Month: December 2009

Advertisements for television networks in movie theatres

In an interesting twist on traditional media norms, the advertisements in te movie theatre that I went to over break were for television and cable networks.  Of course, the tradition was that advertising from television and cable networks drove audience into theatres.  Now it appears as if the audience is being driven back to the networks from whence it came.  Of course in the age of Tivos and DVRs, it makes some sense that DVR-able neworks is looking for a captive audience with no fast-forward button.


Dangerous communications

Communications dangers in 2010, a few resolutions for the new year

1) Getting to know someone: Everything from dating to social media sites present dangers to the participants.  Recently we have seen children commit suicide for what was said to them on social media sites and have seen too many episodes of Dateline to know that there are real dangers.

2) Letting someone find out about you: Sure, you thought that only your friends would see that picture of you drunk and get a laugh.  But when the hiring partner of your future firm does not get a laugh of your picture with the lampshade posted world-wide, you will need to re-evaluate what you let others know about your personal life.  Remember that the hiring partner has a personal life too, but they don’t put pictures available worldwide on the Internet….

3) Not guarding your numbers: Keep your SSN, bank numbers and other important numbers away from the bad folks.

Television in Poland

I was thinking today about my Christmas 2007 trip to Poland.  As a media scholar for the last nineteen years, it was interesting to see the modern Eastern European media culture.  First, the structure of television: Poland and most European countries are primarily government-run stations.  Poland had two national channels and one local channel.  The main town I was visiting was Lublin, which was a big enough city that the television station was located in Lublin.  I was able to walk by the studios during my tour of the city.

The content of the government-run stations was something like: Channel 1 – entertainment and variet programming; Channel 2 – News and documentary programming; and then there was Channel 3, the local programming which was a variety of genres including local news, much as a local station here in the states would offer.  In the newscasts they have a vigorous offering of global news.  In fact, I was surprised that while I was in Lublin there was a story about a station that I worked with in Chicago – a car attempted to run through the window of the new street-level studio.  The story from Chicago showed up on Lublin television.  What a surprise!

I also noticed programs of traditional holiday music (it was Christmastime during this visit), movies, lots of news, as well as game shows as popular fare.  The daily range of programming was about the same as in the US.  A trained viewer would notice that the graphics/effects were not as slick as in the US, and the presentation was much more influenced by the style of the BBC than the style of the American networks, but the content was quite good. 

In addition to the terrestrial stations, there is a vibrant offering of satellite stations.  All of Europe is covered by satellite offerings and Poland is no different.  A number of packages are available.  The television that I watched had CNN English in its package available 24 hours, so I did not feel alone or disconnected. The numbers of channels are not as prolific as in the US  yet – my satellite service has 250+ channels here, but rather it seemed that something in the double digits (ie 20 to 80 channels) was typical for a multi-channel video provider.  

All-in-all my stay in Poland was wonderful and the chance to do some comparative media study was a terrific opportunity.

Will the Jay Leno show survive?

This week’s Broadcast and Cable magazine had an article on The Jay Leno Show.  B & C reports that some affiliates are disatisfied with the ratings.  The Jay Leno show is running approximately half of the ratings of the previous shows.  This is a major problem because the Jay Leno Show airs five nights a week.  It is not the same as a primetime show failing, this means a good portion of all of primetime is failing.  Networks usually make most of their money from primetime programs.  More importantly for the distribution realpolitik though is the satisfaction (or lack thereof) of the affiliates who count on primetime programs to provide good lead-in ratings to their newscasts.

Does a network need affiliates? Many would argue that in today’s world of technology, networks could do without affiliates.  On the other hand, affiliates still deliver virtually all of the networks’ viewers.  so the balance is delicate.  The network is arguing that Jay Leno is a 52-week strategy, where Jay Leno will outperform the other networks once those shows go into reruns and Jay Leno still has original and fresh programs.  Which side will win?

The NBC-Comcast Merger

Comcast is buying 51% of NBC from General Electric.  I worked for the GE/NBC in New York and I can say, along with every public observer I have seen write on the subject, that NBC was a difficult cultural fit for GE.  It is not that GE did not try to assimuate NBC and it is not like NBC was not valuable to GE.  In fact, NBC oftn delivered more of GE’s profits that its share.  In a recent quarter, for example, NBC was 11% of GE’s operations yet deliverd 12% of their profits.  Even so, GE’s primary culture is one of manufacturing, not entertainment.  So NBC seemed like a bit of an awkward fit.  so Comcast buying NBC is probably a good thing.  GE obviously thinks so since they are setting up a deal with very favorable terms for Comcast.

The next steps include a review by the FCC.  Perhaps the FCC might even set conditions on he merger.  And with the size of this merger, it is not unlikely that the del will also be reviewed by the Justice Department and maybe even the FTC.

The FCC and broadband spectrum

The FCC is considering new spectrum for wireless broadband.  In lay/market terms, the 2G and 3G spectrum is filling up and carriers want to launch 4G and 5G with higher download speeds.  All reasonably usable spectrum is assigned and has been for years.  So the FCC has two basic choices 1) Make the current wireless broadband providers turn over their 2G and 3G spectrum to new 4G and 5G uses, or 2) find new spectrum from other sources and re-allocate it to the use of wireless carriers.  Unfortunately, the FCC is once again looking at taking away broadcast spectrum.  They already did that once with the conversion to HDTV.  This time around, the broadcast service to the public is likely to decrease.  Where do you tune in to in case of local emergency (snowstorm, hurricane, tornado, etc.)? ATT? Sprint? or your local broadcast station? Answer: your local broadcast station.   Watch this proceeding carefully.  The FCC website is

Are your text messages private at work?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether privacy rights covered a worker’s personal text message on employer-owned equipment, hearing a case about a police officer who sent sexually explicit messages from his department-issued pager.

Medialawprofessor comment: This could be a landmark case. While it involves privacy, it also crosses the line into employment law and certainly can help define the developing cyberlaw. The case is: 08-1332 ONTARIO, CA, ET AL. V. QUON, JEFF, ET AL. Cert granted by USSC on 12/14/09.  The usual test for privacy is whether a person has an “expectation” of privacy.  If you are standing on a public street corner, you do not have an expectation of privacy.  If you are inside of your own house, however, you do have an expectation of privacy.  When using employer equipment, ie cellphones, pagers, email, etc. the past cases have usually come down clearly that the employee does not have an expectation of privacy as to his or her employer looking at their emails, etc. that are hosted on company property (email servers).  Could this grant of cert be a signal that the USSC is going to change the majority rule?