Daily Digest 11/9/2017 (AT&T, Time Warner, and Trump)

Benton Foundation

Busy agenda in Washington today, see them all in Events

Headlines will return MONDAY -- Happy Veterans Day


US Said to Seek Sale of CNN or DirecTV in AT&T-Time Warner Deal

Apparently, the Justice Department has called on AT&T and Time Warner to sell Turner Broadcasting, the group of cable channels that includes CNN, as a potential requirement for approving the companies’ pending $85.4 billion deal. The other possible way for the merger to win approval would be for AT&T to sell its DirecTV division, apparently. The demands set up a potential battle over the fate of the long-in-the-works deal that would create a colossus straddling the worlds of media and telecommunications at a time when upstarts like Netflix are disrupting traditional players in both industries.

DOJ, AT&T trade accusations over CNN sale

The Department of Justice and AT&T traded accusations Nov 8 over whether the company would have to sell off CNN, the cable network frequently feuding with President Trump, as a condition of its merger with Time Warner.  AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson flatly denied that his company had ever entertained the idea of selling CNN to win approval of the deal. “Until now, we’ve never commented on our discussions with the DOJ. But given DOJ’s statement this afternoon, it’s important to set the record straight,” said Stephenson. “Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.”

AT&T Can’t Easily Cut Connection With CNN or Turner

Will AT&T hang up on its quest for Time Warner if it can’t hang on to some of its most valuable assets? Answering that question could become paramount in the company’s effort to secure the $85 billion merger it proposed with Time Warner in October. Turner owns valuable sports rights, sharing with CBS the broadcast of the NCAA’s “March Madness” men’s basketball championship tournament. That event generated a record-setting $1.24 billion in national TV advertising in 2016, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. And Turner enjoys a unique relationship with the National Basketball Association, co-managing the league’s digital portfolio. Turner also has the rights to broadcast post-season Major League Baseball games. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with Time Warner’s other divisions, HBO and Warner Brothers. But buying Time Warner without CNN and sports rights would be akin to purchasing a balloon that had lost more than half its helium.

Free Press: Trump's CNN Threat a Potential Abuse of Power

FCC Defends UHF Discount

The Federal Communications Commission told the DC Circuit Court of Appeals it was reasonable to reinstate the so-called UHF discount in April because it is “inextricably intertwined” with the 39 percent national audience reach limit imposed on broadcasters. Remember, the UHF discount allows broadcasters to count half the reach of UHF TV stations when calculating adherence to that 39 percent limit. Free Press, Common Cause and other groups challenged the reinstatement in court, arguing the rule will hurt media diversity, competition, and local programming by increasing broadcast ownership consolidation. But the FCC said the groups lack standing to bring the case because they haven’t shown how they are harmed by the UHF discount. The agency said it is right to bring back the discount, and consider both that and revising the 39 percent cap itself in a rulemaking.


We must not let big tech threaten our security, freedoms and democracy

[Commentary] As lawmakers grapple with the revelations regarding Russia’s manipulation of social media during the 2016 election, many are shocked to learn the outsized role that the major tech companies play in so many aspects of our lives. Not only do they guide what we see, read, and buy on a regular basis, but their dominance – specifically in the market of information – now requires that we consider their role in the integrity of our democracy. In my view, the size of these companies is not – in isolation – the problem. But I am extremely concerned about these platforms’ use of Americans’ personal information to further solidify their market power and consequently extract unfair conditions from the content creators and innovators that rely on their platforms to reach consumers. And as has become alarmingly clear in recent months, these companies have unprecedented power to guide Americans’ access to information and potentially shape the future of journalism. [Sen Al Franken]

What Reality TV Teaches Us About Russia’s Influence Campaign


Cities, Counties Seek More Broadband Input at FCC

In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai copied to the other commissioners, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties said that if the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDCA) is to continue, "We also request you provide for an appropriate level of local government representation." They defined that "appropriate level" in some of the same terms as those proffered by Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA) in her recent letter to Chairman Pai... [more at the URL below]

Nearly Half of Colorado Counties Have Formally Rejected a Comcast-Backed Law Restricting City-Run Internet

After Nov 7’s elections, a total of 31Colorado counties have voted to be exempted from a state law against municipal broadband networks. 

via Vice

Strong Gains in School Broadband Connectivity, But Challenges Remain

The majority of school districts today (85 percent) fully meet the Federal Communications Commission’s short-term goal for broadband connectivity of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. However, recurring costs remain the most significant barrier for schools in their efforts to increase connectivity. Collecting feedback from 445 large, small, urban and rural school district leaders nationwide, the fifth annual survey examines the current state of technology infrastructure in US K-12 districts. (The FCC has used past findings to modernize and expand funding of E-rate.) [more at the URL below]

FCC Announces Results of 2018 Urban Rate Survey for Fixed Voice and Broadband Services (Federal Communications Commission)

Moffett: Telcos May Get Some Revenge Over Cable in Broadband Wars

Government and Communications

How President Trump Brought the Political Media Class to its Knees

President Donald Trump and his team understand that for the political press, the only thing that matters is what’s happening right now, not yesterday. And whether through his tweets or his surrogates in the briefing room, the president has been largely able to bait reporters into playing his game, because he knows what makes them tick.

Tweeter-in-chief ready to confront China’s ‘great firewall’

President Donald Trump’s arrival in Beijing on Wednesday will serve as a test of reach for his preferred communications tool, Twitter. The White House is declining to comment on the president’s ability to tweet in China or the precautions being taken to protect his communications in the heavily monitored state. It’s about more than cybersecurity. Knowing the president’s penchant for showmanship, some aides are trying to build up social media suspense before Air Force One is wheels-down in Beijing. Spoiler alert: The American president will get his way. Multiple officials familiar with the procedures in place but unauthorized to discuss them publicly said the president will, in fact, be able to tweet in China.

Stories From Abroad

China Spreads Propaganda to U.S. on Facebook, a Platform it Bans at Home

China does not allow its people to gain access to Facebook, a powerful tool for disseminating information and influencing opinion. As if to demonstrate the platform’s effectiveness, outside its borders China uses it to spread state-produced propaganda around the world, including the United States.

Company News
Emergency Communications

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