Big Tech Regulation ⬆️
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority this week blocked Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision on the grounds it didn’t adequately address competition concerns in the burgeoning cloud gaming sector. The deal isn’t dead in the water, but the setback provides another example of European regulators sticking up to Big Tech in a way too few of their American counterparts have. Let’s hope that imbalance evens itself out soon.
After months of speculation about the future of streaming at Warner Bros. Discovery, the company announced that the current HBO Max platform would drop the HBO from its title when it adds Discovery content on May 23.
Will it be a hit? Given the consistent buzz surrounding HBO series (“White Lotus,” “Succession”) and the platform’s impressive bench of movies old and new, I’m leaning toward yes. Still, the slate of Discovery series joining the lineup is heavy on guilty-pleasure reality shows (“Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge,” “My Feet Are Killing Me”) that might rub up awkwardly against HBO’s prestige fare. That’s not a problem in itself, so long as Max brings in viewers, but it could lead to the sort of quantity-over-quality criticisms that have long dogged Netflix.
JB Perrette, the company’s president of global streaming, says Warner Bros. Discovery expects 130 million subscribers by 2025. A respectable number, but Max has its work cut out for it if the goal is closing the 100 million-subscriber gap between it and Netflix and Disney.
The CBC ⬆️
The Canadian Broadcast Corporation is putting up a tenacious fight against conservative efforts to cut off its public funding, an especially fraught issue this time around as it involves arguments over French vs. English programming and the audiences they reach. No matter, the CBC is standing firm in saying that preserving taxpayer funds for francophone content would require a drastic rearrangement of broadcasting law.
Les Echos ⬆️
The Writers Guild of America ⬆️
The French business newspaper, one closely followed by industry heavy hitters across Europe, recently saw a protest by its journalists after owner Bernard Arnault fired editor-in-chief Nicolas Barré. Newsroom staff contend the removal was motivated by a review in the paper of a book criticizing Vincent Bolloré, a fellow billionaire of Arnault’s. Kudos to the journalists for pushing back against the sort of encroachment on editorial by business that’s gotten all too common.
And in another win for organized media protesting, congratulations to the WGA for battening down the hatches as a potential labor strike looms, with much of it centered on writers sharing in a larger part of streaming profits.
Debate on campuses ⬆️
It’s been almost eight years since a scandal at Yale over the right to wear risque Halloween costumes became a national news story and set off a fevered debate–still raging today–over freedom of expression, no matter how hurtful, on American college campuses. I’ve been alarmed by the sometimes violent reactions by students to guest speakers they disagree with. While the generally toxic tone of public discourse is bound to upset some, our campuses must not stifle the free speech of those whose opinions counter the majority of students’.
So it was encouraging to see a group of 50 Harvard faculty members create the Council of Academic Freedom there with the goal of ensuring “free inquiry, intellectual diversity and civil discourse.” As David French wrote in the Times, Harvard is not alone in recommitting itself to these important values. Administrators at Cornell, Stanford and Vanderbilt have also recently pushed back against items ranging from mandatory trigger warnings on course syllabi to shouting down conservative panelists. Censorship is an enemy of liberal democracy, and it’s crucial that our youngest adults learn how to disagree, debate and, yes, take offense without resorting to potentially dangerous hysterics.
Bon Appetit ⬇️
Dawn Davis, not even three years after taking the helm at Conde Nast’s premier food publication, is leaving the magazine and returning to Simon & Schuster. That may be the publishing house’s gain, but it’s another mark against Bon Appetit, whose quality has faltered and buzz has quieted since a 2020 uproar over shoddy inclusion practices.
The social media platform that reigns supreme over Gen Z continues to hit some speed bumps as it conquers the globe. British authorities last week fined the company $15.9 million for illegally granting access to children under 13, who in the UK need parental consent for organizations to use their data. And Montana could soon become the first US state to flat-out ban the Chinese service over privacy concerns. But such a ban would almost certainly not work, and advertising by US companies on TikTok jumped by 11% last month. TikTok isn’t going anywhere, but will America devise more common sense regulations that safeguard its users?
Election coverage ⬆️
Election coverage ⬇️
I’ll be publishing my take on the massive shakeup at Fox News this week. But for the purposes of the Dozen, I’m looking at the firing of Tucker Carlson (and less seismic dismissal of Don Lemon at CNN) as good news for political journalism in a week when Joe Biden formally announced his 2024 bid. That campaign might end up a rematch between Biden and Donald Trump. Both cable news talking heads owed their rise to the divisive chaos of the Trump years and the bottomless demand for on-air bloviating that accompanied it. Their simultaneous downfalls, though not strictly related to splenetic oratory, just may signal a shift toward less bluster in news reading and analysis in the coming cycle. I remain an optimist!
That said, as we steel ourselves for the 2024 presidential campaign, news from Venezuela offers cause for concern: President Nicolas Maduro’s besieged administration took advantage of software, developed in the UK, to produce English-language Deep Fake news reports downplaying the country’s economic shambles. The phony clips circulated widely before being pulled by YouTube, but how much damage could such productions do here and abroad before gatekeepers, not to mention regular viewers, catch on?
Another week, another Twitter debacle that enrages users. The most recent one was the site’s removal of blue checks for certified users. Twitter now requires people to pay for the dubious honor, but few seem to have shelled out, and Elon Musk admitted to granting a few checkmarks himself to celebrity users he’s partial to. In response to this disappointment, several well-known users hyped Substack Notes as a new “digital town hall.” Considering the fate of previous Twitter usurper Mastodon (remember Mastodon, anyone?), I’m not convinced this is the final nail in the bird site’s coffin.