UK

Facebook News Media: The Heroes and Zeros

One would expect the richer western newsrooms to be more agile in commanding online audiences; however, it is news outlets in less developed markets that are far more effective in capturing audiences on Facebook, according to our newly released in

Helena Bengtsson: Bringing People Back to Facts, Our Biggest Challenge

Interview with Helena Bengtsson of the Guardian in Britain, previously the database editor at Sveriges Television, Sweden’s national television broadcaster.
 
Helena Bengtsson is the editor of data projects at the Guardian newspaper in London, United Kingdom. She previously worked as the database editor at Sveriges Television, Sweden’s national television broadcaster. In 2006 and 2007, she was the database editor at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C. She has been awarded the Stora Journalistpriset (Great Journalism Award) in Sweden twice, in 2010 for Valpejl.se and in 2016 for Innovator of the Year.
 

Public Media Must Finally Change

Critics of taxpayer funding for public media are on the rise; and for good reason. It’s time for public media to take their audience seriously.
 
Sieglinde  Baumert, 46, from the small town of Geisa, in the German region of Thuringia, last year became the first person ever sent behind bars for failing to pay the license fee. This is a tax that all German households are obliged to pay to finance the country’s public service media, namely the TV channels ARD and ZDF, and the German radio.
 
Ms Baumert was sentenced to six months in prison. In April last year she was released from jail after two months, as the German public broadcaster dropped the case against her.
 
Increasingly, Germans are caterwauling about legal provisions forcing all households in Germany to pay €17.50 (US$21) a month to keep the country’s radio and TV in business. They say that they should be free to decide what media they want to fund. In 2015, the agency collecting the license fee in Germany issued over 25 million warnings to households who failed to pay this fee, an increase of about 20% compared to the previous year.
 
But Germany is not an isolated case. Controversies over the funding of public media are rife elsewhere.
 

Know the Power, Know the Media

Media and journalism are changing fast and so should the media research agenda.
 
Analyzing the role of social media in the recent elections in America, Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times on 16 November 2016 that widespread misinformation online was a “primary factor in the race’s outcome.”
 
I would add that some mainstream media have equally (if not more so) contributed to that outcome. Worse, some of them wholeheartedly embraced that role.
 
Audiences drawn by coverage of Donald Trump have just been good for the business of television. Mr Trump drove ratings up and with them ad sales. The head of CBS TV station, Les Moonves boasted last February that all that coverage of Mr Trump “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” On top of corporate dollars, CBS and other major TV channels pulled in hefty revenues from political advertising. The cost of the 2016 U.S. elections was expected to reach an unprecedented US$11.4bn in political advertising and media buying, a significant jump from the US$7bn in the 2012 elections, according to data from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) released earlier this year.

Is Donor Funding Bad for Journalism?

Funding from donors in the media has grown significantly during the past decade or so. Journalists welcome the charity. But when these awards come with editorial “advice”, we have a problem.
 
Thisisafrica.me is an online media outlet that brands itself as a “leading forum for African opinion, arts and music.” They cover a jumble of topics ranging from politics to corruption to sex and reproductive policies. The site publishes op-eds, interviews and investigations. Its journalism has been widely praised across the continent.
 
But in spite of its apparent popularity, Thisisafrica.me is in business mainly thanks to donor funding: cash doled out by foundations and deep-pocketed philanthropists. Without cash from donors, Thisisafrica.me wouldn’t exist. That is hardly surprising, especially on a continent ravaged by poverty where markets can rarely support high-quality journalism.
 
But over the past decade or so, as the internet and dwindling economies have clobbered mainstream media companies, funding independent journalism has become a major problem everywhere. Ad spend is down or spread to many more outlets than before. Newspaper circulations have dived. Journalists and media companies take funding from almost all kinds of givers, donors included. Even established media are increasingly resorting to private donors.

Sky News Report on Illegal Arms Trafficking in Romania: A Massive Journalistic Blunder?

Newly released information from the investigation in the case of Sky News report on illegal arms trafficking in Romania points to a massive journalistic flub. The “arms dealers” in the Sky News report were a TV employee and two hunters.
 
The Romanian Directorate for Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) made the first arrest in the case of illegal arms trafficking in Romania exposed by Britain’s TV news channel Sky News. He is Attila Szaba Pantics, one of the people who appeared in the Sky News’ video as a gun dealer. He is accused of “spreading false information.”
 
The other two Romanians who appeared in the Sky News report, Aurelian Mihai Szanto and Levente Pantics, are also under investigation. DIICOT’s officials also want to extend their accusations to the British journalists from Sky News who produced the report, according to the Romanian news agency Agerpres.
 

Sky News Investigative Report Turns out to Be Bogus

In a report aired last Sunday, British broadcaster Sky News claimed that "gun dealers in Romania are willing to sell illegal weapons to anyone, including terrorists." It turns out that the "gun dealers" who appeared on camera are a group of ordinary Romanians who were paid by journalists to pretend they were weapon sellers.
 
A recent investigation in Romania carried out by British journalists with the Sky News TV channel was deemed as fake by local authorities, according to the Romanian Directorate for Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT).
 
Following searches in the counties Bistrita Nasaud and Targu Mures, the Romanian antiterrorism inspectors found that the Sky’s report into gun dealers who illegally sell weapons in Romania was a setup devised by the Sky News journalists. The so-called gun dealers were paid to pretend on camera that they were selling guns, according to Euractiv.ro.
 

The BBC in the Dock Over Bias

Researchers point to clear and consistent bias on the main BBC bulletins in favor of critics of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn following a wave of shadow cabinet resignations after the UK decided to leave the EU.
 
The BBC, the U.K.’s flagship broadcaster, has been for decades a model of inspiration for other public media supporters across the globe. The public broadcaster was lauded for its governing structure, which prevented political interference, and for its funding model, which ensures stable, long-term financing. But above all, the BBC garnered kudos for its unbiased, objective, fact-anchored reporting – a paragon of independent journalism.
 
In recent years, however, the BBC has come under increased critical scrutiny for its slanted coverage. A recent study by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) and Birkbeck, University of London, browbeat the British broadcaster for its “consistent bias” against Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party.
 
The study’s findings are worrisome not so much because of the target of the bias, an opposition politician, but for how the BBC is performing its public service media role.

TV News Stations Are Now Old News

As massive batches of viewers, particularly young ones, give up watching traditional TV, the broadcasting business is rapidly crumbling. For television news stations, that is a very bad omen.
 
When direct-broadcast satellite provider Dish Network launched  Sling TV in February last year, it was eying those swathes of viewers able and willing to pay for television, but not the fat bill that pay-TV companies send their subscribers at the end of the month. For a monthly fee of US$20, Americans can access a bouquet of TV channels anywhere and on any device through Sling TV, including mobile devices and computers. They don’t have to install a hulking antenna or satellite dish on the roof of their house.
 
In mid-April 2016, Dish Network threatened that it would cut its viewers’ access to the cable channels operated by Viacom. Dish Network was reportedly irked by requests from Viacom for an unreasonable increase (“millions of dollars,” according to Dish Network) in fees for carrying Viacom-owned channels such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon in spite of the decreasing audiences of these channels. In the end, they reached a deal.
 
The Sling TV venture and Dish-Viacom tussle are more than business as usual. They epitomize the jouncy ride the television business is having these days; not only in rich markets like the U.S., but increasingly, everywhere. The reason: consumers, particularly ballooning young audiences, have stopped watching the television diet fed to them on TV sets.
 
That is good news for some of the fast-growing online video providers. But for the television news industry, it practically means its demise.

Asian Telcos, the Poorest at Reporting on Anti-corruption

Telecom behemoths drive technology advancement and help to grow the digital economy. But many of them have serious problems with reining in corruption. Asia leads in that category. 

Chang Xiaobing, the chairman of the telco China Telecommunications Corp (China Telecom), came under investigation last December under suspicion of serious disciplinary violations, which in the local legal lingo usually means corruption-related crimes. Mr Chang is the highest-ranking official from the country’s telecom industry to date being investigated for corruption.

But that was not the first corruption investigation case in the Chinese telecom sector. In November 2014, two top executives from China United Network Communications Group (China Unicom), the second largest telco in China by number of subscribers, came under investigation for a slew of legal violations.
 

The Most and Least Affordable Internet: From the U.K. to the Central African Republic

Journalists are now able to reach billions of people all over the world. But for many people in the global south, consuming their products is an extremely costly venture.
 
There has been no major journalism or media event in recent years without the word “digital” on the agenda. Digital gurus evangelize journalists about how easily they now can reach people anywhere in the world.
 
There is no doubt that journalistic content, bad or good, in today's age makes it to unknown corners of the world and reaches larger swathes of readership than ever before. And there is no doubt that the internet has hobbled vast parts of media industries.
 
But how many people can, in fact, surf the internet ad infinitum is a different story. The most connected people today are in places where journalism is facing the fewest problems (although it still goes through painful changes), and, ironically, they pay the least for their internet connection.
 
Elsewhere, the internet remains a significant cost for its users and in many countries in the global south it’s a luxury.
 

Public Service Media in Europe: Exit Through the Back Door?

Recent turbulence at the Polish public broadcaster was seen by some observers as another political football game. Public broadcasting will survive any market or policy changes, however tumultuous they are, they say. But Minna Aslama argues that public TV has fallen out of political favor in many countries now. Even well-established broadcasters in western countries are likely to be dramatically downsized.

Poland has been featured in global news in the past weeks. A controversial law was passed that allowed the replacement of the directors of Polish public TV and radio with political appointees.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) notes that this may well be the first step by the Polish government in curbing all free media and commercial outlets. CIMA also reminds us that just a few years before Poland, Hungarians witnessed a severe media crackdown.
 

How to Fight Abuses of Media Power in UK: Be the Media, Know the Media, Change the Media

We have more media, but only a few very powerful companies controlling them. Can anything be done against this hegemony? Professor Des Freedman offers a recipe: “Be the media, know the media, change the media.” He also calls on academics to come out of their ivory towers and join in the policy battles. 
 
“We’re facing a crisis at the heart of our media system – in other words with the dominant players across the media landscape – on many different levels: of funding, of ethics, of representation and of legitimacy,” Mr Freedman of Goldsmiths in London said at his inaugural lecture last Tuesday. The crisis is “the increasingly unequal distribution of resources in our media landscape.” Attention, audiences and agendas are dominated by a relatively small number of very powerful companies that all have close associations with the highest echelons in the political system, according to Mr Freedman.
 
 

European Audiovisual Groups Increase Their Market Share at Home

European broadcast groups are dwarfed by American ones on the global level. But at home, they enjoy a comfortable position. And they tend to further grow.

Growing media concentration continues to be a troubling global trend. Worldwide, the top 10 global media players, dominated by U.S. companies, control ever-larger swaths of the media landscape. This situation causes media scholars and activists to raise concerns about the impact on democracy when an ever-growing share of the global communications environment is controlled by fewer people.

News Corp, The Daily Mail and Trinity Mirror Control More Than 70% of British Newspapers

Many countries look at the U.K. for models when it comes to media. But is the U.K. market really a model? A new report shows the British media is in the hands of a few behemoths.

A new report published by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) shows that right across the board - from news websites to the press, TV channels to radio stations, search engines to mobile apps - the UK media is controlled by a handful of giant corporations. The MRC argues that the UK suffers from endemic levels of concentration in news and information markets, which threaten to choke democratic debate through unaccountable political influence and sheer lack of diversity.

Russia Today. What About Tomorrow?

Regulator rebukes RT channel. But does that really hurt them?

Images of people covered in blood, with gashes and burns on their bodies, standing or lying down on the floor. A voiceover commentary follows: “The British Broadcasting Corporation is accused of staging a chemical weapons attack.” This was part of the Truthseeker program that RT, formerly Russia Today, aired several times on 23 and 24 March 2014 in the U.K.