Corporate Power/Consolidation

Google News to allow publishers to limit free access


Newspaper publishers will now be able to set a limit on the number of free news articles people can read through Google, the company has announced.

The concession follows claims from some media companies that the search engine is profiting from online news pages.

Under the First Click Free programme, publishers can now prevent unrestricted access to subscription websites.

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FCC asks court to leave cross-ownership decision hanging

John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

The FCC has asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to hold off making a decision on the many challenges to the FCC's media ownership rules until it has had a chance to conduct its Quadrennial Review next year.

The FCC is required to review its ownership rules every four years to determine whether they are still "necessary in the public interest".

As a result of the last review in 2006, the FCC, under then-chairman Kevin Martin, loosened the ban on newspaper-broadcast crossownership, but took no further action, saying no further action was in the public interest. Foes of any further deregulation opposed any loosening of the ban as too much deregulation, while those looking for the FCC to scrap the ban or loosening multiple station ownership limits in a single market complained it was insufficiently deregulatory.

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Publishing joint venture aims at iTunes-like electronic magazine distribution

John Coblin, New York Observer

Some of the magazine industry’s biggest names are on the verge of forming a new company that would allow them to take the digital future into their own hands.

The company would make up one of the biggest alliances among rival publishers ever formed in print media, with Time Inc., Condé Nast and Hearst all expected to join, houses that together publish more than 50 magazines, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Esquire and O, The Oprah Magazine.

The company will prepare magazines that can work across multiple digital platforms, whether the iPhone, the BlackBerry or countless other digital devices. The company will not develop an e-book, but create something that people familiar with the plans compare to iTunes—a store where you can buy new and distinct iterations of The New Yorker or Time. Print magazines will also be for sale.

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Public interest groups rail against Comcast NBC merger

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

If Comcast buys NBC Universal, public interest groups warn that there would be too much media concentration in the hands of the nation's largest cable service operator. The union could also shape the future of online video -- a migration of television and movie to the Web that cable and satellite operators are scrambling to control, they say.

"Comcast/NBC will have an incentive to prioritize NBC shows over other local and independent voices and programs, making it even harder to find alternatives on the cable dial," Free Press wrote in a report last Friday.

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Copps calls for FCC to stem the tide of media consolidation, address journalism crisis

Federal Communications Commission

From remarks of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps as the Commission launched its 4-year review of the media ownership rules: "There are many important issues pending before the FCC. In long-term importance, none exceeds—and I don’t think any matches—-the future of our media environment. If we can’t fix what’s broken, if we can’t rejuvenate broadcast journalism, reopen shuttered newsrooms, put the brakes on mind-numbing monoprogramming, stop the dumbing-down of our civic dialogue and take advantage of the great potential of local broadcasting, then maybe those who want that spectrum back have the better of the argument. Time will tell.

Except we don’t have time. These issues have been pending before this Commission since I got here and we have done almost nothing to stem the tide of media consolidation and lax government oversight. The consolidation was momentarily slowed by the current economic downturn—itself largely the result of the kind of policies in finance and other businesses that I’ve been complaining about in media for years. But consolidation is coming back, and once the economic indices start heading north, you’ll see media properties galore—-all pining for those elusive 'economies of scale' whose chase doomed so many companies over the past few years..."

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Bankruptcy court oks Chicago Sun-Times media sale

David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times

There's a new kingpin of media in Chicago -- James Tyree, 51, chairman of Mesirow Financial and scheduled to be the next owner of the Chicago Sun-Times and most of the leading newspapers in the suburbs. Media kingpins aren't what they used to be, but Tyree said he's not content with modest expectations.

Tyree insists his venture into publishing will turn out better than Sam Zell's disastrous dalliance at Tribune Co. "For one thing, there's no debt on this company, and we're not going to put any debt on it," he said.

While friends have questioned his wisdom for investing in an industry under siege, Tyree said he's convinced there's still a business model to build around "high-quality, high-integrity and focused local content." As he takes control of the Sun-Times and 58 suburban newspaper titles plus corresponding Web sites, Tyree said he will stay out of decisions about coverage or editorial endorsements while concentrating on strategic and capital planning.

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CanWest bankruptcy a wakeup call and the Council of Canadians are raising concerns about what the CanWest filing for bankruptcy protection means for increased concentration and foreign ownership of Canadian media. The organizations are calling on the federal government to use the filing as an opportunity to expand media democracy in Canada rather than use it as a pretext for potentially reducing foreign ownership restrictions on Canadian Media.

“Following the failed business model already employed by the Aspers and Goldman Sachs in television has been a profound mistake for CanWest,” says Garry Neil, a Council of Canadians board member and cultural policy expert. “It is worrisome that the Aspers might be kept around in order to satisfy ownership rules, possibly just as window dressing to mask a major foreign takeover of Canadian media.”

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Comcast and NBC Universal: antitrust apocalypse?

Sam Gustin, Daily Finance

Federal regulators are virtually certain to scrutinize any substantial pairing of cable leader Comcast (CMSCA) and content behemoth NBC Universal, the two media giants at the center of a frenzy of merger speculation, according to antitrust experts. If consummated, the mega-media merger would combine NBC Universal's vast stable of content with Comcast's giant digital-distribution network.

"It's virtually guaranteed that FCC [Federal Communications Commission] regulators would review this deal," Glenn Manishin, a former antitrust counsel and trial attorney at the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, told DailyFinance. "This could be a signature case for Chairman [Julius] Genachowski to demonstrate the principles he enunciated when he was confirmed." Manishin predicted any deal would also face review by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.

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Comcast reportedly in talks to buy NBC

Howard Kurtz, Washington Post

NBC Universal executives declined to deny a report Wednesday night that Comcast, the cable giant, is in talks to buy the television and movie company from General Electric. Comcast also did not deny the report that bankers for the two sides discussed a possible deal Tuesday in New York.

Such talks often lead nowhere, but rumors have circulated for months that GE might be looking to unload the news and entertainment company. NBC is stuck in fourth place among broadcast networks, and Universal Studios is enduring a rough movie season.

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Verizon, AT&T: Net neutrality not OK for wireless

Marguerite Reardon, CNet

The wireless industry is gearing up to fight new Net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission is formulating to keep the Internet open. On Monday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., outlining plans to turn the agency's principles for open Internet access into official regulation. In addition to making sure that network operators cannot prevent users from accessing lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, or attaching unharmful devices to the network, Genachowski wants to add two more rules.

The first would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management. The second principle would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement.

Broadband providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon Communications have opposed regulation or new laws that would dictate how they could run their networks. Up until this point, the Internet has been free of any regulation. And these companies would like to keep it that way.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey