Sinclair sinks, Trump’s temper, Cox’s cash value

There’s something to be said for waiting before starting to write. That’s not my nature. I want to get things out first. I type very well but nobody can do it as quickly as my brain, so I often dictate into a phone and email myself. Then, I make any corrections and additions, and create the graphics and email preferences.

But this saga of Sinclair Broadcast Group trying to buy Tribune Media that has been going on for more than a year and suddenly failing last week – supposedly failing – is full of interesting details.

NO sinclair tribune

I wrote about a lot of them, Tuesday night. That was mostly background. You know how little I admire Sinclair and the people who run it. Tonight, you’ll see exactly what went wrong for the deal and what I think should be done. Let’s just say what went wrong could’ve been a lot of what I wrote Tuesday night!

I’m going to suggest starting by reading that last post, if you haven’t. It gives a lot of background about why Sinclair is so despised – that I’ve written about for months but conveniently put in one place – so there’s no sense repeating it here.

cox media group

But first, the latest, and that’s Cox Media Group – one of the best corporations owning TV stations out there, and a private one – is exploring putting itself up for sale.

Yesterday, FTVLlive’s Scott Jones got a secret copy of the talking points Cox managers are supposed to use while talking to employees. Let’s face it, “talking points” is another phrase meaning public relations. In other words, they’re trying to convince the workers to keep working extra hard because everything is going to be great! (I hope you used your best Tony the Tiger when you read that.)

Of course, that’s not how employees are feeling. When your company suddenly sets itself up to be bought, there is lots of uncertainty. You know spending will go down and jobs will not be filled, so the company’s financials look more attractive. And being bought by another major established company could lead to layoffs. But you know that’s not in the talking points which you can see below in this six-page slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cox’s 14 TV stations are pretty good and most are highly-rated ones. From left to right, by row, they’re the ABC affiliate in Atlanta; ABC and independent in Orlando; Fox in Boston; CBS in Seattle; NBC in Pittsburgh; ABC and independent in Charlotte; Fox and CBS in Jacksonville; Fox in Memphis; CBS in Dayton, Ohio; Fox in Tulsa, Okla.; and also a “supply-side platform that brings automation and data-driven targeting to the buying and selling of television advertising” called Videa.

cox stations

There are also 61 radio stations, 4 daily newspapers, 11 non-daily papers, 16 digital brands, and one local cable channel.

FTVLive’s Scott Jones also got a market analyst report from Wells Fargo about how much Cox Media may be worth. The answer it gives is $2.65 billion, but consider many factors including the number of willing buyers, whether the stations get split up, and whether Tribune goes back on the market.

wells fargo cox

See Tuesday’s post for a lot more links to, and details on, the rest of Atlanta-based Cox.

So FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was arguably putting himself on the line while supporting the Sinclair-Tribune merger when surprisingly, last week, he 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.”

How surprising?

Pai embraced the merger so much, he’s under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for allegedly greasing the wheels by bringing back the UHF discount rule weeks before the deal was announced. That way, the new, larger company could still meet the FCC ownership limit of 39 percent of U.S. households, rather than vastly exceeding them.

— UPDATE: The FCC inspector general cleared Chairman Ajit Pai of being unfairly biased in favor of the Sinclair Broadcast Group–Tribune Media merger. —

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair’s reach now, without Tribune

Then yesterday – at an awkward moment for Pai, Sinclair and Tribune – a Washington-based U.S. Appeals Court rejected a challenge to the FCC reinstating the UHF discount that could’ve and could still pave the way for the merger. The three-judge panel was comprised of two President Barack Obama nominees and one President Trump nominee. They dismissed the case on technical grounds without considering its merits, ruling the activist groups that filed suit hadn’t shown they’d be injured by the consolidation at the heart of their case. What this really means is Tribune could be worth more if it pulls out of the deal, because other potential suitors will have more flexibility to make offers. Tribune can leave Sinclair at the alter/chuppah on Aug. 8.

The UHF discount, started in 1985, let companies with UHF (channels 14+) stations only count half the coverage area towards the ownership limit. But that was when there was a big difference between watching channels 2 to 13, and channels 14+. With today’s technology – and cable, satellite and computers added to the mix, and broadcast signals digital rather than analog – the quality looks the same. The rule was ended in 2016, just before the end of President Obama’s administration.

So why bring back the rule last year? For big corporations, up against the ownership limit, urging Pai to reinstate it so they could buy more stations – exactly what Sinclair needed to merge with Tribune.

According to Variety, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the sole Democrat on the FCC at the time, warned it would diminish diversity, competition, and localism, and she predicted a wave of mergers and acquisitions.

Variety wrote at the time,

“She showed a chart from Bloomberg showing how major station groups benefit from the discount. The largest, ION Media, reaches 33.7% of the country with the discount, but 65.2% without. Univision reaches 23.6% with the discount, but 44.8% without. When the discount was repealed last summer, station groups were allowed to retain their existing holdings, but they would be forced to divest assets in the event of a merger or corporate takeover.”

tv owner population share

But Pai argued the FCC would start examining the media ownership cap and reinstating the UHF discount would give the FCC a “blank slate.” The examination started in December.

generic tvA year later, in April 2018, Variety reported a panel of appellate judges asked why the FCC reinstated the rule and raised some concerns. Two of the three judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals also expressed concerns the FCC had restored a rule that was considered obsolete.

According to Variety, Judge Gregory Katsas noted to the FCC’s attorney, James Carr, that while the FCC

“might want to raise the cap,” there was “no reason for thinking at that the end of the day, part of the solution will be keeping the discount.”

“I think that is probably fair, your honor,” Carr replied. He argued that the UHF discount shouldn’t be eliminated without considering its implications to the 39% cap.

Meanwhile, CEO Chris Ruddy of conservative TV news network Newsmax said, “The judges on the D.C. Circuit reviewing the FCC’s UHF discount were left scratching their heads wondering why the rule was re-instated when everyone — Republicans and Democrats alike — agree that the discount is an analog relic and makes no sense in a digital world.

“The FCC should avoid the appearance of impropriety and proceed with a transparent national ownership cap proceeding to set a level playing field before approving any merger that benefits just one company, namely Sinclair.”

He also said he told President Trump strict limits on national TV ownership are needed not only to keep a lid on Sinclair, but also on the ‘liberal’ broadcast networks.

I told him [Trump] about my opposition because Sinclair would reach 70 percent of U.S. homes and — while I don’t disagree necessarily with Sinclair’s editorial point of view — I did not want to see NBC and ABC and the big liberal networks…[reaching] 70 percent.

“I think that would have been very dangerous if NBC was dictating the local news coverage in Des Moines, Iowa,” Ruddy said.

Keep in mind, Ruddy’s Newsmax and also Sinclair want to challenge Fox News Channel for conservative news viewers.

Politico summed it up by saying,

“Sinclair has been a frequent target for Democrats and liberal groups disturbed by reports that it favors President Donald Trump in its coverage via ‘must-run’ segments pumped to its network of stations.”

During the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reported Sinclair

“gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign” while airing negative stories on Hillary Clinton, and Politico reported “on a boast by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner that the president’s campaign had struck a deal with the broadcast group for better media coverage. Sinclair disputed the characterization, saying it was an arrangement for extended sit-down interviews that was offered to both candidates.”

Also, it was Trump who nominated Pai for the agency’s top post, so most experts felt the merger would eventually get the go-ahead due to President Trump’s public comments praising the media company, which boasts a conservative-leaning, anti-mainstream media news operation.

My last post mentioned many different cases of using shell companies under Sinclair’s control to still broadcast on more stations than allowed. Those so-called sidecar arrangements let Sinclair keep a stake in the revenue and programming of the spun-off stations.

I even asked, “Why was the FCC the last to find out? Or did it know and ignore the facts for political reasons?”

Today, I found a new example of a virtual triopoly (three stations in a market), when the FCC only allows duopolies (two stations in a market) and only under certain conditions.

So what changed? Politico reports problems in three cities.

WGN-TV

First, in Chicago, the plan was to sell

“WGN to Steven Fader, a Maryland business associate of Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith who oversees car dealerships.”

According to Reuters,

“The draft order circulated by Pai’s office … said Sinclair’s actions around the divestiture of TV station WGN in Chicago ‘includes a potential element of misrepresentation or lack of candor.’”

Ouch! Not good for a company licensed to use the public airwaves. I used another example below and then offered a suggestion about what should happen to Sinclair.

Adweek added,

“The FCC feels Smith selling the asset to his friend and business associate presents a problem,”

and I’ll say the price of $60 million is ludicrous, considering the station is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to The Chicago Tribune,

“The WGN services agreement would have kept Sinclair in charge of everything from programming to ad sales while giving it an option to buy back the station for the same price, subject to adjustments, within eight years.”

WPIX

Sinclair was also supposed to sell WPIX-New York, the nation’s largest TV market by far, for a measly $15 million to that same Cunningham Broadcasting, a company with close ties to the Smith family. That caused Pai to say he was concerned Sinclair’s proposed sales in Chicago and New York may have attempted to deceive the government.

Adweek said also troubling

“were the deals to sell stations in Dallas and Houston to Cunningham Broadcasting.”

The Tribune reported,

“The proposal also included an option to buy the stations back.”

According to Reuters,

“Separate filings with the FCC last month by the American Civil Liberties Union and conservative news outlet Newsmax Media” … raised “questions about whether Sinclair would continue to control some of the stations it proposes to divest.”

So Politico said,

“Pai announced an administrative law judge would review the station spinoff issues. The FCC takes that step when companies fail to persuade it that a transaction, even with conditions, would be in the public interest.”

Ars Technica reported the decision by FCC commissioners to adopt a Hearing Designation Order and have a judge review aspects of the deal was unanimous. Other options were

“denying the merger outright, approving the merger, or approving it with conditions.”

Click here for the full order. One of the key parts reads:

“Among these applications were three that, rather than transfer broadcast television licenses in Chicago, Dallas, and Houston directly to Sinclair, proposed to transfer these licenses to other entities. The record raises significant questions as to whether those proposed divestitures were in fact “sham” transactions. By way of example, one application proposed to transfer WGN-TV in Chicago to an individual (Steven Fader) with no prior experience in broadcasting who currently serves as CEO of a company in which Sinclair’s executive chairman has a controlling interest. Moreover, Sinclair would have owned most of WGN-TV’s assets, and pursuant to a number of agreements, would have been responsible for many aspects of the station’s operation. Finally, Fader would have purchased WGN-TV at a price that appeared to be significantly below market value, and Sinclair would have had an option to buy back the station in the future. Such facts raise questions about whether Sinclair was the real party in interest under Commission rules and precedents and attempted to skirt the Commission’s broadcast ownership rules. Although these three applications were withdrawn today, material questions remain because the real party-in-interest issue in this case includes a potential element of misrepresentation or lack of candor that may suggest granting other, related applications by the same party would not be in the public interest.”

This keeps getting better!at&t time warner

Politico said an administrative law judge was called in 2015 with the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal. The companies later abandoned it, rather than go through the hearing process. AT&T ended up with Time Warner, at least for now, after a federal judge allowed it without conditions, but the Justice Department is appealing.

By last Wednesday, Reuters reported Sinclair announced it would not divest the three TV stations currently owned by Tribune

“to ‘expedite’ the transaction after the FCC suggested the company would still control the stations,” and “two FCC officials who did not wish to be identified said Wednesday they believe the merger will not be able to proceed.”

Instead, Sinclair itself will acquire WGN-Chicago, and put KDAF-Dallas and KIAH-Houston into a divestiture trust and sold by an independent trustee (if the acquisition is finalized).

The Justice Department is also still reviewing the deal and the FCC may have even more concerns.

Sinclair denied any effort to mislead the FCC and issued this long statement:

“While neither Sinclair or Tribune have seen the draft HDO, Chairman Pai’s comments and press reports indicate the FCC is questioning the proposed divestitures in Dallas, Houston and Chicago.  Accordingly, in order to address such concerns and to expedite the Tribune transaction, Sinclair has withdrawn the pending divestitures of stations in Dallas (KDAF) and Houston (KIAH) to Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation and Tribune has withdrawn the pending divestiture of WGN in Chicago to WGN-TV LLC.  Sinclair intends to request permission from the FCC to put the Dallas and Houston stations into a divestiture trust to be operated and sold by an independent trustee following the closing of the Tribune acquisition.  Sinclair expects to have identified and entered into a purchase agreement with a third party buyer or buyers for the Dallas and Houston stations prior to closing.  As a result of the withdrawal of the application relating to WGN, Sinclair will simply acquire that station as part of the Tribune acquisition, which is, and has always been, fully permissible under the national ownership cap.

“Throughout the FCC review process of the Tribune merger and divestitures, Sinclair has had numerous meetings and discussions with the FCC’s Media Bureau to make sure that they were fully aware of the transaction’s structure and basis for complying with FCC rules and meeting public interest obligations. During these discussions and in our filings with the FCC, we have been completely transparent about every aspect of the proposed transaction. We have fully identified who the buyers are and the terms under which stations would be sold to such buyer, including any ongoing relationship we would have with any such stations after the sales. All relevant agreements documenting such terms as required by FCC rules have been filed. While we understand that certain parties, which oppose the transaction object to certain of the buyers based on such buyers’ relationships with Sinclair, at no time have we withheld information or misled the FCC in any manner whatsoever with respect to the relationships or the structure of those relationships proposed as part of the Tribune acquisition. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and without factual basis.

“While the structures put forth to the FCC throughout the process have all been in compliance with law and consistent with structures that Sinclair and many other broadcasters have utilized for many years with the full approval of the FCC, we have consistently modified the structure in order to address any concerns raised by the FCC. As a result and in light of the ongoing and constructive dialogue we had with the FCC during the past year, we were shocked that concerns are now being raised. Nonetheless, we have decided to move forward with these additional changes to satisfy the FCC’s concerns.

“There can be no question regarding misrepresentation or character given that Sinclair has fully disclosed all terms of all aspects of the transactions it has proposed. The FCC’s reported concerns with sales to certain parties have been eliminated in light of the withdrawals of the applications relating to Dallas, Houston and Chicago. Accordingly, we call upon the FCC to approve the modified Tribune acquisition in order to bring closure to this extraordinarily drawn-out process and to provide certainty to the thousands of Tribune employees who are looking for closure.”

So what’s next for Tribune? Will it stick by the deal as it said it intends? We don’t know for sure yet, but it has until Aug. 8 and I already mentioned reasons to separate from Sinclair.

This video was made before Cox threw its assets into the ring.

One big winner, so far, could be 21st Century Fox Inc. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who has become close with President Trump.

Bloomberg notes, over the decades, Fox and Sinclair have been in business together, but the conservative organizations have also been rivals.

Sinclair owns dozens of local Fox affiliates. So does Tribune. Last year, Fox tried unsuccessfully to outbid Sinclair for Tribune.

In the meantime, the companies divide the retransmission fees paid by cable and satellite operators (meaning what you and I pay). Networks say local stations have more value because of them.

Former Fox exec Preston Paddon remembers in his blog,

“By 1992, Congress found that cable systems were paying carriage fees to the non-broadcast channels but not to the broadcasters, and that this was unfair to the broadcasters.”

It’s why we pay for free local TV if we’re not watching with an antenna.

Anyway, Sinclair buying Tribune and its own Fox affiliates would’ve given it a stronger negotiating hand in talks with Fox about how to divvy up those fees.

So after losing out on Tribune,

“Fox threatened to pull its affiliates from Sinclair and switch the stations to an independent broadcaster. Eventually, in order to satisfy regulators, Sinclair agreed to sell some Tribune stations to Fox, which, in turn, said it would renew Sinclair’s affiliation with more than two dozen stations.”

Now, Fox may be able to buy even more stations.

And “Sinclair may soon compete with Fox News for right-leaning TV viewers” may not come to pass. It has reportedly been talking about hiring former Fox News stars to create a block of conservative programming using WGN America, which it would acquire, or The Tennis Channel, which it already owns. Former Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson already work for Sinclair. Politico reported Sinclair has even approached current and former Fox talent such as Jeanine Pirro, and Greta Van Susteren and Eric Bolling. I already wrote Talks with former Fox host Bill O’Reilly fell apart. Sinclair won’t admit to any of that.

Also, the Justice Department appealed the ruling that let AT&T buy Time Warner. That’s good for Fox at the moment because it involves Fox News Channel rival CNN, and may have kept Comcast/NBC from buying most of Fox, as it downsizes to become “New Fox.” Murdoch prefers Disney/ABC buying the assets, which the government already approved, and “the Murdoch family would see more tax benefits in that deal.”

So what’s President Trump’s beef? You already read about his relationship with Sinclair.

Tuesday night, he tweeted it was “sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,” but Republicans control the FCC, he appointed Ajit Pai as chairman, and Pai has been accused of being too cozy with Sinclair. But except for appointments, the FCC is independent from the White House.

Deadline reported Sinclair commentator Boris Epshteyn, who used to work for Trump, is for the deal. So is Steve Bannon, who got friendly with Sinclair stations in swing states before the election. And Trump has to like Sinclair’s publicity.

The only Democratic FCC commissioner at the moment tweeted her response to the president with just one word: disagree.

But Trump’s friend Rupert Murdoch – who also owns TV stations and the pro-Trump Fox News Channel – is said to be against the merger. That would be especially so if Sinclair starts putting conservative news on cable through WGN America and The Tennis Channel. Trump is so chummy with Murdoch, he called in December to congratulate him on the Disney-21st Century Fox deal.

I wrote another friend, NewsMax chief Chris Ruddy, is definitely against Sinclair-Tribune, as well.

Furthermore, the president compared Sinclair-Tribune to letting “Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast (get) approved” which happened under the Obama administration and FCC. Trump criticized it as being too big.

He didn’t mention it’s on the level of AT&T-Time Warner, which a federal judge recently allowed but the Justice Department is appealing.

The difference between Sinclair-Tribune and Disney-Fox – and NBC-Comcast and AT&T-Time Warner – is that the first pair involve companies that make content but don’t distribute it. In the second pair, NBC and Time-Warner make content, but Comcast and AT&T actually distribute it — Comcast through cable and AT&T by DirecTV satellite, both of which are paid subscription services.

In April, Axios reported President Trump defended Sinclair after the company started

“forcing conservative, pro-Trump editorials on its” news anchors and “Deadspin created a video of Sinclair broadcasters spurning ‘fake news.’

Viewers of Sinclair’s 200-plus local stations had already seen “centrally drafted opinion items reflecting its conservative, often pro-Trump positions,” but not by their own local anchors and certainly not side-by-side along with so many others.

That was at 6:34am. Keep in mind, a great number of Sinclair’s stations are affiliated with the networks.

Then, at 6:58, Trump took on CNN…

and got pushback from its PR department.

CNN reports some Sinclair journalists said they were unhappy with President Trump’s portrayal of the company as “conservative” because they want to be recognized for their straight-forward, nonpartisan work. Despite their stations being forced to air pro-Trump commentaries and stories, most journalists at local stations don’t want to be labeled by the president or anyone else.

As for Sinclair’s claim of more localism if the deal goes through, FTVLive’s Scott Jones found Sinclair station WSYX-Columbus, Ohio, doing a series of reports called “Gator Week” (as opposed to Shark Week, that has been on the Discovery Channel since 1988). Still, Jones thought it was “odd” considering “you don’t see many alligators in Ohio.” Then, he found out about other Sinclair stations doing the same thing, “including WGXA (Macon, Ga.), WPMI (Mobile, Ala.), WPEC (West Palm Beach) and others.” He joked he wasn’t sure it was a must-run.

I, myself, found Shark Week on a retweet from the Cunningham Broadcasting station in mid-Michigan. Maybe WBSF was allowed to go a different route.

WBSF’s “About” section says it’s “owned and operated by Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” So there are three terms/phrases: owned, operated, and “receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” Maybe that’s because just above, it says to send all press releases to news@nbc25news.com. So maybe “certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group” includes press releases.

But wait!

Below, there are nbc25news email addresses for comments, webmaster (the Sinclair owned, operated, and apparently “affiliated” websites all look similar), contests and weather.

And below that are Sinclair (sbgi.net) email addresses for corporate, two for national advertising, and the secondary person for closed-captioning concerns.

So maybe those are all the “certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

That’s all very interesting since I knew Sinclair controlled two other stations in the same location!

NBC affiliate WEYI has on its “about” section (with the same look) that it’s “owned and operated by Howard Stirk Holdings, LLC and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” That entire phrase is merely a substitution for Armstrong Williams’ company and we established in my last post that WEYI is one of a few Howard Stirk stations run by Sinclair. They also use the nbc25news email, but it’s more appropriate here.

Then there’s Fox affiliate WSMH that has on its “about” section (with the same look, of course) that it’s – wait for this! – actually “owned and operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group.” The email addresses are all wsmh.com. The “receives certain services” phrase is not there.

I did notice after the paragraph with the name of the owner, etc., and ties to Sinclair, is another called “Community Involvement.”

What’s funny is that all three stations start with “The owner and Sinclair Broadcast Group, LLC. continue to broaden its recruiting outreach…”

That means “the owner” can be whichever company actually holds the station license and it’s not named here, just referred to as “the owner,” out of laziness.

But what’s especially funny here is saying “The owner and Sinclair Broadcast Group” when Sinclair is really the owner!

But seriously, how does Sinclair operate the three stations with the same address, etc.? We learned in my last post that’s not allowed in Baltimore, with Sinclair, Cunningham and Deerfield Media. In fact, in Nov., 2012, TVNewsCheck reported the situation as “a virtual triopoly.”

The FCC’s webpage called Broadcast Ownership Rules clearly states in its section, Local TV Multiple Ownership:

“An entity is permitted to own up to two TV stations in the same Designated Market Area if either:

  • “The service areas – known as the digital noise limited service contour – of the stations do not overlap

  • “At least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination”

That’s the summary in its entirety! The stations cover the same area. An old website reports “eight full-power television stations in the Flint-Saginaw-Bay City market,” the others being CBS and ABC affiliates, two PBS affiliates and a religious broadcaster.

And the NBC, Fox and CW stations are controlled by the same company, for all intents and purposes. I’d bet the CW station is not in the top four rated, but the rules are for an entity “to own up to two TV stations” – just two!

(The MyNetworkTV affiliate is on a sub-channel of the CBS affiliate.)

I just found the mid-Michigan situation by accident and wonder how many other cities this has been going on in.

TVNewsCheck’s Harry A. Jessell put it this way, and then made lists of winners and losers at this point:

“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.

“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.”

Bloomberg quotes B. Riley FBR Inc. analyst Barton Crockett, who said in a note he has

“never seen such ‘harsh’ language from the FCC about an applicant for a merger. The ‘vitriolic’ tone of the FCC statement makes it dubious that Sinclair and Tribune will be able to come back with divestitures that will satisfy the FCC.”

Bottom line: Anyone who knows me knows I can be tough, especially on myself. The people who run and invest in the nation’s largest media company have been breaking rules all over the place for many years. It’s time the FCC gets extremely serious so it’s taken seriously when protecting the public interest from those using the public airwaves.

Does anyone remember the RKO situation? Have a seat and look for similarities. (I wrote this with information from several Wikipedia listings.)

RKO General 1962
1962 logo

RKO General was the main holding company through 1991 for the non-core businesses of the General Tire and Rubber Company.

It had been in broadcasting since 1943, and General Tire bought the RKO Radio Pictures movie studio in 1955, but dissolved it in 1959. From then until 1991, it operated six TV stations and more than a dozen radio stations. It also holds the record for the longest licensing dispute in television history.

KHJThe trouble began in 1965. RKO General applied for license renewal of KHJ-TV in Los Angeles (now KCAL-Channel 9). A local group, Fidelity Television, challenged it, charging RKO with second-rate programming, and later and more seriously, that General Tire conditioned its dealings with certain vendors on the basis they’d buy advertising time on RKO General stations. These “reciprocal trade practices” are considered anti-competitive. RKO and General Tire executives testified before the FCC and rejected the accusations. Four years later, in 1969, the commission issued an initial finding that Fidelity’s claims were correct.WNAC RKO

That same year, RKO faced a license challenge for WNAC-TV in Boston (now WHDH-Channel 7, not to be confused with the old WHDH-Channel 5), again charged with reciprocal trade practices.

WOR RKOFour years later, in 1973, the FCC ruled in favor of RKO in the Los Angeles case, pending findings in the still-ongoing Boston investigation. The next year, in 1974, when RKO applied for license renewal of WOR-TV in New York (now WWOR-Channel 9, technically Secaucus, NJ), the FCC conditioned the renewal on the Boston case as well.

SIDEBAR: Another Boston FCC case lasted 15 years – not the record, but from sign-on to sign-off – and involved the former WHDH-Channel 5. The DuMont Television Network applied for a construction permit for the channel, but shut down its network before getting it. The Boston Herald Traveler Corporation got the license, signed on in 1957, and shortly after, the FCC started investigating allegations of impropriety in the granting of the television license. (Allegedly, the controversy was over luncheon meetings the newspaper’s chief executive had with an FCC commissioner during the original licensing process.) So the old channel 5 (WHDH) never had a license longer than six months at a time while the standard was three years.

Eventually, the FCC ordered comparative hearings and in 1969, a local group called Boston Broadcasters was granted a construction permit for a new station on channel 5 called WCVB after it promised to air more local programming than any other station in America at the time. That’s even though the old channel 5 (WHDH) often broadcast more local programming than any other commercial TV station in Boston. Herald-Traveler Corporation lost its court case in 1972 and WCVB went on the air in its place. Luckily, everyone on the old channel 5 moved to the new channel 5 which still broadcasts from the suburb of Needham, since the old WHDH-TV refused to sell its studios, transmitter and tower to the new WCVB, which is now owned by Hearst.

NOW BACK TO THE STORY: In June, 1974, an administrative law judge renewed the WNAC-Channel 7 Boston license even after finding General Tire and RKO General had engaged in reciprocal trade practices. In December, 1975, a company competing for the license called Community Broadcasting asked the FCC to revisit the case. It alleged General Tire bribed foreign officials, maintained a slush fund for U.S. political campaign contributions, and misappropriated revenue from overseas operations. RKO denied all the allegations during a year-and-a-half series of proceedings. Then, in July, 1977, General Tire admitted to an eye-popping litany of corporate misconduct, including the bribery and slush fund charges, in order to settle an action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. But the TV situation wasn’t over yet. Still, the RKO proceedings dragged on!

Finally, in 1980, after a half-decade of hearings and investigations, the FCC stripped RKO of WNAC’s license. It found RKO “lacked the requisite character” to be the station’s licensee and gave as examples, the reciprocal trade practices of the 1960s, false financial filings by RKO, and General Tire’s gross misconduct in non-broadcast fields.

But the worst was RKO’s dishonesty before the FCC. During hearings, RKO withheld evidence of General Tire’s misconduct, including the fact the SEC had been investigating the company in 1976. RKO also denied it had improperly reported exchanges of broadcast time for various services, despite indications to the contrary in General Tire’s 1976 annual report. So the FCC found RKO had displayed a “persistent lack of candor” over its own and General Tire’s misdeeds, which threatened “the integrity of the Commission’s processes.” That FCC ruling meant RKO lost the KHJ-TV Los Angeles and WOR-TV New York licenses as well.

RKO appealed to the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld the revocation solely on the basis of RKO’s lack of candor. It wrote in its opinion, “[t]he record presented to this court shows irrefutably that the licensee was playing the dodger to serious charges involving it and its parent company.” But the court interpreted the candor issue so narrowly that it applied only to WNAC-TV, and ordered rehearings for WOR and KHJ. RKO General appealed again, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1982, SCOTUS refused to review the license revocation, and it was over. RKO General sold WNAC’s assets to New England Television (NETV), a new company from the merger of Community Broadcasting and another competitor for the license, the Dudley Station Corporation. The FCC granted a full license to NETV on channel 7, which it renamed WNEV-TV. Since then, the station changed its call letters to WHDH-TV, had low ratings, and was sold to Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation. (This WHDH has no relation to the old WHDH-Channel 5.)

It could’ve been worse. In 1983, the FCC began taking competing applications for all of RKO’s broadcasting licenses, but Congress passed a law sponsored by Sen. Bill Bradley requiring the commission to automatically renew the license of any commercial VHF-TV station relocating to a state without one, meaning New Jersey and Delaware. Two months later, RKO General officially changed WOR’s city of license from New York to Secaucus, NJ, where it remains on paper. The FCC made the station move its main studio there and step up coverage of events in the Garden State. Still, WOR maintained its identity as a New York station. (It’s now owned by Fox, which also owns WNYW-Channel 5, and got rid of channel 9’s newscasts.)

In 1984, RKO sold its Radio Networks operation to United Stations. In 1986, under pressure, RKO put WOR up for sale. MCA/Universal won the bidding war and the FCC approved the purchase. In 1987, MCA changed the call letters to WWOR. (Remember the slogan Universal 9, about 15 years before NBCUniversal was formed?)

RKO was lucky it sold WOR. In 1987, an FCC administrative law judge found it unfit to be a broadcast licensee due to a long history of deceptive practices he called the worst case of dishonesty in FCC history, and ordered RKO to surrender the licenses for its two remaining two TV stations and 12 remaining radio stations. RKO declared all of the employees responsible for the misconduct had been fired and appealed, claiming the ruling was deeply flawed. But the FCC made it clear it would probably reject any appeals and strip the licenses, and urged RKO to sell everything before that became necessary.

In 1988, under an FCC-supervised deal, the license of KHJ-Los Angeles was granted to Fidelity, the company that had originally challenged RKO General. Fidelity then transferred it to Disney, before it bought ABC, for $324 million. RKO got about two-thirds and Fidelity got the rest. By 1991, everything was sold. (Fort Lauderdale-Miami’s WAXY-FM 105.9 – which labeled itself “an RKO radio station” before giving its call letters, near the end – was sold in 1990. That was 28 years ago! Unbelievable!)

TVNewsCheck’s Harry Jessell put it this way:

“When people are making comparisons between your station group and RKO General, you know you have screwed up.”

I think there are too many changes going on in the industry right now as technology improves so quickly. Jessell mentioned certain former FCC commissioners would’ve gone the RKO route with Sinclair. I agree because now more than ever, broadcasters use the public airwaves and must pay us back with public service under tougher rules than its competitors. And the FCC needs complete and total honesty, with so much on its hands.

Sinclair needs to be brought down similarly for all it has done, with the same family as owners and no concern for anything but profit over the decades. The stations should be separated. Local broadcasters or broadcasting groups with no other industry interests should be given first shot at the stations. Then, they can hire experienced people with original ideas, and decisions would be made right there in the studio building.

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.

Advertisements

Ready to ‘X out’ Comcast Xfinity from my life

I DECIDED TO STAY WITH COMCAST. Yes, you read correctly. I made the decision yesterday after coming ‘thisclose’ to switching to Verizon.

This is the reason and in no way do I take back anything I said previously (below) about Comcast. I simply used my head instead of my heart, and took the better deal.

Comcast logo sized

Everyone’s decision is different – I’ll share my parents’ – but I live in a Philadelphia high-rise. Comcast is by far the easiest company to use in my building. I’ve asked the management to ask the board to look into competition and a group deal. (More on the group deal in just a moment.) Fios isn’t offered here and satellite dishes have been ruled legal, but I face the north side and am closer to the bottom of the building than the top.

I was able to overcome both of those obstacles back in South Beach and loved having DirecTV. Then at Riverwood, also in Miami, the condo management had negotiated deals with Comcast for basic cable that were part of our maintenance fees. Anybody could pay more for extras. I wish we had a similar system here for hundreds of units (twice the number there) that would also include basic internet.

I really looked into Verizon, which I use for my cell phone, and had a nice online chat about a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. Buying the device would clear up the need for the internet – however, I went to the store and they were honest. The device would use data. The amount of data would depend on how much I use it, and I have the perfect amount for right now. I come very close to the limit but don’t exceed it. On the chat, I was told I could pay $20 more every month for unlimited data, but found out that wasn’t true when they checked at the store. Instead, they’d have to start the bill from scratch and I’d pay $40 more every month. Also, the speed would be much less than Comcast’s offer.

Comcast started as usual, a pain in the ass.

You’ll remember, or see just below, on Thursday, I threatened them and told them to look at this blog post that the world can see.

On Friday, I tried to call but they had their outage. After not getting through twice, I talked to a computer that told me my wait should be less than five minutes. I hung up after listening to oldies for an hour-and-a-half.

I would not do frustrating work with Comcast over the weekend, knowing my point was made on the blog, out there and even updated from the original.

Monday, we had a l-o-n-g series of Twitter direct messages.

They asked for my name and phone number. Then they told me the phone number “provided pulls up more than one account” and asked for my address. I gave it to them and told them to lose the two former addresses where I used Comcast, because those accounts have been closed for so long.

I’d been told specifically to ask for the loyalty team but got the social media corporate team. I insisted they read the blog because “I’m not repeating anything. I wasted enough time chatting & waiting to talk to Comcast people,” and I was in a rush. They didn’t know part of that rush was to get to the Verizon store, so they’d better be quick.

After a little more back-and-forth, and mentioning a similar increase for my parents, I was at the bookstore.

This is what Comcast offered:

2018-07 comcast offer

Note the price went down by $20 from the original, but they didn’t give an exact total including taxes and fees. Eventually they did, and it was just $30 more than I was paying, better internet speed, and a DVR that would let me stream programming anywhere (once I learn how that works because I may have had the DVR before and never used it). I haven’t noticed any change in channels.

But I was unfamiliar with the approval form and away from home, using only my phone.

Eventually, I made it from the bookstore to the Verizon store and as I explained, they were honest that they couldn’t offer a better deal without Fios.

I have a digital antenna and can see all the local stations and subchannels for free.

I could’ve bought two more digital antennas since I have three TVs, but would’ve still needed the internet, as I explained. I already had a device that’s supposed to act as a mobile DVR that comes with a place to insert Roku or anything else.

But it’s also summer, when the networks are into reruns and a lot of nonsense, so I figured it would be less expensive and easier to stick with cable instead of making multiple changes I couldn’t be sure about. Potentially losing the news channels didn’t play much of a role, since I can read and stream the news, and I’m not planning on getting back into what so much TV “journalism” has become.

So that’s my story. Yesterday, Comcast ended up being very, very nice – and the better deal.

As for my parents in Florida, they got a similar Comcast increase for cable and the internet, but somehow their new bill was $100 more than mine!

I suggested since they have AT&T for their home phone (but are on my Verizon cell phone plan), they should consider switching to AT&T for the internet, which I had in Florida, and AT&T-owned DirecTV, which I really liked many years back when it was under different ownership.

That would make three different AT&T products for them and probably cost a lot less money. I hope they’ll be tough with Comcast and lucky with AT&T.

FRIDAY UPDATE:

 

ORIGINAL FROM THURSDAY:

I don’t know how many of you still have cable TV or satellite these days. It seems everyone is a cord-cutter.

Looks like I’m about to join the crowd, and would appreciate your experiences and suggestions.

I have basic cable and internet. Nothing special. The fees have been going up, little by little for the past year.

 

Comcast logo sized

Last month, I paid $131.54. This month’s bill came today and Comcast suddenly wants $185.09!

Mark my words: That will not continue. In fact, if I pay that one time, all the regulators will hear from me. Has anybody ever seen me bluff?

You’ll understand a lot more when you read the “chat” Glenjoe and I spent an hour preparing for you to read!

Then, my plan was that when I was done publishing, I’d call the Comcast Loyalty Team. That way, they could read this, instead of me having to explain everything all over again, so I can eat. But I had to be done by 9! Didn’t happen. Not even close. So tomorrow.

And why should I have to call? Doesn’t Comcast offer phone service?

Plus, how will they react after this story titled “Consumer Reports’ ‘What the Fee’ campaign targets Comcast for its TV, sports fees” in the Philadelphia Inquirer, posted online yesterday afternoon?

inky comcast

Keep reading. This is the transcript. Enjoy the back-and-forth more than I did!

x1

x2

comcast correction

x3

x4

x5

 

 

Meanwhile, I’m glad I got a phone number because these two similar promotions of many I’ve gotten and saved over the past few months have different phone numbers. I wonder if they offer different prices.

2 phone numbers

Then, of course, is the point of the Inky article: the fees. Yes, there are taxes and franchise fees, but I’m going to focus on cable and satellite companies paying retransmission fees to the broadcast TV stations they carry because they’re more my expertise. Those are the stations we could get for free by antenna, if we chose to.

This is that part of my bill Philadelphia customers get.

broadcasting sports fees

Notice Comcast charges me $7.50 every month for TV stations and $6.75 as a regional sports fee.

Don’t forget we’re talking about the conglomerate Comcast. They own a lot.

First, I’m very, very angry those broadcast TV fees don’t go directly to the area TV stations for what was negotiated (forced on Comcast so we, the customers, pay for something we could get for free).

WCAU WWSI WPVI
Logos from https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/https://www.telemundo62.com/ and http://6abc.com/ courtesy Wikipedia

Second, Comcast owns WCAU-NBC 10 and WWSI-Telemundo 62 here in Philadelphia. I’d also be very, very angry if those broadcast TV fees are not in line with those TV stations’ ratings. NBC 10 may be a very distant second place to WPVI-6 ABC, so I’d think NBC 10 should get a very distant second amount, compared to 6 ABC. Isn’t that similar to the cost advertisers pay, but advertisers pay by program? And NBC 10 could promote Telemundo 62 all it wants but that doesn’t mean many people watch. Its retransmission fee should be relatively tiny. I’d love to know how much each station makes. They are federally licensed and regulated, so I suppose it’s possible.

One thing is for sure and that’s that Comcast-owned TV stations had better not be making more money than they deserve, compared to the competition. Otherwise, it may be a violation of a condition it agreed to when it bought NBC Universal.

NBC Sports Philadelphia
https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/

And as far as the regional sports fee goes, is there any other than NBC Sports Philadelphia, formerly Comcast SportsNet? Yes, they pay to show Phillies games, which used to be free, over the air, before retransmission fees had been invented. Apparently that one cable station I hardly ever watch doesn’t get the whole pot of $6.75!

I know because on our bills, and between pages 3 and 4 of the transcript, it says both regional sports and broadcast TV fees only “recovers a portion” of the costs. So what happens to the rest? All customers should be angry!

(And speaking of sports, the NFL Network is not regional, so the April article in the Inky, “Comcast bumps NFL Network up a tier, adding $10 for the network,” is a separate fee for subscribers who want that particular channel.)

Anyway, it’s now well after 10pm. I spent that last 30 minutes with a computer that keeps freezing. I’m hungry, but I can’t wait to talk to somebody in Comcast’s Loyalty Team tomorrow. I’ll have that lucky person read this first.

On the other hand, your best advice on cutting the cord would be very appreciated below in the comments section.

Thanks to you, and of course Philadelphia-based Comcast. Yes, it’s a hometown company!

comcast santa

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.

Who Trump hates more, Facebook or Amazon? Oh, and Stormy Daniels’ motion to make him speak!

OK. Let’s get this right. Lawmakers and many Americans are angry about Facebook and how it handled 50 million users’ people’s data, but President Trump really hates Amazon.

facebook amazon

First, it’s owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, which Trump also hates.

Second, sources told Axios Trump has talked about changing Amazon’s tax treatment – using antitrust or competition law – because he’s worried about mom-and-pop businesses being run out of business.

Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters  Trump is “always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses and this is no different.”

The site adds,

“Trump’s wealthy friends tell him Amazon is destroying their businesses. His real estate buddies tell him — and he agrees — that Amazon is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers.”

An Axios reporter writes,

“Trump told Axios last year he doesn’t mind Facebook because it helps him reach his audience. He’s an old-school businessman who sees the world in terms of tangible assets: real estate, physical mail delivery, Main Street, grocery stores. It reminds me of the story (Axios co-founder and CEO) Jim (VandeHei) wrote a while back about Trump’s fixation with 1950s life. Amazon takes direct aim at some of the core components of mid-century business.”

usps amazon

One problem with the president’s thinking is Amazon abusing the U.S. Postal Service. On the contrary, one source says, “The post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon” and it actually added delivery on Sunday in some cities because Amazon made it worthwhile.

Sounds good for some jobs – just not good for some stocks.

social-media

Axios also notes, “The ‘so-called FANG stocks have had a terrible week, losing a combined $168.6 billion in market value over the past five trading days.
— Facebook  down 8.34 percent. $42.12 billion in lost market cap.
— Amazon  down 8.74 percent. $66.3 billion in lost market cap.
— Netflix  down 8.5 percent. $11.49 billion in lost market cap.
— Google  down 6.52 percent. $48.67 billion in lost market cap.”

On the other hand, “Vice President Mike Pence is concerned about Facebook and Google,” according to a source. He argues those companies are dangerously powerful, and is worried about their influence on media coverage, as well as their control of the advertising industry and users’ personal info.

“When private discussions have turned to the idea of busting Facebook and Google, Pence has listened with keen interest and is open to the suggestion that these two companies need shaking up.”

Also being shaken up: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Tonight, President Trump announced he fired embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, and plans to replace him with Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, who is also a Navy admiral.

CBS News reports Shulkin had been under fire for blunders “including reported insurgencies inside his own department to complications surrounding his improper use of travel expenses.”

I’m not aware if Trump fired Secretary Shulkin on Twitter like he did former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

CBS noted Shulkin raised eyebrows last summer for traveling to Europe with his wife, at the VA’s expense. Also, “He was one of five Trump cabinet officials whose travel practices were scrutinized by internal watchdogs.”

Plus, “In a 97-page report released last month, the VA’s inspector general found that Shulkin made ‘misleading statements,’ ‘improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets’ and turned an aide into a ‘personal travel concierge’ to plan ‘high tea’ and ‘Roman baths’ at the request of Shulkin’s wife.”

Shulkin worked for the Obama administration. Trump elevated him to lead the department when he took office.

Ronny JacksonAccording to his nominated replacement Dr. Jackson’s Navy biography,

“In 2006, while still in Iraq, Jackson was selected as a White House physician. Since arriving at the White House, he has directed the Executive Health Care for the President’s Cabinet and Senior Staff, served as physician supervisor for the Camp David Presidential Retreat, held the position of physician to the White House and led the White House Medical Unit as its director. He has served as White House physician during the past three administrations and was the appointed physician to the president for President Barack Obama. He currently serves as the appointed physician to the president for President Donald J. Trump.”

Trump – the oldest president in American history – had been treated for decades by Dr. Harold Bornstein, who has an office on New York’s Upper East Side. During the campaign, he wrote a short letter declaring that Trump would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency. Despite that, “He told STAT in December that he had not been asked to move to Washington.”

Today, CNBC reported how “Facebook unveiled a raft of measures aimed at making it easier for users to see and access the data the social network holds on them and make changes where needed.”facebook f logo

First, Facebook “said it redesigned the settings menu on mobile devices to make things easier to find. All the different sections under the settings tab will now be a in a single place.”

Second, it added a privacy shortcuts menu where users can add extra security when logging in, review and delete what was shared – from search history to friend requests – and manage profile information and who sees posts.

Third, according to CNBC, “Facebook is also introducing a tool called ‘Access Your Information’ to let you see the comments you’ve left or posts you’ve shared and delete them. The company also said it will make it easier for users to download their data, such as photos and contacts you’ve added to your account, and even move it to another service.”

person on computer typing facebookFinally, the Terms of Service. New ones are proposed. Facebook says it’ll be updating its data policy to “better spell out what data we collect and how we use it.” The technology firm said that most of the updates “have been in the works for some time,” but the recent events “underscore their importance.”

But that may not be enough. CNBC says, “The changes should help current Facebook users learn more about what data Facebook has, and make it easier to delete that data.” However,

“Facebook also owns two other highly popular applications: Instagram, with more than 800 million monthly users as of September and WhatsApp, with more than 1.5 billion monthly users as of January.

“The company didn’t mention any changes to those apps today, and did not immediately respond to a question about whether the company was planning to update their privacy settings.

“And these apps can collect plenty of information, too.”

Click here for details on Terms of Service for Instagram and WhatsApp.

Also, Mark Zuckerberg has decided he will testify before Congress. Facebook sources told CNN, “The 33-year-old CEO has come to terms with the fact that he will have to testify before Congress within a matter of weeks, and Facebook is currently planning the strategy for his testimony.” This is how he apologized and what he said about that, last week.

 

There has been a lot of pressure from lawmakers, the media and the public after the British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the data of 50 million Facebook users at a time political campaigns were increasingly looking to sway voters on popular digital platforms. In 2016, it was the Trump campaign. Politico reported “nobody is certain how much” help it was.

Zuckerberg blamed apps that may be leaking user data to third parties and pledged to crack down on them, plus identify them to us.

As I wrote in my last post, Zuckerberg’s testimony will be before the Senate Judiciary Committee. CNN reported its Facebook sources “believe Zuckerberg’s willingness to testify will also put pressure on Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to do the same. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has officially invited all three CEOs to a hearing on data privacy on April 10.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who’s on that committee, had said in a statement she wanted to know “what Facebook knew about misusing data from 50 million Americans in order to target political advertising and manipulate voters.”

But The Huffington Post reports she’s not satisfied and wants Cambridge Analytica on the stand next. Plus, it says the House Energy and Commerce Committee also wanted Zuckerberg and sent him a letter, Friday, saying

“The hearing will examine the harvesting and sale of personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, potentially without their notice or consent and in violation of Facebook policy,” it continued. “The hearing will also explore broader questions about Facebook’s policies at the time Facebook Platform was launched, today, and in the future regarding both Facebook’s use of user information and the access to user information Facebook provides to others.”

Don’t forget, Facebook and other technology companies rely on the tremendous amount of data they gather from billions of their users. That information makes money for their products, services and – most importantly – advertising sales based on user information.

money dollars cents

Also today, Zuckerberg turned down a request from British lawmakers to answer questions on the social network’s privacy practices. He’ll send two deputies instead.

And Monday, the Federal Trade Commission confirmed the existence of a non-public investigation into the company’s user privacy practices.

“The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers. Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises… [T]he FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.”

Last week, Facebook shut down a Palestinian news agency’s page for violating the anti-incitement policy by calling murderous terrorists “martyrs.” It reportedly happened after a meeting between Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and a Facebook representative. Safa’s staff claims it’s a legitimate news organization with 1.3 million followers, and the site’s social media manager said it “has not incited to violence and has followed all of Facebook’s guidelines for making posts.”

But World Israel News reports it recently praised the killer of Rabbi Raziel Shevach in a drive-by shooting in January as a “hero.” According to Palestinian activists quoted in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, some 500 Facebook pages of Palestinians have been taken down since the start of the year.

This comes a week after President Trump signed the Taylor Force Act as part of the $1.3 trillion spending bill. That part of the law – named for a 28-year-old former U.S. serviceman who was stabbed and killed while visiting Israel in March 2016 – cuts financial aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its payments to terrorists and their families.

Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook is one of Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest critics. Today on MSNBC, he took his most direct shots, questioning Zuckerberg’s leadership.

Meanwhile, for Apple, Cook wants what Axios calls, “a major new location to house technical support staff, among other workers.”

So is Amazon, you may be thinking, but Cook said it won’t be a second headquarters.

He did say:

Of course, Axios points out,

“It’s not like Apple is averse to getting tax incentives when it opens new facilities. Apple is currently the world’s most valuable company and is on its way to a trillion dollar valuation, but Amazon is following close on its tail.

And fitting for the bottom of this column: The porn star and the president.

Stormy Daniels wants to make President Trump answer questions under oath. He may consider it sadomasochism but this morning, her lawyer

“Michael Avenatti asked a federal judge for permission to depose the president and his private attorney Michael Cohen for a period ‘of no greater than two hours’ about a non-disclosure agreement she signed just 11 days before the 2016 election,” as CBS News described it. CBS explained, “The aim of the deposition is to determine if the president had a role in the $130,000 payment from Cohen to Daniels.”

Avenatti appeared on CBS This Morning shortly after filing this 31-page motion you can scroll through, saying it relies on U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

He noted, in the case of Bill Clinton v. Paula Jones, the majority concluded the

“Constitution does not offer a sitting President significant protections from potentially distracting civil litigation.”

“It is well founded, it was well thought out, it’s incredibly documented,” Avenatti told CBS. “It’s well supported by the law and we’re confident” once they “get to the bottom of this,” they will prove America has been told a bucket of lies.”

“We want to know the truth about what the president knew, when he knew it and what he did about it as it relates to this agreement. We’re gonna test the veracity or the truthfulness of Mr. Cohen’s, his attorney’s, statements,” he said.

The motion also references a meeting one week ago between lawyers, during which Avenatti said Trump’s lawyer was unable to answer whether Trump was a party to the nondisclosure agreement. Mark your calendar for a hearing April 30. That’s a Monday.

According to The Washington Post, “About 22.1 million of us settled in during Sunday night’s family hour to watch 60 Minutes and hear what Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, had to say about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.”

Here is some of Anderson Cooper’s interview, in case you missed it (and don’t say I didn’t warn the target audience that the newsmagazine was starting late!).

This story contains clips, including the parts about Daniels claiming she was threatened with her infant daughter, her lawyer saying Trump’s lawyer threatening to sue her was to intimidate her, and her explaining she lied in the nondisclosure agreement by denying an affair with Trump because of fear.

Click here to watch the whole 60 Minutes interview.

And watch what Anderson Cooper said he thinks will happen next:

The Washington Post published a Kathleen Parker column that says in part,

“While children may have been diverted elsewhere, it is a given that most school-aged youngsters by now have likely heard of the adult-film actress, just as children a generation ago learned about oral sex from a previous president. … This reminds us that indecency is not new to the White House.”

I’ve written how Fox shelved the Diana Falzone story, “in October, 2016, a month before the presidential election in which Trump won. It could’ve been a major scoop and possibly changed the election results.” Two weeks ago, Falzone settled a lawsuit with Fox News and left the company.

Instead, it was this month that NBC News reported:

— President “Trump’s personal attorney used his Trump Organization email while arranging to transfer money into an account at a Manhattan bank before he wired $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence,”

— “The lawyer, Michael Cohen, also regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress … before she signed a nondisclosure agreement,” and

— “Clifford’s attorney at the time addressed correspondence to Cohen in his capacity at the Trump Organization and as ‘Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump.’”

The adult film star claimed she had a one-time sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 – a year after Donald and Melania Trump were married – and was paid to keep quiet about it.

Clifford/Daniels alleges the nondisclosure agreement “she signed when receiving the funds is null due to the lack of president’s signature” and offered to return the $130,000 in exchange to speak freely about her interactions with Trump.

Trump lawyer Cohen (absolutely no relation) has said Trump “vehemently denies” any affair.

Also from The Washington Post:
Click here for the billionaire behind the ads you’ve probably seen about impeaching the president.
Click here for how the administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census is being met with fierce pushback from critics, mostly in Democratic states.
Click here to see how a GOP congressman from Philadelphia’s outer suburbs just demonstrated how much of a headache retirements will be for Republicans in 2018’s midterm elections.

P.S. It may not feel like spring everywhere but America’s Pastime returns tomorrow, and get this: Every Major League Baseball team will play. CBS Sports called it “the return of a true Opening Day” and “that hasn’t happened since way back yonder in 1968,” when the schedule was announced, last September.

The Phillies will open against the Braves in Atlanta at 4:10pm, and then play a second away series against the New York Mets. Their home opener won’t be until April 5 at 3:05pm against the Miami Marlins.

trump stormy

Please, if you like what you read (or see) here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish.

Got cable, satellite? You’ll foot the bill for Fox’s Thursday Night Football

Super_Bowl_LII_logo
Wikipedia

How many of you watched the Super Bowl this year? Of course, in Philadelphia, that’s a loaded question with the underdog Eagles in the game and beating the seemingly perennial winners, the New England Patriots.

Same thing in New England. Their team was in the Super Bowl and they don’t get sick of Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick. They watch.

But what about the rest of America? Apparently two thirds of Americans did not watch. And this was the Super Bowl!

Thursday Night Football logo

Imagine how that would translate to Thursday night National Football League games, known for having bad matchups and also being available on the NFL Network and streaming, besides being broadcast on a local TV station.

Fox Sports

But three weeks ago, Fox decided to pay a fortune — $3.3 billion for the rights for five years, and expanded digital highlight rights — and the money it’ll cost is going to trickle down to you and me.

Thanksgiving

Let’s talk schedules, the reason and then the money.

Starting this fall, Fox will broadcast 11 games each season from week 4 to week 15. That won’t include Thanksgiving night when you’re eating with your family shopping or resting up to work at midnight on Black Friday.

ESPN reports when Thursday Night Football went to the networks in 2014, CBS paid the NFL just $37.5 million per game for only eight games. Same story the next year, in the 2015 season.

Then, for the past two seasons, NBC joined CBS. They each broadcast five games for a total of ten, at a cost of $45 million each.

Now, ESPN sources say Fox will pay an average of more than $660 million a year. Divide that by 11 and that makes $60 million per game – a big increase over the past four seasons and 33 percent more than the latest. Amazing number!

money x 33

Is that price increase worth it? It depends who the buyer is.

In 1994, Fox arguably overpaid for Sunday afternoon NFC-away games in order to get better TV stations to secure it as a reputable fourth network.

money x 5

(Not many remember Fox trying to take Monday Night Football from founder ABC back in early 1987, even before it started programming. That didn’t work and it took until 1994 for Fox to get an NFL package. Oh, and five times as much money as CBS would bid!)

Monday Night Football ABC

These days, Fox doesn’t have much of a regular Thursday night lineup. The NFL would draw viewers.

Are NBC and CBS upset about losing the rights? No, according to CBS CEO Les Moonves. He says he’s not worried because CBS has The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon instead. Also, Sunday games are much better than Thursdays because they’re exclusive. Thursday night games can be seen on The NFL Network and also streaming.

A CBS Sports spokesperson was more specific:

“We look forward to continuing our terrific long-term partnership with the NFL on Sunday afternoons with more than 100 games per season (Lenny: many in markets where the home teams are playing) including next year’s Super Bowl LIII.”

Speaking of streaming, the price to do so recently increased fivefold, according to ESPN.

Amazon Prime logo

“Amazon paid $50 million this past season to stream the games on Amazon Prime, up from the $10 million Twitter paid in 2016,” it reports. “Rights for the upcoming season have not yet been sold.”

money x 5

So you can say it’s “1st and goal” when it comes to the NFL and Thursday night streaming rights.

Miami Dolphins twitter

Now, look back to 1972 and the Miami Dolphins’ perfect season. At the time, the NFL regular season only had 14 games over 14 weeks. Monday Night Football was only in its third season. Otherwise, football fans were left to Sunday afternoons.

These days, the season has 16 games over 17 weeks. Economically, more games should lessen demand.

On top of that, Thursday nights mark a regular third night of football (before Sunday and Monday), along with early and late Sunday afternoon games.

Plus, ESPN reports players don’t care for Thursday Night Football. Games on so many days cuts down on their time to rest up, recover and stay healthy. And as a side note, just last month, I wrote about how hits and concussions have literally killed former NFL players, years later.

ESPN logo

The last NFL schedule expansion was in 1987 when ESPN started carrying some Sunday night games. It was the first time the NFL aired games on cable and they only took place in the second half of the regular season. Two years later, the NFL added games on TNT in the season’s first half. TNT aired those games until 1997, when ESPN took the whole season. Like today, games in each competing team’s home market also aired on a regular TV station, so the games were not cable-exclusive but close. But the arrangement ended after the 2005 season.

nbc sports cbs sports

That’s because NBC had no football for seven seasons and was desperate to get it back. It had lost AFC team away games to CBS, which itself had been outbid by Fox for NFC team away games.

Fox TV stations

Part of Fox’s reason to spend so much in 1994 was to take TV stations in big-markets with (mostly) NFC teams and make them affiliates of the new network that would air the games. Fox eventually bought those stations (but STILL doesn’t tell you what it owns on the Fox Television Group website) and sold about half.

ABC Sports
Not “Reaching New Heights” as Wang Chung might sing — but this brand is history and the ESPN name is in.

Back to the story. In 2006, Sunday Night Football moved to broadcast TV, on NBC, and Monday Night Football went the reverse.

Cable network ESPN took rights from sister-broadcast network ABC, which came up with the idea in 1970.

That didn’t mean a new night of football but Sunday night games became especially popular since they air on the most-watched night of TV, they follow other games on CBS and/or Fox but most importantly, the NFL considers Sunday Night Football its featured game of the week.

Sunday Night Football NBC

NBC was given flexible-scheduling for most of the second half of the season, meaning it can “steal” regular Sunday games from CBS or Fox that are better than what was on its original schedule, and the whole country can watch.

cbs fox

When that happens, NBC will tell the league at least 12 days (two Tuesdays) before, and move that CBS or Fox game to NBC. However, CBS and Fox can “protect” five Sunday afternoon games over six weeks, weeks 11-16. Also, the league can move games between 1pm to the more-watched 4pm ET slot.

For the last week of the season, games are decided just six days earlier, so match-ups with major playoff implications could air in as many cities as possible.

football

Now that you understand that, Thursday night games were actually added back in 2006 and air on The NFL Network, so the NFL could push cable and satellite companies to carry the network very few people were able to watch (and thus charge the subscribers more, which is the crux of this post).

But that’s history. It was really an eight-game package: five Thursday nights and three Saturday nights. More Thursday games were added in 2012.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Thursday Night Football got real recognition. The NFL decided to let a network produce the game – which would air on The NFL Network — but let the producing network simulcast some of the games. That’s what CBS did in 2014 and 2015, and NBC joined to split the Thursday package in 2016 and 2017. The contracts for the rights were short.

Until now.

Fox network

That’s when Fox decided to pay a fortune – much more money – for a longer period of time, over five years.ABC

There are several reasons, which may or may not turn out to be right.

21st Century Fox plans to sell off most of its assets to Disney/ABC, although Philadelphia-based Comcast/NBC had really “offered substantially more” – maybe $10 billion – according to Philly.com.Rupert Murdoch wikimedia commons

 

But it said last Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported Fox boss Rupert Murdoch “was concerned that a Comcast deal would be opposed by U.S. regulators and instead opted for the lower Disney offer.”

Besides a lower price, that would pretty much leave the so-called New Fox with its network, the TV stations it actually owns, and cable’s Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. That’s it.

Add the Thursday rights fee of $3.3 billion to the cost of producing all the games, estimated to be even more than that, and you wonder how Fox will pay for it all.

That’s where you and I come in.old tv sets

For years, if a TV station wanted to appear on a cable or satellite company’s lineup, then the cable or satellite company would have to pay the TV station. Otherwise, the TV station could take away the right to carry it, the station would not air on the cable or satellite company’s lineup, the viewers wouldn’t be able to watch it, both sides would blame each other, and finally there would be a secret agreement and our prices would go up.

tv airwaves

That happens all the time.

But the TV station doesn’t get to keep all that money the cable or satellite companies pay it. The networks figure they’re the reason the TV stations are worth so much to the cable and satellite companies, and demand their share in retransmission fees.

comcast new 595x227

In December, I wrote about Comcast starting to charge more just days before Christmas. Comcast is in a unique position. It’s a cable company, it owns the NBC broadcast network, the TV stations owned by the network and various cable channels.

Also, it used to be that a network would pay its affiliates in every city to carry its commercials (which kept them in business), and the programming that surrounds them (that attracts more people to the commercials and therefore more money). That has been completely reversed and it’s called – of all things – reverse comp, meaning compensation. The stations now pay the networks.

networks

And when a network decides to pay for a special event, it asks its affiliates to help out.

That’s what Michael Nathanson, at MoffettNathanson, predicts Fox will do, according to TVNewsCheck editor Harry Jessell: demand extra bucks from its affiliates.

NFL Logo

Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox, said, “NFL football continues to be the most valuable commodity in all of media.”

Yes, ratings may be lower – down 9.7 percent this season after an 8 percent drop in 2016, according to ESPN – football may be available at more times, over more weeks and not even exclusive anymore, but there’s nothing else that brings America together like NFL football these days. That’s worth a trifecta: viewers, attention and money.

squeeze money

So Jessel reports Nathanson’s thinking is Fox will demand more money from stations in cities with NFC football teams because they air on the local Fox affiliates most Sundays.

He also says it can happen to stations in AFC markets because Thursday night games have teams from all over competing, not mostly the NFC but nearly equally the AFC.

That means Fox stations can expect a call from the network demanding more money for providing better programming – especially in cities with NFL teams – and that may not be so bad, considering what Fox airs on Thursday nights these days? (Do you know?)

Sports Illustrated reported Thursday Night Football is the No. 2-rated show in primetime.

And where will these stations get that extra money? Sure, selling ads for higher prices, but also demanding to charge your cable or satellite company more when its contract is up — Fox will insist they do — and that will raise your bill.

girl watching tv

It has been estimated cable and satellite companies pay ESPN about $6 per month per subscriber. Think about what your cable or satellite bill is. Do you watch ESPN? Would you be willing to go without it and save $6 every month? If your answer is yes, then do you have a choice?

Jessell calls ESPN “a network that forces people who have no interest in sports to heavily subsidize it.”

It’s the same story here, but on a much lower, local level. We may be talking about a quarter – 25 cents – every month for the local station if Fox gets Thursday Night Football. Check out your bill and see what you’re paying for local stations (as a whole) every month. And while you’re at it, see what it costs to get your regional sports networks.

And besides calling on stations, New Fox — much smaller after selling what it plans to sell — needs to make money somehow.

It has two possibilities and is reportedly looking into both.

First is to air as many live events as possible. Scripted sitcoms and dramas are expensive. Live programming, especially sports that’s also expensive, is supposed to draw viewers.

Second is to buy more stations. A TV station used to be a license to print money. That’s not the case anymore, with so much competition and paying networks instead of getting paid by them, but life isn’t so bad.

sinclair broadcast group

Sinclair Broadcast Group – the largest TV owner in America – has been waiting to buy Tribune Broadcasting, which is also one of the top TV station owners in the country.

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair without Tribune, from http://sbgi.net/tv-stations/

If the $3.9 billion deal goes through, Sinclair will have to sell off some stations because the Federal Communications Commission (public airwaves) and Justice Department (antitrust) ownership limits. Also, Sinclair and Tribune already own stations in some markets and compete, so the combined company would own multiple stations in one city.

Tribune Broadcasting Company

Fox wants to buy some of those stations, Sinclair will be forced to sell, and New Fox will have the money from selling so much to Disney/ABC.

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: Variety is reporting Sinclair plans to sell off Tribune’s New York WPIX-TV (CW) and Chicago’s WGN-TV (independent) if the merger is approved, despite wanting to continue filling the map of the U.S. (above). The company filed that with the FCC yesterday. That would leave out two of the three largest broadcast markets in the country based on population. (New York is #1, with 6.4 percent of the nation’s households; Los Angeles is #2; and Chicago is #3 with 3 percent.) Also reported to be spun off instead of taking part in the merger is San Diego’s KSWB (Fox affiliate).

However, there is concern that in the filing, Sinclair said it has buyers for New York and Chicago, and it intends to run the stations through an “options and services agreement” with those buyers. Media watchdog groups have long criticized Sinclair for using shared-services agreements to control stations without owning them, which they see as a loophole around the FCC’s ownership rules.

Sinclair did admit there are eight cities — including Seattle, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City — where it needs to sell a station to comply with FCC rules on the number of stations a single owner can have in a given market. But again, Sinclair said it has buyers for Seattle, Oklahoma City, and Greensboro, N.C., so it can continue operating those stations after a sale.

On the other hand, Sinclair also made a case it should be able to own more than one of the top four stations in Harrisburg, Indianapolis and Greensboro, N.C.

Ajit Pai fcc wikipedia
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)

If all that sounds complicated, you should also know last April, FCC Chair Ajit Pai — appointed by President Trump — pushed his agency to loosen rules letting TV station owners “greatly increase the number of stations they own,” according to The New York Times. Then, a few weeks later, Sinclair announced its deal to buy Tribune. Coincidence? The new rules made the deal possible.

Last week, The Times learned from New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone and two congressional aides, “The top internal watchdog for the F.C.C. opened an investigation into whether Mr. Pai and his aides had improperly pushed for the rule changes and whether they had timed them to benefit Sinclair.”

People strongly opposed to the mega-deal argue it would reduce the number of voices in media and diminish coverage of local news.

Seattle Seahawks

So Fox wants to buy more stations and number one is KCPQ, its Seattle affiliate in the home of the NFC’s Seahawks, and where Sinclair already owns a competing station.

Other NFL cities where Fox doesn’t already own a station are the next biggest possibilities. Keep in mind, we don’t how how the late news of Sinclair’s FCC filing and the FCC’s inspector general’s investigation could change or stop things.

I never understood why Fox has insisted on buying station in NFL (especially NFC) cities. Back in 1994, it made sense. It made a network. But consider this: NFL teams play 16 games per year, unless they make the playoffs.

NFL playoffs

Preseason doesn’t count. Those rights are usually bought locally. Not all of the NFC games air on Fox. Not when an AFC team comes to town. Not when the game is on Sunday or Monday nights, or Thursday night until now.

And a competing station can be the local team’s “official station” even if its network doesn’t carry the games. That means special promotions with the team, greater access and maybe a show with the coach. Not too bad.

memory

So will all this work out for Fox? What about your cable or satellite bill? You just read about a lot of variables, and when the Thursday night contract ends and the number crunchers have their say through the 2022 season, the NFL’s other TV rights will be up for grabs. This could greatly determine the price of them then. And don’t forget all the other sports out there, out for rights money!

sports generic

Please, if you like what you read, subscribe to this blog site and get an email whenever I publish.

Your JOB is to read well past the headline

OK, I may be a day late (and I’m definitely a dollar short, these days), but I read three articles on jobs, yesterday morning — on companies we all know — and they were a whole lot different when I read between the lines.

dollar treedollar general

First, Yahoo reported in “Dollar Stores hammered by Trump proposal to abandon food stamps” how shares of Dollar Tree and Dollar General, which it owns, dropped Monday because of President Trump’s proposed budget.

The share drop may be true and abandoning SOME food stamps may also be true, but there’s a lot more to the story.

(Only picky eaters like me would starve if I was part of the program.)

generic newspaper

Trump wants to reduce food-stamp benefits and Yahoo calls it, “Potentially one of the biggest shake-ups in the history of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP,” which is what we used to (or still) call food stamps.

Donald Trump squeeze money

But it shouldn’t be as bad for the poor as you may think at first. The plan is to cut cash payments and substitute the money for packages of actual food.

How many of you ever wondered what the person ahead of you in the checkout line was doing buying “that” with food stamps? The president’s plan should put that question to rest.

food stamp signfood stamps

Nearly 42.2 million people reportedly got food stamps during the 2017 fiscal year. Those receiving more than $90 a month would get a food-aid package including shelf-stable milk, peanut butter, cereal and meat.

usda logoOf course, many of Dollar Tree and Dollar General’s customers are the least wealthy and getting food means they won’t have to (or be able to go out and) buy what they want anymore. With the government’s buying scale, they may even get more.

One analyst Yahoo quoted said those stores “have signaled that food stamps account for roughly five percent of sales,” but the whole grocery industry could be affected.

 

The plan to overhaul SNAP would save a projected $214 billion over a decade.

barnes and noble

Next is a store — no, make that an industry — that has been in trouble for years: book stores. CNBC’s headline is “Barnes & Noble cuts staff after dismal holiday season” and none of us should be surprised, considering competition from Amazon.

Unless you need a book right away — right, students? – you can probably go online and get it (along with everything else Amazon sells) cheaper, and delivered right to your door.

kid readingkids reading

That’s great, but not for booksellers. Employees are often experts but now the chain is reportedly laying off lead cashiers, digital leads and other experienced workers, company-wide. In fact, many of them showed up for work Monday and were told they no longer had a job.

Way to go, Barnes & Noble! That’ll do well for the psyche of your remaining employees, who know they don’t have many similar jobs available.

borders books

CNBC reported, “The number of affected workers couldn’t immediately be determined” but we know there are way fewer stores than there were years ago, too many people living far from one, and Borders? Forget it. Dead since the end of 2010. That stinks on every level.

Whose parents didn’t take them to the bookstore as a kid, just to browse or even choose something you’d want? That’s practically just a memory.

The business channel called consumer spending “generally strong this holiday season” but Barnes & Noble holiday sales fell more than 6 percent from the year before.

walmartAmazon isn’t only competition online. It — with its low-price reputation — is also opening up more of its own bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

Then there’s the self-proclaimed low-price leader. Walmart is not just stealing “a larger share of the books market.” It’s “planning to make a massive push in selling e-books and e-readers on Walmart.com later this year.”

If only literacy and education were the goals of these big American companies. Shareholders, rejoice!

amazon

And speaking of Amazon, CNN’s headline was “Amazon lays off hundreds of employees” but that doesn’t make sense at all considering its seventh paragraph:

“It appears the company isn’t looking to reduce its overall headcount. It currently has 3,900 open corporate job listings in Seattle and 12,000 open positions worldwide, which point to the company’s ‘aggressive’ hiring plans.”

firedSo what’s really going on?

According to CNN’s source, “The majority of the layoffs are affecting the company’s Seattle headquarters, but some global teams may be affected as well.”

Online retail operations are expected to be hit the hardest and employees are already being notified.

usps amazon

But I thought Amazon was doing very well, especially when it came to the holiday season and stealing so much of the book business from Barnes & Noble.

It absolutely is.

Apparently, Amazon has “aggressive” hiring plans even after adding 130,000 jobs in the past year (not including the new ones from Whole Foods). It has 3,900 open corporate job listings in Seattle and 12,000 open positions worldwide. That 12,000 figure doesn’t come close to including workers at the company’s second headquarters — which Philadelphia made the top 20 in landing.

usps pkgAmazon said, according to CNN, “HQ2 will cost a minimum of $5 billion to construct and operate, and will create as many as 50,000 jobs.” That’s way more than 12,000.

How well is Amazon doing? It reported nearly $2 billion in profit in its latest quarter from the holiday shopping season. That’s not only the largest in its history but the first time it topped $1 billion in a quarter!

But what about those employee layoffs in the headline and how readers were supposed to feel? Amazon said in a statement sent to CNN:

“As part of our annual planning process, we are making headcount adjustments across the company — small reductions in a couple of places and aggressive hiring in many others. … For affected employees, we work to find roles in the areas where we are hiring.”

whole foods market

So now, with Whole Foods in its arsenal, we’ll see what Amazon will be able to perform next. Maybe get the government contract on those food-aid packages that are replacing SNAP/food stamps. I’d count out producing pink slips!

perkins lenny come to work
Thanks to Leslie for finding this!

Like what you’re reading? Then subscribe and get an email whenever I publish!

Don’t post your content on Facebook if you don’t want readers getting it for free!

Time for the obvious, yet again.

social-media

 

News organizations post their news on Facebook and other social media sites. Those articles, videos, slideshows, etc. also get picked up on search sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing (Microsoft). If they use the correct SEOs (Search Engine Optimization words) and have a little luck (or pay a little money), then they may even make the top of the list — and more of us will click and see what they have to offer.

(Try it. Go to one of those sites and search for something — anything — that has been making news, local or worldwide. See what comes up, and in what order.)

bing google yahoo

They want as many people as possible to spend as much time as possible with their product and ads on your screens, so they can charge more for their ads.

Sounds like a great deal for all sides. The content publisher gets more views, and the social media and search sites get depended on more and more for bringing users that excellent content.

generic newspaper

But not all content publishers are the same. (See: Trump, fake news.) Some do a better job, while others have an agenda. Fox News used to say “You Decide” since that judgment is subjective.

we report you decide front

we report you decide back
Not many personalities left on Fox, but the shirt survives!

On Jan. 11, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post he’s changing the way Facebook determines the trustworthiness of new sources who post on his platform. It’s his platform and he can do whatever he wants with it.

Then, on Jan. 19, Zuckerberg announced in another post Facebook willmake sure the news you see, while less overall, is high quality.”

To do that, the company will “prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local. And we’re starting next week with trusted sources” because “there’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today.”

So what’s trusted?

networks

Maybe.

Zuckerberg:

The hard question we’ve struggled with is how to decide what news sources are broadly trusted in a world with so much division. We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that’s not something we’re comfortable with. We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. Or we could ask you — the community — and have your feedback determine the ranking.

“We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.”

 

Rupert Murdoch wikimedia commons
Rupert Murdoch (Wikimedia Commons)

So Facebook is adding questions about which news sources users are familiar with and trust most, in its ongoing quality surveys.

That had 86-year-old Rupert Murdoch come up with a brilliant idea, because he thinks his news organizations would rank near the top.

According to the man who plays News Corp‘s executive chairman and also 21st Century Fox‘s executive co-chairman, Facebook should pay publishers that are considered the most legitimate and trusted for publishing on it!

Murdoch on Monday:

“I have no doubt that Mark Zuckerberg is a sincere person, but there is still a serious lack of transparency that should concern publishers and those wary of political bias at these powerful platforms.

“The time has come to consider a different route. If Facebook wants to recognize ‘trusted’ publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies. The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services.”

Side Note: Murdoch meant your cable or satellite company has to pay cable stations (pretty much owned by the broadcast networks) but also the local TV stations in your town. That’s causing your cable or satellite bill to keep going up. Cut the cord and get local TV over the public airwaves, and it’ll be free.

And even better than Murdoch talking about political bias, his New York Post (on the News Corp side) reported, “Facebook and Google can regain user trust.”

Like they’re the ones with the credibility problem.

First things first: Conservatives will say they prefer Fox, liberals will do the same for MSNBC, bigots will say they don’t trust LGBT media sources, etc. The quality rankings will just be people’s opinions and nothing professionally determined.

news websites

But the big question is, why do these readers who want Murdoch’s content or anybody else’s have to go through Facebook in the first place?

Wouldn’t the smarter thing be to publish on a site you own and control — and can require paid subscriptions if it’s so popular — rather than letting Mark Zuckerberg be your boss?

That way, you can place the content where you want, for as long as you want, on your own conditions!

And Zuckerberg disagreed with Murdoch that news from himself and other publishers make Facebook better.

“Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other,” he wrote on Jan. 11.

pexels-photo-267482.jpeg

In other words, the professional news media have been taking over Facebook from us common folk!

So do people go to Facebook for news? The answer, sadly, is yes.

But would they go to Facebook without Mr. Murdoch’s news sources, or anybody else’s for that matter? I think probably, to catch up with friends and explore what other people posted. How any of you have not been shocked to get back in touch with people you haven’t seen or heard from in decades?

According to Zuckerberg, “We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other” and that’s hurting “people’s well-being.”

So Zuckerberg wants to help you see less “relevant content” and help you “have more meaningful social interactions.”

His timetable? “It will take months … The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”

generic website

Want to see whether the Murdoch solution (pay me!) would work? I would!

Please, news publishers: Keep your content to yourself and then check whether fewer people are reading your articles and therefore your ads. And Facebook will evaluate whether its audience is dropping.

That’ll be the evidence. That’ll show you whether it’s worth paying Facebook. And the debate will be over.

Zuckerberg ends by admitting doing good doesn’t always mean a better bottom line, at least not right away.

“Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.

“At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together — whether it’s with family and friends, or around important moments in the world — we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.”

Plus, maybe we’ll see real news sources win out over the fake stuff on your News Feed, and also real life.

hands-woman-laptop-notebook.jpg

Sad stereotypes too strong to silence (for now)

Texas Flip n Move logo

Last night, I did something I rarely do: open a Facebook post to the public, rather than just friends.

Today, I’m blogging about the online battle that followed, something I hadn’t planned to do.

pexels-photo-267482.jpeg

The story was about one of the hosts of a show on the DIY Network — part of Scripps Networks Interactive and sister to HGTV, the Food Network, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, Great American Country, TVN, Fine Living and the Asian Food Channel.

You’re certainly familiar with some of them unless you’ve been living under a rock.

Unfortunately, it has since been reinforced to me that too many Americans have been living under figurative rocks.

diy network logo

Texas Flip N Move host Toni Snow — who along with her sister Donna — are “real estate entrepreneurs” who “compete head-to-head in a fast-paced and thrilling real estate flipping competition,” according to the show’s website.

It goes on, if you understand flipping, “Our flippers are under the gun to buy low, work fast and sell high.”

budget

And in a recent episode that was shot, produced and edited, Toni Snow asked a participant who was willing to pay full asking price for a refurbished school bus, “You’re not even gonna bicker a little bit, Jew us down?” according to CNN and People magazine.

Toni Snow NY Post Fox
Toni Snow from the New York Post, captured from http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/01/17/diy-apologizes-for-anti-semitic-slur-that-made-it-on-to-air.html

I’m not a regular watcher of that channel nor show, although I think I once saw part of an episode that was shown on HGTV.

I could say things about people from Texas but I won’t.

The network told CNN in an apology, “An inappropriate comment unfortunately made it past our team” and that they “immediately pulled the episode to edit it for future broadcast.”

im sorry

My original point was that Toni Snow needed to be edited out. In other words, she should be fired and the episode should never be shown again.

fired

That’s not hard to do.

Look at what’s happening over sexual misconduct these days. Kevin Spacey’s role in the movie All the Money in the World was recast with Christopher Plummer. Scenes from the film about J. Paul Getty’s grandson’s kidnapping were reshot in nine days, costing millions of dollars, a month before its opening. All the promotions/trailers had to be reworked. (See trailer #1 and trailer #2.)

all the money in the world
Sony-TriStar-Imperative Entertainment-Scott Free

Toni Snow reminds me of Hillary Clinton saying half of now-President Trump’s supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables,” back in Sept., 2016, less than two months before losing the election (watch here). I also thought about President Obama, competing against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying economically struggling Americans “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy towards people who aren’t like them” back in 2008 (watch here).

This is an embed of the Facebook post. Be warned, not all is polite.

I have to note how hateful some Toni Schroeder Schwind comes across like those quotes politicians used above, just clinging to the past. I don’t know her but her profile pictures indicate she’s not Jewish, yet she insisted more than once,

“This comment has been around for ages and I think somewhat over reaction was an over reaction. Get over it.”

(Yes, her words.)

I’d say to ask a black person about the N-word, or another minority about slurs about them. Who is she to judge what’s offensive to most Jewish people?

And I wrote “most Jewish people” because some of my friends say it’s no big deal, or it’s the intent that matters.

I also originally angrily posted, “Only #Jews! What other group would tolerate that?”

jewish symbols
Jewish symbols
menorah
Even a menorah at the Bristol Motor Speedway‘s Speedway in Lights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seems liberalism has replaced religion for many non-Orthodox Jews and that bothers me. Their thoughts and practices are certainly up to them, but it leaves me with a bad taste. I wonder what will be in the generations to come.

Others would say I should be doing more. Again, that’s their opinion. Most of us know stereotypes like “two Jews, three opinions” carry a bit of truth.

As for the speaker’s intent, who knows? I’m not a mind-reader. I did write in a private message off Facebook,

“I find people who say things like that about Jews and prices to have bad intent. The reason is simply, one side wants the price higher and the other wants it lower. It’s adversarial by nature.”

One friend wrote there are worse words and phrases.

I responded late last night,

“Look at the reaction from the post at this hour, and also all the news articles. It’s not exactly like the president using SHole because he’s the president. Besides, if people hear it on TV, they think it’s acceptable. Don’t give the public too much credit.”

girl watching tv

Something very similar happened at the TV station I worked at in the northeast Tennessee/southwest Virginia Tri-Cities region after I left.

I explained it,

“Are slurs against any minority group tolerable in 2018? After I left the Tri-Cities, a member of the local synagogue – the only one between Knoxville and Charlottesville – contacted me after the station I worked for did a story about a guy holding an auction and using the same phrase, just like his father taught him! It aired at 5:30. At 11, there was an apology. But he was just white trash and not on the payroll. What gets me is that it’s missed in the editing process. Of course, so do curse words on signs at anti-Trump rallies.”

 

cbs fuck trump pence
Like this. Can you find it? From the CBS Evening News, captured from http://www.ftvlive.com/sqsp-test/2018/1/17/you-might-want-to-look-a-bit-closer

Yes, I used a phrase where the stereotype fit (and not about somebody from Texas, as I promised earlier). I’m certainly not perfect. I tend to be middle of the road politically, but absolutely not politically correct. Society needs civilized discussion.

I’m guessing a photographer who grew up locally shot the interview, wrote the script and edited it. That’s what happens in small non-union markets.

jew people down wcyb

I have files of both the original piece and the apology but won’t show them publicly because the anchorwoman on air had nothing to do with putting together the story. She just read it, along with having to read the apology hours later with her face on air. Her co-worker who should’ve known better caused her to suffer enough embarrassment, and she was simply subbing on someone else’s newscast while that person was on vacation!

wcyb flag
Casey is innocent

I had this last thought while trying to fall asleep last night:

archie meathead cellar
Archie and Meathead (Mike)

“This conversation reminds me of an episode of All in the Family. It definitely was not my favorite because there was more drama than comedy. Archie and Meathead were locked in the basement and opening up to each other while drinking. Mike tried to convince Archie their fathers were very similar, but wrong as it turned out. Mike had changed completely, becoming a leftist. Archie, his older father-in-law, was more defensive and blindly insisted his father could do no wrong. Most of us have (had) relatives like that, even those who came to this country as immigrants. They lived among each other (in shtetels?) and had no way of understanding anybody else’s feelings or experiences until getting out in the real world. That’s the way things were then. Today, whether traveling a few blocks or watching TV, most people become exposed to others and realize it’s wrong to use and perpetuate stereotypes.”

You can click here to watch 14 minutes of the 1973 episode. They start talking about their fathers just before 8:30 in.

all in the family

At last check, the (very slightly edited) episode “Snow Sisters’ School Bus Flip” is scheduled to air again Friday, Jan. 26 at 8pm ET, Saturday, Jan. 27 at 3am ET and Sunday, Feb. 4 at 3pm ET.

Shame on DIY and Scripps Networks Interactive for having low standards, avoiding a teaching moment and not dumping it.

F caption grade sized

Today, Merry Christmas to Comcast! You’re welcome!

No waiting until Christmas on Monday. Comcast, you obviously consider yourself too powerful.

comcast santa

Today, your hard-earned rate hikes take effect. Santa says you’ve been such a good company this year, only getting me concerned and wasting my time by forgetting when my Xfinity introductory offer ends.

comcast xmas 1
Comcast notice, page 1 of 7
comcast xmas 2
Comcast notice, page 2 of 7

money dollars cents

Does anyone reading this have suggestions for me for when that offer actually does expire? I need the internet (keeping net neutrality, which nobody is counting on Comcast to do), and pretty much the local and basic cable stations, especially news. Nothing special. None of the new programs I’ve read about but never seen. There are a lot of companies’ names that I’ve read about but never understood. (See new information released today, below.)

Seems like I’ll be looking at something very different and unfamiliar, since my building doesn’t do Verizon’s Fios nor satellite.

comcast old 595x227
Comcast’s old logo, before the feds let it buy NBC/Universal — under several conditions.

Comcast, I know costs go up but Philadelphia is your hometown, you have more to lose here than elsewhere and here, you actually own so much of your own programming and channels, including one for local sports fans (now called NBC Sports Philadelphia) and two broadcast, over the public’s airways.

One is WCAU-NBC10 (where I worked, 1998-2000, under General Electric, before the Universal and Comcast buyouts) and there’s WWSI-Telemundo62, the Spanish station really licensed to Atlantic City, whether or not it concentrates on people down the shore. In case you didn’t know, it comes just less than three years after NBC pulled its affiliation from New Jersey’s only major network affiliate, WMGM-40 in Atlantic City. That voice is gone.

SIDEBAR: Looking at NBC10’s website, I noticed the Channel 10 homepage weather featured “StormTracker4” and thought that was weird. NBC also owns its station in the next city up: WNBC-4 in New York. WNBC also brands its homepage weather “StormTracker4” but that makes sense, since it’s Channel 4!

So I tried another NBC-owned station that’s not on Channel 4 (anymore): WTVJ-6 in Miami. Their homepage weather is called “First Alert Doppler 6000” which makes sense for Channel 6 and is different from NBC’s two northern stations that are bigger, have different channel numbers, but the same name (at least at this moment). I wonder if this is regular or something simply went wrong.

Don’t forget synergy saves parent company Comcast money, and should be factored into our fees, too. (And kudos to Miami for actually selling their web weather preview!)

ANOTHER SIDEBAR: Newswise today, I noticed NBC10 beat Philadelphia competitor WTXF-Fox 29 (where I worked, 2016-2017) that had two headlines way up above the fold that were known and could’ve been written long ago — seven months and 15 months ago, respectively. Their personnel decisions should be going under the microscope.

fox29 headlines 12-20-2017
fox29.com (21st Century Fox)

First, on May 9, 2017, it reported Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office decided not to charge Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian “with a criminal offense” in the May 2015 crash that killed eight people and injured 200 others.

Then, three days later on May 12, 2017, it reported, “Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro expanded on charges a Philadelphia judge approved a day earlier after the family of a woman killed in the crash sought a private criminal complaint” and that specific story, more than seven months old, was for some reason updated today!

fox 2nd article 05-12-2017
Your guess why a May 12 Associated Press article had to be updated Dec. 20 is as good as mine. I don’t know what’s new or corrected from May 12.
Second, a year and a half ago, in June 2016, I had trouble inserting my subway token at the Broad Street Subway’s Spring Garden station. There was no place to insert it. I ended up having to walk up and down steps at three of the four corners of that intersection to finally find a human to take my token and let me down to the train platform. So we knew tokens were being phased out. Besides, how many other cities already did away with them?
Christmas
SIDEBAR OVER: So Comcast/Xfinity, for now, Merry Christmas, but I don’t know how long my even more costly business with you will last. We’ll have to find out if and when our relationship changes in the future. I can’t wait to see (with my own eyes) what you propose.
xfinity 595x227

I also wonder, did @PHLCouncil, and especially my district’s @Darrell_Clarke, who happens to be city council president, allow your rate hike?

P.S. Readers probably figured out I had the Comcast portion of this blog post prepared since shortly after I got my bill (and read it) weeks ago. Coincidentally, I found several other articles on similar topics with updates and possible solutions, this morning alone!

old tv sets

First, The New York Times‘ “How to cut the cord on cable” which prepares us to use the internet and streaming services to save a ton of money. Our viewing habits are different, so we all should read it.

Second, according to The Seattle Times, a Washington State broadband company “filed a claim with the FCC saying cable giant Comcast is unfairly trying to force Wave to provide higher-priced sports TV channels to customers who don’t want them.”

Third, the fighting between station owners, and cable/satellite operators, for retransmission consent money that probably cost you from watching something you wanted at some point (with both sides blaming each other) continues.

According to TVAnswerMan, “AT&T’s U-verse TV service lost two more local stations last night due to a fee fight with their owner, Sarkes Tarzian, Inc.” Satellite provider Dish had been involved in the majority of recent fights. New England Patriots fans almost didn’t see the game against AFC-East rivals, the Miami Dolphins, until the Boston CBS station allowed carriage.

FTV Live‘s Scott Jones put it best:

Finally, Bloomberg warns, “Cable TV’s password-sharing crackdown is coming” and “it’s a growing problem that could cost pay-TV companies millions of subscribers — and billions of dollars in revenue.”

The article reports TV Everywhere, started in 2009, “was an attempt to appeal to young consumers by letting them access cable or satellite shows on any device.” Of course, that “any device” part led to piracy and password-swapping since companies like Charter/Spectrum only force paying customers to enter their passwords for each device once a year. Somehow, tens of thousands watched just one subscriber’s streams simultaneously for free!

budget
Anyway, after all that, got a solution for my Comcast concern? I’d love to hear in a comment! (Got a web link?) And thanks!

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.