Archive | October 2012

Help Wanted: Broadcasting in the Public Interest

Imagine there’s no countries, so the song goes.  Well how about imagining a world of broadcasting in the public interest.  That may be as difficult to imagine as a world without state sovereignty.

In the United States, almost all broadcasting is supported by advertisers whose clients are the shareholders and owners of the media companies.  The viewing public that utilizes media for information and entertainment is brought to these companies and their advertising sponsors through programs.  We don’t show up for the ads.  We suffer through the ads to get to the programs we love.

Despite the sluggish economy, global advertising, and consequently, privatized media, continue to grow.  In 2012 alone, North American advertising is projected to total $171 billion.  Ad spending in 2012 on Mother Earth is projected to be $489 billion, which makes North America, where the U.S. is the principal sovereign, responsible for nearly one-third of all the world’s ad costs.

The UK-based ZenithOptimedia predicts this trend in ad growth:

Between 2011 and 2014 we predict 60% of all the world’s growth in ad expenditure will come from developing markets (which we define here as everywhere outside North America, Western Europe and Japan). 50% will come from just ten developing markets. The four BRIC markets alone (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are forecast to account for 35% of global growth. Beyond the BRICs, there are six fast-growing markets we forecast to add between US$1 billion and US$4 billion each to the global ad market, and deliver another 15% of global growth: Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey.

The significance of this global trend is that peripheral countries are modeling their media behavior on the North American model.  This may explain why the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) called on its members to support the public interest in digital conversion in radio and television. 

In what is being called the Seoul Declaration, the region’s public broadcasters meeting in the Korean capital say the digital switchover frees space on the old analogue radio spectrum which should not just be sold for short term gain – it should be devoted to the public good.

Public broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific region are concerned that social needs will be short shrifted by private sales in the switch from analogue to digital.  The digital wave is being led by the global advertising rise in peripheral countries where meeting basic social needs is the greatest.

How do we protect the public good and all that it entails (health, education, environmental safety) in light of a global communications wave dominated by a pro-growth, advertising-centered model?  Should advertisers donate at least one percent of their profits to public interest media?

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The Death of Print is Greatly Exaggerated

Newsweek magazine, a global magazine brand in print for eight decades, announced Thursday, October 18th that its last print issue will be December 31, 2012.  It is reducing its staff in anticipation of being solely digital as of 2013.  Does this worry any stalwart print media folks?  It shouldn’t.  The Big D these days isn’t just Dallas.  It’s Digital.  We’re all migrating online.  Of course this is also a costs saving move by a print publication that has lost its edge, but editor-in-chief Tina Brown manages to put the positive spin on this development when she made the announcement at strictly online The Daily Beast.

Currently, 39 percent of Americans say they get their news from an online source, according to a Pew Research Center study released last month. In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format. This was not the case just two years ago. It will increasingly be the case in the years ahead.

It is important that we underscore what this digital transition means and, as importantly, what it does not. We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it. We remain committed to Newsweek and to the journalism that it represents. This decision is not about the quality of the brand or the journalism—that is as powerful as ever. It is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution.

Writer Andrew Sullivan, whose blog is linked to Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, won’t miss the print medium.

Here is the first cover of Newsweek from February 1933.  Note the emphasis on global events as well as the cost per issue.

Will you miss the print version of Newsweek or is this just media business as usual in the 21st century?

Lara Logan: Truth Propagandist

Lara Logan, 41, is chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News.  Last week she was the luncheon speaker for the Better Government Association in Chicago and her remarks in favor of more U.S. intervention in Afghanistan left some in the audience stunned.  Having listened to her remarks, I must say that I’m impressed by her candor.  As Daily Beast writer James Warren reports in Lara Logan’s Battle Cry, the investigative journalist turned policy advocate role made some listeners a bit uncomfortable as she called out the lies of the politicians.  Watch this clip of her remarks.

How far removed are journalists supposed to be from the stories they cover?  Is Logan a refreshing alternative to journalists just doing their jobs?  She seems very much on a mission to wake us up from our battle fatigue.

Logan appears to be very personally affected by her war correspondence for CBS, in particular her stories for 60 Minutes.  (See this background interview about how she snagged an interview with a Taliban commander who boasted about the Taliban’s infiltration of Afghanistan security forces fighting alongside US forces.)

2012 Nobel Peace Prize: Cheering and Jeering

By now you may know that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Norway has announced its 2012 winner, the EU (European Union) “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”  While Germany was cheering, others in Greece were jeering, as were anti-EU citizens of Norway, the country that awards the Nobel.  The European Union is battling over its common currency, the Euro, which has led to so many protests in Spain and Greece.

On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes, the Nobel Prizes. As described in Nobel’s will, one part was dedicated to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

The Nobel Peace Price has been awarded 99 times to individuals and 23 times to organizations as it was with this year’s award to the EU.  The prize comes with a $1.2 million check to be awarded at the official award ceremony in Oslo on December 10.  It’s not clear how the award will be divided among the 27 members of the European Union.

In 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize went to Barack H. Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

The 27 sovereign member states of the EU are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.  With or without the Nobel, all is not peaceful on the continent.  The Christian Science Monitor makes a persuasive case for “Why Europe Needed the Nobel Peace Prize.”

For another perspective, the Guardian in the United Kingdom calls the prize a case of bad timing.  See also this Reuters analysis about an EU loveless marriage.

Why Veep Debates (Still) Matter

One of my favorite news digests, The Week, presents a video look back at 7 memorable moments in vice presidential debates.  My personal favorite is included, the 5-second “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” introduction by Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992, the highly decorated retired Navy vice admiral James Stockdale (1923-2005).

Laughter aside, the moment cemented in many American minds that Mr. Perot and Mr. Stockdale were probably not quite ready for White House prime time.   Also included is the 1988 dressing down by Michael Dukakis’ senior running mate Lloyd Bentsen to George H.W. Bush’s youthful running mate, Dan Quayle.  “Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

Clearly, age can make a difference.  If Vice President Joe Biden can make Senator Paul Ryan look too young for the job, then this VP contest may go down in history along with The Week examples.  Biden has the reputation for the gaffe while Ryan has the reputation for coming across as a bit of a know-it-all, a tag that also plagued Al Gore.  We’ve got another Must-See TV event.

Mitt’s Dash of Support

Clueless actress Stacey Dash doesn’t sound so clueless about politics.  She voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and in 2012 she had the audacity to switch her allegiance by tweeting her support for Mitt Romney.  Doesn’t she realize that Mitt Romney is white and she is black?!  Dash appeared on CNN with Piers Morgan (remember him?) and here is what she had to say:

What did Stacey Dash do wrong to generate so much strong reaction?  Is the Democratic Party the Black Peoples’ Party and the Republican Party the White Peoples’ Party?  If so, then let us change their names and have more truth in advertising.

Japanophobia: Four Wheels for Four Hooves

Tokyo-based Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama reveals the trade costs to the regional showdown over the disputed goat islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.  After reading “Sales of Japanese autos plunge in China on anti-Japan sentiments sparked by islands row,” I’m going to start calling the islands “AutoNObile.”

Come on, Japan.  More specifically, come on Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Toyota, all global brands recognized for performance, reliability and longevity.  I’m still driving my ’98 Honda Civic.  I’m one of your most loyal global customers, having driven either a Toyota or Honda for the past 25 years.

This whole dispute looks ridiculous.  Why not take the higher path here.  Put an end to any blustering rhetoric or defensive posturing.  Your country is paying too much, but not just in four wheels.  Your citizens, who have been through so much, are paying dearly.  Japan, your good name and standing in the world is costing you, and this impacts every transaction and interaction from point of sale to exchange of person.

Here’s a call for every rational, clear thinking citizen in China and Japan to make your voices heard.  Turn this territorial dispute into a public park to be enjoyed by goats and all.  We cannot rely on our political “leaders” to handle this one.  So far they have let us down.

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