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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
Keep reading. This is the transcript. Enjoy the back-and-forth more than I did!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
But the deal announced in May, 2017, still hasn’t happened.
To follow through, it would need government approval: from the Justice Department for antitrust worries and the FCC to approve ownership limits. (And Sinclair may have already gotten “help” from FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who was selected by President Trump. Pai is now under investigation by his own agency’s inspector general. Keep reading.)
— UPDATE: The FCC inspector general cleared Chairman Ajit Pai of being unfairly biased in favor of the Sinclair Broadcast Group–Tribune Media merger. —
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)
The $3.9 billion deal would still require a number of stations to be sold. The questions partially responsible for holding things up were how many, and in which cities? About six weeks ago, I explained TV ownership limits are very complicated, with four rules in play: 1. national TV ownership, 2. local TV multiple ownership, 3. the number of independently owned “media voices” – 4. and at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (that’s the “designated market area” or city, and ranking based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination.
Plus, there have been literally thousands of complaints from activists who know how important this is. Click here to see 4,497 total FCC filings since July 5, 2017, including 891 in the past 30 days. THANK YOU if your name is on the list! Keep reading for directions on how to say no.
Now, click here to see some of the “33 concurrently filed applications on FCC Form 315 that seek the Commission’s consent to a transaction,” back in July, 2017, and what the companies consider “Public interest benefits of the transaction.” You’ll soon know better if you actually believe there are public interest benefits! You’ll also notice the companies fighting for every last station they could, to grow even larger.
“The Smith family, which includes brothers David, Robert, Frederick, J. Duncan and a flurry of family trusts, is worth a combined $1.2 billion, Forbes estimates, based on the family members’ ownership of stock in publicly traded Sinclair Broadcasting, share sales over the past 15 years, dividends and some private assets,” it read.
“Revenues have increased 281% over the last decade to $2.7 billion in 2017, while Sinclair’s share price has increased 367% over the same period, pushing its market capitalization up to a recent $3 billion. All of this growth has occurred under the control and oversight of David Smith, 67, the chairman and former CEO of the company, as well as the son of the company’s founder Julian Sinclair Smith,” it continued.
Forbes quoted Daniel Kurnos, an analyst at Benchmark Capital, as saying, “Sinclair plays some of the hardest ball of anyone,” from acquiring stations to negotiating advertisement pricing and retransmission fees, which are some of the highest in the business.
SIDEBAR: Wednesday, The TV Answer Man Phillip Swann reported PlayStation Vue removed Sinclair-owned local stations affiliated with Big 4 networks from its streaming lineup without an explanation. Just Tuesday, subscribers got an e-mail that live channels would be replaced May 1 (that day) with an On-Demand version.
Sinclair said it pulled the stations and blamed “Sony (for) failing to comply with certain contractual provisions.” It didn’t elaborate but urged Sony subscribers to consider other video distributor options, including Sony competitor YouTube TV.
Sony hasn’t commented.
The Baltimore Sun reports, “Sony describes PlayStation Vue as a live streaming TV service for up to five devices at once that offers sports, news and other programs along with premium channels and a cloud DVR.”
BACK TO THE STORY: Under David Smith, who wouldn’t comment for the article, Sinclair went from three cities – Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Columbus – to what it is today.
“To ‘purely make money’ in a scale-oriented business, David bought up as many broadcast stations as possible. First he concentrated on secondary markets, like Memphis, St. Louis and San Antonio, where operation costs were cheaper than in places like New York or Chicago.
“‘I believed that certain things were going to happen in the television industry, the most important being consolidation,’” David told Forbes in 1996.
So much for public service!
But then came the controversial Cunningham, arguably rigging the system.
“In the 1990s, the company pioneered a technique to circumvent an FCC rule limiting ownership of more than one TV station per metro area. David’s mother, Carolyn Smith, started another business, Cunningham Broadcasting. Following Carolyn’s death in 2012, most of the ownership of Cunningham Broadcasting shifted to a family trust, which is included in the overall Smith family valuation.”
So Cunningham really isn’t independent, as its website claims!
“The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is raising questions at the FCC about whether Sinclair Broadcasting is exercising control over a minority-headed TV group with which it has struck a series of local marketing agreements (LMAs).
“In a July 1 filing at the FCC, Rainbow/PUSH said it plans to study whether the LMA deal between Sinclair’s KABB(TV) San Antonio and Glencairn’s KRRT(TV) Kerrville, Tex., violates the commission’s prohibition against common ownership of two local stations. (The rules were more strict then.)
“‘Rainbow/PUSH has not had an opportunity to fully research this matter, and thus preserves here the question of whether Glencaim is the alter ego of Sinclair,’ the group told the FCC.”
So we know Cunningham, set to buy Tribune stations in Dallas and Houston, appears to be a shell company, and we can make bets who will operate and control it if the Sinclair-Tribune deal ever comes to fruition.
“Cunningham Broadcasting owns the FCC broadcast licenses and operates through various management agreements with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. WNUV-TV in Baltimore, Maryland; WTTE-TV in Columbus, Ohio; WMYA-TV in Anderson, South Carolina; WRGT-TV in Dayton, Ohio; WVAH-TV in Charleston, West Virginia; WDBB-TV in Bessemer, Alabama; WBSF-TV in Flint, Michigan; WGTU-TV in Traverse City, Michigan; KBVU-TV in Eureka, California; KCVU-TV in Chico-Redding, California; WEMT-TV in Greeneville, Tennessee; WPFO-TV in Portland, Maine; WYDO-TV in Greenville, North Carolina; and KRNV-TV & KENV-TV in Reno, Nevada.”
Looking at its list of stations — something the Fox Television Stations Group never posted on its own website despite me calling them out for it here, here, here, here (so far in no particular order, although I may have missed a couple), and my favorite, here — you may realize Sinclair recently bought Bonten Media Group (Disclosure: I used to be Digital Media Manager at the former Bonten’s WCYB but left before the sale.) but Cunningham bought the stations Bonten operated. Notice those stations listed on the website have no websites of their own. And I’ll get back to Fox later. I’ll bet they can’t wait!
Another dead giveaway is that Cunningham is based at 2000 W. 41st Street, Baltimore MD 21211 and coincidentally, Sinclair flagship WBFF-45 (Fox affiliate) has the same address!
“For years (before 2012), Fox Television Stations’ WUTB Baltimore gave Fox considerable leverage in its sometime contentious affiliation negotiations with Sinclair Broadcast Group.
“If Sinclair ever got out of line, Fox could threaten to yank its affiliation from Sinclair’s flagship station WBFF Baltimore and move it to WUTB.
“But last May, Fox relinquished that leverage when it extended its affiliation with WBFF and 18 other Sinclair stations for five years starting Jan. 1, 2013, and granted Sinclair an option to buy WUTB.
“Sinclair is now exercising that option by assigning it to a third party, Deerfield LLC.
“According to an FCC filing seeking approval of the deal, Deerfield is buying WUTB and allowing Sinclair to run the MNT affiliate through joint sales and shared services agreements.
“The deal gives Sinclair a virtual triopoly in Baltimore where it also operates CW affiliate WNUV, which is owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, Sinclair’s longtime duopoly partner that is controlled by trusts for the children of Sinclair’s controlling shareholders.”
But Sinclair and Deerfield were already in cahoots.
“to buy six television stations from Newport Television LLC for $412.5 million and agreed to buy Bay Television Inc. for $40 million. … Sinclair also agreed to sell the license assets of its San Antonio station KMYS and its WSTR station in Cincinnati to Deerfield Media Inc. Sinclair will also assign Deerfield the right to buy the license assets of WPMI and WJTC in the Mobile/Pensacola market, after which Sinclair will provide sales and other non-programming services to each of these four stations under shared services and joint sales agreements.”
“Sinclair Broadcast is getting six stations in five markets for $412.5 million:
— Cincinnati (DMA 35) — WKRC (CBS)
— San Antonio, Texas (DMA 36) — WOAI (NBC)
— Harrisburg-Lancaster (DMA 41) — WHP (CBS)
— Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla. (DMA 60) — WPMI (NBC) and WJTC (Ind.)
— Wichita, Kan. (DMA 67) — KSAS (Fox)
“Sinclair is also acquiring Newport’s rights to operate third-party duopoly stations in Harrisburg, Pa. (CW affiliate WLYH), and Wichita, Kan. (MNT affiliate KMTW). Those rights include options to buy the stations. …
“While Sinclair was buying, it was also selling.
“It said it would spin off its CW affiliate in San Antonio (KMYS) and its MNT affiliate in Cincinnati (WSTR) to Deerfield Media Inc., presumably to comply with the FCC ownership limits. In the deal, Deerfield also picks up an option to buy two of the stations it is acquiring from Newport, WPMI-WJTC Mobile, Ala.-Pensacola, Fla.
“Sinclair said it intends to ‘provide sales and other non-programming services to each of these four stations pursuant to shared services and joint sales agreements.’
“In yet another deal, Sinclair said it is buying WTTA Tampa-St. Petersburg from Bay Television Inc. for $40 million. Since 1998, Sinclair has operated WTTA pursuant to a local marketing agreement.”
And that was the start of the Deerfield connection!
BACK TO OUR STORY: So for those of you in Baltimore, do you need to reach the newsroom, are you looking for a job (Would they hire me for my investigative work?), or interested in inspecting the FCC public file of any of the three stations? All the information is the same, from address to phone numbers, and we already established three stations in one city are not allowed!
“its broadcast ownership rules every four years. …
“This is one of the reasons why my company, Howard Stirk Holdings, LLC (HSH), has sued the FCC. As an African American licensee of two television stations, I believe that by refusing to complete its 2010 quadrennial review, the FCC has unlawfully withheld taking an action required by Congress and the law, and thus is arbitrarily and capriciously retaining burdensome regulations that are no longer in the public interest.”
Williams was angry the FCC “adopted a new rule restricting joint sales agreements (JSAs) between television broadcasters in the same market.”
He claimed, “It effectively slams the door shut on an important gateway to enhancing localism, viewpoint diversity, and opportunities in broadcast television ownership by minorities and underrepresented groups.”
“The FCC, backed by the Obama administration Justice Department, argues that broadcasters have used the shared-service, or “sidecar,” arrangements to circumvent long-standing rules against owning multiple television stations in a single market, allowing them to raise ad prices and weaken market competition.”
Williams and his supporters suggest a more partisan motive: his conservative views.
In fact, it seems every article in HSH’s News section mentions Sinclair or those joint sales agreements designed to get by without abiding by the FCC’s ownership rules!
In other words, he was a great partner for Sinclair since he’s a minority (but without the views of most other minorities) and they’re both making money by using each other!
But I found it eventually gets somewhat better.
Then I went to Wikipedia and read Williams helped Sinclair buy Barrington Broadcasting in late 2013, so he got stations in Flint, MI, and Myrtle Beach, SC, but they remain operated by Sinclair. They’re actually his only stations run by Sinclair and remember, at the time, his company was accused of “acting as a ‘sidecar’ of Sinclair to skirt FCC ownership rules.”
But that was then.
A year later, he actually, really bought three stations from Sinclair: one in Charleston and two in Alabama.
“Howard Stirk Holdings, run by Armstrong Williams, has agreed to acquire WCIV Charleston for $50,000. Sinclair picked up WCIV, an ABC affiliate, when it acquired Allbritton. While Howard Stirk is acquiring the license, among other assets, it and Sinclair will share some aspects related to the station, and Sinclair will provide services.
“‘We’ll continue some of the wonderful business relationships we have with them,’ said Armstrong Williams, principal at Howard Stirk Holdings.”
WCIV’s services came up because of a tangled web of local marketing agreements. There were ownership conflicts over licenses and other assets of three stations.
Sinclair owned MyNetworkTV affiliate WMMP-36 for years. Then, in 2001, it bought and spun off Fox affiliate WTAT-24 to Glencairn (to become Cunningham) and crafted a local marketing agreement between the two stations. That got Sinclair fined Sinclair $40,000 for illegally controlling a duopoly.
But in 2013, Allbritton sold its entire television group, including ABC affiliate WCIV-4, to Sinclair, which intended to sell WMMP’s license but still control it. Thus, three stations!
Unfortunately for Sinclair, WMMP had that local marketing agreement with WTAT. So Sinclair decided to cut ties from WTAT, keep the more established WCIV and sell WMMP.
But Sinclair told the FCC it couldn’t find a buyer for WMMP, so it would shut down WCIV and keep WMMP because its facilities were better — but move WCIV’s affiliation and all its programming to WMMP. Then, WMMP’s programming including MyNetworkTV would move to a subchannel.
Instead, Sinclair filed to have WCIV’s license sold to HSH to avoid shutting it down. Thus, the low price of $50,000. Then, the two stations swapped licenses, Sinclair let Williams’ WCIV share studio space at WMMP’s facilities and Williams explained he hoped to “continue some of the wonderful business relationships we have with [Sinclair]” through the deal — but operated independently from Sinclair.
“Howard Stirk Holdings has agreed to acquire KVMY, the Las Vegas MyNetworkTV affiliate, for $150,000. Armstrong Williams is the principal at Howard Stirk, which is closely aligned with Sinclair. The price reflects $25,000 for the equity assets, including the FCC license, and $125,000 for the transmission assets.
“According to the following, Howard Stirk ‘acknowledges that it is not buying the Business of KVMY-TV as a going concern.’” (There was a call letter and affiliation change, but Howard Stirk Holdings runs several digital subchannel networks on the signal.)
“In September, Sinclair agreed to acquire NBC affiliate KSNV Las Vegas for $120 million. It also owns CW outlet KVCW.
“Last year, Howard Stirk Holdings acquired the license and other assets to WCIV Charleston from Sinclair for $50,000.”
So they’ve been in business several times, and it may not be over.
Some more about Williams: In 2004, the Bush administration paid him $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law on his nationally syndicated TV show and urge other black journalists to do the same. USA Today reported the campaign was part of an effort to build support among black families and Williams was “to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts” and interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show. Williams said he understood critics could find the arrangement unethical, but “I wanted to do it because it’s something I believe in.”
Two years ago, The Washington Post reported Williams settled a sexual harassment and retaliation suit filed by a former salesman at a DC Jos. A. Bank. Court records reportedly showed the complaint alleged Williams had sought sexual favors after befriending and mentoring the other man. That man did get jobs at the Washington Times and then at a Howard Stirk Holdings TV station, but he lost that job.
Bottom line: As of now, Howard Stirk Holdings owns seven stations. Two are in the same Anniston-Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, Ala., market, and Williams’ first two are still run by Sinclair. Now, after other purchases, he’s expecting to buy three more if the Sinclair-Tribune merger happens.
Then there’s Standard Media Group.I hadn’t heard of them either. Its website says Standard General was founded in 2007 and is pretty much an investment advisor, but getting into the broadcasting business. We’ll see how long that lasts. Investment firms are more likely to sell than others with broadcasting in their blood, especially ones who invest in their communities.
Now, if the deal goes through, it’ll fulfill its “goal of swiftly building a substantial broadcast television group with a strong and diverse voice” that includes four state capitals.
The stations are Fox affiliates except where noted: Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, York PA, Greensboro NC (ABC), Richmond, Sinclair’s role in a Wilkes Barre Fox-CW-MyNetworkTV triopoly, and Des Moines.
You may have noticed Meredith Corp. on the list of buyers. TVSpy noted Meredith “has signed a deal to acquire KPLR (CW) from Tribune for $65 million, pairing it with KMOV (CBS) which Meredith has owned since 2013. … Sinclair already owns KDNL (ABC) and will also own KTVI (FOX) in the market.” Great for owners’ synergies. Bad for the number of independent voices in such a big city. Which do you care more about?
Of the other big city stations, Tribune’s legendary WGN-TV9 is supposed to go to WGN TV LLC but that’s really code for Steven Fader, a Maryland auto dealer and business associate to Sinclair chairman David Smith, for a mere $60 million. Sinclair would also have an option to buy WGN-TV outright within eight years and you know it’s counting on the FCC to relax its ownership rules even more within that time frame!
“Even though Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley has said a 24-hour national news network is not in the works, his boss (David) Smith seems to like the idea of a few hours of prime time opinion programming to challenge Fox News.”
Fox News is carried in more than 90 million homes, compared to 80 million for WGN America which Sinclair would own if regulators approve, and 55 million for the Tennis Channel which Sinclair already owns.
If your cable or satellite company doesn’t offer either of those last two, then expect it to get a call when any deal with Sinclair is about to expire.
Politico quotes “a person familiar” saying “Smith has been holding meetings with potential future employees, including former Fox News staff members, and laying out a vision for an evening block of opinion and news programming that would compete with Fox’s top-rated lineup.”
So, the discussions are over “a block of at least three hours, but also potentially up to six. Smith is settled, though, on basing his new operation in Washington, D.C.” That’s because the company already owns local station WJLA-7, where it produces some of its national content.
One apparent Sinclair target is former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, who left the network in Sept., 2016, and then had a short stint at MSNBC before signing on with Voice of America. Van Susteren wrote in an email she has spoken with Smith.
“If the Sinclair deal happens, I might talk to him further. … but it would have to be something that would not take me from VOA,” Van Susteren said.
“Other potential hires are former Fox anchor Eric Bolling and reporter James Rosen,” who both left Fox under sexual harassment allegations. Neither admitted whether they met with Smith or other Sinclair executives.
Eric Bolling, via Twitter
James Rosen, via Twitter
Bill O’Reilly, via FoxNews.com
Talks with former Fox host Bill O’Reilly reportedly fell apart.
The slant of a national news block hasn’t been decided. We know where Sinclair stands, politically, but TVNewser notes, “There are already national challengers from the right, including Newsmax TV and OAN.”
And in the nation’s largest market, Tribune’s WPIX-11 is now off the market. It was supposed to go to Cunningham for a mere $15 million. That’s pennies on the dollar, and it would’ve been run by Sinclair. Now, it’ll just go to Sinclair so it’s not on the list.
But what about those TBDs (to be determined)? They are all owned by Tribune: the Fox affiliates in San Diego, Seattle/Tacoma, Cleveland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Denver, and the CW affiliate in Miami/Fort Lauderdale.
And you may have noticed Rupert Murdoch’s Fox conglomerate was not listed as one of the buyers, but that’s sure to change.
Jessell of TVNewsCheck was more direct, saying all Sinclair
“has to do now is wrap up its negotiations with Fox. I don’t know what’s delaying that deal, except that neither Fox nor Sinclair is famous for making concessions. Once Sinclair does that, it can finalize its application and the FCC can complete it long-stalled review.”
Those greedy bastards are going to end up screwing everything up for themselves (which I’d love to see happen), and you’ve only read about half of the plans, so far!
First, Fox actually used to own the Cleveland, Salt Lake City and Denver stations but sold them to a company called Local TV which sold itself to Tribune. So much for Fox — selling stations and then buying them back later — caring about communities. IMHO, that company can’t make a case for a second chance at ownership.
But now, 21st Century Fox plans to sell off most of its assets like its studio, cable networks and regional sports networks to Disney – keeping just its Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, its FS1/FS2 cable sports channels, adding to its TV stations, and its network, which will focus on live events, especially NFL Football. The new, smaller company is being referred to as New Fox.
That’s the reason Fox has tried to own stations in cities that have NFC conference football teams since it got the rights to most of their away games in 1994 – and even trade or sell other stations for them – despite the fact a regular season of 16 games could mean the home audience would see its team play about 12 games a year on its local Fox station, unless the team makes the playoffs.
Fox even got its hands on Cox’s KTVU in San Francisco (with an NFC team, the 49ers, and the AFC Oakland Raiders across the bay will now be moving to Las Vegas in 2020) and give Cox its own stations in Boston (the New England Patriots are AFC) and Memphis (no NFL team).
What has changed is Fox bought the rights to Thursday Night Football, which should split games between NFC and AFC teams. That means Fox has become more interested in AFC team cities, even though there’s no pattern as to which teams play on Thursdays.
Football teams have moved, but the cities Fox wants are Seattle (especially because it’s NFC), and Cleveland, Denver and Miami (because they have AFC teams). San Diego and St. Louis no longer have teams, so Fox isn’t interested in Tribune’s Fox affiliates in those cities.
Seattle, Cleveland and Denver should be easy. The stations are already Fox affiliates so prime-time programming and the amount of news shouldn’t change. And Fox has leverage because it can threaten to take away its affiliation from those stations, lowering their value, if they’re sold to another company.
Remember what Fox did in Charlotte? It dropped a good affiliate, WCCB-Channel 18, because it wanted to own a station where the NFC Carolina Panthers play. Instead, it bought a nothing station, WJZY-Channel 46, and started it from scratch. And it had to do that a second time when it tried to be too different and less traditional the first time! (And, for disclosure: It got a great new news director who is a former colleague.) Remember, Charlotte pretty much sits on the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Old timers are pretty traditional. Was the move worth it for Fox?
Miami is a different story. Fox has a very good affiliate, WSVN-7, owned by Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television. (Disclosure: I got my start in journalism there.) It gives Fox great coverage of breaking news in South Florida. Several people at Fox News Channel used to work there. The ratings are great. So what’s the problem?
The Miami Dolphins play there, and as an AFC team, they show up on Fox on a few Sundays and may now also be seen on Fox on Thursdays.
But the station that’s available is Tribune’s WSFL-39, a CW affiliate without a news department despite a few morning attempts. WSVN owner Ansin has shown he’ll probably take the station to his grave, with or without any affiliation, so there’s no realistic possibility there.
Should Fox dump WSVN and start from scratch with WSFL? Would it be worth the effort?
Unlike Charlotte, WSVN is a #1 station. And Miami is a very different place. There’s big news regularly and the two main Spanish stations do better than most of the English! People who aren’t bilingual can’t watch all the available stations, which really limits its size, making it actually smaller than the 16th largest market. We’ll have to see who wants WSFL, since a Sinclair-Tribune merger can’t include it due to FCC ownership rules.
One thing I’d say for sure is that WSFL loses its CW affiliation because CBS and Warner Brothers (Time Warner) own the network, and CBS doesn’t only own WFOR-4 (CBS station) and but also WBFS-33 (MyNetworkTV affiliate) and the CW does better.
Staying with this possibility, WSFL could become the new MyNetworkTV affiliate, and MyNetworkTV is owned by Fox.
It’s not so unusual for a network to own stations but not air the network on them.
Let’s take CBS, for example. It owns independents in New York (WLNY-55) and Los Angeles (KCAL-9). In Dallas, WTXA-21 is also independent.
In Miami, WBFS ended up with MyNetworkTV to please Tribune since CBS got the CW in so many other cities when the WB and UPN combined. It’s similar in Boston where WSBK-38 airs MyNetworkTV, but that’s expected to change since Sunbeam’s WLVI-56, which used to be owned by Tribune, airs the CW.
Single CBS-owned stations in Atlanta, Seattle and Tampa air the CW while affiliates owned by other companies air CBS programming.
And in Indianapolis, CBS’ WBXI-47 airs Decades, while the actual CBS affiliation changed from one outside company to another. CBS dumped a strong WISH-8 and went to half of Tribune’s duopoly, independent WTTV-4, over a disagreement with the former Media General.
A last possibility if Fox is determined to buy a Miami station is ABC affiliate WPLG-10. That station, stable under Post-Newsweek (now Graham Media) for decades, was sold to Berkshire Hathaway as its only broadcast property. We’ve talked about synergies (BH, as an “only child,” has none) and know Warren Buffett wants to turn a profit, so we can imagine Fox dumping WSVN for WPLG, but can’t assume ABC will take its affiliation to WSVN. Remember how CBS didn’t do that in 1989? But that’s highly unlikely.
Regarding the UHF discount’s revival, The New York Times wrote, “A few weeks later, Sinclair Broadcasting announced a blockbuster $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media — a deal those new rules made possible.” (Oh, and led to Pai’s investigation. But luckily, Harry Jessell of TVNewsCheckwrote critics of station consolidation say it “now serves only to allow groups to circumvent the intent of Congress, which was to limit groups to 39%” and they’ve “challenged the perpetuation of the UHF discount in court (D.C. Appeals Court), and seem to have made some headway in their oral arguments.”)
“Sinclair’s top lobbyist, a former F.C.C. official, also communicated frequently with former agency colleagues and pushed for the relaxation of media ownership rules. And language the lobbyist used about loosening rules has tracked closely to analysis and language used by Mr. Pai in speeches favoring such changes.”
An FCC spokesman representing Mr. Pai countered the allegations of favoritism were “baseless,” and
“For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the F.C.C. to update its media ownership regulations. … The chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernizing these rules, it’s not surprising that those who disagree with him would prefer to do whatever they can to distract from the merits of his proposals.”
However, “Pai said he would factor the potential court decision into the FCC’s decisionmaking.”
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) told Pai the spin-off of WGN-TV Chicago to the owner of a car dealership owned by Sinclair’s executive chair, “stretches the definition of divestiture under the plan to something unrecognizable” and the planned divestitures make a mockery of FCC rules.
Pai denied Rep. Quigley’s request to hold off on a decision on Sinclair until the UHF discount court decision, saying that was a case of clashing hypotheticals — both what the court would do with the discount and what the FCC would do with the proposed merger.
“Sinclair is telling the FCC that its coverage after spinoffs from its merger with Tribune will be just 58.7%. But that’s for regulatory purposes. (In other words, with the revived UHF discount that only counts channels 14 and up as half the audience of the market.) In the real world, where it matters, Sinclair’s national reach will be 66.3% — a full two-thirds of TV homes.”
But he said Sinclair is telling the FCC
“the coverage of the group will be just 58.7% and, with the UHF discount, below the statutory 39% cap. But those percentages are for regulatory consumption, not the real world.”
So there’s a 7.6-point disparity, the difference between 58.7% and 66.3%. How’d that happen? And don’t forget about the part, “with the UHF discount, below the statutory 39% cap.”
Jessell explained Sinclair
“is claiming 58% because it is not counting stations in three big markets — WGN Chicago, KDAF Dallas, KIAH Houston — that it is spinning off to closely affiliated companies. Without those markets and the discount in effect, Sinclair’s reach will be just 37.39%, safely below the 39% cap.”
Plus, with Dallas and Houston (but not Chicago), “Sinclair has put additional distance between itself and Cunningham” but will “have an option to buy the stations should the FCC ever ease the rules to allow it.”
So this is Jessell’s bottom line:
“So, again, for regulatory purposes, Sinclair’s reach will be 58.7% without the discount and 37.39% with it.
“But I don’t think that is reality. Those are not the numbers that Sinclair will be showing national advertisers, MVPDs, vendors and others with which it does business.
“In the real world, Sinclair will have a lot of control over Chicago and some control over Dallas and Houston, and its effective national reach will be 66.3%. (For the record, its reach with the UHF discount will be 41.1%, two points over the cap, but that will not matter because regulators will not be counting the three markets.)”
Then Jessell questioned Fox’s counting, assuming it’ll buy Miami, Cleveland, Sacramento as well as Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City and possibly San Diego.
He calculated Fox reaches 36.8% of homes, but just 24.3% with the UHF discount. If it buys up all seven stations, its reach will grow to 45.9% but, well below the cap at just 30.4% with the discount.
But where will Fox find the money to buy the stations it wants? That’s another story!
Last year, Disney made a $52.4 billion offer to buy most of Fox, including its stake in the European pay TV company Sky.
But The Hollywood Reporter said on Wednesday, “Back in 2004, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts bid $54 billion to acquire The Walt Disney Co.” At the time, Comcast hadn’t bought NBCUniversal but Disney did own ABC. It was a 22 percent more than Disney was worth then, but former CEO Michael Eisner said no anyway.
Now, even though NBCUniversal has performed well, some say Roberts wants revenge by offering the same $52.4 billion as Disney for most of 21st Century Fox.
There could also be a bidding war overseas. Sky had agreed to let Fox, a 39 percent shareholder, buy the portion it doesn’t already own – and that Disney agreed to buy from Fox in December. Comcast could ruin those companies’ plans.
Then, in January, a UK regulator advised the government to block Fox’s bid to buy the remaining 61 percent of Sky because it would give one family – the Murdochs – too much control over media in Britain.
So Murdoch had preferred Disney as the buyer, afraid the Comcast offer came with more regulatory risks. Then, Disney offered to buy Sky News just to help Murdoch buy full control of Sky News’ parent company, the broadcaster Sky. But CNN reported Fox made a new pitch to win approval for Sky by selling Sky News to Disney, and another proposal that would’ve legally separated Sky News from the rest of Sky to ensure its editorial independence.
This all comes along with many mergers and acquisitions across the industry.
In fact, a decision on this may not come until a judge determines whether to let AT&T buy Time Warner. The Justice Department has been fighting against it with an antitrust case. Closing arguments just finished and a decision is expected June 12.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, last week Fox said it’s “considering its options” on Sky and is believed to be prepping a sweetened bid. But Comcast is known for (usually) getting what it wants.
But back to Sinclair, which hasn’t been doing itself any favors.
So much for localism at a company that already owns or operates an astounding 193 TV stations, in 89 cities, covering a huge part of the American population. (You’ve read the different takes on the numbers.)
This is criticism from The New York Times…
from the PBS NewsHour…
from USA Today…
and even Russia Today…
and Al Jazeera English.
But Sinclair fought back against CNN’s criticism (and banned comments from YouTube!):
FTVLive’s Scott Jones showed a memo from Portland, OR – I’m sure one of many around the country – ordering employees not to complain.
“many TV local news stations are focusing more on national politics and have taken a rightward slant over the past year. And that move is stemming from ownership of the stations, not the demands of a local audience.”
The researchers examined 7.5 million transcript segments from 743 local news stations and saw huge differences between other stations, and outlets owned by the nation’s largest local broadcasting chain, Sinclair Broadcast Group.
“The authors found Sinclair stations, on average, carried about a third less local politics coverage and a quarter more national politics … (including) commentaries the stations are forced to run by former Trump official Boris Epshteyn.”
“The ‘slant scores,’ based on repetition of ideologically linked phrases, increased by about one standard deviation after acquisition by Sinclair as compared to other stations in the same markets. … And this programming could spur nationalistic and polarizing movements, ‘be expected to reduce viewers’ knowledge of the activities of local officials’ — and hurt accountability, especially “given the decline of local print media.”
So while everything plays out, from fighting the UHF discount in court, to negotiating spinning off stations, to Fox getting money to buy stations (while keeping its Sinclair affiliates), to counting how long the deal has taken (since May, 2017), to counting how long the steps still to be taken will last, the two companies’ bosses have no public complaints or worries.
Sinclair president and CEO Chris Ripley:
“After a very robust divestiture process, with strong interest from many parties, we have achieved healthy multiples on the stations we are divesting. …While we continue to believe that we had a strong and supportable rationale for not having to divest stations, we are happy to announce this significant step forward in our plan to create a leading broadcast platform with local focus and national reach. The combined company will continue to advance industry technology, including the Next Generation Broadcast Platform, and to benefit from significant revenue and expense synergies.”
Tribune CEO Peter Kern to employees:
“There is no reason to assume that this change won’t be for the better. … So try to focus, as you have always done, on the business at hand—delivering outstanding local journalism and great content for our audiences and communities, collaborating with your colleagues, and driving results for our customers.”
Enough of big media controlling everything from corporate headquarters! This is what happens when it does. Locals should be in charge of local programming, following the rules of the FCC for using OUR public airwaves!
OK, since you read everything, I’ll give you John Oliver here!
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It’ll start with Fox’s own properties and then perhaps go elsewhere.
The change follows the huge “revelation of sexual harassment allegations” that got Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and top host Bill O’Reilly kicked out.
Roger Ailes in June 2013, via Wikipedia Commons
Bill O’Reilly, via FoxNews.com
In July, 2016, former host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for harassment, triggering lawsuits, internal investigations, resignations and firings. Carlson ended up settling for $20 million.
Then, The New York Times revealed O’Reilly and Fox had paid millions of dollars to quietly settle other sexual harassment allegations against Ailes, including two after he left. (Real honest? Really?)
That led to big changes to the channel’s lineup.
Ailes died in May, 2017, and denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
Then, last spring, co-president Bill Shine was ousted. Shine – who ran programming – succeeded Ailes despite his “alleged role in abetting Ailes in tolerating a workplace hostile to women,” according to The Washington Post. The other co-president – Jack Abernethy – runs the business side.
Rupert Murdoch, Wikimedia Commons
James & Lachlan Murdoch, both Wikipedia
Women’s groups and some Fox employees had complained the Murdoch family, which owns Fox, wasn’t serious about reforming the company as long as its leadership – selected by and loyal to Ailes – remained mostly intact. The Post said Shine’s removal showed the younger Murdochs – Rupert’s sons Lachlan and James – were finally trying to foster what they called “a workplace based on the values of respect and trust” when Ailes was forced out.
Carlson claims in one of the spots, “Fox is the one place where dissent is allowed,” while MacCallum promises, “We are going to ask the tough questions because there is a lot of conventional wisdom out there that needs to be challenged.”
Ahead of frontrunner Fox, CNN began its “Facts First” marketing campaign last October. Ad Age says it features a narrator using an apple to push back against President Donald Trump and others who call it a purveyor of “fake news” by screaming ‘Banana, Banana, Banana,’ over and over and over again, and even putting ‘banana’ in all caps.
Of course, the honesty of Fox News has been doubted over the years and reinforced just in the past week.
Thursday night, CNN reported Fox reporter Diana Falzone settled a lawsuit with Fox News and left the company. Her lawyer said she couldn’t disclose the terms, and neither side would elaborate.
Falzone sued in May, 2017, alleging gender discrimination. Her suit
Falzone’s column said she was “reluctant to share” her battle with the disorder but she ultimately did “after being persuaded by a manager in her doctor’s office, who told her, ‘Many women suffer in silence alone. Please share your story.’”
It’s still up and still tagged with
Perhaps more seriously and with much more at stake for our country, Fox shelved a Falzone story that CNN reported,
“detailed an alleged sexual relationship between porn actress Stephanie Clifford – whose stage name is Stormy Daniels – and Donald Trump.”
The alleged affair is reported to have happened in 2006. Donald and Melania Trump were married in 2005.
Killing Falzone’s reporting on it allegedly happened 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.
I wonder who killed that story and why. Was it political? Maybe, especially considering the company’s reputation. Did Falzone have every fact? That’s probably what the person who killed the story would claim. I suggest another investigation immediately, run by an outsider like CBS had after Dan Rather’s report on President George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard duty during the Vietnam War.
The person who killed Falzone’s story about Trump and the porn actress should be fired right away if the investigation finds the story could’ve run back then, especially if that person didn’t bother to tell superiors and to have a lawyer fact-check it. An aggressive, impartial news manager would’ve done everything possible to run this.
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.’”
She even shot a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, but we haven’t seen it yet. CBS News president David Rhodes said, “The only reason it hasn’t run is that there’s still a lot of journalistic work to do,” rather than any problem with the president.
“has been seeking counsel from confidantes on how he should handle the Stormy Daniels situation,” and “Trump is being told by advisers not to fight Daniels’ decision to break a confidentiality agreement because it would make him look guilty.”
It’s also the reason Trump has stayed quiet and not tweeted about the issue.
CNN also says 60 Minutes “producers are working to verify claims she made” and “three sources confirmed to CNN that Clifford made new claims about Trump in the interview.”
Sunday, BuzzFeed had reported “lawyers associated with President Donald Trump are considering legal action to stop 60 Minutes from airing” the interview but prior restraints are hardly ever granted. This isn’t national security we’re talking about!
Nah, this isn’t a story Fox would’ve been interested in taking the lead on. They let the other guys have it.
Then Saturday, The New York Daily News reported something that had been out there: “Prominent host Jesse Watters … is in the midst of divorce due to an affair with a 25-year-old associate producer,” Emma DiGiovine, who worked on his show.
Fox is downplaying the dishonesty when it came to wedding vows, with a spokesperson saying,
“Within 24 hours of Jesse Watters voluntarily reporting to the Chief of Human Resources in November 2017 that he was in a consensual relationship with a woman on his staff, management met with both parties and a decision was made for the woman to be transferred to work on another program on the network where she currently remains.”
DiGiovine now works on The Ingraham Angle.
Sources told The News the
“host informed the network of his adulterous relationship … shortly after Noelle filed divorce papers.”
In other words, his wife – Noelle Watters – had already busted him!
Watters, 39, has twin girls with wife, who filed for divorce in October.
(Facebook picture posted Sept. 9, 2017.)
That makes his mistress, DiGiovine, a homewrecker.
In the Fox turmoil, Watters replaced Eric Bolling on The Five when Bolling got his own show, but Bolling was booted “in September following a report he sent unsolicited photos of male genitalia to colleagues.”
Sources told The News rumors of Watters’
“relationship with DiGiovine spread within the network late last year as both posted social media photos of their outings together, including on a Caribbean vacation.”
Yes, unfortunately, things like this happen in practically every office and business, and probably more in TV journalism considering the looks, money, and egos. But there’s just something about this certain company. Maybe leadership from the top.
In this case, Watters has been in trouble before.
The Daily News remembered,
“In July 2014, he called voters who are single women ‘Beyoncé voters’ after her ‘Single Ladies’ hit.
“They depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands. … They need things like contraception, health care and they love to talk about equal pay.”
“The far-right funnyman landed in hot water again in April 2017 when he made what appeared to be a lewd comment about Ivanka Trump.
“I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone,” he said, while making a vulgar gesture. He took a vacation after the controversy, saying he hadn’t meant to be offensive.
“During the break we were commenting on Ivanka’s voice and how it was low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ. … This was in no way a joke about anything else.”
So, to recap:
He violated his marriage vows and will probably pay a fortune over many, many years.
He has shown a lack of judgment at work before (and so have his supervisors, who let the stuff air).
His pieces judge other people (not that they don’t make themselves look like idiots), and
He’s in no position to be judging.
And I’d say that makes him unfit for his role. He should probably spend some time in local television, if that. But that’s not going to happen, and here is why:
The Daily Beast reported Watters – the adulterer, not the victim – and Sebastian Gorka dined with President Trump at The White House last Monday. Gorka is a Fox News contributor. Also, he was a White House official from January to August, 2017, and aide to former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
President Trump reportedly invited them because “he couldn’t get enough of them on TV,” and wanted to confab with them about what he’d seen on Fox News, politics, gossip, and his administration.
Chief of Staff John Kelly fired Gorka a week after firing Bannon. According to Wikipedia, Gorka claims “he resigned because he believed White House officials were undermining the ‘Make America Great Again’ platform.”
The Daily Beast says Gorka’s detractors call him “an academic fraud, an anti-Muslim zealot, and even an ally to Nazi and fascist sympathizers who never should have set foot on White House grounds.” But “he is a fan-favorite” to others.
The Daily News article did not say whether Watters brought along his own ‘+1’. He did tweet a picture of the autographed menu.
“Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence.” … “Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States. Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the U.S. has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation.”
But a group spokesman says they’ll be there anyway.
The entertainment magazine reports after the Parkland massacre, the President said,
“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
“research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism — and which aren’t.”
The ratings will be like a traffic light. A real newspaper publishing good content will get green. A fake news site will get a red. Then, according to Nieman,
“A site that’s not putting out deliberately fake news, but is overwhelmingly influenced in its coverage by a funder that it’s not eager to disclose? Maybe a yellow.”
And the ratings — called “nutrition labels” – will come with “a 200- to 300-word write-up on each source’s funding, its coverage, its potential special interests, and how it fits in with the rest of the news” world since the founders acknowledge not all of the sites in a given color category are equal.
I can’t wait for this to start. The folks behind NewsGuard are Steven Brill (founder of The American Lawyer and Court TV) and L. Gordon Crovitz (former publisher of The Wall Street Journal).
Brill told CNN “algorithms aren’t cutting it, so real-life reviewers are needed to judge reliability.”
They say their “goal is to give everyone the information they need to be better informed about which news sources they can rely on — or can’t rely on.”
Analysts will work in pairs. They may not settle on a rating if they feel they don’t have enough information to be confident, or have editors weigh in if the analysts disagree.
Plus, “The company will also have ‘a 27-7 ‘SWAT team’ that responds to breaking news and news items that are suddenly trending.”
It plans to stay in business by licensing “NewsGuard’s encyclopedia of news sources to social media platforms and search engines” – in other words, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, which could leave out the reds or use them with a warning – and offering advertising for businesses that “want to be spared any embarrassment that comes from advertising on deliberately fake sites.”
Brill said the tech companies will pay because, “We’re asking them to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. people and their lobbyists to talk about the problem.”
“Clickbait-focused publishers such as Buzzfeed had benefited enormously from being promoted on Facebook – and owed much of their success to lightweight ‘shareable content.’ But after the changes, traffic dropped sharply. Facebook rushed to assure publishers it was just a test. It has now formally abandoned the experiment, counting “feel-good news and service content” publisher LittleThings among the casualties.”
The Register explained Facebook has “come under fire” since the 2016 Presidential election. First, the News Feed was “hand-curated by low-paid graduates” but “accused of political bias.” Then it replaced the people “with an algorithm that valued ‘engagement’” but a “low bar for inclusion” exposed more “inflammatory and bogus material.”
It also quoted former senior Facebook exec Antonio Garcia Martinez, who explained how viral content was given a premium value.
“Rather than simply reward that ad position to the highest bidder, though, Facebook uses a complex model that considers both the dollar value of each bid as well as how good a piece of clickbait (or view-bait, or comment-bait) the corresponding ad is,” Martinez said. “If Facebook’s model thinks your ad is 10 times more likely to engage a user than another company’s ad, then your effective bid at auction is considered 10 times higher than a company willing to pay the same dollar amount.”
And Donald Trump’s campaign – which spent very little money – was playing by Facebook’s rules since “rural targets were cheaper to reach than urbanites, and Trump wanted to reach them, so Facebook ad spending proved to be very good value.”
Bottom line, according to The Register:
“The results of Facebook abandoning this particular experiment is that clickbait-hungry publishers will continue to rely on the platform for exposure, rather than building their own brands, and Facebook will rely on clickbait-y free content to keep people on the site. It’s a marriage of the desperate.”
That’s not what I wanted to read.
I suggest Zuckerberg suspend all Fox and News Corp. accounts from Facebook for a week. Every newspaper, TV station, news anchor, etc. That should show ‘em!
Meanwhile, Miami’sCNN’s Jeff Zucker accused Facebook and Google of having a duopoly or monopoly on money from digital content, and wants regulators to look into the two companies.
Keep in mind, CNN was a monopoly on 24-hour cable news from June 1, 1980 to 1996 when MSNBC started on July 15, and Fox News Channel went on the air on Oct. 7. (That’s except for when ABC/Westinghouse’s Satellite News Channel competed from June 21, 1982 until Oct. 27, 1983, and CNN founder Ted Turner bought it.)
“Everyone is looking at whether these combinations of AT&T and Time Warner (his own company, which AT&T wants to buy for $85 billion, and may put his own job in jeopardy -Lenny) or Fox and Disney pass government approval and muster, the fact is nobody for some reason is looking at the monopolies that are Google and Facebook. … That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.”
But the banking and auto industries are not journalism. They’re not protected by the First Amendment. And intelligent people will turn to quality news, even if it’s hard to find, and that has already become harder and harder for years.
Advice for Zucker: Do a better job on TV. In contrast to President Obama, explain why you hired so many digital staffers a year ago, only to lay off roughly 50 of them last month – and why you shouldn’t be one to go.
And the kicker (rather than “kick ass”), according to the Fox article,
“Last month, YouTube star Casey Neistat — hired by Zucker on the recommendation of his teenage son — abruptly walked away from CNN less than two years after CNN reportedly paid more than $20 million for his video-sharing startup Beme.”
Time Warner is a big company. It owned AOL – one of the early pioneers of the Internet – until about the time you were hired. Why didn’t TW compete? Or did it, and free enterprise sent the experiment to wherever those 50 laid off digital staffers are?
Zucker, get more people to your website and have your digital salespeople do a better job, you sore loser, or you’ll be out of a job!
Back to 21st Century Fox’s Murdoch. He got a black eye about a week ago when Philadelphia-based Comcast (the cable company that also owns competitor NBC) topped his company’s offer to buy the 61 percent of Sky PLC it didn’t already own. That could halt Fox’s attempt to consolidate ownership of the British broadcaster. It has owned 39 percent of Sky for years.
Reuters reports Comcast offered £12.50 per share ($31 billion), significantly higher (more than 16 percent) than Fox’s £10.75 per share. (Yes, I know how cheap Fox is. I worked for them. The one exception is the NFL.) Sky already agreed to be sold to Fox, but the British government delayed the takeover because it’s concerned about Rupert Murdoch’s influence. In 2011, he closed the News of the World after its journalists admitted hacking phones to get scoops, but he still owns The Sun and Times newspapers.
Fox promised to keep Sky News fully independent for ten years, but faces skepticism across the pond. And with a ten-year promise, I don’t understand how it could be sold to Disney.
Reuters reports Sky’s shares jumped more than 20 percent, while shares of Comcast, Fox and Disney all fell. So if the Sky-to-Fox first part doesn’t happen, investors may expect a bidding war.
“When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox’s becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders. … That’s what we tried to do, and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”
B&C claims Pai is “saying the previous commission should have considered the cap and the discount together, which it is now doing.”
The attorneys general are from Illinois (home to Tribune), Pennsylvania, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and Virginia.
They – according to B&C – argue “getting rid of the cap would threaten diversity, competition, and localism, and cites Sinclair Broadcasting, whose Tribune deal would benefit from lifting or eliminating the limit, pointing out that it distributes news stories that must run in its newscasts.”
According to The Sun, Sinclair claims “the merger would allow the new company to better serve local viewers with expanded local coverage, better facilities and more programming, delivered in part by operational efficiencies.”
The company announced it would sell several stations to stay under a new cap, but the deals it reached would let it continue to control the New York and Chicago stations it sells, so those big cities won’t count. (Is there ANYBODY who thinks that’s OK?)
According to Variety, Sinclair will sell WPIX-New York for a measly $15 million to Cunningham Broadcasting. More than 90 percent of that company’s stock is controlled by trusts owned by the estate of Carolyn Smith, the late wife of Sinclair founder Julian Smith and mother of Sinclair chairman David Smith. So the Smith children own it. Talk about a shell corporation! Cunningham owns 20 stations but at least 14 of them are run by Sinclair!
And it would sell WGN-TV Chicago for just $60 million to Steven B. Fader, chairman of Baltimore-based Atlantic Capital Group and business partner of David Smith in Atlantic Automotive Corp.
Those stations are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe a half-billion.
On top of that, Variety says,
“Sinclair would not only continue to operate the stations and receive the lion’s share of their revenue, but the sale agreement with both buyers gives Sinclair an option to buy the stations back within eight years. That’s seen as a marker for the company to bide its time in the hopes that the FCC relaxes its station ownership restrictions in the near future.”
The $3.9 billion deal – if it goes through – would make the nation’s largest television broadcast company even larger. Sinclair is already largest with 191 stations, while Tribune brings another 42 stations before divestitures. The post-merger reach would be 72 percent of U.S. homes. (Does that include the huge markets of New York and Chicago?)
I’m sure Buffett makes money but he has no vertical integration. Graham was supposed to help run the station after the sale, and it still has a Graham station look. So does its website. Also, Buffett is not the type to get attached (except maybe to Omaha) and would be willing to cash out of the price is right.
If he sells WPLG to Fox, then it makes sense ABC would probably call WSVN. Makes the most sense by far, but I wouldn’t swear on anything. In 1988, CBS seemingly surprised everyone by buying the former WCIX instead of affiliating with WSVN.
Jessell also reported he spoke to Ansin who said Fox hasn’t mentioned anything about “moving into the market and no expression of interest in WSVN.”
I also want to point out another example of a TV network not renewing a local TV station’s affiliation because it competed for viewers in part of a city where the network owned its own station. The last blog mentioned NBC getting rid of WMGM in Atlantic City because of its Philadelphia station, WCAU, and how ABC was much nicer years earlier when it paid the owner of KNTV in San Jose to leave the network because it owned KGO-TV in San Francisco. (WMGM shut down its news department.)
Since then, I remembered NBC dropped WHAG (now WDVM) in Hagerstown, Md., in the middle of 2016 because of Washington, DC’s WRC. Since then, the independent station really became competition, expanding its coverage area by 1.2 million households, also serving Chambersburg, Pa., Martinsburg, W.V. and Winchester, Va.
Also, I learned NBC dropped KENV-DT in Elko, Nev., which served a lot of the Nevada side of the Salt Lake City market. It aired its own news, but was run out of Sinclair NBC affiliate KRNV in Reno. That goliath Sinclair also owns three stations in Salt Lake City, but not the NBC affiliate. KENV is actually owned by Cunningham Broadcasting, and it shut down its news department.
And Jessell also wrote he’s hearing “Fox is once again pushing the idea that it should represent its affiliates in all retrans negotiation.” That means instead of each station demanding money from cable and satellite companies to carry them, Fox would do the work for them all and send each station its share. It would carry the power of nearly 200 stations, and those stations won’t have to bother negotiating. Of course, Fox would also carry power over the stations, and the network’s opinion is its programming (sports) makes the stations worth more and will take its share. Plus, somebody has to pay for Thursday Night Football!
For me, it was nice peeking out the window and watching the snowstorm as I wrote, but like this blog, and certain stations’ newscasts, it appears to be over.
By the way, you’re not alone. This blog site reached more than 10,500 views today!Please, if you like what you read, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and you’ll get an email whenever I publish.
So the plan is for Tribune’s WPIX-New York (CW) and WGN Chicago (independent) to be sold, but still operated by Sinclair, which wants its stations to be seen all over the country and is how it has operated around the rules for years.
Really gone will be Tribune’s Fox affiliate KSWB-San Diego.
Expected to be gone are Tribune’s Fox affiliates in Seattle (KCPQ), Denver (KDVR, which Fox once owned), Salt Lake City (KSTU, which Fox once owned), Sacramento (KTXL) and Cleveland (WJW, which Fox once owned). Let this show Fox owned but sold three of those five stations, which shows a lack of commitment to those communities.
Imagine the Fox network buying Miami’s WSFL. I’m sure Fox affiliate WSVN’s owner Ed Ansin would have something to say about that. He has more experience than anyone in that situation because NBC did it to him twice: in Miami in 1989 and Boston in 2017.
Tomorrow, I’ll have details from history on why he should be worried, even though the status quo since 1989 has been good for both him and Fox.
Here is a hint: I used the phrase “a lack of commitment to those communities” a few paragraphs ago.
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And one more thing about the FCC’s chairman, Ajit Pai. Last Friday, he won the National Rifle Association’s “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award” at the Conservative Political Action Conference for successfully pushing to repeal his agency’s net neutrality rules that are popular with the public.
Just today, The Washington Post reported, “Surveys last year showed that more than 80 percent of Americans, and 75 percent of Republicans, preferred keeping the FCC rules on the books rather than repealing them.”
The Hill reported, “Pai’s award is a handmade Kentucky long gun, which will be housed in the NRA’s museum in Fairfax, Va.”
Those net neutrality rules made internet companies common carriers like your phone or electric company, equal to all. But according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “What you can see on the internet, along with the quality of your connection, are at risk of falling victim to the profit-seeking whims of powerful telecommunications giants.”
The Post reports, “There are still “opportunities to challenge the FCC in court and in Congress,” and this afternoon, Ars Technica announced, “The Washington state legislature has approved a net neutrality law that applies to all wired and wireless Internet providers in the state and prohibits blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.”
If worst comes to worst, the fight to keep net neutrality could become a state by state issue — harder than convincing the FCC, but already being discussed in “more than half of US states.”
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!
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.
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.
Let’s talk schedules, the reason and then the money.
(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!)
These days, Fox doesn’t have much of a regular Thursday night lineup. The NFL would draw viewers.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
That’s when Fox decided to pay a fortune – much more money – for a longer period of time, over five years.
There are several reasons, which may or may not turn out to be right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And when a network decides to pay for a special event, it asks its affiliates to help out.
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?)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
“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.”
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!
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.