February 10, 2006
FCC Finds Consumers Might Gain From "A La Carte" Delivery of Video Services
According to an FCC report issued yesterday, the agency has now concluded that consumers might accrue benefits from "an “a la carte” model for delivery of video services. The Further Report finds consumers could be better off under a la carte and explores several a la carte options that could provide substantial benefits to subscribers by increasing their choices in purchasing programming."
..."The Further Report identifies mistaken calculations in the Booz Allen Study, which was originally submitted by the cable industry for Commission consideration. Booz Allen itself acknowledges the errors, which other economists also have confirmed. The Further Report explains that the Booz Allen Study failed to net out the cost of broadcast stations when calculating the average cost per cable channel under a la carte. As a result, the Booz Allen Study overstated the average price per cable channel by more than 50 percent.
The Booz Allen Study significantly underestimated the number of programming channels that a subscriber could enjoy under a la carte while still achieving savings compared to the subscriber’s current multichannel video programming distributor (“MVPD”) fees. Indeed, correcting for this mathematical error, consumers’ bills decreased by anywhere from 3 to 13 percent in three out of the four scenarios considered in the Booz Allen Study.
In addition, the Further Report notes that, through the use of questionable assumptions, the Booz Allen Study may have further overestimated the costs of a la carte. The Booz Allen Study (accepted in the Media Bureau’s 2004 report) assumed that a shift to a la carte would cause consumers to watch nearly 25 percent less television, or over two fewer hours of television per day. The Further Report finds that there is no reason to believe that viewers would watch less video programming than they do today simply because they could choose the channels they find most interesting.
Finally, the 2004 report fails to mention that the Booz Allen Study shows that, even with the math error noted above, if a la carte were only implemented on digital cable systems with appropriate set top boxes in place, then a la carte could result in a 1.97 percent decrease in consumers’ bills.
The report can be found online at www.fcc.gov/mb. "
Zimbabwean Court Orders State Media Commission to Review Refusal to Grant Newspapers Licenses
A Zimbabwean judge has told the nation's media licensing agency to review its continued refusal to grant the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday licenses to publish despite the country's highest court's order tossing out a ban that had shut down the papers. The two newspapers are known to take an anti-government position. Read more here.
EU Commissioner Calls for European Media to "Self-Regulate" to Balance Competing Fundamental Rights
Franco Frattini, the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security, has called on the European press to regulate itself through adoption of a voluntary code. He made the suggestion in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. In other remarks, published on his website, the Commissioner said, "It is my duty to enter this debate to remind us all that there are delicate issues, particularly in relation to religion and those ideals that are sacred to us. Consequently, I personally regard the publication of the cartoons as somewhat imprudent, even if the satire used was aimed at a distorted interpretation of religion, such as that used by terrorists to recruit young people to their cause and turning them into fanatics, sometimes to the point of sending them into action as suicide bombers. However, I am not offering these common sense remarks with even the remotest intention of justifying the reactions that are currently being expressed against Denmark and others, including the European Union. Quite the contrary, it should be crystal clear to all that violence, intimidation, and the calls for boycotts or for restraints on the freedom of the press are completely unacceptable and will not bring about a constructive discussion between communities. Indeed, no dialogue is possible with those who would threaten fundamental human rights, nor with those who would resort to terror. The fact is that deprivation of freedom has always generated suffering and sorrow, so we must defend freedom even when that means letting those we disagree with have their say. Preserving freedom is the foundation for dialogue."
Mega-Coverage of Cartoons
The Media Guardian has devoted a page of its site to coverage of reactions to the Danish political cartoons. Here's the link.
French Judge Postpones Times Defamation Trial Until Next Month
Judge Anne Marie Sautreau has postponed announcing a decision until next month on whether the Barclay brothers' defamation action against the Times and two of its employees may continue. The criminal proceeding began in June of 2005, and are based on a series of articles published in the Times that the Barclays claim defame them as business rivals. The Barclays own the Telegraph and other media outlets.
February 9, 2006
Proposed Revisions to Trademark Act Worry One Professional Photographer
Richard Weisgrau, a professional photographer, has sent his concerns about possible revisions to the 1946 Trademark Act, to Senator Orrin Hatch. In a February 3 letter, Weisgrau comments that the proposed Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2005 "seems to open a door for suing a photographer on grounds that amount to defamation of a trademark." Weisgrau points out that a trademarked object might be pictured in a photograph whose purpose is social or political commentary. Might the trademark owner then have grounds to sue the photographer for trademark dilution "by tarnishment" under the revised statute?
[Thanks to my colleague Ed Richards, whose photos of Katrina's aftermath are posted here, for this item].
NY Trial Judge Denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in HBO Lawsuit
Chanti Nieves, described as an "aspiring actress", filed a violation of privacy suit under New York's Civil RIghts Law sections 50 and 51 against HBO and Stick Figure Productions, producers of the show "Family Bonds", based on their use of her image on a New York City street during an episode of the show. She claims that there is no relationship between their use of her likeness and the show's story line and that the participants in the show make what she considers to be "derogatory" remarks about her. The defendants claim that their use of her image is protected because it is not for "advertising or trade purposes under the statute." The judge denied the defendants' motion to dismiss and ordered the parties to appear at a preliminary conference on January 31, 2006.
Judge Debra James noted in her ruling of August 11, 2005 that "[e]ven accepting defendants' assertion that the television show here was a "documentary," there are still issues of fact regarding whether the use of plaintiff's image and accompanying commentary bears a real relationship to a "documentary" about a "bounty-hunting" family. The critical difference between this action and the authorities cited by the defendants is that in those case [sic] the courts determined based on uncontested facts that it was clear as matter [sic] of law that the use of person's [sic] image related to the subject matter of the published work. On this motion the defendants' only proffered relationship between the use of plaintiff's image and the television show is that the plaintiff was standing on a New York street corner while the defendants were filming. Clearly the court will have to make a factual determination based upon the use of the plaintiff's image and the content of the program in order to determine whether the defendants meet the "real relationship" standard."
Read the court's ruling here.
Thanks to Dan Arshack of Arshack & Hajek for alerting me to this extremely interesting case.
February 8, 2006
British Journalist Wins Another Battle To Protect Source
British journalist Robin Ackroyd has won a round in a more than six year court battle to protect the source that assisted him in covering a murderer's hunger strike. But the hospital seeking the name is prepared to appeal, since the judge in the proceeding has given it leave to do so. The case will go up through the court system for the third time.
Five Reporters Go On Trial for "Insulting State Judicial Organs"
After dropping charges against novelist Orhan Pamuk and a member of the European Parliament last month, Turkish prosecutors are now trying five journalists on charges of insulting the judicial process. The charges arise out of observations the reporters made concerning an academic conference about Turkey's treatment of Armenians during World War I and a court's ruling on whether it could go forward. Such trials continue to raise questions about whether the country's freedom of speech protections rise to the levels expected for a member state of the European Union. Turkey is currently seeking EU membership. Read more here.
February 7, 2006
Student Editor Suspended, Newspaper Recalls Issues After It Prints Cartoons
A Welsh university's student newspaper is recalling copies of a recent edition and its editor is in trouble for publishing one of the cartoons which originally ran in a Danish paper last September. Read more here.
February 6, 2006
Those Lawsuits Against James Frey
February 5, 2006
DC Circuit Opinion Re-Released
The U. S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has re-released the opinion written in February 2005 relating to Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper's claim of reporter's privilege, including previously redacted pages written by Judge Tatel. The re-released opinion is available here.
Violence Continues Over Cartoons
Angry demonstrators set fire to the Danish consulate in Beirut today, protesting the publication, and republication, of cartoons they believe were offensive to the Muslim religion. Meanwhile, government officials in Denmark and Norway have attempted to calm the situation, explaining that the state does not control the media, but this does not seem to have satisfied the protesters, many of whom to continue to demand apologies, both from the specific newspapers and from Denmark, Norway, and France. The cartoons first appeared in a Danish paper in September of last year. Various European publications have opted to reprint them, and at least one newspaper editor, at France-Soir, has apparently lost his job for that decision. The paper is owned by Egyptian businessman Raymond Lakah. The New York Times has more on the Beirut situation here.