Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex smile during a visit to Tupou College in Tonga, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day eleven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool) by Kirsty Wigglesworth And Nick Perry, The Associated Press Posted Oct 26, 2018 6:41 am PDT Last Updated Oct 26, 2018 at 7:20 am PDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Plane carrying Harry and Meghan aborts landing, flies around NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga – A plane carrying the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had to abort its landing at Sydney airport on Friday evening and flew around because there was another aircraft on the runway.Prince Harry and wife Meghan were returning from a visit to Tonga back to Australia, where they began their 16-day tour of four nations, when a message from the flight deck announced: “There was an aircraft on the runway a little slow to roll so the decision was taken to abort the landing.”The flight landed safely a few minutes later.Earlier Friday, the couple dedicated two forest reserves in Tonga. Harry said Tonga is leading by example and “understands deeply” the impact of environmental changes because the islands of the archipelago are directly affected.Harry and wife Meghan visited Tupou College to make the dedication. The high school was founded in 1866 and is believed to be the oldest in the region. It’s home to the last remaining forest on Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu. The other reserve is on the island of Eua.“Planting trees and conserving forests helps us in so many ways,” Harry said. “It is a simple but effective way to restore and repair our environment, clean the air and protect habitat.”The couple dedicated the two reserves to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy environmental initiative, which was started in 2015 and has been signed on to by 42 of the Commonwealth’s 53 countries.Earlier in the day, the royal couple visited an exhibition celebrating Tongan handicrafts, including traditional mats and tapa cloth. They also met with political leaders.Tonga, home to just 106,000 people, is also known as the friendly islands. It was a British protectorate before gaining independence in 1970 and remains a part of the Commonwealth group of nations.The couple later returned to Australia to catch the final days of the Invictus Games, which Harry founded in 2014. The games give sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.After Australia, the couple will finish their trip with a four-day visit to New Zealand.___Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand.
By Abhinav Ramnarayan and Virginia FurnessFrance and Cyprus took full advantage of a market supercharged by expectations of more monetary stimulus from the European Central Bank to print syndicated bonds on Tuesday.France had garnered a maximum of €33.5 billion of demand for a €7 billion 30-year bond sale, a lead manager told Reuters, before pricing the deal at seven basis points over its outstanding 2048 bonds.Cyprus too took full advantage of the strong bid for bonds to price its longest ever issue, a €1 billion 15-year which came at 175 basis points over mid-swaps in a further sign of how far the country has come since it returned to the capital markets in 2014, International Financing Review reported.“This is a powerful indication of trust in the stability and prospects of our country,” Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said on Twitter.Recent bond sales by euro zone sovereigns have been well-subscribed, and borrowing costs have fallen.French borrowing costs for example are near the lowest levels in well over two years.“There is a lot of demand across the board: we saw Italy’s 30-year get €41 billion of orders, and the French spread is quite wide after the ‘yellow vest’ protests,” DZ Bank strategist Daniel Lenz said, referring to the protests in France against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies.The goodwill also spilled over into Spanish government bonds, the yields on which were also lower on the day, with its 30-year down three basis points at 2.443 per cent.Italian government bond yields meanwhile rose across the board on Tuesday after data showed industrial orders in the euro zone’s third-largest economy dropped 5.3 per cent in December over the same month in 2017.The data served as the latest reminder of the weak outlook for the Italian economy, ending a rally in prices sparked by expectations for a new round of cheap multi-year loans for banks by the ECB.As Italian bonds came under renewed selling pressure, safer German 10-year bond yields headed back towards their lowest levels since October 2016 touching 0.084 per cent before pulling back to 0.106 per cent.But Bouvet said the data could not be seen in isolation.“The German equivalent also declined significantly in December and this will likely trigger some ECB easing and this could have the opposite impact on markets on tightening the Italian spread,” he said.European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was quoted as saying he does not expect additional import tariffs on European cars for the time being, yet concerns remain high as a confidential Commerce Department report was due to be sent to Donald Trump on Sunday.The report is widely expected to clear the way for the US president to threaten tariffs on imported autos and auto parts by designating the imports a national security threat.You May LikeLivestlyChip And Joanna’s $18M Mansion Is Perfect, But It’s The Backyard Everyone Is Talking AboutLivestlyUndoPopularEverythingColorado Mom Adopted Two Children, Months Later She Learned Who They Really ArePopularEverythingUndoYahoo SearchYou’ve Never Seen Luxury Like This On A Cruise Ship. Search Luxury Mediterranean CruisesYahoo SearchUndo Pensioner dies after crash on Paphos-Polis roadUndoCruise passenger airlifted to Paphos hospitalUndoRemand for pair in alleged property fraud (Updated)Undoby Taboolaby Taboola
Categories: Featured news,News State Representative Ray FranzMichigan House of Representatives 101st District1-855-347-8101###### By Rep. Ray Franz, R-OnekamaI would like to thank my family, friends and all those living in the 101st House District for their sincere support over the past year. I have been blessed with the opportunity of serving in the Michigan House of Representatives for nearly five years now and I am truly privileged to be your elected state Representative.2015 was an unforgettable year for Michigan. Some great things happened in our state and some unfortunate events occurred as well. That is life. We take the good with the bad and we carry on. I would like to spend some time talking about the achievements we have made to move Michigan forward in the Legislature this past year.The docket on the House floor was nothing short of eventful, and as chair of the House Regulatory Reform Committee, I had a steady stream of bills pour in and they varied in all shapes and sizes. With the co-sponsorship and support of my colleagues, the House successfully passed legislation to allow rural convenience stores in Michigan to legally sell beer, wine and gas to consumers. We also amended the Michigan Liquor Control Code to remove the prior ban on prorated license and transfer fees for businesses, to therefore, allow the proration of quarterly fees for those business licensees.Supporting our veterans, and those currently serving in our military, is an issue that I hold near and dear to my heart. I strongly support legislation that will smooth the transition from active military duty to everyday civilian life. Returning home from war is no easy task and I supported a bill that will ensure veterans with disabilities, visible or not, be permitted to enter a public or private establishment with their service dog. Service dogs offer a warm companionship that is of tremendous value to our veterans struggling with disabilities and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the brave men and women serving our great country today and thank you for protecting our freedoms. We are eternally grateful and proud of your loyal service to the state of Michigan and this country. I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost a service member or local hero this year. We will always honor and remember those who have died protecting our community and defending our country.When personal privacy concerns arose in regards to anonymity for Michigan lottery winners, I sponsored a bill to amend the current Lottery Act, preserving the lottery winner’s individual right to privacy by allowing them the option to be publically identified by the Michigan Lottery Commission.I wish you all health and happiness in 2016 and look forward to serving you another year as your state representative.State Representative Ray Franz Tags: #SB, 2015, Franz 18Dec Rep. Franz reflects on 2015
Lawmaker: Schools should have authority to hire best teacher for the jobState Rep. Phil Potvin’s bill to repeal a regulation that limits the ability of schools to hire quality special education teachers was approved today by the Michigan Senate.House Bill 5796 eliminates a requirement that local school districts give hiring preference to special education workers who have been laid off by an intermediate school district (ISD) or a state agency.“This outdated rule hurts local schools by hindering their ability to hire teachers who best fit the position that’s available,” said Rep. Potvin, R-Cadillac. “Special education programs are not all the same. A school may need to hire a teacher to work with cognitively impaired preschoolers, but under the current law they could be required to hire someone who previously worked with emotionally impaired high school students.“It’s in the best interests of our children to allow schools the flexibility to hire the professionals who have the best skills for the job.”HB 5796 now heads to the governor for his consideration.### 14Dec Senate approves Rep. Potvin bill to remove hiring restrictions for schools Categories: News
08May Rep. Leutheuser pleased to see continued local investment State Rep. Eric Leutheuser of Hillsdale today announced the Michigan Strategic Fund has approved a grant to support the expansion of the Hi-Lex Controls Inc. plant in the city of Litchfield.Hi-Lex Controls produces window closer systems for the automotive industry. After considering a competing site in Mexico, the company decided to expand its operations in Litchfield, creating 76 local jobs.The company was awarded a $300,000 Michigan Business Development Program grant toward their $26 million expansion. This is the second state grant recently awarded to a company in Hillsdale County.“I was very excited to hear the news,” Rep. Leutheuser said. “It’s encouraging to watch our local economy continue to improve and one of Hillsdale County’s own companies growing and competing successfully in their field. I am extremely grateful to Hi-Lex Controls for placing such confidence in the city of Litchfield.” Categories: Leutheuser News
Legislation gives drivers more choice, relief from nation’s highest costs State Rep. Pamela Hornberger joined a bipartisan coalition of legislators on Tuesday in the state Capitol as they unveiled a bill to reform Michigan’s broken auto no-fault insurance system and dramatically cut costs for drivers.Hornberger, of Chesterfield Township, helped unveil House Bill 5013, which lowers the cost of auto insurance in Michigan by offering motorists more coverage options, fighting fraud and reining in medical costs. Michigan currently has the most costly insurance premiums in the nation.“No-fault insurance reform is long overdue, and this bill provides the best solution to skyrocketing costs,” Hornberger said. “There has been much discussion about making auto insurance affordable, but no action has been taken. This bill will is a real solution that will save people money and deliver a product that fits their needs.”Michigan’s average full coverage auto insurance premium cost – nearly $2,400 per year – is more than $1,000 above the national average and twice as high as those in neighboring states.The new bipartisan plan gives motorists the option to continue to buy unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, or buy more affordable alternative coverage plans.The legislation:Gives individuals the choice on the extent of PIP coverage as part of their auto insurance. Choice levels include $250,000, $500,000 or unlimited;Allows seniors age 62 or older with lifetime health care benefits the option to opt out of PIP coverage to avoid the current double taxation, thus saving them up to $1,000 per year;Establishes fee schedules and attendant care limits to lower medical costs related to auto injuries;Helps the state ensure insurance companies are complying with state law, and creates a fraud authority to address fraudulent claims;Provides a state review of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) to make sure motorists are not overpaying for insurance;Addresses attorney fee costs and unfounded lawsuits while eliminating attorney conflict of interests with medical providers.Continues and guarantees benefits for Michiganders already receiving lifetime benefits due to catastrophic traffic accidents.“Everything else we buy usually has a variety of styles from which we can choose the one that fits our needs,” Hornberger said. “Likewise, there is no one-size-fits-all auto insurance plan that works for everyone. We deserve to have options.”The bill was referred to the House Insurance Committee.##### 28Sep Rep. Hornberger backs bill to cut no-fault auto insurance rates Categories: Hornberger News,News
17Apr House reacts to Governor’s latest position on Line 5: Stop partisan gamble on our Great Lakes Michigan House Republicans today responded to news that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has taken an about-face on rebuilding Line 5 and is now open to building a multi-use utility tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to house the energy pipeline.“It seems the governor knows good policy when she sees it but has been too busy placating her political base to do the right thing—until now,” said Majority Floor Leader Triston Cole, of Mancelona. “By stopping Line 5 reconstruction in the first place, the governor created a false crisis, which wasted valuable time and money spent planning for the project and delayed crucial energy rate relief for northern Michigan families.”House Republicans worked with the Snyder Administration on a solution to replace the aging Line 5 pipeline beginning in 2017. After thorough study, it was determined that building a tunnel 100 feet beneath the floor of Lake Michigan would be the safest option for transporting energy between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, as compared to other available options like rail transport or trucking.“I’m glad the governor has finally joined the Legislature at the table on this important issue,” said Rep. Joe Bellino, chair of the House Energy Committee. “Placing a new Line 5 in a tunnel 100 feet into the bedrock beneath Lake Michigan’s floor is the best solution available for keeping our Great Lakes safe from contamination and delivering reliable energy to Michigan residents, especially those in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. We need to set aside the partisan political games for good and get down to the important work of moving forward with this critical energy infrastructure project. Wasting years and millions of dollars on litigation will only extend the time that the aging, obsolete Line 5 sits on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.”The new tunnel would also pave the way for improved, cheaper delivery of propane, broadband and electricity to the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan, where energy rates continue to climb.“The governor knew all along that housing Line 5 in a multiuse utility tunnel deep beneath the floor of the Straits of Mackinac was the best and safest option for Michigan but could not bring herself to cooperate with Republican-backed policy,” said Rep. Beau LaFave, who, last week, introduced a resolution calling on the governor to move forward with the Line 5 project. “I’m glad the governor has finally gotten on board with a common-sense solution, but Michigan families need to know her commitment to dialogue goes deeper than political ties. She’s put the safety of hundreds of thousands of U.P. residents at risk for what amounts to a three week-long political stunt to curry favor with the extreme left-wing base of her party.” Categories: Cole News
The Michigan House today approved a landmark plan to fix our state’s broken car insurance system and reduce rates for all Michigan drivers, state Reps. Julie Alexander and Sarah Lightner announced.Both Jackson-area representatives voted in favor of a reform plan that will offer drivers personal injury coverage options, rein in medical costs and fight fraud – features designed to end Michigan’s long-standing tenure as the state with the costliest car insurance rates in the nation.“The Michigan Legislature has heard the concerns of drivers across the state—from Hanover to Houghton. We have delivered a solution,” Alexander, of Hanover, said after the vote. “Today’s auto insurance reform proves that when we roll up our sleeves and work together, we can deliver real results. I have said since day one that while we may not always agree on every issue, we can always agree to work together. I am honored to be a part of the Legislature that brought real cost-savings to Michigan drivers.”“The skyrocketing cost of auto insurance for Michigan drivers ends today,” Lightner, of Springport, said after the vote. “The reforms I voted for curb the waste, fraud and abuse that has weaseled its way into our auto insurance system and driven up costs. Michigan families have waited too long to see a fix to this broken system. I am proud to say that the wait is almost over; these are real reforms that will bring down the absurd costs to drive in this state.”Michigan’s auto insurance rates are elevated largely because we’re the only state mandating unlimited lifetime health care coverage through car insurance. The new reform allows those currently using the coverage to keep it, and those who want it in the future to continue buying it – while providing more affordable options.The plan:Guarantees lower rates for all Michigan driversGives drivers a choice on health coverage optionsStops price gouging on medical services for car accident victimsCombats fraudulent claims to help lower costsThe sweeping legislation now advances to the Senate for consideration. Categories: Lightner News 09May Reps. Alexander, Lightner vote to lower car insurance rates for Michigan drivers
Share9TweetShare1Email10 SharesPoland_4112 – Exodus / Dennis JarvisNovember 30, 2016; Global Government ForumNon-governmental organizations are coming to fear potential government control of Poland’s civil society organizations. As reported by the Global Government Forum, this fear grows as the Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło (elected in October 2015), announced the introduction of a bill to create a “Civil Society Department.” Acting as an arms-length government agency, the department will be set up to oversee and centralize the public funding of charities—or, in her words, “bring order to the whole sphere of NGOs.” According to the Guardian, leaked reports indicate that the government plans to open the center in 2017.NGOs typically rely a great deal on public funding. The Guardian reports that the news angers many Polish human rights activists, who fear the government is trying to put financial pressure on NGOs critical of Szydło and the conservative Law and Justice Party (abbreviated in Polish as PiS).Szydło rejects accusations that the center would direct financial pressure toward silencing anyone who “embarrasses or opposes” her and the PiS party. Instead, she argues that the center’s creation is meant to address the concerns of her and her party over the “lion’s share” of public funding underscoring more liberal ideologies. Szydło argues that the department will work to curtail public funding mechanisms she sees as “subordinate to the policies of the previous ruling system” and “redress inequalities” against more conservative, pro-government NGOs. These conservative groups include Ordo Iuris, described by the Guardian as a “religious fundamentalist think tank which recently tried to push through a blanket ban on safe and legal abortions. Its chairman, Aleksander Stepkowski, was deputy foreign minister in the PiS government until August.” Meanwhile, Global Government Forum notes some of the government’s more controversial recent moves, which include merging Poland’s human rights protection team into the larger European migration department, abolishing the state council for combating racism, and halting funding for women’s rights centers.Grzegorz Makowski, researcher at Warsaw University and head of the Stefan Batory Foundation’s Public Integrity Program, told the Global Government Forum that PiS is known to have a “particularly strained relationship with the third sector.” While details about the proposed center are still unclear, he stated concerns about the government using the center to feed more conservative NGOs. Other critics, like Krzysztof Śmiszek of the Center for Human Rights, as well as the deputy head of one of Poland’s largest national newspapers, Michał Szułdrzyński, further speculate that the center’s intended role in evaluating the civil society sector is comparable to systems in other former Soviet bloc countries like Russia and Hungary. “Since 2012, Russia has required that all NGOs that receive funding from abroad and are engaged in political activity to register as ‘foreign agents.’” NPQ has reported on similar developments in countries like China.The Global Government Forum states that according to an unnamed member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), an EU body that works with organized civil society…There is increasing evidence of the challenging circumstances in which NGOs find themselves operating in Europe. We are worried about the clear perception that in some EU countries the civic space is shrinking…Legal and extra-legal measures, such as changing the policy and financial environment, endanger civil society organizations in their existence and free action.Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, director of the Stefan Batory foundation, told the Guardian that the PiS party was defeated in Poland’s 2007 elections “because they hadn’t realized the value of media and NGOs.” She sees them as now building “an alternative civil society” that could keep them in power. Bielińska fears that this will result in the “hijacking” of valuable grants that Poland receives from other countries in Europe, such as the Norway EEA grants. Poland is the largest recipient of this multiple millions of euros’ worth of public grant funding. The Independent also confirms strengthening ties between the UK and Poland. Theresa May and Szydło recently met in Downing Street to discuss issues that included the upcoming launch of a “British-Polish civil society forum, which will meet for the first time in Warsaw next year.” NGO figures from both countries plan on working together to build post-Brexit alliances.Bielińska told the Guardian that the latest political developments could bring more attention to “cumbersome” mechanisms that member states experience while applying for EU funding. An activist who was imprisoned in the 1980s for her involvement in Poland’s Solidarity movement, Bielińska forewarns of the latest perceived attempts to silence NGOs. She believes that they “smell a lot like communist propaganda.” She argues that “the EU should act, or it risks that the few NGOs that we have in Poland will disappear.”—Noreen OhlrichShare9TweetShare1Email10 Shares
Share33Tweet24Share7Email64 SharesPixnio. Creative Commons 0. Public domain.October 10, 2017; News & Observer, Shelterforce, and the Star TribuneOver almost 30 years, public education systems have sought to improve the quality of education by increasing the importance of individual parental choice. Charter schools, open enrollment systems, school tuition vouchers, and tax credits have taken a larger place in public education, shifting power from school boards and community institutions to individual parents. We are now far enough along down this path to consider whether we have gone too far and are losing a valuable “public” component of our schools.The state of Minnesota was at the forefront of the effort to use the power of choice to move their schools forward. It was one of the first states to introduce publicly funded charter schools, and since 1988, open enrollment has allowed Minnesota parents to choose their children’s schools.Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change, recently captured the thinking behind these efforts for the Star Tribune: “No one can fault parents for seizing options to do what’s best for their children. It’s about the students. People of all races deserve options.”Prioritizing parental choice, however, has had a negative impact from a communal perspective. According to the Star Tribune:Because state education funding follows the pupil, the student exodus from their home district to other cities and charter schools is magnifying budget pressures in districts that lose more students than they gain. It’s also transforming the racial diversity of schools across the Twin Cities…The result: chronic budget shortfalls that are forcing many districts to cut more programs and confront questions about the viability of some neighborhood schools.By design, the more the balance is shifted toward parental choice, the more schools must compete for scarce resources by attracting and retaining students. Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts told the Star Tribune that districts will “try to do everything they can to retain resident students.” He then asked the key question, “Do the choice options lead to segregated schools and inadequate and inequitable educational opportunities for students?”For proponents of choice, individual outcomes are what counts. North Carolina State Representative Steve Wood recently told the News & Observer that he’s “not sure there’s anyone who’s ever been born who has the perfect formula for how many white kids, how many black kids, how many [Latinx] kids, how many [undocumented] kids, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, have to be in the classroom” to get the best education.Shelterforce, in an article looking at the interest community development loan funds have shown for charter schools, captured the lack of good data supporting claims that maximizing choice improves student outcomes.While school performance continues to spark ongoing debate, research based on multiple states documents that charter schools as a whole educate fewer students with special needs, particularly more severe needs; fewer English Language Learners; and fewer very-low income students than the charters’ sending school districts. As a result, these more challenging and expensive-to-educate students become concentrated in the district schools, even as charter school expansion diminishes the financial resources that districts require to pay for those students’ education.Despite the many evident negative outcomes of our 30-year experiment with school choice and making education less public and more personal, the impetus to continue has gotten stronger, not weaker. Some supporters argue that 30 years is just not long enough to complete the necessary transformation. The problems we see today, according to these advocates, are just transitional moments that will get ironed out when the work has been completed. In the end, we are assured, all children will be better off. To believe this is to believe that schools and education are unaffected by other societal issues like race and class.At best, ignoring larger, more difficult social issues makes the challenge of improving education seem more manageable and, in today’s environment, more politically correct. As Shelterforce noted,CDLFs…may see charter schools as a more manageable way to “solve” the problems faced by high-poverty public schools than trying to change the policies that drive our country’s growing economic inequality and segregation. CDLFs have generally been reluctant to wade into policy advocacy that falls outside the acquisition of additional resources to support their work—an understandable position for organizations that rely primarily on governments and financial institutions for their operating subsidies.At worst, “choice” has become a surrogate for racism and classism.Either way, how much longer can we afford the costs many children and communities are already paying?—Martin LevineShare33Tweet24Share7Email64 Shares
Freesat, the UK’s free-to-air DTH platform, has added five channels from Richard Desmond’s Five to its line-up.Freesat viewers now have access to US themed channel 5 USA, which airs classic US action movies and popular dramas on including CSI New York, Numbers and Law and Order, as well as entertainment channel 5*. Time-shifted channels Channel 5+1, 5 USA+1 and 5* are also now available on Freesat.Emma Scott, Freesat managing director said: “We know that Channel 5’s wide range of digital channels are hugely popular and adding them to the Freesat platform is a fantastic development for us and our customers. These additions further strengthen our entertainment genre as we continue to bring greater subscription-free choice to audiences right across the UK.”
Social networking sites are playing a pivotal role in marketing digital TV services and could be more important that network operators, according to an industry survey from Informa Telecoms & Media.Over 20% of respondents to Informa’s “Future of TV” survey said that social networking sites like Facebook are best-placed to build an audience for paid digital content, compared with only 16% for network operators. Despite Facebook’s minimal investment in TV compared with Apple or Netflix to date, the growth of tablets and the new trend for simultaneous multiscreen consumption means that Facebook is in an ideal position to take advantage of the social TV phenomenon, according to Informa.“Informa Telecoms & Media estimates that there will be over 100 million tablets sold worldwide this year alone. This explosion has fuelled the growth in social TV with many users already using Facebook, Twitter and other tools to communicate via their handheld devices about the content they are simultaneously viewing on the TV,” said Nick Thomas, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. This creates an opportunity for broadcasters and advertisers, said Thomas. “By harnessing the appeal of social media and connected ‘companion’ devices, they can create experiences which enhance – rather than distract from – the core TV viewing experience, and even improve the advertising experience.”Facebook’s role in the future of television – as both partner and disrupter – is developing in several ways, Thomas argues in a new white paper from Informa Telecoms & Media, The Future of TV: Strategies for Becoming Connected, Social and in the Cloud.“For broadcasters facing the threat of an on-demand, over-the-top future, Facebook can help enhance the value of live, scheduled programming,” he said. “For over-the-top providers such as Netflix, Facebook can help viewers to both discover and build communities around on-demand content. Perhaps most intriguingly, Facebook may emerge as a major distribution channel in its own right. Much of its extraordinary growth has been fueled by rich media content, primarily social games such as Cityville. If gaming on Facebook has started to plateau, then perhaps the next, even bigger, phase of Facebook’s development could be as a platform for consuming and sharing TV content.”Broadcasters with good content are also well-placed to benefit from social activity, although not all genres will benefit equally. According to the survey, sport, news and above all entertainment are the best fit for complementary second-screen experiences. Movies did not register in the survey. “Some content still warrants our undivided attention, it seems. It’s not just about having great programming, though – even scarce premium content needs a frictionless ‘companion experience’ if the value of a pay TV subscription is to be enhanced,” said Thomas. “The success of social TV depends on the ability of providers to add value to the core content through a companion experience. All stakeholders stand to benefit from a deeper dialog with their consumers, provided it is two-way: Don’t just talk at consumers, but don’t just eavesdrop on their conversations, either.”
Spain’s public broadcaster RTVE is adding HbbTV interactivity to two of its channels, while Poland’s TVP has completed a trial of the interactive TV standard.RTVE has launched HbbTV services alongside its 24h and TVE International channels. Users with connected TV sets that receive the channels via satellite will be able to access the RTVE.es news and information portal, which offers around 70,000 videos.In Poland, TVP has successfully completed trials of the interactive TV standard in partnership with TV technology companies Alticast and Icareus.The trials were conducted in Warsaw on the country’s DTT network using Alticast middleware and Icareus’s HbbTV applications, including the CS100 playout carousel.“Our middleware solution supports HbbTV because we believe it will continue to grow in importance across Europe as the industry looks for a standard that can truly unite traditional broadcast TV with the new wave of services delivered over broadband,” said Thomas Jung, chief marketing officer, Alticast. “It’s exciting to be working with such a trusted partner as Icareus to trial out HbbTV services in Poland and we’re really enthusiastic about the positive results. Connected TV’s march continues as consumers crave more exciting experiences and we fully expect HbbTV to play a huge part in this trend in Europe and beyond.”
Barry Diller-backed online TV redistribution platform has little intrinsic value and will not present a threat even if it wins its legal battle with broadcasters, according to Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes, speaking at the FT Digital Media conference this morning.Aereo could only provide free-to-air broadcast channels and had a very poor proposition even if it wins the legal argument, said Bewkes. “It’s charging $8 so you can have them on-demand – that’s all there is,” he said.Aereo recently won a court victory rejecting claims by firms including Disney and CBS that the service should be shut down.A ruling by the second circuit court of appeals in New York upheld a previous decision, denying an injunction against the firm for distributing broadcast television over the web.Last year Aereo was hit by lawsuits from 17 broadcasters including Fox, Univision, ABC, NBC, CBS, alleging that the service infringed their copyrights. They claimed that Aereo should not be allowed to retransmit television stations over the web without licensing the content from content owners or receiving consent from the TV signal owners.
Screen Hits is preparing to launch a new online service that will allow consumers to stream a selection of TV pilots from around the world.The company runs a B2B and a B2C online marketplace, allowing both buyers and consumers to screen content from international content companies.The Pilot Showcase will launch on July 1 and feature pilots from international producers.The pilots screening service will sit within the wider Screen Hits streaming platform for consumers. That service has content from producers and channels including Fox International Channels, Hasbro, Turner Broadcasting, Studio Hamburg, eOne, Lionsgate, Relativity, Myriad, Caracol, Venevision and Telemundo. Which producers will make pilots available has not been confirmed, but the roster will include some of the aforementioned content providers.Consumers will be able to watch the pilots online and place a pre-order, giving them more episodes should the pilot be taken to series.“The Pilot Showcase provides a new opportunity to give life to broken pilots and allows producers and studios to recoup some of their investment through showing their pilots and even more so, giving viewers a chance to pre-order a season of the show if it ever goes to series,” said Rose Adkins, CEO of ScreenHits.The pilots in question will be available for six months, providing producers with real-life consumer feedback on their content and helping to inform decisions about what could get taken to series. Screen Hits added that it is important that the number of pilots made available remain manageable and noted it is offering a ‘curated’ service.“We believe that great content should not be lost in a sea of titles,” Adkins said. “Many OTT platforms are becoming large back catalogue libraries with no standard quality checks for content. This isn’t beneficial to the consumer or the producer. ScreenHits will never show more than 200 show titles per quarter.”London-based Screen Hits recently raised US$1.2 million in a finding round.
Russian pay TV provider NTV+ has closed the acquisition of internet portal Sportbox.ru from state broadcast organisation RTR.The company said the move is in line with an order from President Vladimir Putin to establish a unified Federal sports TV channel. NTV+ and owner Gazprom Media previously acquired NST, owner of channel Match TV as well as RTR’s cable and satellite sports channels Sport, Sport 1, Sport 1 HD and Fight Club.NTV+ CEO Aleksander Vronsky said the consolidation of key assets such as Sportbox.ru into Match TV was a key step in the creation of a new national sport service. He said that the internet was the most important medium for sports content and that the group would pay “serious attention to the development of Sportbox.ru”.Match TV went on air as a free-to-air channel at the beginning of November.
Qatar-based telecom operator Ooredoo has launched a new TV service, replacing its legacy offering and including what it says is the region’s first commercial 4K TV service.Ooredoo TV, which replaces the existing Mozaic TV offering, includes apps, on-demand services and live TV, delivered via the company’s fibre network and in-home WiFi to multiple screens.The service is available on a self-install basis to the 260,000 homes in the Gulf state that have already been installed with Ooredoo fibre. Ooredoo has also introduced a ‘collect and go’ service for current Mozaic TV subscribers whereby they can visit one of the company’s retail outlets to collect their new set-top to take home.Ooredoo is offering its packages without an ongoing contract commitment or upfront charges, the company said.Ooredoo is offering four packages – Arabia Extra which includes Arabic channels, Asian Extra with sports, movies and news from across Asia, International Extra, including sport, family, factual and comedy channels from around the world, and Super Extra, combining all three of the previous packages. The company is promoting the service with two months’ free access to any Extra package.All bundles include 10Mbps broadband and free fixed-line calls.Ooredoo is also offering access to its own on-demand library and free, unlimited access to Ooredoo TV Club, which includes content from ABC Studios and Disney.Ooredoo has tapped Huawei to supply the technology for the service. Huawei Middle East president Charles Yang was present at a launch event at The Pearl-Qatar hotel.“This is a proud day for Ooredoo, as we take home entertainment to the next level in Qatar. Ooredoo tv will deliver more power, more choice and a smoother experience for customers and deploy the full strength of the Ooredoo Supernet. Our Mozaic TV customers will be amazed at how easy it is to upgrade to Ooredoo tv, and will be delighted by the quality of service when they do,” said Waleed Al Sayed, CEO of Ooredoo Qatar.“We believe we’ve built everything our customers could want into the Ooredoo TV service. It’s one of the most exciting new product launches in the history of Ooredoo.”
We WaitThe BBC has launched its first virtual reality (VR) production on the Oculus store.The film, titled We Wait, is an animated depiction of migrants making the dangerous boat journey from Turkey to Greece and was produced by BBC Connected Studio in collaboration with Aardman Digital.The VR experience first launched on the BBC Taster website earlier this year as part of the BBC’s unveiling of its first “true VR” pieces of content – alongside projects like history documentary Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel and VR fairy tale The Turning Forest.“This film going live on the Oculus store for the Rift opens the film up to a wider audience, and caps off a big year for VR at the BBC, as we continue to explore the potential this emerging medium has to inform, educate and entertain,” said BBC R&D executive producer, Zillah Watson.“Our VR experiments this year have enabled us to look at the role the BBC should play at this early stage, raising important questions over how storytelling, pacing, direction, subtitling, sound and picture quality are all affected.”BBC is also giving the UK premiere today of a new VR film depicting a Christmas Day fire, called Fire Rescue, at the London Fire Brigade’s new pop-up museum in Lambeth, London.
Jørgen Madsen LindemannModern Times Group (MTG) has extended its rights to broadcast UEFA Champions League football in Scandinavia until 2021.The broadcaster – which claims to be the only entertainment company in the world to have held the media rights the Champions League since it was launched in 1992 – will air the football via its free TV and Viasat channels, and Viaplay streaming service.MTG has taken the rights on an exclusive basis in Sweden and Denmark. In Norway, it has secured the rights to 108 of the games exclusively and will show the rest of the matches.MTG’s football output in Scandinavia also includes coverage of the English Premier League, England’s FA Cup, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1, Denmark’s Superliga, and the English League Cup and Championship.This is shown on a combination of MTG’s free TV channels, its Viasat pay TV channels and Viaplay streaming service, with rights differing between countries.“This is great news for football fans as virtually all leading international club football games can now be found through a single TV subscription for years to come,” said MTG president and CEO, Jørgen Madsen Lindemann.“We have enjoyed a long and successful partnership with UEFA and the TEAM agency, and are delighted to have extended these key rights. This year marks the 25th or silver anniversary of the launch of the phenomenally successful Champions League, so it is even more special to extend our partnership this year.”Peter Nørrelund, MTG EVP and CEO of MTG Sport added: “Football is more popular than ever globally and Nordic fans’ enthusiasm is growing every year. We have higher ratings, more viewing and more followers, and we are able to reach bigger audiences in more ways than ever before.”
Mediaset’s share price is likely to be volatile while uncertainty over the outcome of its legal fight with Vivendi remains a factor, according to analysts at Berenberg, who have placed a ‘hold’ rating on the Italian broadcaster’s stock.Berenberg said the legal battle will continue to be “a source of significant Mediaset share price volatility”, with Mediaset and Fininvest likely “holding out for more” than Vivendi might be willing to concede.Any court finding in favour of Mediaset is likely to be subject to appeal, and Mediaset’s share price “prices in nothing in terms of resolution”, said Berenberg.The falling apart of the planned JV between Telecom Italia and Canal+, which had been expected to acquire up to €460 of Mediaset’s content over a six-year period has added to uncertainty about the shape of any eventual resolution to the long-running feud between Vivendi and Mediaset, Berenberg noted.The analysts said that Mediaset’s cost-cutting programme is proceeding ahead of schedule, and that the Italian advertising market is expected to grow modestly this year, while the Spanish ad market is likely to be challenging. The latter, having performed better than Italy in the past, is now forecast to slow down, which could have a negative impact on Mediaset España and on Mediaset’s share price.Berenberg said that Mediaset’s strategy of scaling back its pay TV business and cutting costs would likely result in lower revenues but better long-term profitability. However, 2018 profitability is likely to be hit by writedowns, it said.