Tuesday, June 30, 2009

CTV says Shaw Communications has cancelled purchase of three local TV stations

CTV says that Shaw Communications Inc. will not proceed with the purchase of three over-the-air TV stations for $1 each. CTV issued a statement Tuesday, though representatives for Shaw weren't immediately available for comment.

In April, CTV accepted an offer by Shaw CEO Jim Shaw to buy a station in Brandon, Man., and CTV's A Channel stations in Wingham and Windsor, Ont. The purchase came after CTV and other conventional broadcasters, asked the CRTC to let them charge cable companies for the right to carry their signals, something called fee for carriage.

CBC eyes real estate selloff to raise cash

The CBC says it would consider selling buildings that house its radio and TV stations in a bid to wrangle control over its cash-strapped budget. Hubert Lacroix, president of CBC/Radio-Canada, says anything could be up for sale if efforts to generate funds elsewhere fail.

The past months have seen the CBC slash jobs and programs in a bid to shave $171 million from its budget amid the economic downturn. Lacroix says 300 employees have accepted early retirement incentive plans, while 250 people have been laid off.

Canwest selling TV stations in Montreal, Hamilton

Money-troubled Canwest Global Communications Corp. says it is selling two conventional television stations in Montreal and Hamilton to an affiliate of Channel Zero Inc., an independent Canadian television broadcaster. Financial terms of the deal to sell CHCH-TV in Hamilton and CJNT-TV in Montreal were not disclosed.

A privately held Toronto-based company, Channel Zero's operations include digital cable channels Movieola, Silver Screen Classics and adult entertainment channels AOV Adult Movie Channel, XXX Action Clips Channel and Maleflixxx Television.

Channel Zero said CHCH will broadcast an all-news format during the day with movies in the evening, while CJNT will broadcast original foreign movies and multicultural music videos.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Press gallery 'dean' Douglas Fisher turns 90 this year

Later this summer, Douglas Fisher will turn 90 years old. A huge, once-athletic man, he now uses a wheelchair to move about this pleasant retirement home on the outskirts of Ottawa. But it is only his knees that have gone on him. Despite a claim that he sees "the colour of rust" when he considers his mind, no one else can see it as he remains as up to date and feisty as ever.-- Globe columnist Roy MacGregor visits him.

Al Jazeera coming to Canadian TV : Globe and Mail

One of the longest running and most contentious debates in Canadian broadcasting is coming to an end with the expected approval by federal regulators to allow Al Jazeera's English television network to be carried here.

Sources close to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission indicate that Al Jazeera English, the international spinoff of the Qatar-based Arabic language news network Al Jazeera, will likely be cleared for Canada this summer, possibly within weeks. But Jewish groups still have concerns.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

CRTC decisions key to future of local TV programming coming July 6

Regulatory body will give details on restructured funding formula that could potentially save several stations.

Globe management, union talks resume Tuesday

Talks will resume Tuesday for a new contract at the Globe and Mail after the newspaper’s 450 unionized employees rejected what the company called its final offer.

Union members, including journalists, photographers, sales staff and circulation workers, voted Saturday 260-32 to reject the offer. The company's offer included pension benefits cuts of between 30 and 50 per cent, salary reductions and a two year wage freeze.

Union president Brad Honywill said workers are prepared for a strike “should that become necessary.” He said that the union has a news website ready to publish with material from Globe reporters and columnists who would no longer be writing for the Globe. The current contract expires at midnight Tuesday.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unionized Globe and Mail workers reject latest contract offer

More than 440 editorial, advertising and circulation workers at the Globe and Mail have rejected the newspaper's latest offer.

On Saturday, they voted 89 per cent against a revised contract offer that was emailed to them on Friday — just days ahead of a midnight strike deadline this coming Tuesday.

Of the 292 ballots cast by union members at a Toronto hotel and other bureau locations, 260 voted against the offer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shaw's revenue climbs by 9%

Shaw Communications said Friday its profit in the quarter rose to $131.9-million or 31 cents a share from $128.1-million or 30 cents. Revenue increased almost 9 per cent to $861.4-million from $792.1-million.

“Strong subscriber growth and solid operational performance delivered financial results year-to-date that keep us on track to achieve our financial guidance for the year, including generating free cash flow of at least $500-million,” chief executive officer Jim Shaw said in a statement.

The company said its basic cable subscribers rose 9,622 to almost 2.3 million, while digital customers rose 110,810, a quarterly record, to almost 1.2 million. Internet customers rose 24,625 to almost 1.7 million.

Will the NatPost resume the Monday paper if the Globe goes on strike?

The National Post's president Paul Godfrey and publisher Gordon Fisher posted a reminder to readers that starting next week, there will be no Monday paper until after Labour Day.

"We want to be clear we are not abandoning our award-winning news coverage, which has always been a seven-day-a-week proposition. Nor will our readers lose any of the great features on which they have come to rely. News happens every hour of every day and our talented staff will continue to report instantly to our two major online brands, nationalpost.com and financialpost.com," they wrote.

There is no mention of Globe's labour troubles but one has to wonder whether the Monday NatPost will reappear if -- as expected -- there is a strike at the Globe and Mail next week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Globe and Mail appears to be heading for a strike

The Globe and Mail appears to be heading for a strike after its employees overwhelmingly gave its negotiating committee a strike mandate. Sources tell The Planet Guys that management proposals are so harsh that the union will not be able to accept them. The Globe is losing serious money and the management is under pressure to bring costs into line. Compared to the National Post, the Globe staff is bloated. It is the result of a hiring spree that started when Conrad Black launched the Post. After CanWest bought the Post, its staff got seriously downsized but the Globe did not follow suit. Management is also said to be demanding more integration between the Globe, CTV and the business channel BNN. More bargaining sessions are scheduled but the outlook is grim. – Planetguy 2

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Local CBS station shoots and airs item on the new iPhone

WFOR's fearless news director, Adrienne Roark, had a more innovative idea: shoot an entire story with the new iPhone, about the lines for the new iPhone. Little did we know that later that day, we'd be making television history.

Once I got my iPhone, I immediately started shooting – easy. The phone has a "touch focus" feature that lets you focus any part of the video just by hitting it with your finger. I used this feature often when shooting close-up interviews with some of the customers standing in line. Oddly enough, not one of these Apple fans found it strange that a television station was shooting its video with an iPhone!

Reporter barred from Chinese minister's speech in Ottawa

A reporter from Sun Media based on Parliament Hill was barred from covering a speech by China's foreign minister. Christina Spencer, a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, was turned away from a meeting room at the Chateau Laurier Hotel when she attempted to join other journalists covering a speech by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who was due to address about 150 top Canadian business leaders at an luncheon organized by the Canada China Business Council. "She wasn't invited," a spokesman for the council told reporters who were given access to the ballroom where Yang was due to speak.

While no reason was given as to why Spencer was barred from the speech, she has for years written articles critical of China, including a column in 2001 for the Ottawa Citizen that called for a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Guests at the lunch included federal cabinet ministers Jim Flaherty and John Baird and former prime minister Joe Clark.

Conrad Black again asks for release on bail

Conrad Black has asked a U.S. federal judge to release him from prison while he appeals his fraud conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court turned down an earlier request. Black was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice by a Chicago jury in 2007.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cannon to speak with Iranian envoy over journalist

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has called in Iran's top diplomat in Canada over the arrest of a Canadian journalist working in the country for Newsweek magazine.

Cannon will express his concern to Iran's charge d'affaires regarding the detention of reporter and filmmaker Maziar Bahari by security forces on Sunday evening, as well as about the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Andre Lemay also told the Canadian Press that Canadian consular officials in Tehran have requested immediate access to Bahari.

Battle of the billionaires: Has Murdoch met his match?

Both are billionaire septuagenarians. One is a media mogul turned politician, the other a media mogul with enough political firepower to influence elections.

Both are charming, ruthless warriors who are fighting one another and apparently relish the action. Who will win? My bet is that Rupert Murdoch, unstoppable so far, has finally met his match in Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Murdoch are embroiled in a riveting media war, one that has triggered outbursts from both men.

(For the full Eric Reguly take on the feud, click on the title.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Canadian journalist detained in Iran

Newsweek magazine said in a statement its correspondent Mazier Bahari, a Canadian citizen, was detained Sunday morning and has not been heard from since.

The magazine defended its coverage as "fair and nuanced" and is calling for his release. More than 20 journalists have been detained in Iran over the last week.

Bahari came to Canada from Iran in 1988 as a political refugee. He has made a number of documentary films, several of them about Iran.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New York Times reporter escapes from Taliban

A New York Times reporter known for making investigative trips deep inside dangerous conflict zones escaped from militant captors after more than seven months in captivity by climbing over a wall, the newspaper said Saturday.

David S. Rohde was abducted Nov. 10 along with an Afghan reporter colleague and a driver south of the Afghan capital, Kabul. He had been traveling through Logar province to interview a Taliban commander, but was apparently intercepted and taken by other militants on the way.

Globe and Mail workers vote to strike if pact not reached

Globe and Mail reporters and sales staff voted 97 percent in favor of striking if their union fails to negotiate a new labor pact with the owners of Canada’s largest national newspaper.

A total 302 of the 311 reporters, sales and circulation staff who voted today approved going on strike, said the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada Local 87-M that repreents the employees.

Management at the Toronto-based newspaper, owned by CTVglobemedia Inc., has been in negotiations with the CEP for an agreement to replace a four-year contract that expires June 30.

The newspaper’s proposal would cut the wages of almost 30 percent of its members and reduce pension benefits for all by 30 percent to 50 percent, depending on years of service, the union said in a statement.

Former Montreal Star and Gazette building now a hotel

Where newspaper presses once rumbled and rolled along the side of the building is now an enclosed grand entrance to the spacious lobby of the 450- room Le Westin Montreal. It bears little resemblance to the building's previous incarnation as home to the Montreal Gazette and, before that, the Montreal Star. Le Westin Montreal began accepting guests a week ago. A 143-seat street-level restaurant/lounge is appropriately called Gazette.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite reported gravely ill

Veteran CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite is reported to be gravely ill, the Associated Press reports. Cronkite, 92, is the former anchor of "The CBS Evening News," and was the face of CBS News for more than two decades. He was named "the most trusted man in America" in a 1972 "trust index" survey, and he ended each broadcast with the reassuring signoff, ``And that's the way it is."

He has been ailing for some time, has reportedly taken a turn for the worse, according to TVNewser and other online sites, the AP reported. CBS declined to comment.

Cronkite left the "Evening News" anchor desk in 1981.

Journalist Suzanne Breen need not disclose Real IRA contacts

Judge agrees her life would be in danger. Ms Breen is northern editor of the Sunday Tribune, which is published in Dublin. As well as receiving a mobile phone claim of responsibility for the murder of two soldiers, Ms Breen conducted an interview with a member of the terrorist group. When she refused to hand over telephone records and notes to officers investigating the security force murders, the police went to court to seek an order that would compel her to do so. Times Online.

Al Colletti, Runyonesque journalist, dead at 88

Veteran of 44 years at Canadian Press.

Minneapolis Star Tribune plans to exit Chapter 11


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reuters on Murdoch vs Berlusconi

Murdoch speaks in Milan about "fair competition".

Google Canada promises Street View won’t invade privacy

Google Canada tells a Commons parliamentary committee that the ultimate street map, Street View, won't invade privacy or snoop inside homes. Google has had complaints from people in the nine countries where Street view has been deployed. It recently agreed to re-shoot parts of streets in Japan to avoid shots that peeked inside homes. National Post.

US newspaper to comply with narrowed subpoena for info on authors

Comments that might be construed as threatening to jurors or prosecutors.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Underwear melange upsets many

Calvin Klein ad said to be suggestive of "foursome sex" is shocking NYC parents. Some say they find the ad so outrageous they won't buy Calvin Klein products.

Struggling MySpace cuts staff

400 lose jobs as users continue to prefer Facebook. BBC

YouTube an online stage for Iran protest videos

Savvy summary of Youtube as a political stage --AFP

Montreal La Presse to cut costs by eliminating Sunday edition

Owner Power Corp trying to save $26 million. CP

Boston Globe, union to meet next week on pay cuts

Latest from Reuters

Gunmen kill 2 Philippine journalists in separate attacks

Shootings from motorcycles with no known motive.

ABC denies "Obama infomercial" charge

Widely accused of merging with government to present President's health care plan.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

'New media' thwart Iran censorship

Links to the momentous events occurring in Iran, where digital and wireless are dodging the fist of censorship. In particular, a plan to flood Iranian secret cops wth phony messages by changing the time check on Twitter messages all over the world to Tehran time, i.e. GMT+3.30. Not exactly sure how this works, but CNET seems to think it does.

Monday, June 15, 2009

CBC turns its eye to the 24-hour news clock

Newsworld would get more newsy under this line of planning. National Post.

Iran closes Al Jazeera bureau

Al Jazeera "suspended" in Iran

Al Jazeera says producers detained in Afghanistan

Al Jazeera men held by Afghan government agents -- Reuters

Letterman gaffe leads to "Fire Letterman Movement"

Featuring some prominent Democrats at a rally in the Ed Sullivan Theatre

Moses Znaimer to buy Vision TV

Widely-expected return to TV of Moses Znaimer takes form of Vision TV acquisition. In recent months Znaimer has purchased two specialty radio stations in Toronto and launched what he called CARP, the Canadian Association of Retired People, apparently similar in purpose to AARP in the U.S.

The Washington Post and Slate Pull Back the Curtain to Show Readers Innovations in Online Publishing (Release)

Lots of sizzle as Innovations In News announced -- Busness Newswire.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two months for Palestinian writers

Reported Israeli troop movements -- AP via CBC

"Bing" bothering Google's Brin?

Amusing story from NY Post that "Fear Grips Google" over Microsoft's search engine effort called Bing.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Latest on Televisa vs Univision

Univision has rights in the U.S. to distribute Mexican broadcaster Televisa, but the 1992 agreement did not anticipate the streaming net. Guess what? Now Televisa wants to distribute that way too, and hold Univision to its agreement. A judge must decide.

JACK gets the KISS-off

Raucus station's motto that "You Don't Know JACK" apparently applies to station management too -- Toronto Star.

No percentage increases at Washington Post

Washington Post union ratifies 2-year contract -- AP

Charter challenge to drug advertising rules by CanWest delayed until the fall

A court challenge of federal drug advertising rules by CanWest Global Communications that was to be heard next week has been delayed until the fall.

O’Brien Wields Youth Against Letterman in Late-Night

O'Brien-Letterman ratings a horse race -- Bloomberg

Canwest newspaper unions say they're being asked for concessions

Canwest newspaper unions say they're being asked for concessions -- CP

Friday, June 12, 2009

French TV services group TDF may axe 550 jobs

French TV services group TDF may axe 550 jobs. Reuters.

"Suitors" for Boston Globe a thin tale

"Three suitors" for the Boston Globe is barely substantiated. Story tells of three priminent men, who apparently are acting together on a single bid but even that is not too clear. Reuters.

News Corp. diversity council

New Corp. will create a diversity council in the aftermath of the much criticised Barak Obama-chimpanzee cartoon in the New York Post.

Transcontinental lays off 250

The publisher of many Atlantic Canada newspapers as well as specialty publications like The Hockey News and TVGuiide has announced that it will lay off another 250. CP.

U.S. Supreme Court turns down Black's bail request

Conrad Black's bid for release pending a review of his fraud convictions was denied Thursday but experts said it's unlikely the former media baron will be content to remain behind bars until the U.S. Supreme Court hears his appeal.

Black has already served nearly 15 months of a 6 1/2-year prison term following his convictions in July 2007 for fraud and obstruction of justice.

The obstruction charge is not part of the Supreme Court review, but the three fraud counts are being assessed and Black's lawyers had argued he was entitled to his freedom until a final decision was made.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Taser investigation wins Michener Award

A joint project that produced a multimedia analysis of taser stun guns and their use by the RCMP has won the 2008 Michener Award for CBC/Radio-Canada and the Canadian Press.

The award, named after former governor-general Roland Michener, is given out based on the degree of public benefit generated.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kidnapped Alberta journalist calls CTV News

Amanda Lindhout says she's in desperate need of medical help and is begging for the ransom being demanded for her ransom to be paid. Lindhout called the CTV National newsroom in Toronto and read a statement in which she said that she is in a desperate situation and is being held in a dark, windowless room in chains without any clean drinking water and little or no food. She begged the government to pay the ransom her captives are demanding.

After the kidnapping 10 months ago, a $2.5-million ransom was demanded. CTV News said that ransom has now been dropped to $1-million.

CTV played a recording of the statement to someone who knows Lindhout well and was told that there is no doubt that it was her voice.

Mike (Senator) Duffy to "interview" PM as part of stimulus package presentation

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's report on his government's stimulus package will include a staged interview segment between Harper and Senator Mike Duffy. The government's presentation will be moderated by Duffy and feature Harper, flanked by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Gary Goodyear, the local MP and Minister of State for Science. It will take place on Thursday in Cambridge, Ontario.

It is the second of quarterly performance reports demanded by the opposition Liberals as a condition for supporting the Jan. 27 budget.

Winnipeg Free Press, CBC's Joe Schlesinger among Canadian Journalism Foundation awards

The Winnipeg Free Press won the Excellence in Journalism Award in the large or national media category, sponsored by the Jackman Foundation and the Canadian Journalism Foundation. "The jury found the Winnipeg Free Press presentation dazzling," said Michael Benedict, Chair of CJF's Excellence Award jury. "It exceeded all our criteria for excellence. It is gratifying that in a time when so many papers are in survival mode, that the Free Press remains journalistically ambitious and strives to achieve even greater heights.”

The CJF’s lifetime achievement award went to the CBC’s Joe Schlesinger.

The presentaions were made at the CJF's annual gala in Toronto.

Click on the totle for the full list of awards.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Publishing vets seek to start newspaper in Detroit

Mark Stern, 63, and brother Gary Stern, 67, said they hope to publish within 60 days the first issue of a newspaper serving the Detroit area. The Detroit Daily Press is expected to sell for 50 cents daily and $1 on Sundays.

Mark Stern said the Detroit Daily Press should appeal to older readers who prefer a print copy of the paper, and its primary niche will be those who want their paper home-delivered. The newspaper also will have a Web site with a brief summary of the news for nonsubscribers.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Publication ban lifted on Raitt tape conversation

A Nova Scotia judge has dismissed an injunction against the Halifax Chronicle Herald leaving the paper is free to publish a story about a taped conversation between an aide and federal Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt, pictured at left. The judge also lifted a publication ban on the story.

The Chonicle Herald was prepared to report on the contents of an audio tape, recorded in late January or early February, in which Raitt is said to have made disparaging comments about Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

The person who made the recording is Jasmine MacDonnell, Raitt's former director of communications. It is believed that MacDonnell accidentally recorded Raitt when Raitt and MacDonnell were candidly assessing the capabilities and qualities of other cabinet ministers, including the prime minister. MacDonnell resigned last week after a binder containing government documents marked "Secret" was left at CTV's Ottawa television studio.

Following the ruling, the Chronicle Herald immediately published the story based on the tape on its website.

China requires censoring on new PCs

China has issued a sweeping directive requiring all personal computers sold in the country to include sophisticated software that can filter out pornography and other “unhealthy information” from the Internet.

The software, which manufacturers must install on all new PCs starting July 1, would allow the government to regularly update computers with an ever-changing list of banned Web sites.

N. Korea sentences 2 U.S. journalists to 12 years of hard labor

North Korea has sentenced two American journalists to 12 years of hard labor.The Central Court, the North’s highest court, held the trial of the two Americans, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, from Thursday to Monday and convicted them of “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry,” the North’s official news agency, KCNA, said in a report monitored in Seoul. Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee were detained by North Korean soldiers patrolling the border between China and North Korea on March 17.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called the charges “baseless” and the government had demanded that the North forgo the legal proceedings and release the two women.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

NatPost editorial hammers CTV for Raitt's "left secret papers behind" incident

"An ugly day in Ottawa: Even by the craven standards of official Ottawa, the treatment meted out this week to Jasmine MacDonnell is shameful. . . .The decent thing to do would have been to notify the minister’s office and return the papers. Instead, CTV rifled through the documents, then sat on them for six days before springing its 'scoop'.”

Click on the title for the full text

The Walrus wins five gold medals at magazine awards

The Walrus and Toronto Life have been battling for supremacy at Canada's National Magazine Awards for at least the past six years and they were at it again last night at the 32nd annual prize ceremony in Toronto.

The Walrus, which went into the joust with 28 nominations, won five gold medals – the most of any of the 79 magazines in competition – plus one silver. Toronto Life, with 27 nominations, won four golds and five silvers.

Report on Business Magazine had the third highest total of gold medals, with two – matched by Explore, Air Canada's enRoute, Swerve, an entertainment guide published by the Calgary Herald, and Victoria literary quarterly The Malahat Review.

Details at:

Details are at www.magazine-awards.com

Friday, June 5, 2009

Broadcaster or pipeline? Courts to rule on ISPs

A federal court will be asked to rule whether companies that provide Internet access should be viewed as broadcasters of online content, or merely the pipes that transmit bits of data to computer screens. The decision could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the entertainment industry,

Content producers, such as actors and screenwriters, argue that Internet service providers (ISPs) perform a similar role to cable companies and broadcasters when material flows onto the Internet. As such, they should be subject to the Broadcasting Act, which requires those companies to give financial support to Canadian content on TV and radio.

The CRTC attempted to answer that question in February, but after hearing detailed legal arguments from both sides of the debate, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has decided to turn the matter over to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Journalists win both fiction and non-fiction crime writers' awards

Former Toronto Star columnist Linwood Barclay has won the Arthur Ellis award for best novel from the Crime Writers of Canada.

Barclay's book, Too Close to Home, has been a bestseller in the U.K. and will be issued in paperback in Canada this fall.

Internet hacker Michael Calce and journalist Craig Silverman won the best non-fiction award for Mafiaboy: How I Cracked the Internet and Why It's Still Broken.

Calce is the Montreal high school student known as Mafiaboy, who launched a series of denial-of-service attacks on the internet in 2000.

The book is the story of his infiltration of sites such as Yahoo, eBay and CNN and what happened to him afterward.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

N.Y. Times shows street-level shot of famous Tianamen confrontation

Terril Jones’ angle on the historic encounter between the man in the white shirt and tanks in Tinamen Square is vastly different from four other versions shot that day, taken at eye level moments before the tanks stopped at the feet of the lone protester. Wildly chaotic, a man ducks in the foreground, reacting from gunfire coming from the tanks. Another flashes a near-smile. Another pedals his bike, seemingly passive as the tanks rumble towards confrontation.

Jones was a reporter in Beijing and did not realize until some time after June 5,1989, that he captured this image. The Times says it has never been publ;ished before.

Click on the title to see it as well as the four other shots of the scene from a hotel.

CRTC keeps new media exempt from broadcasting regulation

Broadcasting content such as music and video distributed over the internet and mobile devices will continue to be exempt from regulation, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced Thursday.

The decision is a blow to artist groups who were hoping the CRTC would regulate internet content the same way it does television and radio to ensure Canadian content is represented.

But it's welcome news to internet service providers, who bristled at the notion they might have to monitor the amount of Canadian content on the internet and were opposed to the suggestion that a levy might be imposed on them to go toward a Canadian content new media fund.

In the decision Thursday, CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said regulation was not necessary, because online media is not an immediate threat to traditional broadcasting.

Is free-lancer Amanda Lindhout Canada's forgotten hostage?

The killing yesterday of British tourist Edwin Dyer in Mali by an Al Qaeda wing, brings to mind the ordeal of Amanda Lindhout. She was kidnapped in Somalia in August 2008. Last week she was heard begging for her life in a five-minute phone interview with Agence France-Presse in Paris.

"Unless my government, the people of Canada, all my family and friends can get $1 million, I will die here, okay? That's certain," AFP quoted her as saying from Somalia.

Three days later, a man calling from the capital Mogadishu offered the Toronto Star a similar interview, which was turned down for fear it would compromise rescue negotiations, the Star says in a story about the captive.

"The conditions are very bad," Lindhout told AFP. "I don't drink clean water. I am fed at most once a day ... I have been sick for months."

Lindhout, 27 years old at her capture, grew up in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, near Red Deer. She was kidnapped with 37-year-old Australian photographer Nigel Brennan.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Czech Romany broadcast executive asks for asylum in Canada

One of the Romany asylum seekers in Canada is Anna Polakova, pictured at left, the chief of Romany programming at the state-owned Czech Radio.

Prague media report that Polakova sent an e-mail to her bosses in Prague, saying that she decided to make a refugee claim in Canada with six members of her family. She said her departure was not connected with her work at the radio station but with her unease about the growing number of racist attacks in the Czech Republic and the radicalization of society. She requested unpaid leave from her job that she has held since 1998.

Polakova was part of a group of Czech Romanys who lived at Toronto's Pearson International Airport for a week. They have since left for Hamilton, Ontario, to await a decision on their refugee claims.

Czech media reported that more than 600 Czech Romanys have applied to be admitted as refugees in the first three months of this year.

There have been a number attacks on Romas this year, including the throwing of a Molotov cocktail at a Romany house in which a two-year-old girl was seriously injured. Rightist groups have held marches in towns where Romanys live and a recent poll said relations between Caucasian Czech citizens and the Romanys were the worst in a decade.

CBC refuses to air Tories anti-Ignatieff ads

The CBC has refused to air the Conservative party's television attack ads aimed at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff because the ads violated the network's long-standing ban on political advertising.

The Tories approached CBC officials before the launch of the "Michael Ignatieff: just visiting" campaign and were told that an internal policy prevented the network from accepting political ads outside of times of elections.

As are other broadcasters, CBC is required to provide a share of its airtime to political parties during the writ period, but can set its own rules outside it.

China bars reporters from Tiananmen before anniversary

Foreign journalists were barred from Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Wednesday as an Internet clampdown that blocked Twitter expanded to include more blogs on the eve of the 20th anniversary of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

In a further sign of the government's unwavering hard-line stance toward the protests, the second most-wanted student leader from 1989 said he had been denied him entry to the southern Chinese territory of Macau.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

China blocks internet sites, services ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

The Chinese government is blocking access to social media, photo-sharing and many other websites in an apparent effort to control discussion about the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, bloodily suppressed by Chinese soldiers 20 years ago.

The blocks included Twitter, some blogs, Hotmail, Microsoft's new search engine Bing and Flickr, media reports said. YouTube has been blocked since March.

China has repeatedly tried to block electronic access to material it deems illegal under its Great Firewall policy. It bans certain news about Tibet, democracy, anti-government or anti-Communist party activities and sexual content.

If Chinese internet users enter "4 June" in the photo section of Baidu, the country’s most popular search engine, they get a message saying: “the search does not comply with laws, regulations and policies,” Reporters without Borders said in a news release. Twitter messages were encouraging people to wear white, the colour of mourning, until they were suddenly blocked Tuesday, the Globe and Mail reported.

Conrad Black memoir delayed until appeal decided

Publisher McClelland & Stewart has agreed to hold back the publication of an anticipated Conrad Black memoir until the U.S. Supreme Court renders a decision on the jailed media baron's three fraud convictions.

The Fight of My Life was due out in September. It is the third time the book's release, originally slated for last spring, has been postponed. The memoir is a sequel to Black's 1993 autobiography, A Life in Progress, and deals in part with the 2007 trial that earned him a 6 1/2-year Florida prison term

Lawyer taking CBC to court over withheld documents

Michel Drapeau thumbs through a stack of mostly blank pages on the table before him, pointing out the terse notes atop each. "Pages 165 to 177 are withheld ... pages 782 to 795 are withheld ... pages 936 to 1189 are withheld."
That is what Drapeau got when he asked CBC about a new corporate management plan. Of 1,554 pages sent to him, almost all had the contents blanked out. And even those pages arrived long after the legal deadline for receipt.

It's been the same, he says, for hundreds of other requests made to the public broadcaster since the CBC and other Crown corporations became subject to the federal Access to Information Act on Sept. 1, 2007.

Drapeau, supported by Sun Media, has taken legal action.

On Wednesday, the Federal Court will hear an application by his law-office colleague, David Statham, to force CBC to disclose documents requested under the access law between Sept. 1 and Dec. 12, 2007.

Drapeau is a local lawyer and retired colonel who specializes in access to information and who submits access requests to government on behalf of a variety of clients including businesses, MPs and media.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Starbucks now the official coffee of MSNBC

Starbucks is becoming a naming sponsor of MSNBC's “Morning Joe,” in what is the closest integration between an advertiser and a national news program in recent memory. Harkening back to the “Camel News Caravan,” an NBC news roundup sponsored by a cigarette manufacturer in the 1950s, graphics and voice-overs will tell viewers that “Morning Joe” is “brewed by Starbucks.”

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