Consolidation has many faces and when it happens in Russia these days the face is one. Russian President Vladmir Putin, using Presidential Decree posted on the official presidential website (December 9), abolished State-owned news agency RIA Novosti and with it international broadcasting service Voice of Russia (VoR). Two weeks ago private broadcaster ProfMedia sold all radio and television assets to Gazprom Media, an off-shoot of State controlled energy conglomerate Gazprom. (See more on media in Russia here)
Created by the decree will be an “international news agency “ under the name Russia Today, conspicuously the name of the State funded international television channel that broadcasts in English, Spanish and Arabic. The decree also abolishes the State Television and Radio Fund, which finances Russian State Television and Radio Company (RTR), moving those assets to the other State news agency ITAR TASS. President Putin named RTR deputy director Dmitry Kiselev CEO of Russia Today. Provisions of the decree take effect immediately. Mr. Kiselev is well-known in Russia as a Channel One commentator with strong anti-gay and, recently, anti-Ukrainian views.
In an accompanying statement, President Putin’s chief-of-staff Sergei Ivanov explained the decision as “more efficient use of public funds allocated to State information sources, reducing rather than increasing their size.” Through a wide variety of agencies, the Russian Federation has funded a plethora of broadcasting and publishing outlets. “The world is not easy to explain,” added Mr. Ivanov, a former KGB general, quoted by Interfax (December 9).
RIA Novosti, the current agency formed shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, is generally well-regarded internationally for objective reporting. RIA Novosti employs about 2,300 people, 200 as photojournalists. The fate of editor-in-chief Svetlana Myronyuk is unclear.
Likewise the fate of Russia Today chief editor Margarita Simonyan, on the job since the international channel launched in 2005. Russia Today, the TV channel rebranded RT, co-locates with RIA Novosti in Moscow. ”I learned about it on the radio,” said Ms Simonyan, quoted by lenta.ru (December 9). RT is mostly known for its YouTube channel, filled with conspiracy theory fodder.
Nelson Mandela touched many and his passing offers a time for remembrance. International news media, with few exceptions, are devoting considerable time and space to reflect the deep sense of loss felt in much of the world. His struggle against apartheid and for a unified South Africa is a monumental legacy.
As South Africa’s president, Nelson Mandela was one of Africa’s first leaders to fully embrace the possibilities afforded by new media technologies. “As the information revolution gathers yet more pace and strikes deeper roots, it is already redefining our understanding of the world,” he said to ITU Telecom Africa in 1998. “Indeed, the speed of technological innovation could bring the ideal of the global village sooner than we thought possible. For the developing world, this brings both opportunity and challenge.” (See ITU statement here)
The ITU, like many international organizations, flies its flag at half-staff. (JMH)
State broadcaster bans foreign travel, including holidays protecting State secrets
Uzbekistan is not noted as a paragon of media freedom. Reporters Without Borders ranked it 164th in the 2013 Press Freedom Index, just between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Improvement is not expected.
Employees of State broadcaster National Television and Radio (MTRK) have been banned from all foreign travel, including holidays, reported Radio Liberty Uzbek service (December 4). The constraints are to prevent leaks of Uzbek State secrets. Fazliddin Khudoqulov, head of security, said anybody caught violating the ban will be dismissed.
Last year the State broadcasting chairman, Alisher Khodjaeva, banned employees from contact with representatives of international organizations, diplomats and, well, all foreigners. MTRK operates eight radio and television channels. (JMH)
Editing tune legitimate, dirty lyrics not “capacity to cause offense”
Playing an edited version of a tune placing second on the BBC Radio 1 Official Chart Show was “legitimate” ruled the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee following a complaint from the public. A mere seven seconds of “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” from the classic film Wizard of Oz was offered rather than the full 54 second version on the program in April, which included a newscasters explanation. The tune’s chart position coincided with the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a divisive figure in British culture.
The complaint submitted that the tune “was not political, did not contain a political message and did not refer to any individual” and playing the edited version was “a breach of the requirement for impartiality.” The tune “I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher” was played on the program without edit. Newly arrived BBC Director General Tony Hall intervened personally to prevent another political crisis.
“The song had become linked with a campaign in the wake of Lady Thatcher's death to display opposition to her premiership and did have the capacity to cause offence because it had been widely publicized as being a way of giving voice to anti-Thatcher feelings,” said a statement from the Editorial Standards Committee (December 3). “Although it was not linked with to any real person when written, the committee believed that the song had clearly and unarguably gained association with Lady Thatcher.”
Chart shows have been a fixture on radio stations since time immemorial. BBC Radio 1 has broadcast a singles chart show under various names since 1974. Since 2005 the Official Chart Show has included download data.
Also this week, UK regulator OFCOM determined digital station Karrang wrongly broadcast a Red Hot Chili Peppers tune replete with foul language. Station owner Bauer Media explained the error as a technical problem when music files were transferred from one server to another. But the regulators saw it differently as “seemingly no member of staff had been monitoring the output as broadcast and that consequently no apology for the language in the song had been broadcast at the time.” (JMH)
Data Plan Sours, Too Grand For Some
Data protection and privacy are certainly hot button issues. Revelations of big data scoop-ups by various governmental agencies abetted by big data scoopers have sent a wide variety of interested parties into a spin, all crying “there must be a law.” But, as legal things go, it’s difficult to find common ground.
Unease At Shameful Targeting Of Media Workers
Nothing shines the light better than pictures. Those who carry cameras into the places that need to be seen are the most vulnerable of all media workers. Their load is enormous, the job increasingly precarious. The bad guys target them.
Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in Media Rules & Rulers
The Mood Swings In Media Regulation
Regulation, more or less, is receiving considerable attention from media people. The dividing line is not simply between old and new media. But all media people, even where the heavy hand of regulation is the tradition, see that habits are changing and it is a race to keep up with it all.
Encore Une Fois - This Week Last Year in Sports & Media
Sports Should Be Done By People Who Can Do It
There is a vast difference between radio and television sports coverage. Some would say television gets all the pictures while radio gets all the talent. Sports on the radio will always be interesting to listeners and sponsors. What to do when the stadiums are quiet is a worry for another day.
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