Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Morning Brief: News from Europe - Le Monde names a new deadline; News Corp. bids to takeover BSkyB

Two weeks ago the Times reported that Le Monde was seeking an investor/buyer to help stabilize the finances of the newspaper. Now the Financial Times reports (reg. required) that Le Monde has set a new deadline of June 28 to find a buyer. The decision would eliminate the Spanish media group Prisa and existing Le Monde shareholders who had requested a delay until September.

The Le Monde situation has become a bit of a melodrama thanks to the involvement in the process by French President Nicolas Sarkozy who met with the newspaper's executive officer, √Čric Fottorino last week, leading to calls of political interference.

“It’s an old tradition in France,” Laurent Dubois, professor at the Paris Political Studies Institute, is quoted by Businessweek as saying. “The establishment has always meddled in the media. The press is part of politics in France. There’s less of a tradition of the independent fifth estate.”

Rupert Murdoch, who already owns a large chunk of British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), now wants the rest of it, too.

News Corp., which owns 39 perdent of the British satellite television company, has bid to take over the company, but the BSkyB board has rejected the latest offer as inadequate, according to The Telegraph. The News Corp. offer valued the broadcaster at about £12 billion.

The takeover move would mean Murdoch would have come full circle in his ownership of BSkyB. The company was formed as a result of the merger between Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting with Murdoch as majority shareholder. Murdoch had founded Sky Television in February 1989, but both Sky and their rivals were bleeding red ink leading to the merger, and in November of 1990 two entities merged.

While Luxembourg may be a small country, that doesn't mean it doesn't have a media market full of publishers wanting to experiment with tablet publishing. One such publisher, New Media Lux SA, has launched three iPad apps today for its media properties. And while the efforts are modest in the extreme, I certainly hope they keep experimenting with the form.

Business Review, Made in Luxe and 352 luxembourg magazine are all three universal apps, and they join the found other apps the company has released that were for the iPhone.
The three new apps are all free to download, which is good since all three are simple flipbooks, essentially PDF versions of the print magazines. I don't know if the publisher simply wanted to make sure they had a presence on Apple's new tablet, or if it was national pride that made them join the parade, but here they are and no one can complain about the price.

Finally, the World Cup is now in full swing, with more than half the clubs completing their first of three first round games. But already players, officials and television viewers are complaining about the noise created by the vuvuzela, a cheap plastic horn that South African soccer fans like to blow during an entire match. The sound creates an unpleasant sound that is not unlike an enormous hive of bees -- only much louder.

Now the Guardian is reporting the BBC is contemplating the possibility of transmitting a "vuvuzela free" version of its match coverage.

But whatever the Beeb does it won't create as much of a fuss as the ITV, the other British broadcaster that shares broadcast rights in the U.K. The ITV has just launched its ITV1 HD channel in April of this year and has been stumbling out of the gates. On Saturday during the England-U.S. match, the channel cut away for a commercial only three minutes into the game. (Soccer games are normally transmitted commercial free during the actual game.) Unfortunately for ITV1 Steven Gerrard of the English side scored an early goal -- only four minutes into the game. The HD channel went from the commercial to a blank screen to finally back to live action in time to show the English players celebrating their early goal.

It got worse of the Brits, of course, when late in the first half Robert Green, the English goalkeeper, let in a soft goal by midfielder Clint Dempsey of the U.S., leveling the score and leading, ultimately, to a draw. It was tough Saturday for the English who expected to win the match.