Media Beat: November 25, 2021

Media Beat: November 25, 2021

By David Farrell

Global News to take a $13M hit If the Rogers-Shaw merger goes ahead

Rogers, which is seeking approval of the transaction from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and other government bodies, has said it plans to redirect funding that Calgary-based Shaw currently provides to Global — about $13 million in 2020 — to its own broadcaster, Citytv.

It’s a tiny slice of the $26-billion deal, but a big chunk of Global News’s annual budget of about $138 million in 2020, and some intervenors at this week’s CRTC hearing on the merger say Rogers should be held to account for the negative consequences of more consolidation in the communications industry. – Christine Dobby, The Star


Is the Rogers-Shaw deal good for Canadians?

Rogers has 2.6 million TV customers. Shaw has two million. Bell has 2.7 million and Telus 1.2 million. The combined Rogers-Shaw would vault to No. 1, but the competitive dynamic for TV customers wouldn’t be all that much changed – although there is a question for the CRTC about whether Rogers-Shaw would have too much sway over content.

The biggest issue in the merger is the mobile phone business. It is a principal focus of the two other major reviews: the Competition Bureau is one; Ottawa’s Ministry of Innovation the other. The latter will weigh the transfer of spectrum licences from Shaw to Rogers. Such acreage, the airwaves over which wireless services are transmitted, is the currency of the mobile phone realm. – The Globe and Mail Editorial Board

Rogers looks to cash in on Blue Jays to pay down company debt ahead of Shaw deal

Rogers Communications Inc. is considering selling some of its stake in the Toronto Blue Jays and the team’s stadium, as the telecom and media company puts a priority on paying down debt under its new interim chief executive, Tony Staffieri.

In early November, then-CEO Joe Natale told investors that Rogers was looking at ways to “monetize” its stake in the Major League Baseball team and its home, the Rogers Centre. – Andrew Willis, The Globe and Mail


Edward Rogers won the war — but that victory may still cost his company dearly

The decision by Rogers Communications Inc. to not appeal a court decision last week handed company chair Edward Rogers a decisive victory in his battle for control of the telecom company that bears his family name.

Long-simmering tensions at the family-run company spilled out into the open last month, giving ordinary Canadians an unprecedented glimpse into the behind-the-scenes details at play with the powerful family.

While the ruling handed the keys of the castle to Edward Rogers for the foreseeable future, the costs associated with his win may make for a pyrrhic victory — making it even harder for him to fix the mismanagement and stock underperformance that he says has plagued the company for years.

The legal costs of the fight alone are not insignificant. – Pete Evans, CBC News

Bell Media layoffs

Bell Media undertook another round of layoffs on Nov. 17 that appears to be focused on its Ontario radio stations.

Among those caught up in this latest round are longtime Newstalk 1010 (CFRB-AM) Program Director Mike Bendixen, who also held the role of National Format Director, News & Talk Programming. Bendixen, who started his career with CFRB in 1998, had been in his current role for the last 12 years. He’ll reportedly be replaced by TSN 1050 (CHUM-AM) Program Director Jeff MacDonald, who will do double duty for both stations going forward. MacDonald has been with TSN for the last seven and a half years. – Connie Thiessen, Broadcast Dialogue


B.C. flooding: Anatomy of a TV news story

As a TV news crew, some days are better than others. Some are tougher, some are more rewarding, and some are wild. Every now and then, you get all of the above.

If you haven’t seen our story from Wednesday night, I suggest you watch it first.

CTV National News had three crews covering the unprecedented situation in B.C. Our task was to find the people impacted by the situation in the Abbotsford area, and to tell the story of rescues. – Bill Fortier, CTV National News


Those problematic comments on Facebook–Who bears responsibility for them?

Unless you have been living in a cave, you will be well aware of Facebook’s current travails, fed by whistle-blower Frances Haugen’s explosive testimony about how Facebook researched but ignored findings that suggested the company’s algorithms were harming individual users by promoting content that kept them engaged—but at a cost to their mental wellbeing. In other cases, Facebook promoted user “engagement” over such basic considerations as factual accuracy, impact on community health (COVID misinformation), public safety (January 6 attack on the US Capitol) and avoidance of sexual exploitation. Facebooks use of self-reinforcing algorithms to maintain a closed-loop of content and the creation of “echo chambers” for users, especially users addicted to fringe conspiracy theories and other non-mainstream views, is one problem, as I wrote about recently. It’s a spotty record in content moderation is another. Part of the blame for this lies with a pernicious and widely abused piece of legislation, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. While this legislation may have been well-intentioned at its outset, over the years it has been interpreted by US courts as providing blanket immunity from liability for internet platforms with regard to any user-generated content that they distribute, including user comments on posts. And digital platforms like Facebook have acted accordingly; namely done as little content moderation as they can get away with.

While Facebook is not liable for whatever content is posted in user comments, in an interesting wrinkle coming out of a defamation case in Australia, parties who posted content to Facebook are having to defend themselves against liability for comments made by others about that content – Hugh Stephens Blog


Tolkien estate blocks JRR Token crypto-currency

The Road might go “ever on and on” for Bilbo Baggins, but it has come to a sharp end for the developer of a cryptocurrency called JRR Token, after the estate of JRR Tolkien took legal action to block it.

The Lord of the Rings-themed cryptocurrency, with the tagline “The One Token That Rules Them All”, launched in August. It came with a video endorsement from Billy Boyd, the actor who played Pippin in the films, and the head-scratching claim that “Saruman was trying to unify Middle Earth under centralised rule whereas the fellowship wanted decentralisation. Cryptocurrency is literally a decentralised network.”

The Tolkien estate was not convinced. It took action almost immediately… –Alison Flood, The Guardian

The vulture is hungry again: Alden Global Capital wants to buy a few hundred more newspapers

This time it’s Lee Enterprises in the cross-hairs. Adding it to its empire would leave two American local newspaper giants — Gannett and Alden — and everyone else far behind. – Nieman Lab




The Billboard Canada FYI Bulletin: Beyoncé Country Hit A Win For Canadian Songwriters

Also in this week's roundup of industry news: Kayla Diamond launches her own boutique imprint, SOCAN names an ombudsman, and time's running out for noms for this year's Rosalie Award honouring trailblazing women in broadcasting.

Beyoncé becomes the first Black woman to top Billboard’s Country Songs chart with “Texas Hold ‘Em” and it has gone to No. 1 on iTunes in 14 different countries and counting. There are some surprising connections. The song is co-written and co-produced by Ontario-born writer/producer Nathan Ferraro, whose previous collaborations include working with Lady Gaga, Carly Rae Jepsen, Bear Mountain, RALPH, Shawn Hook, Alyssa Reid, Jessie Reyez, Lowell and Tyler Shaw.

In fact, the song has deep Canadian origins. Two other Canadian songwriters participated in this runaway hit: Megan Bülow (who records and performs as bülow) as and Elizabeth "Lowell" Boland (a.k.a. Lowell), with Ferraro co-producing the track with Killah B and Beyoncé.

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