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Controversial Businessman Vlad Plahotniuc Buys Two More TV Stations in Moldova

Controversial entrepreneur Vlad Plahotniuc has gained control over two more media outlets, namely the TV stations CTC Moldova and Super TV, according to Agora.md. The deal was sealed at the beginning of 2016. The local broadcast regulator has confirmed that the deal was concluded.
 
CTC Moldova and Super TV were acquired by the company Real Radio, company owned by Dorin Pavelescu. Mr Pavelescu has business links with Mr Plahotniuc, according to a recent investigation from RISE. Mr Pavelescu is the head of the advertising agency Casa Media Plus, which is headquartered at the same address as  General Media Group, Mr Plahotniuc’s media conglomerate. General Media Group owns Public TV, Prime TV, Canal 2 and Canal 3.
 
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4 February 2016 By Victor Gotisan
 
 

European Court Decision Allows Media to Be Less Paranoid About Online Comments

In summer 2015, a much-criticized decision by Europe’s human rights court left online portals anxious about what comments they allowed on their sites. Now, the same court has reversed that decision in a lawsuit lodged by two Hungarian websites. That means less stress for online media.
 

Costa Rica: The Biggest Leap in Technology Use in the World

Costa Rica sported the highest growth in technology use worldwide during the past five years. Other, once sluggish, technology markets such as Bahrain, Lebanon and Ghana have since followed. However, the gap between the most and least digitally connected nations is widening.
 
Last November, the Costa Rican telecommunications regulator, SUTEL, raised eyebrows when it hired a PR agency to handle a campaign that would convince customers to accept a new method of charging for internet connections. Even some lawmakers slammed SUTEL’s move, claiming that the regulator was spending taxpayers’ money to push the same taxpayers to accept higher internet connection fees. SUTEL wanted to start charging Ticos according to the amount of transferred data and scrap the fixed fee that they were paying for a certain connection speed. 
 

Next Target for Moldovan Politicians: Occupy the Internet

Politicians meddling with the journalism business is not uncommon in Moldova’s media. But now, the battle to control dissenting voices moves online. The recipe used by politicians: buy existing and launch new digital media, infest the cyberspace with bogus sites and recompense the bloggers.
 
In the past couple of years, concentration of ownership in the Moldovan media has dramatically accelerated, which has had a harmful effect on independent journalism. The most popular, mainstream media outlets in the country have been engulfed by the conglomerate General Media Group, which belongs to Vlad Plahotniuc, a highly controversial politician and businessman, vice-president of the Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), according to ownership data from media experts. In the past, Mr Plahotniuc was accused of undue influence on Moldovan politicians. In neighboring Romania, he was investigated for using a fake identity on the Romanian territory. In 2012, Mr Plahotniuc was reportedly wanted by Interpol as he was suspected of “association with criminal groups, organized crime and money laundering.” 

Public Service Media in Europe: Exit Through the Back Door?

Recent turbulence at the Polish public broadcaster was seen by some observers as another political football game. Public broadcasting will survive any market or policy changes, however tumultuous they are, they say. But Minna Aslama argues that public TV has fallen out of political favor in many countries now. Even well-established broadcasters in western countries are likely to be dramatically downsized.

Poland has been featured in global news in the past weeks. A controversial law was passed that allowed the replacement of the directors of Polish public TV and radio with political appointees.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) notes that this may well be the first step by the Polish government in curbing all free media and commercial outlets. CIMA also reminds us that just a few years before Poland, Hungarians witnessed a severe media crackdown.
 

How to Fight Abuses of Media Power in UK: Be the Media, Know the Media, Change the Media

We have more media, but only a few very powerful companies controlling them. Can anything be done against this hegemony? Professor Des Freedman offers a recipe: “Be the media, know the media, change the media.” He also calls on academics to come out of their ivory towers and join in the policy battles. 
 
“We’re facing a crisis at the heart of our media system – in other words with the dominant players across the media landscape – on many different levels: of funding, of ethics, of representation and of legitimacy,” Mr Freedman of Goldsmiths in London said at his inaugural lecture last Tuesday. The crisis is “the increasingly unequal distribution of resources in our media landscape.” Attention, audiences and agendas are dominated by a relatively small number of very powerful companies that all have close associations with the highest echelons in the political system, according to Mr Freedman.
 
 

Internet Providers in Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union: Non-Transparent, Dubious, Politically Linked

The Internet has become the new heaven for unheard voices, new forms of commerce and limitless communication across eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But who owns the companies providing this service? Many of these owners are unknown, others are linked with politics and some are dubious characters embroiled in criminal investigations.
 
A decade ago, the internet was the realm solely of the progressive, technically savvy, often nerdy youth in many countries of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But today, people who in the 2000s didn’t even have a computer regularly browse through their favorite news sites, email and buy their groceries online. 
 
Since 2000, internet usage in the Czech Republic has skyrocketed from less than 10% to nearly 80% of the population in 2014, according to data from World Bank. In less advanced economies such as Bulgaria, it has jumped as well to some 56% in 2014 from a mere 5% in 2000. Even in some slowly growing markets such as Armenia, over 46% of the people used the service in 2014, a gigantic leap from a mere 1.3% in 2000. 
 
But who is behind the telecom groups that provide this service?

Pakistani Authorities Want to Muffle Internet Freedom with a Cybercrime Law

Pakistani authorities want to access people’s data stocked online, shut down websites anytime they wish or put people behind bars for trivial activities such as scanning for a wifi network. But a string of valiant activist groups are putting up a good fight.
 
Blackberry made global headlines in November when it announced that it was wrapping up its operations in Pakistan. The decision was prompted by the request of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), the country’s telecoms regulator, to Blackberry to provide the government access to data in its Blackberry Enterprise Service (BES) through “backdoors” to the encrypted communications.
 

Government Sacks Heads of Polish Public Media

TVP is to be headed by a politician.
 
Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda signed a controversial law today that enables the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party to appoint the directors of the country’s public TV and radio. Thanks to the new legal provisions, the treasury minister now has the full power to hire and fire the heads of the Polish public service broadcasters, which have a healthy audience share. Before the law was passed, only a media supervisory committee could do that.

 

Ruling Conservatives Want to Install Their Stalwarts at the Helm of Public Media in Poland

The Law and Justice (PiS) party, who won last year’s elections in Poland, rushed to adopt legislation in the last days of 2015 allowing them to fully control the public media management. Criticism abounds, but the government doesn’t care.

“You were talking about introducing BBC standards in Polish public media, but in reality you made Russia Today of them.” It was one of many critical remarks opposition MPs made on the night of 29 December 2015 in the Polish Parliament as the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party expeditiously pushed through the bill allowing the Minister of Treasury to change all executives at public television and radio immediately. The remark was related to Russia Today (RT), Russia’s international broadcaster, known as the mouthpiece of the Russian government.

Media Owners in Chile and Colombia Have a Hand in Many Pies

A handful of groups control media in Chile and Colombia. Their businesses extend much further into a spate of industries ranging from banking to retail to food manufacturing. A Chilean NGO sheds light on influence and power in two major Latin American markets

Despite the emergence of a new wave of journalistic initiatives, ownership of media industry in Chile and Colombia is highly concentrated and often lacks transparency, according to Media Map, a new report from Poderopedia slated to be launched in mid-December 2015. Poderopedia is a Chile-registered NGO set up in 2012 that specializes in exposing structures of power and influence in Latin American countries. 

Embattled Nigerian Senate Faces Stiff Opposition Over Anti-Free Speech Bill

Since its inauguration June 2015, the Senate, the upper legislative chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly, has been wading through a series of controversies ranging from bogus salaries and allowances, corruption allegations, underperformance, to most recently an anti-people legislative proposal initiated by senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah who has a rather evasive background.
 
Organizations and individuals including the Nigeria Union of Journalists, civil society groups and civil rights activists, and other well meaning Nigerians, continued to condemn plans of the Nigerian lawmakers to adopt a law that is likely to bludgeon freedom of speech in the country. The proposed bill is laughably named“Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith”. The protest reached its climax on 8 December 2015 when human rights and social media activists marched to the National Assembly in Abuja in a rally tagged #NoToSocialMediaBill.

Millennials Are Shaping the Future Latin American Media

Millennials, as today’s youth are known, are the dominant audience of Latin America. They increasingly consume media on mobile devices. These two trends are telling for where Latin American media will be in a decade or so.
 
Latin America accounts for 10% of all internet users worldwide, which is more or less what the region represents in terms of global population as 8.6% of the globe’s inhabitants are located there, according to the latest report from Comscore. However, this proportion varies significantly. Europe, where over 10% of the globe’s population is located, accounts for some 27% of the total online population worldwide. In contrast, Asia, where some two-thirds of all the people in the world live, is home to only 40% of all internet users today. Comscore’s study brings together Africa and the Middle East in a single region that hosts 9% of all internet users.
 
The obvious conclusion is that although it seems that today everything is literally online, people, relationships, trade, politics, you name it, the reality is different. The digital divide, which is a hot topic in Latin America, is also significant in the global context.
 

European Audiovisual Groups Increase Their Market Share at Home

European broadcast groups are dwarfed by American ones on the global level. But at home, they enjoy a comfortable position. And they tend to further grow.

Growing media concentration continues to be a troubling global trend. Worldwide, the top 10 global media players, dominated by U.S. companies, control ever-larger swaths of the media landscape. This situation causes media scholars and activists to raise concerns about the impact on democracy when an ever-growing share of the global communications environment is controlled by fewer people.

Ranking Telcos: Name and Shame Them and They Will Improve

There are several initiatives out there that measure and rank companies. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are ranked according to how they ensure access to medicines and major foodstuffs producers are ranked according to their impact on communities. Now, we have the Corporate Accountability Index that measures how internet companies and telcos fare in their general commitment to digital rights and practices related to freedom of expression and privacy.
 
However, is this merely a game of name and shame?
 

Though it seems like one, the ultimate goal is to actually improve companies. Rebecca MacKinnon, the director of the Corporate Accountability Index, an initiative supported by a dozen of funders and several research centers, says that the main goal of this initiative and the kind of impact the index is craving is to force companies to improve their policies, because that will ultimately have positive repercussions on consumers.

Right of Reply Law in Mexico: Against Citizens, in Favor of Media Moguls

A new law on the right of reply was adopted last month in Mexico after it had hibernated for eight years in the Congress. But hopes that this act would empower citizens were shattered as the “reply process” put forward by this law is likely to be lengthy, legally convoluted and fully under the control of powerful media corporations.

The procedure for exercising the right of reply in the approved law was shaped by the dominant television groups that have consistently lobbied for retaining the power to decide whether or not to rectify facts disseminated in their shows, newscasts or other programs. They won this game and retained their power. This is why many experts and journalists say that the right of reply law favors the interests of mighty media groups (many of them close to political groups) instead of those of the citizens.

So, what does it take for an ordinary Mexican to reply to what they find false or offensive in the media? The answer is a large quantity of both time and, invariably, headaches.

After Two Rounds of Elections, Turkish Government Intensifies Attacks on Critical Media

After the snap elections on 1 November 2015 when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in Turkey capturing 317 seats in the 550-member Turkish legislature, an increase of 59 deputies which results in AKP holding the absolute majority, the concerns over media freedom in Turkey have increased. A lot had changed in five months since the last election in June.

We witnessed bombings in Ankara that killed 109 people and injured more than 400. The refugee crisis became a major issue as Turkey currently hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians fleeing the four-and-a-half year conflict in their country.

This chaos actually helped AKP increase its public support. Even the European Commission (EC) decided to withhold the Turkey Progress Report until after 1 November 2015 election; it is a document which contains serious criticisms on the Turkish government’s violations of human rights, freedom of the press and other moves that contradict Copenhagen criteria, the fundamental principles for joining the EU, like rule of law and protection and respect for minorities.
 

A New Corporate Accountability Index on Digital Rights Reveals: No Winners But Many Losers

Internet and telecommunications companies influence our world significantly, be it our personal interactions or political engagement. A new index has been developed to see how they fare in their general commitment to digital rights, as well as in terms of their practices regarding freedom of expression and privacy.
 
The Ranking Digital Rights, a project supported an impressive list of funders, research institutes and experts, launched the inaugural Corporate Accountability Index early November. In this first phase, the project has assessed 16 internet and telecommunications companies according to 31 specific indicators.
 
So who’s doing well?
 

How a Corrupt Minister in Romania Brought Media, Journalists and Bloggers to Clobber a Journalistic Investigation

For four years, two journalists investigating a suspected money laundering and influence peddling case at a Romanian ministry faced numerous obstacles. But they didn’t expect to grapple with so many obstructions from their own peers. A spate of emails between people involved in the case shows why journalists turned against journalists.

“Two bloggers cost €1,200, VAT included. Some of those big bloggers.”  This is what an online media advisor in Romania replied when asked whether she could place a piece written by Elena Udrea, a former tourism and regional development minister in Romania, on a popular blog.

It happened in 2011 at a time when sports journalists Catalin Tolontan and Mirela Neag were sweating over unearthing evidence of suspected graft among officials in the ministry in an investigation that became known as the Bute Gala case. The two were following tips that a ring of public officials were siphoning off public cash by illegally awarding funds to companies involved in the organization of a major boxing event in Bucharest. The event was named after Lucian Bute, a 35-year old renowned pugilist born in Romania.
 

Plans to Launch “Public Service” TV Channel in Jordan Raise Eyebrows

Jordan’s state television JRTV has seen its audience levels plummeting  in the past decade. Its reform has never succeeded. Now, the government pledges to launch a new TV channel that would truly serve the public. But these plans are raising numerous eyebrows.
 
The government of Jordan has reportedly decided to allocate nearly US$15 million a year to fund a new “public service” broadcast channel.
In the past few weeks, many commentators and media analysts have considered trying to reform  the already bloated and bureaucratic state television, Jordan Radio and Television Corporation (JRTV), which has lost viewership over the years, mainly because it has been unable or unwilling to reform. The decline was the result of the growing number of satellite channels in the region that provided more attractive entertainment and improved programming, including news.
 

The Moscow Times Changes: Trimming Costs and Fighting for Independence

With a new owner and now a new editor, the English-language paper The Moscow Times is being reformed from the ground up. A leaner, more economically resilient publication is likely to emerge - but, what rises from the ashes is an entirely different kind of paper which will probably not be very critical of the Russian government.

The appointment yesterday of the liberal journalist Mikhail Fishman at the helm of The Moscow Times has been lauded by many journalists as Mr Fishman is well known for his integrity and courage. He was the editor-in-chief of Russian Newsweek when it closed down in 2010, reportedly because of financial problems. He then moved on to work as an anchor on a political show aired by the liberal TV station Dozhd, which is known as virtually the sole television station in Russia that offers a non-governmental perspective on the political life. The station’s critical standpoint has often attracted the ire of the regime.

Only 5% of the World’s Languages Are on the Internet

Many laud the internet for opening up the space for everybody to communicate. But how linguistically diverse is this space? A new report shows it’s not at all: only a sprinkling of languages are present online.

The internet looks to many to be the answer to everything. You instantly find all you need by just browsing through sites and networks online. But is this space equally friendly to anybody?

The answer is not at all.

Chilling Prospects for Media in Poland: Winners in Recent Elections Ready to Purge the Media

The victory of national conservatives in the Polish elections last week is a harbinger of grim times for the country’s journalists. Are their plans similar to those of premier Viktor Orban in Hungary? They resemble them, but bringing the media into line will not be a cakewalk in Poland.

In 2016 public media will become national media in Poland. This is what politicians of Law and Justice (PiS), the national conservative party, declared after winning the 25 October parliamentary elections and, earlier in May 2015, the presidential ones. It means a revolution for Polish Television (TVP) and Polish Radio (PR), strong public broadcasters that have 31% and 28% share of the market, respectively.

But what does it mean in reality for them to become national media?

Concentration of Media Ownership Increases Worldwide: Where Is the Limit?

A new study from Columbia University Business School unveils worrying trends. Some say the answer to growing media concentration is protecting quality journalism.

A landmark study by researchers covering 30 countries has found that concentration of media ownership is growing around the world and that the internet seems to be part of the problem. The results were made public at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information at Columbia University Business School on 20 October 2015. The project was led by Professor Eli M. Noam, who is head of the institute.

 

 

Following four years of research, the institute has produced the most detailed analysis to date of global media ownership. The results are gathered in a book to be published by Oxford University Press, Who Owns the World’s Media?

News Corp, The Daily Mail and Trinity Mirror Control More Than 70% of British Newspapers

Many countries look at the U.K. for models when it comes to media. But is the U.K. market really a model? A new report shows the British media is in the hands of a few behemoths.

A new report published by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) shows that right across the board - from news websites to the press, TV channels to radio stations, search engines to mobile apps - the UK media is controlled by a handful of giant corporations. The MRC argues that the UK suffers from endemic levels of concentration in news and information markets, which threaten to choke democratic debate through unaccountable political influence and sheer lack of diversity.

Clarin and Telefonica Beat the Law and Hold Sway in Argentina’s Media

Six years ago, the Kirchner government, at loggerheads with the powerful Clarin media group, adopted legislation to hurt dominant players in the country’s media. But not much has changed since then. An analysis from Martin Becerra.

October 2015 was the sixth anniversary of the audiovisual law that replaced a broadcasting act in Argentina, which was inherited from the country’s last military dictatorship (1976-1983). Before 2009, that law had undergone amendments during a period of 20 years. For the past 12 years, the Argentinian presidency was shared by the Kirchners, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. The Kirchner era is ending today as Argentines go to polls to elect a new president. They can’t vote Mrs Kirchner again as she is barred by law from seeking a third term. 

Who Remembers WSIS: New Technologies, Old Problems

A decade ago, the UN set up a slew of goals for better usage of information and communication technologies. Now, they have started to assess what has been achieved. One thing is abundantly clear: we are still grappling with problems from the past. Here is a dispatch from inside the talks.

A decade ago, the United Nations (UN) organized the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a series of meetings to discuss the global role of  Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Their hopes were high for the beginning of true collaborations for development and democracy. WSIS created principles and  set up action plans and goals, ranging from access to technologies to online ethics. Now, ten years later, the UN wants to review what has been accomplished. This week, non-governmental organizations (NGO)s had their second round of the WSIS (known now as WSIS+10) informal consultations in New York to agree on the biggest challenges in the ICT field and call for global action. 

New Press Code in Morocco to Still Send Journalists Behind Bars

A revised press code in Morocco was hoped to give journalists more room to report freely. But a closer look shows that nothing has really changed.

The gravest legal threat to media freedom in Morocco are the laws that restrict the type of content that can be publicly communicated. The 2002 Press Code and the 2003 antiterrorism law put forward criminal penalties for any criticism of “sacred” issues such as the monarchy, Islam and territorial integrity. These laws continue to be applied to online activity, resulting in the prosecution of several online journalists and activists. The minister of communication, Mustapha El Khalfi, in an attempt to modernize the Press Code, released an updated version for review and consultation by civil society in October 2014. The law has not yet been submitted to Parliament for final approval and adoption. 

But does this updated law solve all the journalists’ problems? Far from it.

Digital Amnesiacs or What Smart Gadgets Are Doing to Us

Many people are aware that they depend heavily on gadgets and the internet. But a new survey shows that an increasing number of people blindly rely on machines to remember for them. And they like it.

In almost in every discussion we have with friends, relatives or colleagues someone pulls out a mobile phone or a tablet every minute (or second) to check a name or somebody’s date of birth or to see how a weasel (or rabbit or whatever) looks like. “I just saw Nicole Kidman in this play in London. She looks like 45, but I think she’s older,” somebody said the other day during a chat with friends. Somebody else immediately pulled out an iPhone and in less than five seconds blurted out: “She is 48.”

Pakistan's BOL TV Shutters Before Launching, but They Are Not Disappearing

BOL TV boasted that it would be better than anyone and change Pakistani media. They shut down before starting broadcasting, but the operation is not likely to be scrapped. When security services needs it, BOL will rise again.

“Were [there] such salaries before?”, Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, chairman and CEO of Axact group, the company that planned to launch a raft of television stations and newspapers in Pakistan, boasted in September last year in front of a gathering of journalists. “We will lead and others will follow in Pakistan,” he said.

A year later, Mr Shaikh is in prison and the media empire he wanted to create is in ruin. Swank studios in Karachi are empty and they’re likely to remain so. Three weeks after touting on its Facebook page that it was going to “change the face of Pakistani media”, on the very same page BOL announced its closure on 6 October 2015.

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