The long drawn-out whistleblower case known as Luxleaks has come to a close with two former PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) auditors convicted of trade secret theft and given suspended sentences in a Luxembourg court, reported German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung (June 29). A free-lance TV reporter was acquitted. The Luxleaks data-dump revealed tax rate manipulation on an industrial scale facilitated by the Luxembourg government. (See more about investigative reporting here)
The two whistleblowers, Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, passed documents to reporter Edouard Perrin who released a TV documentary. The trove of documents was transmitted to news organizations, including Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Guardian and Le Monde and further through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Luxembourg prosecutors had asked for 18 month sentences plus fines. M.Deltour indicated his intention to appeal the conviction, reported AFP (June 29).
The Luxleaks revelations, from the documentary to worldwide newspaper headlines, predated the Panama Papers data-dump and opened wide the propriety - not to forget legality - of those with knowledge sharing with news organizations. Those most embarrassed maintain rights to trade secrets regardless of the public interest. Earlier this month a Geneva, Switzerland employee of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers tax dodging scandal, was “detained” by Swiss authorities but released after a week. The identity of the Panama Papers whistleblower remains unknown.
Big advertising holding company WPP is withdrawing its Kantar Media market and audience measurement subsidiary TNS from the Russian Federation, reports Russian business daily Vedomosti (June 27). A new law restricts foreign ownership of marketing services providers to 20%, in line with earlier limits on media operators. TNS Russia will be absorbed by State-owned Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM).
“One of our businesses there was expropriated last week,” wrote WPP chairman Martin Sorrell so social media without being further specific, noted the Times (UK) (June 28). TNS Russia has measured television viewing for several years as well as internet usage more recently. Several Russian sources indicated WPP decided to walk-away from TNS Russia completely rather than maintain a minority shareholding. (See more about media in Russia here)
This particular law on information services takes effect in January and requires State licensing of marketing and public opinion measurement services. Licenses will only be granted to enterprises at least 80% Russian owned. “We respect the State Duma’s decision and will explore ways to adhere to the law within the allotted time,” said a statement attributed to TNS Russia, quoted by Kommersant (June 26). “We believe audience measurement should be carried out by independent companies. It is impossible to be both a player and a judge.”
VCIOM has been around since the days of the USSR, mostly conducting academic studies. Organizational changes undertaken last April indicated a greater shift into media measurement forming VCIOM Media and indicating development of a TV meter. “VCIOM Media is challenged to become the country’s research leader,” said board chairman Konstantin Abramov, quoted by Kommersant (June 19). “About the measurement technology, we are silent.” He referred to the new law as “a pleasant coincidence.”
After considerable deliberation and analysis, Austrian media regulator KommAustria determined public broadcaster ORF’s radio content, overall, to be balanced. ORF offers two national FM channels, one quasi-national digital channel and 9 regional channels. The question was brought about by complaints by private-sector broadcasters three years ago and the same conclusion drawn.
Within the legal framework governing ORF all programming is divided into four categories: information, entertainment, culture and sports. Through the legal appeals process the Federal Administrative Court questioned KommAustria’s process for differentiating entertainment and culture. Judges poured over playlists for several months.
In the latest ruling, reported by derStandard and Horizont.at (June 28), KommAustria said, again, that ORF’s aggregate radio output – 57% entertainment, 23% culture, 19% information, 1% sports – is “proportionate” and “fulfills the order prescribed in the ORF Act.” The high percentage for entertainment is “not problematic” as “music is more entertainment than art.” The low percentage of sports programming is “not inappropriate,” said the report, because “sports coverage is simply not very attractive on the radio.” Really.
Private broadcasters have long been incensed by the audience reach and market shares of pop music channel Ö3, which sells ads. “That you can have entertainment at almost 60% of the overall program (output) is not balanced,” said private national pop music channel Kronehit managing director Ernst Swoboda, indicating another appeal would be forthcoming. He and other Austrian Private Broadcasters Association (VöP) members are lobbying for fundamental changes in the “too vague” ORF Act.
About a year ago Greek public broadcaster ERT returned to the airwaves. ERT’s closing in 2014 was unpopular, not only with employees, and became a point of serious contention with government leaders. Several radio services, notably for foreigners, remain closed or diminished, reported Greek media portal radiofono.gr (June 23).
International broadcaster Voice of Greece, on satellite and shortwave, targets Greek-speaking listeners only. Foreign language programs, which include news of Greece, are limited to one hour per day. The proposed multilingual ERT24 service never proceeded.
The ERT-funded Friendship channel in Athens, targeting immigrants, closed in 2015. Five years earlier the popular multilingual Athens International Radio, funded by the city of Athens, closed. A proposal by the ERT’s temporary predecessor NERIT to resurrect Athens International Radio was never acted on. Transmission facilities used by the Friendship channels were vandalized and the frequency is currently used by ERT Open, a station produced by former employees. (See more about media in Greece here)
Also gone is the ERT3 channel based in Greek Macedonia. It had targeted listeners in and from neighboring Western Balkans states.
While UK media watchers sit mostly with mouths agape at the uncertainty bestowed upon them following the referendum results last week indicating they’ll be out of the European Union (Brexit) sooner or later, those elsewhere in the world are studiously formulating their best guesses on future impact.
Polish media news portal wirtualnemedia.pl (June 27) reached out to several advertising and marketing analysts and their views, generally, are a grim assessment. “This is not good news for us,” said ad agency Group One CEO Marek Zoledziowski. “Fortunately, the world will not end because of Brexit.” There are, he added, “so many unknowns.” (See more about media in Poland here)
“The British decision has changed the entire world,” warned media buyer MullenLowe MediaHub managing director Ewa Goralska, “opting for a policy of economic isolation in the name of nationalism. This will put difficult challenges before the advertising market.” She expects “faltering purchasing power, changes in shopping preferences (and) falling consumer optimism.”
Marketing turmoil surrounding a likely BREXIT could hasten the shift in Poland to e-commerce as well-known portals “speed up the decision to enter our market,” said marketing professor Dariusz Jemielniak. Amazon, already established in Poland, can easily switch fulfillment centers to EU members France and Germany.
“For the Polish economy, the common EU economy is a great opportunity,” observed agency DDB&tribal managing partner Szymon Gutkowski. “The benefits of integration for the Polish market may be offset by losses resulting from one of the largest economies leaving the Union. If this disintegration trend grows, our GDr and advertising market will be plunged into stagnation. Traditional media will lose, new will gain, the sum will come out about zero. One thing is certain; uncertainty returns."
From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File
Slovakia and the Czech Republic are neighbors. Languages are similar. They were, indeed, the same country until 1993, peacefully dissolved. Both members of the European Union.
TV land in the two countries is also shared. Czech channels appear on Slovak cable and satellite services and vice versa. A Czech court decision earlier this month signaled, somewhat, a separation.
Czech cable operators may no longer distribute Slovak channel TV Markiza, announced the TV Nova press release (June 16). TV Markiza and Czech company TV Nova are owned by Central European Media Enterprises (CME). Czech cable operators were unaware of the court decision by early this week, reported Czech media portal radiotv.cz (June 21). And, too, the court decision applied only to distribution of TV Markiza within the Czech Republic. (See more about media in the Czech Republic here)
Several months ago CME launched Markiza International, intended to replace TV Markiza and sister channels in the Czech Republic, and Nova International to replace TV Nova and sister channels in Slovakia. That move was, quite simply, about distribution rights as well as holding onto the established brand names. (See more about media in Slovakia here)
Meanwhile, pay-TV operator UPC announced it is adding three channels in the JOJ family to its premium basic package and the Horizon Go mobile platform in Slovakia. UPC, owned by Liberty Global, is the biggest cable TV operator in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. TV JOJ was established in 2002 to compete with CME’s dominant reach in Slovakia.
Professional awards are incredibly important for those who toil in and out of studios near and far. The annual New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards never fails to single out the very best in radio magic. There are, naturally, many categories but storytelling is the thread running through them all. See the complete list here at New York Festivals.
The four Grand Awards were bestowed on Anglosphere producers. Independent Irish producer Athena Media was honored for the historical documentary The Kinder Letters broadcast on Newstalk 106-108. BBC Radio 4 received two Grand Awards for episodes of the documentary series A New Life In Europe. TBI Media and BBC Radio 2 took a Grand Award for the live entertainment program The Battle of Britain at 75. The BBC was named Broadcaster of the Year and TBI Media production company of the year.
Not a few of the programs selected for honor related stories of recent migrants to Europe. The special United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) gold award was presented to Austrian public broadcaster for Für ein Stück Glück (Train of Hope). The series, broadcast on ORF Radio 1, followed volunteers who assisted migrants arriving at the Vienna main train station last autumn. BBC Radio 4’s A New Life In Europe series about Syrian arrivals received the UNDPI bronze award.
Critical news media continues to vex authoritarian regimes. Jailing reporters and shuttering news outlets has become commonplace where “illiberal” leaders take threats, real and imagined, seriously. Sides have formed with news outlets in the middle.
Turkish authorities took into custody Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) representative Erol Onderoglu and two colleagues this week. They were charged with supplying “terrorist propaganda.” They had guest-edited recent editions of Kurdish magazine Ozgür Gündem. Forty of the magazine’s contributors “are under investigation,” said its attorney.
“Erol Onderoglu has fought tirelessly to defend persecuted journalists for the past 20 years,” said RSF Eastern Europe/Central Asia director Johann Bihr in a statement (June 20). “He is a leader in this field because of his honesty and integrity, which are recognized the world over. It says a lot about the decline in media freedom in Turkey that he is now also being targeted.” (See more about press/media freedom here)
This latest episode of contempt for alternate opinion “goes against Turkey’s commitment to respect fundamental rights, including freedom of media,” offered European Union (EU) foreign policy Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn in a statement. “The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, must aspire to the highest possible democratic standards and practices.” (See more about media in Turkey here)
None of this affects Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his followers, increasingly blunt with reporters shining an inconvenient light. Pro-government news outlets, notably newspapers Vatan and Milliyet, ignored this latest episode. Opposition news outlets, led by daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, expressed outrage… again.