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The Tickle File
short takes on daily media news

From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File

If everybody agrees viewers will see Facebook ads on their TV sets
“herding cats”

Convergence happily described, last century, the great prospects for technology to disrupt and replace the inefficient with really cool stuff. It has moved at lightening speed. Through the gift of physics mobile technologies are converging with nearly everything. We have Facebook, ads on Facebook, Netflix, Uber and more.

Policy makers at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and European Commission (EC) saw this coming years ago and, with like minded around the world, studied how to grab hold of that lightening bolt and convert it to happiness. If not that, exactly, at least a gravitational force attracting money. Like everything else on our small planet there are constraints. Mobile technology can only fulfill its ever expanding promise by optimizing the radio frequency spectrum. For a more complete explanation visit your friendly neighborhood physicist.

EC digital everything commissioners Andrus Ansip and Günther Oettinger proposed this week moving digital terrestrial television (DTT) transmissions out of its home in the UHF spectrum so mobile telecoms can use it for 5G services like The Internet Of Things. European TV broadcasters will have four years to get out if their national governments all agree. This was already proposed several years ago by then EC Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, who once described getting all Member States to agree on anything as “like herding cats.”

“We cannot have high quality mobile internet for everything and for everyone everywhere unless we have modern infrastructure and modern rules,” said Commissioner Oettinger in a statement. “With this proposal we show that we can have both: a vibrant audiovisual sector as well as the spectrum we will need for 5G. The 700 MHz band will be ideal for new promising fields like connected driving and the Internet of Things. I want Europe to lead in 5G. That is why all Member States must act by 2020.“

Watching carefully all this, as it has for a decade, is the European Broadcasting Union, the association of European public broadcasters. They are “concerned.” DTT is the primary vehicle for TV watching in Europe. Viewers would need to upgrade receivers, again. Broadcasters, public and private, would need to upgrade transmitters and such.

“Broadcasters will need to make costly changes to their infrastructure,” accounted EBU chief EU lobbyist Nicola Frank in a statement. “Member States should clearly be able to provide for compensation for both consumers and broadcasters in order to cater for the investment needed to implement the change.” (See EBU presser here) The cost of it all could run to €4.4 billion, reported Les Echos (February 3).

“Orphaned” public broadcaster pleads for relief, sees “complete switch-off”
slowly drifting

Public broadcasting leaders in Bosnia - Herzegovina are warning that financial strain and government inaction could soon fade public broadcaster BHRT to black. License fee revenue collected through fixed-line telephone bills has fallen significantly as Bosnians cut the cord for mobile services, escaping the €3.8 monthly license fee. Ad spending in Bosnia - Herzegovina (BiH) fell 75% between 2008 and 2013, reported the South East European Media Observatory (SEEMO), and BHRT radio and TV channels are limited to six minutes per hour.

In the aftermath of the 1990’s Balkan Wars new public broadcasters were created to replace State broadcasting institutions. Ethnic, religious and political rivalries subsumed the region, horrifically, into a battleground. States that rose from the former Yugoslavia were persuaded as bullets and bombs, mostly, stopped flying to adopt the European public broadcasting model as a means of promoting national and European solidarity.

“Our situation is critical,” said Belmin Karamehmedovic, named BHRT general director last June, to Balkan Insights (February 3). “We cannot even pay our gas and electricity expenses, not to mention the €5 million that we should pay the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). It's a problem that has been going on for years.” Last May the EBU appealed to the BiH government for an “adequate funding model.”

After months of one austerity budget after another the BHRT management board indicated program output would be “gradually” reduced until a “complete switch-off”, reported Serbian news portal nezavisne.com (January 29).

“Everything is directed toward maintaining our basic function, which is the program, for which all this exists,” said Mr.Karamehmedovic to RFE/RL (January 29). “We work in one large building that was built over thirty years ago, which was badly damaged during the war. We still have some equipment in the building before the Winter Olympics of 1984. and continue to work with equipment that should be in a museum. The question is how much longer it can endure.

“We feel like an orphan, an unwanted child in this whole thing.”

Politician unloads in “media war” with billionaire
“expanded profile”

Observers of Hungarian media politic await each day another round in the slug-fest between billionaire Lajos Simicska and Prime Minister Viktor Orban. There is now a Budapest radio station in the mix, to be called Karc FM with Otto Gajdics as manager. He’d been manager at news-talk station Lanchid Radio, principally owned by Mr. Simicska. Last year he vacated that position along with Gabor Liszkay, editor-in-chief of daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet, also principally owned by Mr. Simicska, and various other executives for “reasons of conscience.”

Mr. Simicska's media holdings had been reliably supportive editorially of PM Orban and the Fidesz political party, to which Mr. Simicska contributed generously. The “bro-mance” ended with the imposition of a tax on advertising revenues, largely directed at television broadcaster RTL Klub, principally owned by RTL Group. Finding lawyers for RTL and Bertelsmann a bit overwhelming the ad tax law was withdrawn and replaced with another directed at all privately-owned media companies and somewhat less draconian. At about the same time PM Orban effectively moved moved the not-insubstantial government ad budgets from privately-owned media outlets to State-owned MTV. This did not please Mr. Simicska, who declared “total media war,” presumably directed at PM Orban. (See more about media in Hungary here)

There was also, not long ago, that tiff about Mr.Simicska’s outdoor advertising company Mahir Cityposter. It had a 25 year deal with the city of Budapest for some 600 installations. Last September the city cancelled the contract with Mahir Cityposter, several years early, and ordered all installations removed. When the city’s wrecking crews arrived in early January Mr. Simicska sent in security guards to provide a little distance. The police were called. All parties moved to court rooms, removal of the installations suspended.

Karc FM will occupy the Budapest frequency of NG 105.9, reported hvg.hu (January 29), once intended to be the radio adjunct of business newspaper Napi Gazdaság, which disappeared in August 2015. The vacated NG 105.9 frequency was transferred to Gabor Liszkay, who, with friends close to Fidesz, acquired the assets of Napi Gazdaság. Regulator NMHH (National Media and Infocommunications Authority) allowed an “expanded profile” for the station. It is expected, with the personnel and name changes, Karc FM will be reliably pro-government.

Previous weeks complete Tickle File


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week of February 8, 2016


In The Public Service

Creating A Path For Some By Spinning The Wind
top Media regulation changes most when money is the object. Politicians are predisposed to crunch numbers in favor of short-term gain, elections being the most obvious. Broadcasters must consider transmitters, salaries as well as paper clips, air conditioning and pensions. Pulling a string makes the top spin fast enough to overcome inertia. Direction is something else.The advertising people know this.

In The Numbers

Attention Is The Most Important Product
yum The digital tipping point has certainly arrived. Platforms are convenient and well in hand, literally and figuratively. While choices remain very traditional new offerings get a hearing, so to speak, from those looking for something new. And, as usual, people are paying attention. They always have.

Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in The Numbers

Young People Shake It Off, Broadcasters Persist
car seat kid Broadcasters have long counted on young people for energy, boundless curiosity and a weld to the future. Old people are set in their ways and, today, that means so very last century. Adapting to the "shake it off" set transfixed on smartphones is now elemental, surprisingly simple and a great comfort to those adept. Mass audiences are, some say, a thing of the past. Still those who count are still counting.

 

new ftm Knowledge

Streaming Everything – new

Great streams of media are flooding digital devices, faster and faster with each new G. Streaming audio and video are either the surfboard riding the digital wave or just another tech Titanic. As investors pile in the cash broadcasters experience another panic attack. This story's just beginning. 49 pages PDF (January 2016)

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Media in Poland – new

Poland is the largest media market of the newest EU Member States and the changes have often been surprising, sometimes radical and never ending. Publishers, broadcasters and new media are plentiful, talented and under constant stress not only from competitors. 122 pages PDF, includes updated Resources (January 2016)

Order here

 

We've Gone Mobile - And Nothing's The Same

Consumers have taken to smartphones in huge numbers. Competition among device makers, telecoms and content producers has created an insatiable demand. With so much volume markets are fragmenting... and nothing's the same. 152 pages PDF (August 2015)

Order here

 

The BBC

Few pure media brands transcend borders and boundries to acheive the iconic status of the BBC. The institution has come to define public service broadcasting. Yet missteps, errors and judgment questions fuel critics. The BBC battles those critics and competitors and, sometimes, itself. 155 pages PDF (August 2015)

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