Monday, May 7, 2012

Austerity gets a giant thumbs down in European elections Sunday; U.S. cable news networks leave the news business; streaming offers better alternative to networks

While American television pretty much enjoyed a Sunday as usual, Europe was rocked by elections that could change the face and balance of power. In France, Nickolas Sarkozy became the first French president to not win a second term since Valéry Giscard d'Estaing lost his bid to Socialist François Mitterrand in 1981. In Greece, voters rejected the two largest parties for minor ones, including SYRIZA, a coalition of leftist parties.

In Greece, markets opened down sharply as election results introduced new uncertainty, eventually crashing 8 percent. But the German DAX is down only slightly, and the French CAC 40 is actually trading higher slightly. On the British FTSE 100 is down sharply, possibly reflecting the fear that yesterday's vote was equally a condemnation of the financial community represented by The City. (Today's a bank holiday in the UK, those numbers I was looking at were from Friday.)

Greece went to polls in what was essentially a referendum on the bailout package and the forced austerity negotiated by the two major political parties, New Democracy and the Socialist party PASOK. In the end, both parties saw their support plummet.

New Democracy, the center-right party came out on top, but with less than 19 percent of the vote, under performing polls conducted prior to the election. PASOK, which had won in 2009 with nearly 44 percent of the vote, saw its support crash to just over 13 percent. This allowed SYRIZA, known as the Coalition of the Radical Left, to finish in second place, with 16.78 percent of the vote. (SYRIZA symbol seen above right.)

In such as chaotic environment, it is probably unsurprising that the Fascist party Golden Dawn was able to capitalize, entering Parliament for the first when it netted just under 7 percent of the vote.

Nick Malkoutzis, InsideGreece:
ND and PASOK had been in gradual decline since 2000 but the economic crisis sent them tumbling over the edge of the cliff. Their worst combined showing in a general election since 1981 was in 2009, before the crisis struck, when they gained 79 percent of the vote. Today, they hold only about 40 percent of that. In 2009, New Democracy had its worst-ever election performance, drawing just 33 percent. Today, it can’t even muster that together with PASOK. Rarely in European politics has such a dramatic collapse been seen in such a short period of time.
Tristan Cooper, Fidelity Worldwide Investment, via The Guardian:
The irresistible force of German austerity has clashed with the immovable object of Greek popular resistance. It is difficult to see how this paradox can be resolved without a significant watering down of the Troika program and de facto fiscal transfers. The scale of cuts demanded by the Troika are clearly unacceptable to a broad swathe of Greek voters.
Paul Krugman, the NYT's economics columnist, quickly assessed events in Europe this morning, opening his Monday column with "The French are revolting. The Greeks, too. And it’s about time."

Krugman had, as I had, noticed the increasing hysterical tone being taken by much of the European financial press prior to the French election Sunday. The Financial Times and The Economist, in particular, were increasingly irrational in their fear mongering about the likely election of the Socialist Party leader François Hollande. Needless to say, Krugman, a vocal critic of austerity in the midst of recession, was delighted:

Paul Krugman, New York Times:
What is true is that Mr. Hollande’s victory means the end of “Merkozy,” the Franco-German axis that has enforced the austerity regime of the past two years. This would be a “dangerous” development if that strategy were working, or even had a reasonable chance of working. But it isn’t and doesn’t; it’s time to move on. Europe’s voters, it turns out, are wiser than the Continent’s best and brightest.
If you were, like me, closely following the two elections yesterday, and were in the U.S., the cable news networks proved to be useless. CNN, in particular, was abominable.

The future of television news in the U.S. it appears is not television at all – that is, not traditional television news from the broadcast networks or cable networks. The future to television news is streaming or smart TVs. This is a huge opening for well financed news organizations. A web-based news outlet that can stream video news is a far better solution than CNN or Fox News.

It has always been debatable whether the major cable "news" networks truly were providing news. Fox, for instance, regularly defends is hosts by claiming that they aren't really news programs at all. CNN, when led by a news veteran like Tom Johnson, once could be seen as a news network, but no more.