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The Journal Editor and Publisher is reporting that at least 49 daily newspapers, most with circulations of 100,000 or higher, have joined a new national sports content-sharing alliance that plans to begin trading stories and columns in September. Among the newspapers that have signed on to the arrangement are The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The approach is modeled on the Ohio News Organization, which the Plain Dealer and seven other Ohio dailies created last year. That group has a similar restricted Web site to which each paper contributes and takes news and sports stories. Sports content sharing is not new among newspapers in recent years. The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., began this summer to use baseball game stories from the Daily News of New York, while the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News have an arrangement in which one paper covers the Texas Rangers and the other covers the NHL Dallas Stars and NBA Dallas Mavericks. Tribune Co. recently began consolidating some coverage of national sports beats within its newspaper chain, particularly between the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.
Bloomberg is reporting that U.S. regulators are considering a single ratings system that would warn parents of programming on television, video games, and wireless telephones that could be inappropriate for children. The Federal Communications Commission will begin the inquiry after an agency report to be delivered Aug. 31 to Congress on media blocking and rating techniques. Lawmakers have expressed concern over the appropriateness for children of programming that once was confined to television, and now may appear on less-easily monitored platforms such as computer and telephone screens. The FCC said in a March 2 document asking for comments for its report that children aged 8 to 18 used media, including television, video players, video games and computers, for close to five hours each day. The agency said it wanted to examine ways “to shield children from inappropriate content in this rapidly changing media environment.” Major broadcasters, along with trade groups for wireless providers including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless and for software makers such as Microsoft Corp., have voiced opposition to the plan. TV programs already are assigned ratings by broadcasters, and TV sets contain technology called the V-chip that can block display of all programs with a common rating. The Entertainment Software Association, a Washington-based trade group, said in a May 18 filing at the FCC that the agency has no jurisdiction over video games and their ratings systems. Members include Microsoft,Viacom Inc.’s MTV Games unit and units of Sony Corp., according to the association’s Web site.
Mercury News.com is reporting that digital music download sales are rapidly approaching CD music sales. According to a new report by researcher NPD Group, CDs made up 65 percent of all music sold in the first half of 2009, but they state that digital downloads are quickly catching up. The report shows the current trend to be that digital music sales increase15 percent to 20 percent a year — and CD sales dropping at an equal pace — indicating that purchasing tunes on discs is quickly becoming a thing of the past. By 2011, NPD expects digital sales to eclipse CDs. While consumers are increasingly buying their music online, industry experts say as much as 10 times more music is obtained illegally through peer-to-peer Web sites. The move to digital music has also cost the record industry in other ways; online shoppers are more apt to buy single songs instead of higher-margin CDs. Nearly 70 percent of consumers who paid for digital music during the first half of 2009 bought from iTunes, the report said. Amazon MP3 was a distant second with 8 percent of digital music sales. Walmart leads all sellers of CDs with a 20 percent share of the physical music market, followed by Best Buy at 16 percent and Target and Amazon tied at 10 percent each.
Stars and Stripes is reporting this week that has obtained documents that prove that dispite claims to the contrary, the Pentagon is secretly rating the work of reporters in Afghanistan as “positive,” “neutral” or “negative. Moreover, the documents — recent confidential profiles of the work of individual reporters prepared by a Pentagon contractor — indicate that the ratings are intended to help Pentagon image-makers manipulate the types of stories that reporters produce while they are embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The new revelations of the Pentagon’s attempts to shape war coverage come as senior Defense Department officials are acknowledging increasing concern over recent opinion polls showing declining popular American support for the Afghan war. The reporter profiles are being prepared for the Pentagon by The Rendon Group, a controversial Washington-based public relations firm. According to Stars and Stripes, the Rendon profiles include explicit suggestions detailing how best to manipulate reporters’ coverage while they are imbedded with US military units. Several professional journalists’ groups as well as media ethicists criticized the Pentagon’s attempts to rate and manipulate reporters. And at least one military official with knowledge of the profiling system has also begun to raise objections. Said the unnamed service member, who declined to be identified for fear of official retribution: “It’s troubling that the military is contracting a private PR firm, paid with U.S. taxpayer dollars, to profile individual reporters,” “It shows utter contempt for the Constitution, which we in the service pledge our lives to defend.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a broadband study last week concluding that there continues to be a digital divide between urban, rural and metro areas and suggests broadband speed is integral to bridging that divide. The study found that, in 2007, while 55% of U.S. adults had broadband access, only 4% of adults in rural households could make the same claim. The study said that the shortfall may be due to the cost of service or lack of service due to lower returns on sparsely populated areas. Some of the lower-service areas attributed to small populations and ageing populations, the study found, are clustered in North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Oregon. The study also found that of those rural households with Internet connections, 70% had a broadband connection vs. 84% for urban households. USDA has $2.5 million in economic stimulus grant and loan money to help close the digital divide, along with existing programs under the 2008 Farm Act.
In international news, Al Haaretz is reporting that Israeli officials have demanded that the Swedish government denounce a recent article by a top Swedish newspaper alleging that Israel Defense Forces soldiers kill Palestinian civilians in order to harvest their organs. This past Friday, the Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan met with Deputy Foreign Minister of the Scandinavian country and urged his government to issue a denunciation of the article. Deputy Foreign Minister Frank Belfrage emphasized his country's freedom of speech and how it limits the ability of the government to respond to articles in the media. The stance of the Swedish deputy foreign minister was backed up on Saturday by the country's prime minister. The article claims that as far back as 1992, the IDF had removed organs from Palestinian youths killed in clashes. It also makes a link to an alleged crime syndicate in New Jersey, which includes several members of the American Jewish community, as well as one Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, who faces charges of conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant. The article has enraged Israeli officials, who called it blatantly racist and said it played on vile anti-Semitic themes. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, writing in a blog post late Thursday that he would not condemn the article as "freedom of expression is part of the Swedish constitution."