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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

Reporters have become slaves to social media
“gone too far”

Credibility is a sensitive issue with news media and journalists, at least it that’s the conventional belief. Sensationalism and opinion, however, sells. Examples could – and do – fill textbooks.

“It has never been considered appropriate that reporting includes commenting,” observed Norwegian Broadcasting Council chairman and former Norwegian Press Association president Per Edgar Kokkvold to dagen.no (July 22). Media critics in Norway have condemned in recent days reporters for Norwegian public broadcaster NRK and private channel TV2 for personal observations on social media regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. A CNN reporter covering Gaza conflict was “sent home” after posting a disparaging comment on Twitter about Israeli military units.

“Journalists are encouraged by editors to be active on social media,” he continued. “All editors now emphasize bi-directional communication with readers, listeners and viewers. In my opinion, this has gone too far. We have become slaves to the public, as dangerous as being slaves to the (political) parties.”

Those social media comments can affect credibility, he offered, “if journalists forget that they will be perceived as journalists as long as they are in the public domain, news people cannot opt out.”

Social media and tabloid newspapers scrape the bottom of the credibility barrel, in a survey of “public perceptions of impartiality and trustworthiness” of UK news providers, conducted in February by IPSOS Mori for the BBC and included in the BBC annual report, quoted by the Press Gazette (July 22). Major UK television channels, including the BBC, and the Financial Times led the public perception of trustworthiness.

Publisher invests in original idea, online opinion leader advertising
If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em

Social Hackers have become an investment opportunity for big Polish media house Agora Group.  Three-year old Social Hackers is a social media advertising optimizer, which means it helps folks get their messages on YouTube, blogs and such. It displays message effectiveness through the website hash.fm.

Agora Group has acquired 49.45% of Social Hackers in a share swap with an agreement to raise the stake if everything works out sometime in the future. “Social Hackers is an original idea, responding to changes in the media world in which opinion leaders are beginning to compete for the advertising budgets of large publishers,” explained Agora Internet director Pawel Wujec, in a statement. Agora Group publishes national daily Gazeta Wyborcza, many magazines and operates national and regional radio stations as well as a slew of related and unrelated internet portals. (See more about media in Poland here)

“Agora… is for us the ideal partner,” said Social Hackers founder Konrad Traczyk, who remains as managing director. The companies will remain in separate locations for obvious reasons.

Bankers and lawyers take control of newspapers
We’re having a crisis

The media sector in Croatia is in a fragile condition. The “collapse” of two newspaper publishers under questionable management and enormous debt leaves some media watchers questioning the sector’s survival. New owners, they say, are part of the same problem.

“The concentration of ownership, often extending beyond the media industry, makes the companies seem untouchable,” said Zagreb University professor Dean Duda to Deutsche Welle Croatian service (July 15). “The collapse of the media is a collapse in the media.” Everybody is to blame, he said, including “media workers carried away with their own importance.” (See more about media in Croatia here)

Banks, as chief creditors, have taken over; Hypo Alpe Adria Bank claimed 90% ownership of Europapress Holdings (EPH), Zagrebacka Banka swapped debt for 80% equity in Rijeka regional newspaper Novi list and associated newspapers owned by Albert Faggian. In June a district prosecutor’s office opened an investigation of Mr. Faggian and two associates in the publishing venture for “abuse of trust in business transactions,” known plainly as dicey dealings. Zagrebacka Banka, owned by UniCredit of Italy, said it has no intention of holding the newspaper publisher in the long term.

EPH owns newspapers Jutarnji list, Slobodna Dalmacija, Sportske novosti, magazines Globus and Gloriju and various related and unrelated online portals. German publisher WAZ Group had owned a 50% share in EPH, now reduced to 5%. Lawyer and serial investor Marijan Hanzekovic is attempting to acquire a majority interest in EPH from Hypo Alpe Adria Bank through his Euro Poticaji holding company, first announced in February. His law firm, Hanzekovic & Partners, is considered Croatia’s biggest, specializing in collections. One lucrative client has been Croatian public broadcaster HRT, which under current law can seize bank accounts for non-payment of the household license fee.

The Zagreb Commercial Court approved a settlement with debtors earlier this month. The Croatian Agency for Protection of Competition (AZTN) has called for public comments, reported Poslovni dnevnik (July 18). EPH founder and once 50% shareholder Ninoslav Pavic continues to hold 5% of the company.

“The ongoing crisis is the result of a combination of the contracted advertising market, reflecting the overall financial crisis, managers incapable of coping with new market circumstances and the public’s sagging trust in media stemming from the trivialization of content, as usual the last resort of print media managers with no vision,” wrote former president of the Croatian Association of Publishers Ante Gavranovic for the IREX 2104 MSI report.

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

Overpowering pirate broadcasts is expensive
No advertising from Morocco

Spain’s commercial broadcasters are still complaining about pirate stations. They’d still like the government to do something about what they estimate as three thousand unlicensed broadcasters. The illegals are causing, they say, a huge technical problem.

“We must demand from the public administration, once and for all, a ‘D-day’ for the closure of illegal broadcasting,” said commercial broadcaster’s association (AERC) president Javier Gonzalez at the close of the group’s general assembly, reported El Mundo. (July 15). “When we are surrounded by interfering illegal stations we, who are legal, must over-ride the signal so people can hear us. We pay our taxes. We give a lot to our workers.” (See more about media in Spain here)

It seems the big commercial channels have been boosting output power on their FM transmitters, which has led to hefty fines. “We have no interest in putting our signals into Morocco or Algeria,” explained Sr. Gonzalez. “There’s no advertising in these regions.”

Music and performance rights fees were also – as always – a point of contention. AERC members complained of “discriminatory treatment” from collecting agencies charging lower fees to public broadcasters.

Deal-flow in the post-modern age
Or just another “rosebud”

When it comes to headlines in the media world, nobody splashes bigger than Rupert Murdoch. The giga-billion bid by 21st Century Fox for Time Warner – rejected, so far – attracted considerable attention; financial analysts over the moon, media analysts slightly more muted and consumer advocates horrified. Should it succeed the Murdoch family would add a major Hollywood studio (Warner Bros), hugely successful TV network (HBO) and a huge stable of sports rights holdings to its already highly profitable business.

For institutional investors and other money people deal-flow in the media sector means more money in their pockets. Some noted – correctly – that consolidation in the distribution business – telecoms expanding into TV – is being met with consolidation in the content sector, each looking for leverage over the other. Media watchers hear echos of the News Corporation – before entertainment was split from newspapers – acquisition of Dow Jones; over-priced, value written-down, the Wall Street Journal considerably diminished. (See more on Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation here) Others see the crusade to acquire Time Warner as just another “rosebud” moment.

There’s no reason for Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes to sell, pressure from institutional investors looking for a cash-out notwithstanding. Time Warner is off-loading its cable business to Comcast, which gobbled up NBCUniversal creating a huge vertical and horizontal media business. (See IfM 2014 ranking of global media companies here) Time Warner is considered well-run and “disciplined” while the Murdoch family is mired in succession issues.

The European interest in all this, aside from long-standing attention to all things involving Rupert Murdoch, is the expressed intention of creating a Sky Europe pay-TV network, combining BSkyB in the UK and Ireland with Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia. BSkyB off-loaded its small but not insignificant stake in UK TV operator ITV this week to Liberty Global, owner of Virgin Media, suggested as a precursor to the creation of Sky Europe. Last year Time Warner took control of CME, the major television operator in Central and Eastern Europe. It’s another possibility for convergence.

As it usually happens, once institutional investors and their financial advisors start to smell money in the water the temperature rises considerably. Hints that Google, Apple or Amazon might bid for Time Warner to cement content strategies aren’t completely crazy. Maybe we can watch “Money Never Sleeps” on Netflix this afternoon.

Surge for contemporary music channels
Dearth for news

Portugal’s two biggest nation radio channels are only bigger, according to the March-June Bareme Radio/Marktest survey. Grupo Renascenca (R/Com) channels held aggregate market share leadership over Media Capital Radios (MCR) channels; 36.4% vs. 33.7%, respectively. Total weekly reach was unchanged year on year at 80.9%.

Radio Comercial (MCR) held the top position with 23.0%, up from 20.3% year on year. Second place, again, went to RFM (R/Com) with 21.2%, up from 17.8%. Both are contemporary music channels. (See Portugal national audience trend chart here)

General interest channel Radio Renascenca (R/Com) placed third, falling to 8.2% market share from 9.5% one year on. Pop/dance music channel Mega Hits (R/Com) added a full point, 4.3% market share and 6th place. Oldies music channel M80 (MCR) dropped to 5.4% market share from 6.7%.

Public general interest channel RTP Antena 1 held 4th place, off slightly to 6.7% market share. Contemporary/alternative music channel RTP Antena 3 dropped to 2.8% market share from 4.0%, not recovering from a format change last year.

News-talk channel TSF (Controlinveste) showed the biggest audience deficit, falling to 3.8% market share from 5.3% year on year but holding 7th place in the national rankings.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File


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week of July 21, 2014

In The Numbers

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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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Media in Greece, Cyprus and Macedonia

The Greek media world has been turned upside down in recent years. Financial constraints coupled with political confusion seem endless while digital media promises a new future. Media in Cyprus, largely tied to Greece, shows certain signs of stress while media in neighboring Macedonia remains under stress. This ftm Knowledge file explores the bright spots and all the rest. Includes updated Resources. 82 pages PDF (June 2014)

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Public Broadcasting - Arguments, Battles and Changes

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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