been the largest stakeholder with 23% followed by Italian public broadcaster RAI (21%), Russian State broadcaster VGTRK (17%), Turkish public broadcaster TRT (15%) and Swiss public broadcaster SSR-SRG (9.9%). Neither the BBC nor German public broadcasting have participated. Ukraine's State broadcaster NTU walked away from its 1% stake in Euronews in January, reported Telekritika, for lack of ready cash as shareholders were asked to cover a €17 million short-fall.

Balance sheet fix in book publishing deal
authors write about bad marriage

Italian media house Arnoldo Mondadori Editore placed a non-binding €135 million bid to RCS Media Group for its book publishing division RCS Libri this past week. The bid was set to expire February 24th but has been extended by RCS CEO Pietro Scott Jovane and Mondadori chairman Ernesto Mauri until March 7th, reported (February 24). There are, obviously, a lot of details to be worked out, not least of which might be anti-trust questions as the acquisition would give Mondadori a 40% share of the Italian book publishing market.

The idea of Mondadori, principally controlled by the Berlusconi family, expanding its book publishing realm doesn't sit well with some. About fifty mostly Italian authors, led by Umberto Eco, took to the pages of Corriere della Sera (February 21) to beg "this marriage will not do." RCS Media Group continues to bleed from the balance sheet. Some observers expect the Mondadori bid to rise to €150 million. (See more about media in Italy here)

Big media houses consolidating - and others slimming - is always on somebody's radar. After 21st Century Fox, principally owned by the Murdoch family, failed to entice Time Warner last year media watchers made lists of other potential take-over targets. Moving to the top is Discovery Communications after the Australian Financial Review reported (February 23) that senior executives of both companies met in New York two weeks ago for "nascent" discussions.

Publishers appeal ownership rules, cite job losses
shutdowns possible

Foreign owners of media outlets in the Russian Federation have had since mid last year a sword dangling above their heads as a law coming into force at the beginning of 2016 will restrict foreign shareholding and editorial control. Several have now appealed directly to President Vladimir Putin for an extension, reports business news agency RBC (February 24). The law "On mass media" has been widely seen as a Russian response to Western sanctions.

The letter addressed to President Putin was undersigned by representatives of German publishers Hubert Burda Media, Bauer Media and Axel Springer as well as Sanoma (Finland), Bonnier Business Press (Sweden), Egmont (Denmark) and De Agostini (Italy), said RBC. The publishers argue that financial losses have been severe in recent months and should the law take effect many of their newspapers and magazines will simply close, media sector employment affected, including "paper manufacturing, printing, logistics, distribution, authors, photographers." (See more about media in Russia here)

Meanwhile, media regulator Roscomnadzor has granted US channel CNN "a new certificate of registration," said spokesperson Vadim Ampelonskij, reported Interfax (February 24). CNN, owned by Time Warner, abruptly ended distribution in Russia at the end of 2014 in response to the changes in the regulatory framework. CNN will now receive a "universal license" to "resume broadcasting in Russia."

More money for international broadcaster
"troubled times"

Between 150 and 200 employees of German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle DW) paraded through Bonn to protest assumed service cuts. The media workers carried signs noting their language specialties. "The regional competence of our employees from 60 nations is the unique selling proposition of Deutsche Welle," said works council spokesperson Daniel Scheschkewitz, quoted by agency DPA (February 23).

DW general director Peter Limbourg warned in December of peril to the broadcasters mission from better financed competitors. Alas, the German Finance Ministry came through with a bit more money for the 2016 budget. Herr Limbourg thanked "all political decision makers... understanding the importance of international broadcasting in politically troubled times," reported Die Welt (February 23). It seems all that need be mentioned is "Russia Today," the Russian Federation’s propaganda machine spreading wildly throughout the world. (See more about international broadcasting here)

In June DW will launch a dedicated English-language satellite TV channel, displeasing some employees because of the obvious mission shift. DW employs about three thousand full and part-timers in 30 countries. Its 2015 budget is about €270 million, roughly 15% lower than it was in 1998. The Finance Ministry sorted out an additional €12 million for 2016.

Digital subscriptions double with intelligent paywall
"no turning back"

The publishing world is easily divided between those in paywall-land and those swimming with the sharks in the free digital ocean. Paywall-land is also divided: the hard paywall castles and the softer metered communities. None of these business model decisions are without challenges.

Poland's Agora Group was an early adopter of a soft paywall for the online edition of newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. The company released positive fourth quarter 2014 financial detail last week, revenue up 11.1% over the same quarter 2013. Ad sales were up 5.3% and subscriptions up 12.7%. "At the end of 2014 the level of active digital subscriptions, higher than expected, confirms the right business model transformation choice," said company president Bartosz Hojka in a statement quoted by media portal (February 20).

Digital subscriptions to Gazeta Wyborcza more than doubled in a year to just under 55 thousand. Last year the rather strict metered paywall was dropped for an "intelligent paywall" that uses accumulated user data to "educate" readers about more customized options, not limited to pricing. Very few people, it was discovered in the user data, are interested in that unlimited subscription option until, it seems, a few movie or theater tickets are tossed in. Agora Group also owns a thriving ticket agency. (See more about media in Poland here)

"These results are, in a sense, a function of the publisher's education," said Dziennik Gazeta Prawna deputy chief editor Paul Nowacki, quoted by (February 23). "There's no turning back."

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

Media owners reveal true colors
"such is the human race"

If not exactly revelations, the coordinated publication and broadcast of the juicy SwissLeaks details at the beginning of last week caught many eyes and ears by surprise. Long sensitive to allegations of bank funny business, Swiss authorities quickly displayed that concern with an unannounced visit with investigators to the Geneva offices of HSBC private bank. "Based on information published in the press I decided to open a criminal investigation," said Geneva prosecutor Oliver Jornot to assembled journalists outside the bank's headquarters, quoted by Le Temps (February 18).

About 50 news organisations around the world published February 8th and 9th their pick of details gleaned from documents leaked by whistleblower Hervé Falciani, who Swiss authorities want to prosecute for data theft. Le Temps published SwissLeaks material in the Swiss-French region as did Le Matin Dimanche with Tages Anzeiger and SonntagsZeitung running the story on the Swiss-German side. Echoing the "nothing new here" sentiment of the Swiss Bankers Association, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), which did not participate in the SwissLeaks publication, said "amid all the outrage... all of the revelations are based on client data that was stolen in 2006 and 2007."

The SwissLeaks story certainly dominated, as intended, the news cycle as participating newspapers and broadcasters relished in out ting and commingling drug dealers, sports and pop stars, dictators as well as regular rich people. The Daily Telegraph in the UK was not part of the news media participants and, apparently, editors took lengths to minimize the exposure. "You needed a microscope to find the Telegraph coverage," wrote the newspaper's chief political correspondent Peter Oborne on the OpenDemocracy website (February 17) that included his resignation.

Fear of again losing the HSBC advertising account influenced editorial decisions, he said. HSBC stopped buying ads in the Telegraph for a year after rather unflattering coverage of the off-shore banking world. Telegraph Media Group is owned by the rather reclusive billionaire Barclay Brothers - David and Frederick - who also own and reside on one of the tax haven Channel Islands. "It has long been axiomatic in quality British journalism that the advertising department and editorial should be kept rigorously apart," wrote Mr. Oborne, perhaps rather naively. "There is a great deal of evidence that, at the Telegraph, this distinction has collapsed."

One day after SwissLeaks went global, a partner in Le Monde's ownership, Pierre Bergé, removed all doubt, as Mark Twain once observed. "It wasn't for this (the HSBC leaks) that I allowed them (Le Monde journalists) to gain their independence," he offered live on national radio channel RTL (February 10). Mark Twain, the nom de plume of Samuel Clemens, wrote for several newspapers.

Local broadcasters squeezed out in hazy license tender
spoils of war

Almost a year after the Russian Federation annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine the task of appropriating local media services is moving toward completion. Russian Federation media and telecom regulator Roskomnadzor put all Crimean privately owned radio broadcasting frequencies up for tender last December, closing applications at the end of January. Local radio broadcasters have protested, as much as they can, an "unfair" contest that benefits Russian companies.

"Crimean radio stations... consider unfair and wrong to hold a competition, which, in fact, will deprive us and our families of livelihoods," said five local Crimean radio broadcasters in a letter to Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin, quoted by Russian media portal (February 18). Under terms of the tender applicants must be registered to do business in the Russian Federation. The Roskomnadzor tender information referred to the frequencies as "vacant." (See more about media in Ukraine here)

Several Russian broadcasting companies, including European Media Group, express intention to operate or continue operation in the Crimea, incentive apparently beyond commercial consideration. "For us, it's not even an image project, but simply a patriotic duty," said Multimedia Holding (MMX) president Alexander Shkolnik. Ukrainian state radio and television channels were quickly appropriated by Russian state channels, including armed forces broadcasting service Star. (See more about media in Russia here)

The biggest privately owned Russian broadcasting company is, however, sitting this one out. "Development of regional broadcasting stations is conducted in accordance with business interests," said Gazprom-Media spokesperson Inna Moskaleva in a brief statement, quoted by RBC (February 18). Companies and individuals conducting business or having financial interests in the Crimea are subject to international sanctions.

Broadcasters resisting digital switch get switched off
"not in bad faith"

Transition from analogue to digital television has been accomplished and now, save discussions of SVoD (think Netflix), uncontroversial. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) set June of this year as a final final final deadline. After that truly ugly things could happen.

Three privately held TV broadcasters in Kenya - Citizen TV, NTV and KTN - held out shutting down analogue service until the last minute. Or, it seems, they held out a minute too long. Last Saturday night the country's media regulator shut-down analogue transmissions of three TV channels that own digital multiplex, Africa Digital Network (ADN), reported news portal (February 17). The broadcasters, thereafter, cut transmission through the digital multiplex.

Kenya's Communications Authority (CAK) originally fixed the end of June 2013 as a digital transition deadline. Several broadcaster groups went to court complaining of a number of issues from the government's awarding a digital multiplex license to a Chinese company to the high relative cost of set-top boxes that private broadcasters would be required to provide. Kenya's Supreme Court gave the broadcasters a one year plus three month rolling extension. Last Friday the Supreme Court told the broadcasters to get on with it or truly ugly things would happen. (See more about media in Africa here)

If the errant broadcasters fail to get with the digital program they could be forced to re-apply for licenses, said CAK director general Francis Wangusi to Capital FM (February 17). "When we move in to permanently shut them out then the country will know that we were not doing it in bad faith." The regulator suggests the broadcasters of trying to mount popular opinion after this week's analogue shut-down to gain even more time to comply with the deadline.

"Now they are inconsequential because Kenyans are continuing to watch TV, Kenyans are buying set-top boxes and therefore they have only one option, to come back to the digital platform," added Mr. Wangusi.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File

Week of February 23 2015

In The Numbers

A Pinch Here And A Pinch There
ouch!! It is a sign of the times that broadcasters, when faced with a restless audience and restive advertisers, struggle for balance. "Build an audience and the money will follow" rings hollow in the digital era, automated media buying only one challenge. Big media brands are at greatest risk because when money is scarce doing "more with less" pinches. And the audience notices, of course.

Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in Big Business

Old Dogs Don’t Need New Tricks, Young Ones Do
dog and laptop Video portal YouTube just had an anniversary. The undisputed global market leader is nine-years old, almost qualifying as an old dog in the media-tech world. What YouTube did for the web, it’s now doing for television. Competitors would like to breath the same air.


Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in The Numbers

Shuffling The News And Changing The Channel
those deck chairs The news is the news is turning. Privately-owned broadcasters are challenging public radio channels known for news and information. Public broadcasters – and the politicians who run them – are reading the ratings and do not like what they see. But changes are just so negotiable.


new ftm Knowledge

The Curtain Falls - Media Rises – new

This updated set of essays focuses on the dramatic changes in Europe's media that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain thereafter; Germany in 1989, new media rules,transition of State broadcasting to public broadcasting, refocus for international broadcasting, the rise of commercial broadcasting and the importance of youth culture. PDF (December 2014)

Order here

Media in the Baltics - New World Order

By the time Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the European Union they were known as the Baltic Tigers. The media sector grew spectacularly with big multi-nationals investing. Times have changed. This ftm Knowledge file reports the changes, new opportunities and lingering ghosts. 63 pages PDF (October 2014)

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The Privacy Issue

The privacy issue touches every aspect of media. From consumer protection and the rights of individuals to news coverage privacy is hotly debated. New media and old media stumble and the courts decide. ftm offers views from every side of the Privacy Issue. 68 pages. PDF (July 2014)

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