Sunday, May 7, 2017

Last Call For The Big Turnoff

By the time the Trump regime's reign is over, the resulting damage to our media integrity will be overwhelming, and will take decades to fix at best.  Even though we're only 100 days and change in, the mass consolidation of news outlets that slowed under Obama's FCC has now been fast-tracked under Trump FCC chief Ajit Pai and the industry is now heading steadily for virtual monopoly.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc (SBGI.O) is nearing a deal to acquire Tribune Media Co (TRCO.N) for close to $4 billion after prevailing in an auction for one of the largest U.S. television station operators, according to people familiar with the matter.

A potential deal for Tribune comes just weeks after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to reverse a 2016 decision that limits the number of television stations some broadcasters can buy.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, named by President Donald Trump in January, is planning to take a new look at the current overall limit on companies owning stations serving no more than 39 percent of U.S. television households.

Sinclair's deal for Tribune Media also represents a blow to Rupert Murdoch's ambitions to expand Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's (FOXA.O) broadcast assets.

Fox Networks Group chairman Peter Rice confirmed at the Milken Institute Global Conference last week that Fox was looking to buy Tribune Media because "having more scale and more control of distribution is important."

We're already down to a handful of media giants, Comcast, Viacom, Disney, News Corp, and Time Warner in who produces and distributes news in the US.  With the FCC reversing both limits on broadcast station ownership and net neutrality, deals where the companies that are left must band together in consolidation is now happening quickly.

None of this will be good for the American consumer or for what's left of our democracy.

The French Connection Election

Chalk up one time where our Gallic friends have shown wisdom far beyond their American counterparts as not only did the French media not fall for Putin's obvious last-minute WikiLeaks screw job to help Marine Le Pen, the French voters didn't fall for it either, and while turnout was low for French standards at about two-thirds of those eligible, the French overwhelmingly elected Emmanuel Macron to be France's next leader.

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has decisively won the French presidential election, projected results say.

Mr Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen by about 65.5% to 34.5% to become, at 39, the country's youngest president, the results show.

Mr Macron will also become the first president from outside the two traditional main parties since the modern republic's foundation in 1958.

He said that a "new chapter of hope and confidence is opening".

Mr Macron's supporters gathered to celebrate in central Paris after the bitterly fought election concluded on Sunday amid massive security.

The Macron team said that the new president had had a "cordial" telephone conversation with Ms Le Pen.

In a speech she thanked the 11 million people who had voted for her. She said the election had shown a division between "patriots and globalists" and called for the emergence of a new political force.

Macron looks like he'll end up winning by 30 points, far exceeding even the rosiest poll projections.  If I didn't know any better, I'd say Putin's win in America backfired miserably in France.  The good guys (and the EU) needed a win badly here, and got it.  Le Pen's win, combined with May in the UK, would have left Germany in an untenable position and the future of the EU in extreme doubt, without two of its three strongest economic and political members.

By the way, WikiLeaks is now pushing the story that Obama ordered the CIA to help Macron (they still work for Obama you see, because chapeau de papier peint) in the best case of projection since the Cannes Film Festival.

Viva la Revolution, indeed.

Sunday Long Read: The Scarlet Letter

Nate Silver has our Sunday Long Read this week as he takes an exhaustive look at the data on the effect of FBI Director James Comey's October Surprise letter on the polls, and concludes that Comey's interference and the media explosion surrounding it probably cost Clinton the election ten days later.

Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College. 
The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made. Other factors may have played a larger role in her defeat, and it’s up to Democrats to examine those as they choose their strategy for 2018 and 2020. 
But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure. The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College
And yet, from almost the moment that Trump won the White House, many mainstream journalists have been in denial about the impact of Comey’s letter. The article that led The New York Times’s website the morning after the election did not mention Comey or “FBI” even once — a bizarre development considering the dramatic headlines that the Times had given to the letter while the campaign was underway. Books on the campaign have treated Comey’s letter as an incidental factor, meanwhile. And even though Clinton herself has repeatedly brought up the letter — including in comments she made at an event in New York on Tuesday — many pundits have preferred to change the conversation when the letter comes up, waving it away instead of debating the merits of the case. 
The motivation for this seems fairly clear: If Comey’s letter altered the outcome of the election, the media may have some responsibility for the result. The story dominated news coverage for the better part of a week, drowning out other headlines, whether they were negative for Clinton (such as the news about impending Obamacare premium hikes) or problematic for Trump (such as his alleged ties to Russia). And yet, the story didn’t have a punchline: Two days before the election, Comey disclosed that the emails hadn’t turned up anything new. 
One can believe that the Comey letter cost Clinton the election without thinking that the media cost her the election — it was an urgent story that any newsroom had to cover. But if the Comey letter had a decisive effect and the story was mishandled by the press — given a disproportionate amount of attention relative to its substantive importance, often with coverage that jumped to conclusions before the facts of the case were clear — the media needs to grapple with how it approached the story. More sober coverage of the story might have yielded a milder voter reaction.

And this is really the crux of the issue here:  if the Comey letter doesn't get released here, Clinton most likely wins the Rust Belt states (WI, MI, PA) and the electoral college, even if Trump had still won Florida and NC.  She would be President.

Comey will have a lot to answer for (his testimony this week was a gigantic load of self-serving twaddle) but the media has a lot to answer for as well,and Silver lays out a very convincing case for both Comey and the media taking the responsibility for Clinton's narrow loss.

Clinton would have won with 278 electoral votes with these 3 states, and if she had taken NC and Florida as well she would have won with 322, more than Trump's actual 2016 total of 306.  It wouldn't have been close really, she would have won by more than 100 EVs in that case.

Bottom line: yes, Clinton made mistakes, but the Comey letter made the difference.
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