succession trumps business
Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes was quite literally shown the door this week by Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox executive chairman. With most observers relating the ouster to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed earlier this month by a former Fox News show host and subsequent 21st Century Fox internal investigation, Mr. Ailes was finally done in by a corporate turf battle he could never win. It’s called succession and signs have been crystal clear for months if not years.
It is telling that Mr. Murdoch - The Elder - has taken over as chairman and acting CEO of Fox New and Fox Business channels. Employment contracts of several high profile Fox entertainers have clauses allowing exit with compensation if Mr. Ailes is no longer their boss. Mr. Murdoch, first and foremost, protects the family franchise; Fox News reportedly throwing off US$1.2 billion, about 20% of 21st Century Fox annual profits. Only a personal intervention from “the boss” would keep those big name show hosts in their seats and safely on message. (See more about Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation and 21st Century Fox here)
Roger Ailes understands television, most of all American television viewers. He learned this producing vacuous talk shows in the era when the head of the US broadcast regulator called the medium a “vast wasteland.” He went on to advise US presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan crafting their populist nativist messages and becoming a fixture among right-wing politicians. Mr. Ailes’ exit as former reality TV star Donald Trump pursues the US presidency is illuminating. One juicy rumor from Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff has Mr. Ailes becoming Mr. Trump’s campaign manager for the final rush to the November elections, quoted by the Hollywood Reporter (July 22).
But Mr. Murdoch, now 85, has been deeply embroiled in family issues. A year ago sons Lachlan and James were elevated to co-chairman of 21st Century Fox and company CEO, respectively. Neither have expressed any affection for Mr. Ailes; Lachlan steaming for a decade at being sidelined by Mr. Ailes and then COO Peter Chernin, James batting back Mr. Ailes’ insults. James fired Mr. Chernin in 2011. Daughter Elisabeth, who removed herself from the family business two years ago, was “ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’ horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standard.”
Nestled into the always stunning Riveria, corners carved from France and Italy, is Monaco. A new radio station, Radio Baikal, has gone on-the-air serving the Russian-speaking community. The program offers contemporary Russian and foreign tunes plus news and weather, according to a press release quoted by radioportal.ru (July 20). The radio station is named after Lake Baikal, a UNESCO world heritage site, located in southern Siberia.
Radio Baikal can be heard on two FM frequencies, DAB+ and a webstream handy for the smartphone set. The Principality of Monaco reported 535 residence card holders from the Russian Federation in 2015. That doesn’t include holiday-makers and, of course, those who park their boats. A Russian-language newspaper has been published in Monaco for several years.
One Radio Baikal’s FM frequencies had been used by MC 2, an Italian language channel part of the Radio Monte Carlo network, owned by Gruppo Finelco, recently absorbed by RadioMediaset. The other had been used by Paris-based Fréquence Jazz. Radio China International operates on FM in Monaco. Operating in several Russian cities is the unrelated radio channel Radio Monte Carlo.
A car bomb exploded early Wednesday morning in central Kiev killing prominent Ukrainian journalist Pavel Sheremet, a critic of nationalist paramilitary factions. He had worked for online news portal Ukrayinska Pravda since 2012 and hosted a morning talkshow on Radio Vesti since last September. He was reportedly driving an automobile belonging to Ukrayinska Pravda owner and co-founder Olena Prytula, who was not in the car at the time, to the radio studios.
A native of Belarus, Mr. Sheremet’s reporting career began at Belarusian State TV after which he became the Belarus bureau chief for Russian State TV ORT, now known at First Channel. He fled Belarus for Russia after threats and was given Russian citizenship. He left ORT in 2008 and began working for Russian TV channel REN TV and magazine Ogonek. He relocated to Kiev in 2011 after threats in Russia.
Investigators found traces of a home-made explosive device under the car’s driver seat. Bystanders attempted to extract the seriously injured Mr. Sheremet, reported TeleKritika (July 20). Emergency services arrived within five minutes but Mr. Sheremet succumbed en route to a medical facility.
Ukrainian authorities condemned the atrocity, promised a thorough investigation and, understandably, offered a range of possible culprits. “The investigation of this terrible murder will be as transparent as possible,” said Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, quoted by segodnya.ua (July 20). “It is a matter of our national honor.” Ms Prytula recently asked for police protection after threats. A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office said the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and EuroPol will assist local investigators. (See more about media in Ukraine here)
Friends and colleagues, there were many, expressed shock. “His tragic death came a a shock to all of us who read, watched or listened to Pavel,” said Amnesty International Moscow director Sergei Nikitin, quoted by Russian news agency RAI Novosti (July 20). “The death of a journalist is always shocking, killed for his work, his talent.”
Online news portal Ukrayinska Pravda has been central to investigative reporting in Ukraine since its founding in 2000 by Georgiy Gongadze. This has come with considerable pain. Shortly after founding the news portal Mr. Gongadze was murdered, several Interior Ministry officials were arrested five years later. An audio recording came to light implicating then President Leonid Kuchma in ordering the kidnapping of Mr. Gongadze.
Media watchers in Turkey and elsewhere carefully chose their words following last week’s failed coup attempt. Beating photojournalists and, rather theatrically, marching into television studios and newsrooms earned coup-plotters no support. One pro-government photojournalist was killed during the pandemonium. Thousands of alleged coup supporters have been rounded up. First they came for the soldiers, then the judges….
Turkey’s news media, leastwise that part not completely following a pro-government line, is preparing for its share of new institutional crackdowns. “We are going through one of the most difficult periods in the history of the Republic,” noted the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) in a statement. “Workers in critical media… helped to stop the coup by continuing to broadcast despite pressure and threats.” Inhibiting access to online news portals is censorship, it said. “The people's right to receive information and learn facts must not be hindered.”
"Like the rest of Turkish society, the leading news media demonstrated their commitment to democratic principles during the past night," said Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) director general Christophe Deloire in a statement. "It is time for the authorities to take note and to stop treating critical journalists as traitors and terrorists. Reinforcing national cohesion requires respect for basic freedoms including media freedom.” Just a month ago, RSF Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu was arrested and jailed for “terrorist propaganda.” In RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index Turkey ranked 151st, one notch below Tajikistan. (See more about media in Turkey here)
“The situation for media in general will get worse with even stronger power in the hands of (President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan,” said exiled Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar to Italian daily Corriere della Sera. Dozens of online news portals have been blocked, he said, confirmed by bianet.org (July 17). The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named him (July 18) for its 2016 International Press Freedom Award. Mr. Dündar was tried and convicted for being a member of a terrorist organization and revealing state secrets and currently at liberty pending appeals. President Erdogan said he’d pay “a heavy price.”
More secrets could be coming. Earlier this week Wikileaks announced it is preparing to release emails and documents, thousands of them, related to the failed coup plot. A few hours later the inscrutable leak publisher said its website “infrastructure is under sustained attack,” reported CNET (July 18).
Excited is Italian investor Urbano Cairo on taking control of RCS MediaGroup last week. When bidding came to a close Sr. Cairo became the single largest shareholder (48.8%) in the media house that legacy Italian industrialists either wanted to shed or had limited interest in taking on the challenge. RCS MediaGroup is invested across several media platforms, notably in Italy as publisher of daily newspaper Corriere della Sera and sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport.
RCS MediaGroup is “a company with great potential for too long unspoken, which should be developed as quickly as possible, not only with cost cutting but also with new business and getting the most from the current ones,” he said, quoted by news agency ANSA (July 18). Sr. Cairo launched the takeover bid of RCS MediaGroup in May. Cairo Communications acquired television channel La7 in 2013. Like everybody serious about being serious in Italian business he principally owns a football franchise – Torino Football Club. (See more about media in Italy here)
While Sr. Cairo was once Silvio Berlusconi’s deputy at Fininvest and formed advertising sales house Cairo Pubblicità 20 years ago, he is a relative newcomer to the wily Italian media business. It’s a trend seen recently in France, new proprietors shuffling the business cards, but hardly at all in Germany or the UK. The transaction will not be official until declarations by RCS MediaGroup’s board and the Cairo Communications board later this week.
From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File
The Dogan Medya Center near Istanbul was briefly visited early Saturday morning by several soldiers participating in the weekend coup attempt. The building is home to daily newspaper Hürriyet, Dogan News Agency and television channels CNNTürk and Kanal D, all owned by Dogan Media Group. The soldiers arrived by helicopter, according to CNNTürk news anchor Basak Sengül, quoted by bianet.org (July 16).
Media workers were directed to leave the building and all-news CNNTürk went dark at about 0330 local time. A large crowd unsympathetic to the attempted coup gathered outside the building, many entering the building with police officers. CNNTürk resumed news coverage after about an hour.
Unbeknown to the occupying soldiers the CNNTürk signal, dark in the traditional sense, was quite live on Facebook Live, crowd noises and gun shots but not much else. The decision to employ Facebook Live was made several hours earlier as the coup attempt became known. About half of Turks, 39 million, are daily Facebook users. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube appeared to be blocked for an hour or two in some areas, internet service generally slowed to a crawl. (See more about media in Turkey here)
State TV TRT’s Ankara facilities had been visited earlier. News reader Tijen Karakas was forced to read a statement at gunpoint. “Our hands were tied from behind,” she said, quoted by cumhuriyet.com.tr (July 16). The soldiers surrendered to police several hours later.
Turksat’s Ankara uplink was briefly occupied, shutting down satellite communications.
Italian national radio market leader RTL 102.5 has moved ever closer to 7 million daily listeners in the recently released GfK Eurisko Radiomonitor. Contemporary hit music channel RTL 102.5 has led the national radio ratings forever. Daily reach was up 3.8% to 6.996 million. The first half 2016 results showed overall daily listening up 1.9% year on year to 67.3% of the population.
Radio Deejay moved into 2nd place in the national survey, up 3.7% in daily reach to 4.849 million listeners. Radio 105 also moved up one spot to 3rd as RDS (Radio Dimensione Suono) dropped to 4th, daily reach off 3%. Radio Italia kept 5th place nationally, off 1.8% in daily reach.
Public broadcaster RAI held 6th and 7th places with general interest RadioUno and contemporary RadioDue, respectively. Neither channel budged much in the daily reach figures. Culture channel RadioTre, by contrast, gained 3.3% in daily reach year on year, ranking 15th in the national survey. Traffic and weather information channel RAI Isoradio dropped 14% in daily reach.
Rock music channel Virgin Radio Italia was up slightly in daily reach for 8th position. All-news Radio 24 broke the 2 million (2.011 million) daily listeners mark for the first time and held 9th place. Dance music channel Radio Kiss Kiss was up 8.5% in daily reach (1.991 million) one year on for the 10th spot. (See updated GfK Radio Monitor figures in Italy – Radio Broadcasting here)
Bubbling under the top ten R101 and regional general interest channel Radio Subasio made notable gains in daily reach, “infotainment” Radio Capital was unchanged and dance music channel m20 was pounded with a 7.5% loss. R101 is part of the newly formed RadioMediaset that combines radio holdings of Mondadori with Gruppo Finelco’s Radio Monte Carlo (RMC). Radio Capital, m2o and Radio DeeJay are owned by major Italian media house Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso. (See more about media in Italy here)
Quasi-national sports-talk channel Radio Sportiva jumped 26% in daily reach year on year to just short of the magic million listeners (988,000). The channel is part of Media Hit, operator of several local stations. principally owned by Loriano Bessi. Radio Sportiva holds Series A, Series B and Lega Pro football rights. It was launched in 2010 and is, surprisingly, the only privately-owned all-sports radio channel in Italy.
Also make notable gains was Radio Zeta L’Italiana, daily reach up nearly 12% one year on and pushing toward that million listener benchmark (832,000). Over the course of the last year the station evolved, in name at least, from regional station RTL L’Italiana to Radio Zeta to Radio Zeta L’Italiana. FM distribution expanded, first through a frequency sharing plan with RTL 102.5, which acquired the station in October 2015, then two smaller stations after a failed attempt to buy national channel R101 from Mondadori, now RadioMediaset. RTL 102.5 president and principal shareholder Lorenzo Suraci is Radio Zeta L’Italiana’s artistic director.