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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Media Deconsolidation (Part 20): News Corp spins off 8 TV stations

In my 2004 book, Media Myths: Making Sense of the Debate over Media Ownership, I pointed out that mergers and acquisitions represent just one of many strategies media companies utilize to respond to consumer demand and new market challenges. Other strategies include spin-offs and line-of-business divestitures on the one hand, and new technological investments or expanded product or service offerings on the other.

But those other strategies never seem to attract the same amount of attention as mergers and acquisitions even though they are far more common. In fact, as media guru Ben Compaine correctly observes, “Break-ups and divestitures do not generally get front-page treatment.” Such stories usually get buried in papers and magazines, or get a small mention at the bottom a news website, if at all.

That's why I started this series of "media DE-consolidation series" of essays a few years ago. I wanted to highlight the other side of the story and show how the media marketplace is far more dynamic than critics care to admit. In fact, as FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell noted recently in an excellent speech on the true state of the media market, "Traditional media’s numbers are shrinking," and "The ironic truth is: in many cases, media consolidation has actually become media divestiture. Companies such as Disney, Citadel, Clear Channel and Belo actually have been shedding properties to raise capital for new ventures."

That's exactly right, and the many other entries in this series prove that point. We're in the midst of a massive wave of media divestitures and downsizing. And today we have another example with News Corp's announcement that it will be shedding 8 of its Fox-affiliated TV stations in mid-sized markets.

Continue reading Media Deconsolidation (Part 20): News Corp spins off 8 TV stations . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:31 AM | Mass Media

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Latest Census Numbers on Kids, Parents & Media

The kids are alright. Not only is that the title of one of my favorite songs by The Who, but it also happens to be the theme of much of my public policy research. Specifically, I spend a great deal of time analyzing social trends and media usage in an attempt to show that, contrary to what many media critics claim, the whole world is not going to hell. I've touched on these themes before in essays such as "Why hasn’t violent media turned us into a nation of killers?" and my PFF paper about "Fact and Fiction in the Debate Over Video Game Regulation."

In this research, I try to bring some hard evidence to bear on the question of whether there is any correlation between exposure to violent media and real world acts of violence / aggression. And I also try to show that parents are actually far more involved in raising their kids, and instilling good values in them, than critics care to admit. In essence, parents are parenting! I illustrate that in my ongoing book, Parental Controls & Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools & Methods." I keep that publication up to date with as much info as I can find on the subject and plan on issuing new versions of the report every few months. (Version 3.0 is due out early next year.)

Exhibit 1

And now I have some more great stats and charts to include in my report thanks to the release of a big batch of new Census Bureau data on child-parent interaction. The Census Bureau data, which is available here, is part of a report entitled A Child's Day. The last report was conducted in 1994, and the most recent one in 2004, but the data for 2004 was just recently released.

The results are very encouraging and generally show that "Parents are taking a more active role in the lives of their children than they did 10 years ago," according to the Census Bureau. For example, as Exhibit 1 above shows, parents are crafting more TV rules for the kids today than they were in the past.

Continue reading Latest Census Numbers on Kids, Parents & Media . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 1:27 PM | Free Speech, Online Safety & Parental Controls

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Does "the public" really communicate with the FCC?

Matt Lasar has put together a very entertaining article illustrating how "Faux Celebrity FCC Filings [are] on the Rise." What he's referring to is the fact that just about anyone can file comments with the FCC, even fake celebrities or dead historical figures.

The whole process has become a complete joke. Some of my research on the FCC's indecency complaint process has illustrated how one group--the Parents Television Council (PTC)--has essentially been able to stuff the complaint ballot box at the FCC by filing endless strings of computer-generated complaints from its website. The PTC then fires off letters to the FCC and Congress that essentially say, "Look! Millions of Americans out outraged by the content on TV and are clamoring for regulation!" In turn, that nonsense gets included in the congressional record when legislation is introduced, and politicians claim "the American people have spoken" and are overwhelming in favor of regulation.

It's all nonsense, of course, because the vast majority of those "complaints" were just the same PTC form letter. But the same games are at work in the debates over media ownership policy and Net neutrality regulation. Jerry Brito and Jerry Ellig have shown that, in the FCC's Net neutrality proceeding, "Close to 10,000 comments were submitted to the FCC, yet all but 143 were what the FCC calls "brief text comments," many of which were form letters generated at the behest of advocacy groups." The same thing is at work in the media ownership debate. A couple of radical anti-media activist groups stuff the ballot box with computer-generated complaints. And the Washington Post recently ran a piece raising questions about how the public filing process is potentially being abused in the XM-Sirius merger fight.

But Matt Laser documents how truly absurd this process has become when the likes of Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, Joseph Stalin, and even Jesus Christ end up submitting "comments" for the "public record." Here's some of the highlights from Lasar's writeup:

Continue reading Does "the public" really communicate with the FCC? . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:25 AM | Generic Rant, Mass Media, The FCC

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Academics and Copyright

On Monday, I spent part of the morning listening to various academics and legal experts at "Copyright and the University: An Academic Symposium," an event hosted by ex-PFFer Patrick Ross. The event was meant to address attitudes towards copyright on college campuses.

The first panel, which followed a keynote by the US Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters, focused on "defining the problem." The panelists, adeptly led by Andrew Noyes of TechDaily, discussed everything from the attitudes of students towards the music industry to licensing arrangements for works included in course material. A few highlights and observations:

Continue reading Academics and Copyright . . .

posted by Amy Smorodin @ 9:56 AM | IP

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It Would Make it Easier to Find Them at Night...

From CNET News- glow-in-the-dark kitties.

posted by Amy Smorodin @ 9:51 AM | General

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A Rushed Review for XM-Sirius?

According to this AP story, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee...

has expressed concern in a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey that the Justice Department may "rush through" an approval of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.'s $5 billion purchase of its rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. [Conyers] also said he was "dismayed to learn" that Thomas O. Barnett, the head of the department's antitrust division, may approve the deal "over the objections of department staff." The Judiciary Committee oversees antitrust issues. Rep. Steve Cabot, an Ohio Republican, also signed the letter. The two members said they haven't yet taken a position on the transaction, but urged Mukasey to "preserve your ability to personally participate in the department's deliberations."

Only in Washington would it be considered "rushed" to take a year to review a proposal. Absurd.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:44 AM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, Mass Media

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Internet Freedom--Real vs Imagined

Bravo for Larry Downes of ZD Net who has a smart new column out today entitled "Save Internet Freedom--from Regulation." Downes is referring to the ominous threat posed to the future of the Internet by the Net neutrality bill that Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) is likely to introduce shortly. Downes points out that:

The Internet has thrived in large part because it has managed to sidestep a barrage of efforts to regulate it, including laws to ban indecent material, levy sales tax on e-commerce, require Web sites to provide "zoning" tags, and to criminalize spam, file sharing, and spyware. Some of these laws have been overturned by the courts; some died before being passed; and the rest--well, the rest are effectively ignored, thanks to the Internet's remarkable ability (so far) to treat regulation as a network failure and reroute around the problem.

Exactly right. Why then, Downes asks next, "do the same civil-liberties groups that recognize the value of keeping the government out of Internet content want to open a loophole large enough to drive several Mack trucks through?" GREAT question, and one that we've been asking on this site for many years.

Continue reading Internet Freedom--Real vs Imagined . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:16 PM | Net Neutrality

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Friday, December 7, 2007

The Benefits of Computer Games for Kids

Benefits of computer games for kids evidently include learning how to deal with an attacking moose. Do follow the link and read the comments, too... I especially like "maybe his noob sister body pulled" and the comment to follow about the tanks.

WoW lingo, for those of you baffled by all of this.

posted by Solveig Singleton @ 1:39 PM |

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Social Networking Economics...

Some analysis of the social networking phenom, from Agrophilia.

posted by Solveig Singleton @ 8:47 AM | Internet

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tech Ignorance: Not Funny

Garrett M. Graff, an editor at large at Washingtonian magazine--and also the first blogger admitted to a White House briefing--has an excellent op-ed in today's Washington Post asking the same question many of us on this blog have raised before: Why do we let politicians get away with joking about their tech ignorance? Graff provides many examples of how the President, presidential candidates, and leading members of Congress, often joke about their ignorance of the information technology industry and IT policy issues in general. And then he rightly asks: "So, why is it that we blithely allow our leaders to be ignorant of the force that, probably more than any other, will drive and define the nation's economic success and reshape its society over the next 20 years? Is it because we're used to our parents or grandparents struggling to program the VCR (yes, they still use VCRs) so that it doesn't blink "12:00" all the time, or because we think it's cute that they grew up in simpler times?"

It used to be easy to laugh about some of this, but as Graff argues, the time for laughing about tech ignorance is over:

Continue reading Tech Ignorance: Not Funny . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:35 AM | Generic Rant

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Latest Census Numbers on Kids, Parents & Media
Does "the public" really communicate with the FCC?
Academics and Copyright
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