Sanctions against Sinclair? Sounds justified

It’s either coincidence, karma or a higher power when things come together in ways previously thought impossible.

This weekend, Jewish people around the world read the Torah portion Shofetim (שֹׁפְטִים, or “Judges,” comprising Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9).

The best-known line in it is the third, “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף, Deut. 16:20).

Shofetim also happens to be the Torah portion from my bar mitzvah and it’s interesting that it’s coming up this week because an article in Axios yesterday said,

Sinclair Broadcasting’s failed effort to buy Tribune Media may soon become more than just a costly embarrassment. It could result in the company ultimately losing its broadcast licenses.”

Isn’t that what I suggested should happen, weeks ago, back on July 27?

And two days earlier, how

“It looks like one of the seven deadly sins – greediness – may have killed the (merger) deal!”?

Yesterday, Axios wrote,

“The conservative broadcaster has been accused of lying to the FCC, and of acting in bad faith with Tribune.”

There’s not much a huge corporation can do to anger the Federal Communications Commission these days – if it follows the rules, which get eased all the time – but lying is its one big crime.

Back on Jan. 27, I wrote the FCC was going to allow the deal but

“force Sinclair to sell off a bunch of stations because it’ll be (way, way, way) too big.”

And that was the crux of the problem: ownership limits and which stations would be sold off. Oh, and would the companies buying really be associated with Sinclair and let Sinclair control the stations?

Ajit Pai fcc wikipedia
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)

In mid-July, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement:

“Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair-Tribune transaction. … The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law. … When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction. Instead, the law requires the FCC to designate the transaction for a hearing in order to get to the bottom of those disputed issues.”

That was a huge surprise and the turning point in the drawn-out deal.

On July 24, the newspaper in Sinclair’s hometown, The Baltimore Sun, wrote what finally did the deal in:

“FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, an appointee of President Donald J. Trump who has been viewed as friendly to Sinclair and such a merger, raised ‘serious concerns’ Monday about whether the deal would serve the public interest.”

Ah, the public interest! It’s always nice to hear about that, since we’re talking about use of the public airwaves.

I quoted TVNewsCheck’s Harry A. Jessell on the seriousness of what Sinclair had actually been doing pretty quietly doing for years:

“Its mishandling of its merger application has badly stained its permanent FCC record in a way that could greatly complicate its future regulatory dealings. … And a liar is what the FCC has accused Sinclair of being by obfuscating the fact it would continue to control three major market stations that it told the FCC it would spin off to other broadcasters to comply with ownership limits.

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair’s reach. Large enough?

“You see, the FCC acts on the honor system. It presumes that you are obeying all the rules and expects you to confess any infractions. It’s the principal way the FCC polices those it regulates. That’s why lying – the ever-polite FCC calls it “misrepresentation” or “lack of candor” – is taken seriously and is the FCC equivalent of a capital crime. … As the lawyers pointed out to me this week, once indicted for misrepresentation as Sinclair has now been, it sticks because it goes to the broadcaster’s basic character qualifications to be a licensee. It cannot buy or sell a station or even renew a license until it resolves the character question. Sinclair’s best move now is to walk away from the merger and promise, no, swear on a stack of Bibles, that it will never, ever mislead the FCC again.

“Sinclair has no one but itself to blame for this fiasco. It pushed too hard to keep as many of the Tribune stations as it could and somewhere along the line lost sight of the larger goal – get the transfer through the FCC and get to closing. … (David Smith) kept going back to the FCC (and the Justice Department) demanding more and more. Ironically, he will likely end up with nothing, except maybe a new set of regulatory hassles.”

feature Tribune gavel Sinclair

Tribune called off the deal and sued Sinclair for $1 billion.

— UPDATE: Sinclair counter-suing Tribune, accusing its onetime takeover target of a “deliberate effort to exploit and capitalize on an unfavorable and unexpected reaction from the FCC to capture a windfall.” —

Of course, Sinclair denied everything and said in a statement,

“We have been completely transparent about every aspect of the proposed transaction.”

fcc commissioners 2018One thing Sinclair failed to do after telling the FCC it was withdrawing the deal was asking the administrative law judge, who FCC commissioners unanimously recommended look into Sinclair’s representations during the Tribune negotiations, to end his planned hearing. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau said it had no problem if the hearing was terminated.

But Broadcasting & Cable reported “The FCC docket was still open” as of Monday and got confirmation from an FCC spokesperson,

“Although Sinclair’s pleading states that the applications ‘have been withdrawn’ and are to be dismissed with prejudice, it fails to specifically seek such relief from the Chief Administrative Law Judge.”

B&C added,

“That’s because the licenses are now before him, rather than the FCC staffers who had been vetting them before the hearing designation.”

tv airwavesThis is a world of bigger and bigger broadcasting companies – in part because of competition from cable, satellite and the internet – but as I’ve said about a million times, the broadcasters have special responsibilities since they use the public airways. And they need a tougher FCC to keep them, and the newer companies, in line.

On the other hand, Axios quoted Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters as saying,

“Scale matters when we are competing against massive pay TV conglomerates, Facebook, Apple and Netflix. If you want a healthy broadcast business that keeps the Super Bowl on free TV, that encourages local investigative journalism and allows stations to go 24-7 live with California wildfire coverage, broadcasters can’t be the only media barred from getting bigger.”

The FCC is still determining whether to raise the limits on TV station ownership above 39 percent. Most experts told Axios they

“believe that cap will be lifted above 50 percent, but they don’t know what the exact limit will be, or when it will be passed and implemented.”

RKO General 1962Anyway, the FCC has taken away broadcast licenses before. I wrote about the RKO General situation all over the country, and also allegations of impropriety in the granting of a Boston television license.

According to experts Axios spoke to, Sinclair’s first batch of licenses comes up for renewal in June 2020. (Look for more activist challenges then.)

They also

“describe Sinclair as a ‘hard headed’ company that rarely engages with D.C. and which recently lost its top lobbyist.”

That description should come as no surprise to any regular reader of this blog.

So for now, there’s no deal, but a lawsuit, between Sinclair and Tribune.

Sinclair’s alleged misrepresentations to the FCC

“can be reviewed by an administrative law judge during a license renewal hearing, were the FCC to recommend such a hearing (which may be likely, given FCC’s concerns and Sinclair’s many outside critics),”

according to Axios.

The judge could revoke Sinclair’s licenses outright, which would teach the industry and its investors a big, important lesson. But a telecom lawyer Axios spoke to said,

“A more likely scenario … is that the FCC would reach a settlement whereby Sinclair is required to divest stations.”

My opinion: Crush them or cut them down to size, but at least do something.

One last note is that Sinclair is going to have trouble finding another merger partner due to its potential license renewal issues, but also because Tribune’s lawsuit accused the company of being “belligerent.” It’s what happens when you’re too big.Tribune Broadcasting Company

Now to the Tribune side, where there is less justice.

Reuters reported the company is going to pay big

“bonuses to executives who worked for more than 15 months on its failed merger.”

You’d think they’d be in line for bonuses after a successful merger!

How big are these bonuses? Reuters reported the company said,

“16 percent of target annual bonuses, which had been conditioned on completion of the Sinclair merger.” (I underlined. –Lenny)

money dollars centsAre you hearing this, shareholders?

This is what it adds up to. Three top executives – chief financial officer Chandler Bigelow, president of broadcast media Larry Wert, and general counsel and chief strategy officer Edward Lazarus – will be getting

“between $102,000 and $160,000. Other executives will get bonuses based on a similar percentage of their targeted annual bonuses.”

Why?

“In recognition of the substantial efforts and time that each of them devoted to the company’s anticipated merger with Sinclair and their contributions to maintain and grow the company’s business,”

according to the company.

That’s if the company was actually spending money to “maintain and grow” the business which is doubtful because companies in the process of being bought are cheap, not replacing employees or equipment so the financial sheets look better.

And what about all the employees who were encouraged to work under harder conditions and so much uncertainty for so long?

That’s the world, these days, kids.

Reuters also mentioned,

“Last week, Tribune Media Chief Executive Officer Peter Kern told investors it (was) ‘open to all opportunities’ in terms of industry consolidation or remaining independent. He noted on an investor call there was ‘tons of activity out there.’

“Kern said he would continue to run the company until Tribune reached a ‘permanent state.’”

Keep in mind, last Monday, Tribune announced it

“reached a comprehensive agreement with Fox Broadcasting Company to renew the existing Fox affiliations of eight Tribune Media television stations, including KCPQ-TV (Seattle), KDVR-TV (Denver), WJW-TV (Cleveland), KTVI-TV (St. Louis), WDAF-TV (Kansas City), KSTU-TV (Salt Lake City), WITI-TV (Milwaukee), WGHP-TV (Greensboro, NC). Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.”

disney abc logo

But knowing Fox is selling most of its assets to Disney/ABC and looking for more stations to buy, especially those in NFL football team markets, I’d consider Tribune a seller rather than a buyer.

TVNewsCheck’s Jessell agrees, pointing out,

“Recall that just prior to the announcement of the Sinclair deal, Fox tried to swoop in and buy Tribune out from underneath Sinclair. It coveted some of Tribune’s stations and it feared Sinclair becoming too big an affiliate group for it to push around.”

Fox TV stations

I’d also consider telling the FCC not to let Fox buy any of those eight stations, except Seattle, because it owned them at one point and sold them when it made sense for the company. In other words, it showed no commitment to the communities or their people. Companies shouldn’t be allowed to sell unneeded stations and then buy them back when they feel they’ll make more money.

standard media

Besides Fox, which could face ownership limits, Jessell pointed to Soo Kim’s new Standard Media, which was going to buy nine Tribune stations in seven cities, and Nexstar as potential buyers.

Jessell also mentions there are a lot more stations on the market now than two years ago.

cox media group

Cox is looking for someone to buy its 14 stations, Gray is buying Raycom and has to spin off nine stations, and Cordillera will be leaving the industry once it sells its 11 stations.

So complicated!

But some more from Jessell on Sinclair:

“Not in the entire history of broadcasting, with the possible of RKO, has a major company so thoroughly managed to trap itself in such a regulatory and legal morass. …

“If Executive Chairman David Smith did not control the board, he would be thrown out for directing this debacle and hobbling the company at a critical time for it and the industry. It will be interesting to see who is made the scapegoat. …

“Sinclair can continue to churn out cash, but, from a strategic standpoint in broadcasting, is indefinitely sidelined. Until it resolves the alleged character issues at the FCC, it cannot buy a broadcast license. It can’t even renew one.

“Sinclair’s challenge today is to start digging out — and it’s going to be costly. First it must settle with Tribune. And then it has to return to the good graces of the FCC.” …

Also, “The Sinclair independent shareholders (could) file a lawsuit against Smith and his team for gross mismanagement.” …

And, “Indeed, Sinclair did everything wrong, allowing arrogance and self-righteousness to overcome its good sense at every turn.”

I think a lot of justice is what’s needed here, and soon.

Please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

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The FCC’s war on American children, adults

The Federal Communications Commission has a very important mission, but it’s not being fulfilled.girl watching tv

In fact, the opposite has been happening over the past few days and it’ll likely lead to less children’s programming – and less attention when you complain about your TV, phone company or internet service provider.

The FCC says its mission is to regulate

“interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the Commission is the federal agency responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.”

But the amount of regulation looks to be receding faster than cars in a race.

Do you have kids, or know anyone who puts their kids in front of the TV?

trump quotes

Axios reports the FCC is starting to loosen broadcasters’ requirements for children’s TV programming. You know, those stations that are licensed by the government to use the public airwaves for the public interest.

schoolhouse rockYou probably watched Saturday morning cartoons. They weren’t just fun but also carried a message or lesson. Even breaks in programming like ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock! were educational. I’d go as far as to credit NBC’s The More You Know.

Cartoons were on all three networks when there were only three commercial broadcast networks, plus Fox may have even gotten into the act before the end. The new kid on the block did carry weekday afternoon cartoons, early on, when it had weaker stations that didn’t carry news.

smurfs
Common Sense Media

News. That’s the magic word. It’s cheaper to produce and stations can pretty much put as many commercials in as they want.

NBC was first with Weekend Today. Then CBS and ABC came up with weekend editions of their weekday morning shows. (CBS did have Sunday Morning before the Saturday cartoon era ended.) And eventually, local stations followed. The news looked a lot like the previous night’s 11:00 news, just with different people!

It wasn’t like there was much going on most of the time.

OK, so I did produce newscasts with JFK Jr.’s deadly plane crash and Elián González’s capture from his Miami relatives’ closet on weekend mornings while at WCAU in Philadelphia. I had the morning off from KYW-TV when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas while returning to Earth, killing all seven crew members.

But the new newscasts didn’t have to be good back then. It was the same when TV stations started putting local news on, weekday mornings. The TV station just had to let viewers know the world hadn’t ended, we weren’t at war and what the weather would be like.

Now, the FCC says the old rules aren’t needed because kids these days have apps and streaming services just for them! (Do they all have access? Really?)

Axios reports Nielsen data says the prime target of the rules — kids between 2 and 11 – are watching about 22 percent less regular TV between 2014 and 2017. Any wonder, when there’s nothing on for them? Put the youngsters in front of Fox News Channel and Days of Our Lives.

sesame street muppet wikia
http://muppet.wikia.com

Instead, they’re using “apps like YouTube Kids, 24/7 kid-friendly cable channels like Nickelodeon and Disney Junior, on-demand shows like Sesame Street on HBO, and over-the-top kids programming on Netflix.”

FCC commissioners who want to lessen the kid rules refer to them as among the many “outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome” ones on the books, according to Deadline magazine.

They say TV broadcasters have too many rules to follow, while tech companies don’t have any, so this would just make things fairer. But I say that’s because tech companies don’t use the public’s airwaves!

What are those rules and how burdensome are they?

Axios says,

“In 1990, Congress passed the Children’s Television Act, which requires broadcasters to air three hours of educational programming per week (with limited advertising) in order to maintain their license. Children’s programming must also meet certain ‘Kid Vid’ requirements with respect to educational purpose, length and the time of day it is aired.”

My heart goes out to them.

Pee-Wee's Playhouse peewee wikia
peewwee.wikia.com

Nobody is saying the three hours of educational programming per week has to be original. The networks, or syndication companies, or companies that own more than 100 TV stations can come up with it!

Captain Kangaroo Bob Keeshan 1977 wikipediaOn the other hand, back in the day, it seemed every TV station had its own locally-produced children’s programming with live studio audiences, and I’m not referring to Captain Kangaroo which aired on CBS. Of course, back then, they also took news seriously, too!

Coming up next (using a TV phrase), it’s up to us – the public – to comment on the proposal. Then, the FCC will vote on final changes, later this year. If they succeed, Deadline says

“broadcasters could be able to satisfy government requirements that they produce appropriate children’s far by ‘relying in part on special sponsorship efforts and/or special non-broadcast efforts.’”

fcc commissioners 2018Speaking of the public telling the FCC what we think, that federal agency will probably soon start forcing us to pay $225 to file – and for them to review – a formal complaint against a telecom company! That means broadband, TV, and phone companies.

Yes, it’s hard to believe. No, I’m not making this up. This is America, 2018.

Thursday, according to Ars Technica, the FCC voted 3-1 to stop reviewing informal consumer complaints.

The fifth seat – to be held by a Democrat – has not been filled since Mignon Clyburn resigned last month. (As if that vote would’ve changed things!)

You’d still have to pay the $225 even if your internet service provider, which you pay every month, doesn’t respond to your informal complaint.

What would cause the FCC to make this move? I was wondering the same thing.

Turns out, Ars Technica reports the biggest change will be “the text of the FCC’s rule about informal complaints.”

In other words, this is how things have been!

“Nothing is substantively changing in the way that the FCC handles informal complaints,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “We’re simply codifying the practices that have been in place since 1986.”

That’s when Ronald Reagan was president.

But the commission’s only Democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel, remembered things differently.

Ars Technica reports she said the FCC has reviewed informal complaints in the past.

“This is bonkers,” she said at Thursday’s meeting. “No one should be asked to pay $225 for this agency to do its job. No one should see this agency close its doors to everyday consumers looking for assistance in a marketplace that can be bewildering to navigate. There are so many people who think Washington is not listening to them and that the rules at agencies like this one are rigged against them – and today’s decision only proves that point.”

Rosenworcel said the FCC gets 25,000 to 30,000 informal complaints a month.

“After they are filed, the agency studies the complaint, determines what happened, and then works with providers to fix consumer problems,” Rosenworcel said. “For decades, this has been the longstanding practice of this agency. But for reasons I do not understand, today’s order cuts the FCC out of the process. Instead of working to fix problems, the agency reduces itself to merely a conduit for the exchange of letters between consumers and their carriers. Then, following the exchange of letters, consumers who remain unsatisfied will be asked to pay a $225 fee to file a formal complaint just to have the FCC take an interest.”

On top of the formal complaint process being expensive, it’s also complicated.

“Parties filing formal complaints usually are represented by lawyers or experts in communications law and the FCC’s procedural rules,”

the FCC says.

If the change becomes final, two references to the commission’s review and “disposition” of each informal complaint will be removed from the FCC complaints rule.

Then, even if you get no response, you’ll have to file a formal complaint – and pay.

FCC headquarters, Ser Amantio di Nicolao-Wikipedia
FCC headquarters, Ser Amantio di Nicolao-Wikipedia

This comes as part of a larger rulemaking aimed at ‘streamlining’ the formal complaint process.

According to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, “Today’s decision is another win for good government.”

I wonder what we did to deserve that!

Click here for my post containing Schoolhouse Rock! clips.

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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Who would’ve thought of me as some type of music expert? Definitely not anybody who knows me! I’ve been planning this blog for a little while and the lyrics immediately came to my mind as the headline. (Of course, I’ve never heard of Five Man Electrical Band. They sang Signs in 1971.)

It’s actually pretty funny, considering the last post’s headline was a takeoff of Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson. The lyric goes “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” but I used somebody else’s name.

So signs. A fun post before vacation.

Philadelphia is the birthplace of our country. Where free speech was instituted. Maybe that’s why it’s known for some unusual ones.

I live in a high-rise so I found no need to put any up but by far, the most popular type is the one that tells delivery drivers to take their packages somewhere else.

I don’t know why people would order something and not be home to receive it. That means the driver has to stop, fill out a card, and delay everyone else’s packages. Why not just ask that it be delivered somewhere else?

Some people…

nice sign

… are nicer than others.

mean sign

Everybody wants their mail delivered, and not anybody else’s.

right address

While some signs are simple, I can’t figure what all these are about.

too many signs

I’m not exactly sure about this one either, but I do know it’s not meant for me.

Jesus signThe people living here are apparently very generous — with choices — but only for drivers who press hard enough to ring the bell and knock loudly on the door, and then find out nobody is home. If that’s the case, the driver gets to toss the package over their back gate! Like tossing packages never happens.

package choicesThe people who live below also offer choices. They start out nicely by writing “please” and then letting the driver choose which of two addresses they’d prefer to make their delivery! But by looking at the sign, I’d guess they didn’t even plan to be home. At least that information would save the driver from pressing hard enough to ring the bell and knocking loudly on the door! Of course, they probably expect somebody to be home at the address the driver chooses. Otherwise, it may mean a third stop. If that’s the case, I’d hope the driver gets to return the package to the warehouse and make the person pick it up. That’s too many delivery attempts in too few minutes!

pkg1

This sign also gives the driver a choice between two addresses, but at least both are businesses and open during the day when packages are delivered.

choice sign 2

This next one is for drivers who may not be too bright. I also put smiley faces on my 1st graders’ good homework…

package use doorbell
… but never combined them with exclamation points.

On the other hand, this person writing to the “Mail Person” needs better penmanship!

hardly readable

When I was working at CBS in Miami, I had a new computer delivered there. It was great! First, the boss was able to check it out and make sure all settings were correct. Then, he installed the programs I’d need in order to work at home. That was my idea.

And it came in handy when he was out and I left a little early, feeling sick. That night — July 27, 2005 — former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Art Teele shot himself in his head, committing suicide in the Miami Herald lobby! He’d been convicted of corruption and removed from office. I got home, turned on the TV and was the only person from the station able to put up a story.

Another time, I was about to head to the Keys on a Saturday morning when a small plane crashed into a lake in Aventura. The weekend morning news had a picture, and I listened and wrote a story. Then, I was on my way.

I never minded working from home, especially when it saved me from a rushed trip to the office for a single story.

Parking spaces are prized in Philadelphia. Garages are even more so, if you can get in and out. I found somebody decided to use chalk to make sure nobody blocked them…

no parking
… and prove they know the beginning of the alphabet!

ppa septa wideSpeaking of cars and parking, maybe someone above can teach the Philadelphia Parking Authority how arrows work. Here we are, on Aspen, approaching the corner of 24th Street. You can see the corner is a bus stop. You can take the 48 from Center City and get dropped off right in back of my building.
ppa septa tight

But take a closer look at the signs for drivers who want to park. The middle sign shows it’s not allowed past the sign because of buses. But the bottom sign says it’s allowed on both sides of the sign.

They say “The PPA don’t play” but it should at least make up its mind.

That reminded me of a sign on Front Street, south of South. You see how people with residential parking stickers can park their cars in their zone without having to obey days and time limits. I’m in zone 6. This is what I found last year, and shared with a reporter co-worker.

front street ppa sign

It may not be right but it’s easier to understand than this group of signs at a busy intersection in Bristol, VA. Remember, you only have until the red light turns green, if you’re lost and lucky enough to hit a red light!

2015-03-15 lots of street signs
Try figuring this out!

Some signs would save money if they weren’t changed.

district attorney krasner outside
Why does the name of the district attorney elected in November have to have his name up?

It’s kind of hard to see, but this is the second of two doors, also with Larry Krasner’s name.

district attorney krasner inside
Would anybody lose out if there were no names on signs, and only the stationery was changed?

And as we get closer to the bottom…

sign dog peeing
… this low sign was obviously meant for dogs who could read!

And I can’t leave out this classic from downstairs in my own building.

no dumping
OK. It’s funnier when approaching from a distance and can’t see the details on the right.

Anyway, I’m off for a week. Thanks for reading. You can check out some relatively old web stuff from when I was Digital Media Manager at WCYB in the Tri-Cities of TB/VA, 2015-2016. The format changed twice since then, and everything looks a bit different than it did, but I was able to capture some still shots here. The writing was more formal than this, but not completely A.P. style. That would come later.

And please, don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

feature signs

P.S. This is a bonus I found the next day in the 2000 block of Spring Garden. The sign was up the stairs and not easy to shoot when I zoomed in, but I felt worth a look. Should the “USPS/UPS Guy” have to be subjected to this? Should passers-by like me?

nasty to usps

Paying for news, one candidate’s free airtime and asking for your comments

I hope you’ve had a terrific Tuesday!

I have a few thoughts (just a few) I figured I’d get out today.

paywall ny timesThis morning, Axios reported several news websites “launched new paywalls within the past year.”

Sorry! (But not this one.)

It named BloombergVanity Fair, WiredBusiness Insider and The Atlantic, and added, “Legacy institutions like The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Washington Post and The Boston Globe have all tightened their paywalls over the past few years.”

We all know somebody has to pay the people who gather and publish the news in any media format. That’s a given, and anyone who has been in the business knows most employees are not paid nearly what they’re worth.paywall Science Direct That’s a shame and forcing good people out of the business, especially at a time we need the Fourth Estate to be as tough as ever — especially when reporting on news happening in American government and the world.

paywall ny times 2The people researching, making contacts and conducting interviews on the front lines need to make a living.

So what’s the best solution?

I really don’t know.

If you read what I post, you see I often use multiple sites for information and different viewpoints, but I don’t pay those sites. Instead, I credit them link to them, and hope they benefit when I — and then you — click for more information.paywall academic

But if these trusted sites use paywalls, there’s no way any of us would pay multiple sites. How many of us could afford to? Big newsrooms, even if they say they can’t, but you and I won’t have the information we need to be responsible citizens.

Newspapers (on paper) make money through both subscriptions and advertising. So do most cable networks and your cable/satellite company.

paywall south china morning postUnfortunately, today, it looks like news on the web is going the same way.

TV news websites aren’t the best. Maybe some major group could invest in the rights to some top publications and names, to drive our traffic to their own sites so we could be made more aware of important events. It’s too bad many of the companies that owned broadcast and newspaper/magazine assets split up.

no paywall logo
This graphic and all above are clip art

The first company that can do so and really publicize specific detailed content on a daily basis (not just that “we’re free and the newspaper isn’t” or “here are the top stories on our site at this hour”) during newscasts could get new readers who’d share the site with non-readers.

Just a thought.

A similar story from Axios about newspapers is not necessarily new but making news because Warren Buffett said it:

“No one except the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and now probably the Washington Post has come up with a digital product that really in any significant way will replace the revenue that is being lost as print newspapers lose both circulation and advertising … It is very difficult to see — with a lack of success in terms of important dollars rising from digital — it’s difficult to see how the print product survives over time.

newspaperAccording to Axios, “Local media executives have been saying for months that their biggest competition for subscriptions and eyeballs is large national newspapers.”Warren Buffett 2015

That’s bad for Buffett, who was speaking at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, and his company owns more than 30 newspapers.

That’s especially bad for the rest of us because too much of what we see on local news deals with murders, crashes and fires. They’re often visual. But it’s the local papers that often investigate and dig, outside of ratings periods. If they go down, who will take their place?

There are also two updates on Facebook, which has been under fire since Cambridge Analytica “harvested personal data on millions of Facebook users, without their knowledge, for marketing and political purposes.”

Last week, the London-based political research firm announced it’s “closing all of its operations with plans to file for bankruptcy in the U.S.,” according to The Huffington Post.

Going further, Adweek says, “Its parent company, SCL Elections, will file for insolvency in the United Kingdom while ceasing all operations in both countries.”

Cambridge Analytica site
https://cambridgeanalytica.org/

The Post quoted from a statement on the firm’s website that it

has been the subject of “numerous unfounded accusations” and “vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas.”

I’m not so sure, and to hell with the letter of the law! How about ethics? I know many other people feel the same way.

person on computer typing facebookThat’s because The Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the situation, reported “The decision to close up shop followed rising legal fees and a loss of clients over the investigation into their work and use of Facebook data.”

So there!

And The Huffington Post also reported,

“The firm also suspended its CEO, Alexander Nix, in March after he was recorded bragging about Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories, influencing more than 200 elections around the world with unethical practices.

“Those methods included bribery, entrapment and the use of sex workers and inaccurate information. Nix had said that he was lying when he said that.

“Cambridge Analytica did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”

Good riddance!

Cambridge Analytica had been hired by both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz’s Republican primary campaigns during the 2016 presidential race.

donald trump ted cruz

As for Facebook, a spokesperson told Recode in a statement,

“This doesn’t change our commitment and determination to understand exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We are continuing with our investigation in cooperation with the relevant authorities.”

featured fb zuckerberg cambridgeThe Cambridge revelations led to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing before Congress to discuss his company’s data practices, and chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer doing the same in the British Parliament.

Meanwhile, take a look at this list:

Abortion… Budget… Civil rights… Crime… Economy… Education… Energy… Environment… Foreign Policy… Government reform… Guns… Health… Immigration… Infrastructure… Military… Poverty… Social Security… Taxes… Terrorism… Values…

facebook adsThey’re what Axios reports Facebook has defined as “issue ads” that’ll require authorization and labeling on its platform in the U.S.

facebook ads thumbs upAdvertising isn’t just to sell products to make money, but also selling ideas that can win activists money for lobbying and more advertising — and votes.

Eventually, an appeals process will be established and inevitable discrepancies about what’s considered an “issue ad” will be taken up there. That means the list may evolve over time.

facebook coca-cola ad

The reason is issue ads are often more difficult to regulate than regular election ads, which simply advocate for one candidate over another.

Of course, political ads on TV and the radio are heavily regulated since they’re on the public airwaves. That’s especially true for federal offices. This one is not.

That brings me to an article I tweeted earlier today.

Politico reported since the beginning of the year, Fox News has invited central Florida congressman and gubernatorial primary candidate Ron DeSantis on the air “roughly 100 times” while his opponent in the race – Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – has not been invited even once. That airtime has been compared to $7.1 million in “national publicity value.”

So much for fair and balanced, and anything close to equal time!

ron desantis adam putnam
Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam

Remember, this is a Republican primary and what Politico called, “a seemingly endless series of appearances on a news network favored by conservatives.”

Not just conservatives, but supporters of President Trump, who endorsed DeSantis.

And, “Since announcing his bid in January, DeSantis has been given frequent access to Fox’s best real estate — including Fox & Friends, Laura Ingraham, and the Hannity show.”

DeSantis on Fox
Only Ron DeSantis. No Adam Putnam. Not fair. Not equal.

Here is one more comparison.

Putnam is still the GOP frontrunner and has raised more than $20 million.

DeSantis has raised only $7.8 million between his campaign and political committee, but Fox News is probably why “roughly 40 percent of DeSantis’ contributions have come from non-Florida donors,” even though only Floridians will vote in their state’s gubernatorial primary.

Also,

“Of the nearly $4 million spent by Putnam and his political committee on TV ads, hundreds-of-thousands of dollars have been for time on Fox News programs” but “When those ads started to circulate, some of Fox News’ most prominent hosts gave DeSantis cover and tried to tie the ads to Putnam.”

That’s similar to how Sinclair Broadcast Group aired “a commercial from a liberal consumer watchdog that’s critical of the broadcaster’s actions” as it tries to merge with Tribune Media, but CNN reported, “the company is running its own message right before and after the ad. So viewers are seeing a 15-second defense of Sinclair, then 30 seconds of criticism, then another 15-second defense.”

SBG FloridaBTW, Sinclair owns or operates Florida stations in West Palm Beach, Pensacola (with Mobile, AL), Tallahassee (with Thomasville, GA) and Gainesville. See map.

SIDEBAR: This isn’t what I planed to write about but Sinclair’s wanna-be merger victim, Tribune, only owns WSFL-39 in Florida. It has been known as “SFL-TV, South Florida’s CW” in recent years, covering the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. Friday, I reported the station will be spun off and not take part in the Sinclair-Tribune merger, even if it happens. Plus, I showed you the lists of Sinclair and Tribune stations submitted to the FCC document that said so. I stand by everything I wrote and showed.

tribune divest

Notice all the TBDs in the Buyer column. They include WSFL. I explained all the other TBD stations are Fox affiliates, and the ones in NFL football cities will probably be sold to the network itself, which is going to be a lot leaner and stressing live events — especially NFL football — which it will be adding on Thursday nights. That’s if Fox ever comes to an agreement with Sinclair.

WSFL is a CW affiliate without a news department and I dwelled on whether Fox would buy it and dump its Sunbeam-owned powerhouse affiliate WSVN. Again, it’s all here.

All of those stations have to be sold because otherwise, the proposed merged company would own more stations than the FCC allows. I also explained in detail what I consider sinister motives with Cunningham and other Sinclair buyers, on Friday.

The deal was supposed to happen in the second quarter of this year (by June). I just did an internet search and found nothing new from any reliable sources, but I did find something new on the FCC’s website. Yesterday, it published a letter from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s response to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) regarding Sinclair Broadcast’s proposal to acquire Tribune Media. Sen. Durbin and others have been especially concerned about Tribune’s WGN-TV9 in Chicago. The letter was written a few weeks ago but again, just published yesterday.

Pai to Durbin
https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2018/db0507/DOC-350587A1.pdf

So I believe nothing has changed, despite seeing a website that appears to be WSFL’s. It’s called SFLTV.com. However, it looks like a generic Florida TV blog, does not look professional, does not have a detailed copyright, news I don’t believe from May 1 and today, and some strange graphics (below). I’m just warning you.

Click here for the real WSFL website. It looks like other Tribune sites, and these are current and former logos.

BACK TO THE STORYPolitico also reported, “A Fox News spokeswoman did not return a request seeking comment on why DeSantis is a regular guest or why Putnam has not been on the network this year.”

feature group
Another similarity: Ron DeSantis almost in Sinclair Broadcast Group style!

I’m reporting Politico put DeSantis’ name in the first line of its story, while Putnam’s didn’t appear until the tenth paragraph!

And no Democrats’ names appear at all!

Also not mentioned: Two-term Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) will be leaving Tallahassee behind to take on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).

rick scott bill nelson
Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson

By the way, speaking of equal time, the Federal Communications Commission’s Equal-Time Rule specifies that U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political candidates who request it, in news or advertising. It was created in §18 of the Radio Act of 1927 because the FCC was concerned broadcasters could easily manipulate the outcome of elections by presenting just one point of view, and excluding other candidates. (Like Fox News is doing? What lets them do it, in a moment.) The rule was later superseded by the Communications Act of 1934.

Then, the FCC writes, “In 1972, new rules regarding cable television became effective. … Cable television operators who originated programming were subject to equal time, sponsorship identification and other provisions similar to rules applicable to broadcasters.”

Now,

“Once a cable system allows a legally qualified candidate for public office to use its facilities, it must afford ‘equal opportunities’ to all other candidates for that office to use its facilities. The cable system may not censor the content of a candidate’s material in any way, and may not discriminate between candidates in practices, regulations, facilities or services rendered while making time available to such candidates. Candidate appearances which are exempt from the ‘equal opportunities’ rules include appearances on a bona fide newscast, bona fide news interview, bona fide news documentary, or during on-the-spot coverage of a bona fide news event.”

Bona fide newscast? Bona fide news interview? I just report. You can decide.

If I remember correctly, back in the day, Oprah’s talk show was considered news under this policy; not any others.

That’s different from the Fairness Doctrine (1947-1987) “that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance (not candidates) and to do so in a manner that was—in the FCC’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced.”

One very last thing and it’s the last thing you see on posts: the comments. Did you know I’m constantly updating articles in that section?

It’s not easy to find on the regular generic CohenConnect.com homepage you turn to when you want to see the latest articles (if you don’t subscribe with your email address or WordPress account). WordPress makes you go below the sharing and liking, and below all the categories and tags for the post you just read, and you’ll find a place for comments at the very end, just before the previous article begins.

generic site

After an article, WordPress makes you go below the sharing and liking, below the related posts (which it chooses, along with the categories beneath them), below all the categories and tags for the post you just read, below a link to the article before (and after, unless it’s the latest), and that’s where you’ll find any comments.

article page

So keep checking the bottom of an article out if you were really interested, even weeks after publishing, and you know what to do in some rare case you don’t think I’m right!

Besides, who do you trust more, WordPress or Facebook?

Also, please, don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish.

Eagle eye: Most Philadelphia media ignore possibility of local terrorism

You would think anytime there’s a possibility of terrorism in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia media would report it. Apparently that wasn’t the case this week.

Maybe hysteria over the Eagles in the Super Bowl is to blame.

By all reported accounts, Khalil Lawal of Arlington, Va., drove a car into a pedestrian in South Philadelphia.

It happened at about 7:30 Monday morning near Broad and Bigler streets. Then, Lawal attacked the off-duty officer who confronted him.

I checked for the latest web articles from the city’s five TV news sites (3, 6, 10, 17 and 29), plus the newspaper’s.

According to WPVI, Tuesday afternoon,

“Investigators say Lawal apparently tried to use his black Honda hit a person who had just gotten out of a car.

“Then, on foot, Lawal chased another person who had tried to detain him, and then charged at the off-duty officer after he approached, leading to a violent struggle.

“During the struggle, the officer fired about ten shots, hitting Lawal in the torso, legs, and face.”

 

gun outline

Lawal was killed, and the officer was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital.

Thursday morning, WCAU identified the officer as Det. James Powell, a 23-year veteran assigned to External Services and was off duty at the time.

Investigators told the station, before the shooting,

“Lawal continued driving east on Bigler before making a U-turn and returning toward the intersection of Broad and Bigler near Marconi Plaza. … A Good Samaritan used his truck to block his path. … Lawal then allegedly chased the Good Samaritan on foot before walking back to his Honda.”

Wednesday night, WTXF reported at least three video cameras recorded the incident which WCAU reported police “have no plan to release.”

WCAU also said, “Police don’t believe the incident was a case of domestic terrorism.”

daily express

However, Monday, England’s Daily Express reported,

“A police spokesman confirmed this afternoon terror was being considered as motivation.

“He said: ‘Anytime someone is trying to run people over we got to look at that angle and see what the investigation leads us.’”

That, and the line from WCAU, were the only mentions I could find of possible terrorism.

isis islamic state flag

Note just yesterday, Edward Archer was convicted of shooting police officer Jesse Hartnett in an ambush, two years ago. Archer had pledged his allegiance to ISIS and said he had acted out of religious inspiration. So terrorism on a local level has been in the news this week, but in a different story.

However, in this week’s case, WTXF reported,

“The detective fired several shots, knocking the man to the ground and then continued firing—striking the man 13 times in all.”

Commissioner Richard Ross
Police Commissioner Richard Ross leads the fourth largest police department in the nation
LKDA
New district attorney Larry Krasner, sworn in exactly one month ago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That had Police Commissioner Richard Ross (left) concerned.

Tuesday, the Inquirer reported “Ross said he had reviewed surveillance video of the shooting and had ‘some concerns’ about ‘whether all the shots were necessary.’”

New district attorney Larry Krasner (right) promised WTXF “an ‘even-handed’ review of” the shooting.

The Inky reported Powell will be assigned to administrative duties while Internal Affairs investigates the shooting.

The Philadelphia Police website has nothing on the shooting, including a press release. It hasn’t yet made the list of officer-involved shootings.

2018 officer involved shootings

There’s also nothing on its Facebook page. And the only thing I could find from the department on Twitter was this:

From what I could tell, this story that made international headlines and possibly involved terrorism deserved more news coverage than it got locally: one station reporting police didn’t think it was.

At least there are things on the department’s Facebook page everyone in the area can agree on. Come to think of it, maybe it’s the reason we haven’t heard more about the shooting.

Every media organization sent crews to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Those journalists, no matter how good they are, couldn’t be in two places at once. And the police department is planning for fans celebrating the Eagles victory over the New England Patriots — or that other possibility.

Lessons on addressing, our government’s gift to you!

usps0

On Facebook? You’re probably signed up for a lesson on mailing a letter, paid for by the U.S. government, like the one above.

usps logo

I was a little out of it, last Thursday, told I was sounding stuffy, so I didn’t do much other than read. Part of that time was on Facebook rather than anything too important, although not entirely so.

I saw a sponsored ad from the U.S. Postal Service on how to mail a letter. (I thought the people in charge these days want smaller government and less spending.)

Donald Trump squeeze money

Their busiest time of the year is coming up. If you’re reading on the blog, you can see the countdown dates until Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas — depending on the type of media you’re using (desktop, tablet or phone).

(Did you know Black Friday is an actual holiday in 24 states?)

countdowns

Hundreds of millions of Americans will be mailing cards and gifts, despite more and more substituting email for cards and shipping for gifts.

postal truck

We all want what we worked on and paid for to be delivered in a timely manner. I’m still waiting for a card from my mother from September that hasn’t arrived. It wasn’t her fault. She actually took it to the post office to make sure the correct amount of postage was on the envelope, and it had a return sticker.

money dollars cents

On the other hand, I’ve lived in my condo for more than a year and still get mail intended for previous residents of both sexes with various first and last names. Just last month, hundreds of our electric bills were returned to the management company!

That’s in addition to the latest problem that just started over the past few weeks: getting mail for 2501 and 2701 rather than 2601, with the four numbers after the ZIP code wrong.

mail3

mail2

mail1

That’s definitely human delivery error and should be eliminated, and I know that because the material was sent by professional companies with addresses typed in.

I’m sure the USPS wants to be considered as good by Santa (track him here) and the public, and stay in business for another year, so they apparently paid Facebook for advertising to teach readers the correct way to address an envelope, and which pitfalls to avoid.

Are any of these new to you? (I’ll let the experts tell you in their own words, since they paid for the opportunity.)

usps article

I know some people try to be fancy and cute, and that hurts the postal service’s performance. Did you know you should always address an envelope using capital letters, but not to use any punctuation except in the ZIP plus 4?

Maybe not.

Perhaps the USPS should have mailed every household and business a piece of paper with their suggestions, like they print and deliver when they hold food drives, because not everyone is on Facebook and not everyone is going to click their ad. I’m not sure about the price difference, and it would certainly mean more trees cut down, but it would also cut down on late and lost mail, which is also a waste.

ups fedex

Yes, there are private competitors that should be keeping the USPS on its toes to bring us better performance.

I’ve only rarely used the companies, like UPS and FedEx, mostly for mortgage paperwork when the envelopes were prepaid. I’m not sure they were any better than the post office and I had to go looking for a special box on the street to send them, rather than this.

us post office mailboxes

Choice is good. It should lower prices and improve service. But I for one would hate to see any, especially the USPS, go away.

usps old new

First, anyone who messes with your mailed letters and packages violates federal law and should go to jail. I’m not sure if the same applies to competitors like UPS and FedEx.

usps pkg

Second, there are post offices and mailboxes everywhere. Who doesn’t have a mailbox?

In my neighborhood, I keep hearing complaints from people in rowhomes outside my building about how their big packages with goods they ordered were stolen. That’s crooks disrupting the system.

And walking by, I see people’s notes on their doors about how packages should be delivered to the convenience store down the street in case nobody is home! That’s asking delivery people make two stops rather than one — slowing the process for everyone and making them work harder — and who says they have to, considering where their items were addressed?

usps amazon

And we want the post office to succeed, and deliver mail at least six days a week, so more workers can keep their jobs.

post office worker cartoon

But it can do better.

They closed many of Philadelphia’s post offices for the same hours for days throughout the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2016. It was very inconvenient and I can’t come up with a good excuse. I’m sure the workers got paid. Most other government employees worked extra hard and got to collect overtime.

 

(No, John Kerry had already replaced the eventual presidential nominee as Secretary of State! As you well know, Hillary Clinton got nothing.)

hillary clinton

At least they lowered the price of a stamp by a penny so it’s an even better deal than it was before.

forever stamps

So do your part and address your items correctly.

One last word of advice: Don’t procrastinate. Give whatever company you use enough time to get your package to its correct destination in time. Click here for Holiday Shipping Deadlines. (They really only mean Christmas.)

Christmas Hanukkah

Good luck, happy holidays, and drive safely, and I mean that starting with Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving

Oh wait. Look what just came up!

one last picture

Again, thanks to our tax money, and on the very edge of appropriateness for the USPS…

holiday staffing

So don’t be surprised if more government money in the form of “tips” makes its way to Facebook.