Wall Street Journal

Rural TV Channel Circles the Wagons

America's heartland wants its RFD-TV. Fans of shows like "Classic Tractor Fever" and "All-American Cowgirl Chicks" are flooding regulators in Washington with their concerns about the potential hazards of media consolidation, specifically involving two proposed mergers.

Close to half of the thousands of letters submitted to the Federal Communications Commission as it reviews Comcast's proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable and AT&T 's planned acquisition of DirecTV come from viewers of RFD-TV, a rural-focused channel owned by independent programmer Rural Media Group. Viewers express worry that the media and cable consolidation will be bad news for RFD-TV and its programs on horsemanship, grain prices and country music.

Judges for National Security

Judge John Bates, who has served on the special court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, acted in his role as director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts in sending Sen Patrick Leahy (D-VT) a letter blasting his bill to rein in National Security Agency surveillance.

Judge Bates contrasted the Senate bill with a less extreme House bill passed in May. He warned the Senate bill could "undermine the twin goals of protecting privacy and national security."

Judge Bates objected to the creation of a standing group of lawyers who would argue in the FISA court against government requests for surveillance when there was a "novel or significant interpretation of the law." This would create the "risk that representatives of the executive branch . . . would be reluctant to disclose to the courts particularly sensitive factual information, or information detrimental to a case, because doing so would also disclose the information to an independent adversary."

Dispute Erupts Between Amazon and Disney

When Amazon.com wants to fight, it turns to a familiar playbook. The latest to feel the Seattle retailer's sting is Walt Disney. Amazon isn't accepting pre-orders of forthcoming Disney DVD and Blu-ray titles including "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Maleficent."

It is the same tactic Amazon has employed in a bitter four-month spat with Hachette Book Group over e-book pricing. To press its point, Amazon suspended pre-orders for physical copies of many Hachette titles and lengthened shipping times or pared discounts for others.

Amazon Aims at Publisher Hachette's CEO in Contract Dispute

Amazon.com stepped up the war of words in its nearly four-month contract battle with publisher Hachette Book Group, calling on authors to email the publisher's chief executive directly to pressure him to agree to its terms.

In a letter sent to Amazon authors and posted online, the Seattle-based retailer again pressed its case for lowering e-book prices and detailed talking points to send to Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch. "Stop using [Hachette] authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon's offers to take them out of the middle," one of the talking points said.

"E-books can and should be less expensive," Amazon said in its response. During negotiations Amazon has slowed delivery of some Hachette books, removed the preorder button on others and reduced the discount it offers on some titles.

Civil Liberties Groups, Tech Firms Back Facebook Against Manhattan DA

Facebookis finding supporters in a fight stemming from court-approved search warrants in 2013 that allowed law enforcement officials to review accounts belonging to users suspected of fraud.

An amicus brief by the New York Civil Liberties Union -- and supported by the American Civil Liberties Union -- argues that the search warrants never should have been approved by the court because they were too broad and “profoundly invasive.” Several technology companies also signed on to a brief in support of Facebook’s position, including Google, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Meetup and Tumblr.

Facebook Messenger Privacy Fears? Here’s What You Need to Know

The Internet has been simmering lately over privacy concerns surrounding Facebook’s Messenger app, which will soon become the only way mobile users can send and receive messages on the social network.

Some users were notified that they could no longer see or send messages unless they downloaded the app, and more users will get the same message in the weeks and months to come.

But amid the forced adoption of Messenger, some bloggers have cried foul over seemingly draconian permissions required for users of the Android version of the app. The bottom line is that, while some users might think it’s a drag to download a separate app for a feature that was once included in a single app, they’re not actually giving up a significant amount of additional privacy in the process.

Google’s Tough European Summer: Android and Online Search Probes

European Union regulators are poised to unleash a formal investigation into Android, Google’s operating system for mobile devices, on the back of concerns that it is promoting its own services such as maps and applications and shutting out rivals.

Companies recently received questionnaires requesting proof of “any written or unwritten” dealings showing that Google imposed “exclusivity” requirements on mobile-phone makers and network operators. In particular, regulators are asking for evidence of Google demanding that mobile devices shouldn’t be pre-installed with any application, service or product that compete with its own Android products.

Fear and Loathing Over Russia’s Anonymous Wi-Fi Ban

Russia ordered users of public Wi-Fi networks to identify themselves in order to access the Internet, causing confusion among officials and providers and alarming users already worried by growing state control over the web.

While some European countries have similar requirements, civil-rights advocates say its application in Russia is more worrisome. Russian officials denied the move is aimed at controlling users.

The Russian Communications Ministry issued a statement trying to reassure users that they won’t need to show their passports to get online. But it didn’t specify what constitutes a public place -- something the regulations didn’t clarify -- and a ministry spokesman said the matter need to be looked into carefully by lawyers.

T-Mobile US Rejects Iliad's Request For Information

Apparently, T-Mobile US denied Iliad’s request for access to the US telecommunications provider's books after determining that the French company's proposed $15 billion bid wasn't strong enough.

Sprint Abandoning Pursuit of T-Mobile

Apparently, Sprint is ending its pursuit of T-Mobile US. Sprint and its parent, SoftBank, decided it would be too difficult to win approval from regulators.

Sprint is also expected to replace its chief executive, Dan Hesse.

Sprint's decision didn't have anything to do with the surprise bid for T-Mobile by France's Iliad. Rather, the US regulatory hurdles were the key.