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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

TV evolves as the world keeps spinning
Back straight, eyes forward

Television people have been out in force for World TV Day trumpeting evolution. It’s true: despite the best efforts of the dark side to weight it down television still stands upright. We are, as occupants of this planet, fixed on TV.

“Television moves the world,” noted ProSiebenSat.1 Media SVP Annette Kümmel in a commemorative statement from German private broadcaster association VPRT. Everyday five and a half billion folks are in front of the screen, or many screens. For “diversity of opinion,” she said, it’s “priceless.” (See VPRT presser here – in German)

TV people are ever defensive about encroaching new media. TV watching has a new companion. “Multi-screening is becoming a mainstream activity in many countries,” observed commercial TV association ACT in its commemoration. As ad buyers consummate their love for mobile media, spurning all others, TV is still in the room. (See ACT presser here)

In earlier years television was called that “vast wasteland.” Media watchers around the world compiled great listicles this week enumerating TV’s greatest accomplishments and nearly all focused on seminal news events that drew people together in awe (the Apollo moon landing), horror (9/11) or hope (fall of the Berlin Wall). Several observers mentioned the 1960 televised Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates as bringing the democratic process into every living room. Now politicians present themselves on television braced by armies of media advisors. (See more about TV news here)

Speaking to the US National Association of Broadcasters in May 1961, barely six months after the aforementioned televised debates turned the course of a presidential campaign, Federal Communications Commissioner Newton Minnow attempted to rally the US TV industry to do better. “I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

And now we have smartphones, which apparently affect posture. Darwin’s theory still illuminates.

Broadcaster violated rules by airing presidential expletives
Push the button

The Czech public broadcaster has been warned of possibly violating the country’s media laws by broadcasting an interview with the country’s president in which he used “vulgar” language, said regulator Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (RRTV). President Milos Zeman appearing live for an interview program broadcast on public radio news channel CRo 1 November 2nd dashed off a few colorful terms disdainfully describing government employees and members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot. The regulator also sanctioned Czech public TV and privately owned TV Nova for using the juicy parts in a newscast. This could get messy.

“We don’t judge the President, only the content of the broadcast,” said RRTV Council president Ivan Krejci,” reported Czech news portal tyden.cz (November 19), noting “more than two hundred complaints.” Czech public radio (Cesky Rozhlas) officials have been asked to explain whether or not the radio interviewer had sufficient control over the program, which is mandated by the code of conduct within Czech media rules. The sanctions bring no specific penalty under current law but can affect licensing and, in the case of the public broadcaster, appointments to governing boards. Czech TV and TV Nova, said Mr. Krejci, “had the opportunity to prevent this occurrence… unlike the live broadcast.” (See more about press/media freedom here)

Czech Radio “is convinced” the episode does not break the code of conduct, said spokesperson Jiri Hosna. “We want to continue (the program) in the same format and believe that a similar situation will not be repeated.” Perhaps, they will be installing a 7 second delay and a bleep button. Imagine, if you will, the radio interviewer and, presumably, technicians charged with producing this live program at the moment the country’s president vocalizes the F-Bomb.

“I am amazed that the (RRTV) Council claims the right to judge what is and is not a vulgarism,” responded President Zeman, who was jeered by crowds in Prague this week at remembrance observations for the start of the Velvet Revolution.  Mr. Zeman has recently sided with riot police action against protesters in 1989.

Reach increases on TV and in English
“decision makers around the world”

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) will expand its profile with an English language TV channel next spring. The new channel, available online and by satellite, will contribute to the goal of increasing DW’s reach to “decision makers around the world,” indicated Director Peter Limbourg in a statement (November 17). DW currently offers audio and video content in 30 languages, largely online.

All of this takes money and DW is funded by the German government, not known for throwing large sums at anything. Director Limbourg is asking for a mere €10 million more for improvements to the Bonn and Berlin facilities. DW’s annual budget was recently increased, judiciously, to €280 million a year, slightly less than the BBC World Service (€305 million) and decidedly less than the €500 million and growing estimated annual budget of the notorious Russia Today operation. (See more about international broadcasting here)

International broadcasting, once suffering from inertia, has returned to favor as a tool of public diplomacy, on one hand, and propaganda, on the other. Influence is delivered on television and in the English language. The new DW English TV channels will operate 18 hours a day with half-hourly newscasts.

Search for buyers comes up empty, publisher shuts the door
Cosmo, of course, survives

Big Helsinki-based publishing group Sanoma Oyj is “discontinuing business operations in Ukraine,” said a short statement released through the Helsinki Stock Exchange (November 17). The company has published Ukrainian editions of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, National Geographic and others for several years. (See more about media in Ukraine here) Earlier this month Sanoma and German publisher Gruner+Jahr sold stakes in Croatian publishing house Adria Media Group, exiting the market.

The magazines and their respective websites will disappear in Ukraine after January editions. The exception is Ukrainian Cosmopolitan, which will be taken over by license holder Hearst through its Russian joint venture Hearst Shkulev Media. Sanoma management has been in consolidation mode for more than a year, concentration on publishing in Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as educational publishing.

The fate of Sanoma’s business in the Russian Federation remains in speculation following the oft reported new restrictions on foreign ownership. Hearst and Sanoma have jointly published the Russian edition of Cosmopolitan and, according to Russian business portal vedomosti.ru (November 17), are negotiating for Hearst to take it over. Sanoma, the Financial Times and Dow Jones (News Corporation) own Vedomosti, which will fall under the new Russian ownership restrictions at the end of 2015.

No welcome mat for radio outreach project
It’s gotta be a plot

That recent Russian Federation media outreach concept stubbed its toe just a week after propaganda boss Dmitry Kiselev announced its launch. This particular idea focuses on finding friends in former Soviet colonies and fellow travelers through broadcast radio and the internet called Radio Sputnik. All of this is under the Russia Today multimedia umbrella.

A bit of a problem arose this week with the Radio Sputnik program in Georgia. Shortly after the new program took to the FM airwaves in Tbilisi owners of R-Radio, which had brokered the time to Russia Today affiliate News Georgia, were informed by regulator National Telecommunications Commission of an “urgent” review, reported Radio Svoboda (RFE/RL) and RFI Russian (November 16). R-Radio’s owners “severed” the arrangement.

“We haven’t even had time to prepare one program about Georgian-Russian relations,” said a Tbilisi spokesperson for production house Studio Sputnik.

Mr. Kiselev indicated “30 hubs” would be eventually rolled out for Radio Sputnik, producing content in local languages distributed through FM affiliates and online distribution. Staffing has begun in the Serbian capital Belgrade and in Kazakhstan. The Russia Today (RT) television channels are well-known as outlets for various conspiracy theories.

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

Broadcasters flock to web, mobile apps
“tons of potential”

Once UK public broadcaster BBC put their Radioplayer on the market, it was only a matter of time before broadcasters in other countries seized the moment. Actually, it took about four years. But digital transition doesn’t come quickly.

Irish public and private broadcasters joined radio compatriots in Germany, Norway and Belgium to license the Radioplayer, which offers front-end, back-end and search technology. “This is a big step forward by our mature industry; bringing simplicity and variety to digital listeners on a strong, robust platform with tons of potential,” said RTÉ Radio operations director JP Coakley, quoted by Radio Today Ireland (November 11). The Irish version, smartphone app only, will offer 43 radio stations starting in December.

Of course, web aggregators for radio channels on the web are plentiful and not new. What excites broadcasters about proprietary, more or less, technology is control over the look and feel of it all plus, naturally, the advertising. In Germany private broadcasters licensed Radioplayer, perhaps available in November, with a bigger capacity for video. German public broadcasters have been “invited,” said FFH Radio CEO Hans-Dieter Hillmoth to radiozene.de (November 3). (See more about digital radio here)

The phones (or something more modern) must be ringing off the hook at Radioplayer Worldwide, the marketing company owned by the BBC and UK commercial broadcasters Bauer Media and Global Radio. Austrian private radio broadcasters Life Radio, Kronehit and Antenne Steiermark are preparing their own Radioplayer version for launch next year, said Kronehit managing director Ernst Swoboda to APA (November 11). Austrian public broadcaster ORF launched its Radiothek player earlier this year.

Big French broadcasters have also joined the online player ranks, their Direct Radio app is now functional, the website will certainly follow. NRJ Group, RTL France, Next RadioTV and Lagardére Active Radio emphatically resisted DAB digital radio development in France, preferring to follow the web. They have been joined in the Direct Radio venture by public broadcaster Radio France. The collective radio marketing association Les Indés, representing mostly local stations in France, popped with their Mur Du Son app in 2012.

Landmark restored, music plays
Endless project

The iconic Paris landmark Maison de la Radio has reopened after five years of renovation. In celebration, French public radio channels are offering three days of live music mostly but not entirely classical music. Two weeks ago a fire broke out on the building’s eighth floor in the midst of last minute preparations.

Arts channel France Musique get most of the attention, with live concerts in the new auditorium by the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra and the French National Orchestra throughout the weekend. The building’s main venues have been redesigned in hopes of better acoustics. Youth channel Le Mouv’, itself under renovation, will offer live DJ sets in the new atrium venue and staff from news channel France Info will demonstrate to children the fine art of live broadcasting. (See more about media in France here)

Maison de la Radio opened in 1963, dedicated by President Charles De Gaulle, after five years of construction to centralize French state broadcasting operations. By the first of the 1990’s the building was sorely in need of rehabilitation, not to forget asbestos removal. In 2003 Paris authorities deemed parts of the building unsafe. The total renovation cost has been about €585 million, noted Le Monde (November 3), almost as much as the Radio France annual budget.

Publisher sheds non-core assets, broadcaster consolidates
“faster pursuit”

Dow Jones will unplug its German-language Wall Street Journal Deutschland website at the end of the year, said WSJ editor-in-chief Gerard Baker in an internal email, quoted by DPA (November 13). WSJ Deutschland first appeared in 2012, mostly tucked behind a paywall. WSJ publisher Dow Jones is wholly owned by News Corporation.

Subscriber figures have never been shared but basic web traffic peaked at about 1 million in January and trickled lower since. By contrast, business-oriented Handelsblatt gets about 18 million visits a month to its web portal. The Turkish-language WSJ website will also disappear.

“It will come as no surprise that in order to do even more, we must do fewer things that are not core to our business so that we can move faster in pursuit of our goals,” said a separate memo from Dow Jones CEO William Lewis, quoted by mediabistro.com (November 13). Other Dow Jones products not in that “core” include the Sunday Journal, closing “in the coming months,” and the WSJ Radio Network, closing “at the end of the calendar year.” (See more about News Corporation here)

UK pay-TV company BSkyB, principally controlled by 21st Century Fox, completed acquisition of Sky Deutschland with the buy-out of almost all minority shareholders, reported the WSJ (November 12). BSkyB previously bought Sky Italia from 21st Century Fox as the company pools European pay-TV operations. BSkyB will now change its name to simply Sky. The Murdoch family principally controls both News Corporation and 21st Century Fox.

Automatons take over the ad business
Oh, how happy the media buyers

Big tech and big advertising are swimming closer and closer. Search and tech company Yahoo is acquiring programmatic ad platform BrightRoll for about US$ 640 million (about €515 million), reported Bloomberg and others (November 12). Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is using some of that cash on hand from the sale of part of its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. BrightRoll moves video ads on web and mobile platforms and it’s profitable.

Big ad holding company Publicis Group took a 20% stake in Israeli ad tech company Matomy Media in mid-October for about US$ 68 million then followed up by dropping a whopping US$ 3.7 billion for geeky tech solutions provider Sapient. Both deals were all-cash, Publicis Group having an unused pile after its merger attempt with Omnicom crashed. Digital advertising has never been hotter. (See more about digital advertising here)

Media buyers love programmatic ad platforms, big media buyers love them even more. Coupling the joys of big, smart data with clever ad placement, all accessible from a tablet or smartphone, media buyers can move ads all over the world in seconds, nanoseconds actually. In just one example, internet advertising for the first ten months in Sweden rose 22.9%, according to IRM data. The whole ad market rose 2.5%.

“This is most probably because of automated programmatic buying, which streamlines and targets digital communications,” said Swedish ad agency IUM COO Jochum Forsell, quoted by medievarlden.se (November 11). “Consequently, media buyer’s clients capitalize on automated buying greater than the rest of the market.”

Previous weeks complete Tickle File


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Friday November 21, 2014
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