ShareTweetShareEmail0 SharesJune 19, 2014; Center for Public IntegrityThe announcement that the IRS just nixed the 501(c)(4) application of Arkansans for Common Sense accomplishes two things. One is that it shows that the IRS is not targeting solely right wing Tea Party groups, but has taken aim more broadly at groups that are overly partisan in their politics regardless of their left or right leanings. The other, coming in the wake of Congressional hearings chaired by Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) and Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), is that the IRS scandal that started with the admission of Lois Lerner of the special scrutiny given to Tea Party-affiliated 501(c)(4) applicants merits an independent review.In its rejection letter, the IRS wrote to Arkansans for Common Sense that it was “not primarily operated for the promotion of social welfare for the people of the community because [its] primary activities are the participation in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for public office.” According to the Center for Public Integrity, the organization “played a prominent role in the failed re-election bid of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln in 2010.”The organization received its unwelcome rejection letter just before Lois Lerner’s admissions about the Tea Party 501(c)(4) reviews. However, the organization is now defunct, so whatever it did in its election support of Senator Lincoln is now part of the history of a group that isn’t around to rap on the knuckles. The reality is that many of the 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations—those approved as well as those queuing up for IRS approvals—have precious little social welfare content to their activities. The IRS should have been taking a harder look at these organizations all along and whacking the applications of many whose social welfare activity was, in retrospect, proportionally microscopic.But that leads to the second element of this story: It’s time to take the Lerner scandal and the Service’s review of 501(c)(4) applicants out of the hands of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), whose immediate report on the Tea Party reviews was not a particularly well done piece of work, and out of the hands of the Issa and Camp committees, whose political venom makes enemies of Democrats who should be allies in trying to fix the IRS rather than score points for or against the Obama administration.The chief archivist at the National Archives, David Ferriero, testified this week that the IRS “did not follow the law” and had not followed proper record-keeping procedures regarding the emails of Lois Lerner and other officials lost due to hard drive crashes, particularly in the agency’s failure to report the crashes and lost emails. IRS commissioner John Koskinen said, in explanation of the quotidian nature of the Lerner hard drive crash, that 2,000 IRS employees have had their hard drives crash just since January 1st of this year alone. Who would have imagined that the agency that tells taxpayers to keep copies of tax records for years at a time would be beset by computer crashes?On CNN, CNN correspondent John King, the Associated Press’s Julie Pace, and National Journal writer Ron Fournier could barely contain their snickers as they replayed Koskinen’s response to Representative Issa’s question about whether he had tipped off the White House about the lost emails—“I did not. If you have any evidence of that, I’d be happy to see it.” The “evidence” phrase made Koskinen sound like a defendant on Law & Order. Pace said Koskinen’s (or the IRS’s) “tone seems a little bit off if these are emails that just simply disappeared. You might imagine that someone might say, ‘Hey, we’re really sorry about that,’” and Fournier pointed out that Koskinen’s answer was more like “I’m innocent—but if you happen to have anything that suggests I’m not innocent, I’d love to know.”“A year ago exactly tomorrow, I called for a special prosecutor in this case while giving the president the benefit of the doubt,” Fournier concluded. “I now realize how naive I was to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. This needs to be investigated by an independent prosecutor.”There are serious issues now at stake: rebuilding the public’s trust and confidence in the IRS, ensuring that the Service gets the resources it needs to do its job (including keeping staff computers operational), and fixing systemic problems that seem to have existed prior to the Lerner scandal. Fournier’s recommendation seems to be right—it’s time for a review and correction, independent of TIGTA and independent of the congressional scrum.—Rick CohenShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
Share22Tweet11ShareEmail33 SharesMural on Unused West Philadelphia Public School / David HilowitzMay 17, 2016; Keystone CrossroadsWe are well aware that many students are not being well served by our public schools. Educating some children ends up more difficult and more expensive than others. We know that not every district can raise and spend the same amount of money on their students. But we do not often know what it would really cost to properly fund public education and overcome the barriers placed before students in low-income communities.The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia just released a study that fills in the missing data for the State of Pennsylvania. They found that across the state, public schools would need to gain increased funding of between $16.5 billion and $18.6 billion if they were to ensure that every child could meet state standards.The PILC study took a formula previously developed by a state commission charged to look at the cost of educating various cohorts of students. The formula considered the “increased need for resources for: students living in poverty; English language learners; students in charters; and, school districts in sparse or rural areas with lower enrollment.” PILC applied the formula using actual enrollment data to develop a projected cost that would support an educational program that gave each student all of the needed supports to meet the state’s desired outcomes. They also determined that if responsibility for raising the additional funds were shared following the current Pennsylvania pattern, $3.2 and $4.3 billion would be needed in new state funding, with the balance coming from local district resources. Placing this amount in context, Pennsylvania’s proposed total 2016-2017 general fund budget is $32.7 billion.With a target for providing for the needs of all students, including the most disadvantaged, on the table, how realistic is finding these new monies? From the immediate reactions to the PILC recommendations, the will is not there.Recognizing that this was too large a bill to be paid in one year, PILC lowered the hurdle by recommending taking eight years to ramp up the funding levels. But even that pace seems beyond the will of the state’s political leadership. In an interview, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said that even doing this in eight $400 million steps was politically impossible. Proving his point, Jenn Kocher, a Republican legislative spokesperson, said, “They’re making an assumption that more money will buy you a better education, and we haven’t seen evidence of that.”Despite these protestations, we know that educational funding levels do matter. The Education Law Center’s 2016 Funding Report Card found “low rankings on school funding fairness correlate to poor state performance on key indicators of essential education resources, including less access to early childhood education, non-competitive wages for teachers, and higher teacher-to-pupil ratios.”Pennsylvania is not an outlier on the issue of properly funding its children’s education. Similar computations of what is actually needed have come up with similar results: “In a 2011 report, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center estimated that schools are underfunded by at least $2 billion.”The alternative approach to finding the will to raise the funds that are needed had been to address the differences between what wealthy districts and poorer districts actually spend and try to reallocate resources so that the most disadvantage students get a larger share of the budget. But these efforts run also find themselves running into gale force political winds.Liz King, director of education policy at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights recently challenged policymakers, asking, “When is it ever okay to spend less money on the education of poor children than we spend on the education of non-poor children?” Unfortunately, in many states, the answer is “always.”—Martin LevineShare22Tweet11ShareEmail33 Shares
Sky Italia is launching a series of new features on its Sky Go service, including an on-demand service for tablets, PCs and Macs and the addition of new channels, and is widening the availability of the service.Sky Italia is adding a new free on-demand service for customers who have been Sky subscribers for at least one year. The service will have over 600 titles available initially, according to Sky.Sky Go will also now be available to all Sky subscribers. Previously the service was available only to Sky HD customers.Sky is also adding the Sky Arte, Fox Life and DeAKids channels to the service, bringing the total number of channels available on Sky Go to 28. The News Corp-owned pay TV operator is also making the service available to most Samsung smartphones.Sky Go was launched nine months ago in Italy and currently has 1.1 million customers signed up, according to Sky Italia.“Sky Go provides our subscribers with the best possible TV-on-the-move experience; the comprehensive on-demand library and the rich ‘live’ channel offering make it the most advanced and customized service on the market,” said Andrea Zappia, CEO of Sky Italia. “We have always offered the best and most user-friendly technology so that any innovation can be easily enjoyed by all our subscribers. These changes are also proof that our investments always aim at adding extra value for our subscribers. In particular, we focus on customers who have been subscribers for at least one year, to whom we offer exclusive access to Sky Go’s On Demand section, as is already the case with our On Demand service.”
A range of Chello Zone channels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have been rebranded as CBS services from today.Zone Romantica, Zone Reality and Zone Europa have been renamed as CBS Drama, CBS Reality and CBS Europa respectively under the extension of an agreement that originally applied to Chello Zone’s channels in the UK. The new-look channels will be reprogrammed to include series and TV movies from CBS’s library of over 70,000 hours of titles.
Canal Plus has launched a new multiscreen subscription video-on-demand offering as part of its CanalPlay service.CanalPlay Infinity now offers access to unlimited VOD targeted at second screen users for €6.99 a month. The service allows access to films and TV series on PC and Mac computers and connected tablets.CanalPlay Infinity, launched in 2011, provides access to content from French and international content providers including Warner, Gaumont, Universal, Disney, Pathé and the BBC. The latest offer is designed to complement the existing CanalPlay service offered via SFR, Free and Bouygues Telecom’s TV boxes for €9.99.
Russian broadcaster CTC Media reported a 10% increase in operating revenues in the second quarter thanks to ad market growth in the country, but saw net income slip by 7% year-on-year.The firm said that revenues for the quarter were US$206 million (€155 million), up 10% in dollar terms and 13% in ruble terms, reflecting an approximate 11% growth in the Russian ad market.Some 97% of CTC’s total operating revenue came from advertising, with CTC Media’s flagship CTC Channel’s reporting a 9% increase in operating revenues in the second quarter in US dollar terms.The female skewing Domashny Channel saw revenues increase by 18% in dollar terms year-on-year, with gains also recorded at CTC’s Peretz channel and Channel 31 in Kazakhstan.However, audience share at each of the networks declined year-on-year during the quarter, except at CTC Channel where it went from 10.2% last year to 11.3% this year, thanks to an increased amount of first-run content compared to the second quarter of 2012.Net income was down 7% year-on-year in dollar terms to US$31.6 million. This marked a 4% decrease in ruble terms.Commenting on the results, CTC’s newly appointed CEO Yuliana Slashcheva added: “On the digital media front, we are pleased that the CTC channel is among the top five most popular smart TV widgets in Russia, and the reach of the company’s new media projects continues to increase. In the second quarter, the number of unique monthly visitors across all digital platforms on which CTC Media is present averaged 8.7 million, a twofold increase year-on-year.”
Russian pay TV operator NTV+ has added kids channel KidsCo to its programming line-up.The channel will be available in the operator’s Light West, Basic and Basic Plus packages. The channel will include a range of animated content as well as a SyFy Kids branded block.
De Vijver Media’s new shareholder structure.Telenet has bought a 50% stake in Belgium’s De Vijver Media, after buying Finnish media group Sanoma’s shares for €26 million and making an additional €32 million cash investment in the firm.De Vijver Media CEO Wouter Vandenhaute and his business partner Erik Watté keep 25 % of De Vijver Media through their company W&W, while Belgian media group Corelio also retains 25 % of the company’s shares.De Vijver Media owns media company SBS Belgium, the channels VIER and VIJF and production house Woestijnvis.With the deal, Telenet said that its long-term backing will give SBS and Woestijnvis “the necessary breathing space to develop their strategy further,” as well as new financial and technological possibilities for the Flemish audiovisual sector to continue predicting local programmes.“Our objective is to offer Flemish viewers the best and most modern multimedia entertainment. A participation in De Vijver Media should make this possible. Of course, this is not an obvious step for a cable company, but I am convinced that the Flemish media landscape can only get stronger with this participation and that Flemish viewers will benefit,” said Telenet CEO John Porter.Wouter Vandenhaute, CEO of De Vijver Media added: “Telenet’s investment allows us to look at the future with confidence. Woestijnvis wants to remain a strong and innovative production house and VIER and VIJF want to continue growing. A television landscape with, in addition to a public broadcasting corporation, two commercial players, offers the best guarantee in the long term to provide quality to Flemish viewers, who have been spoiled these last two years. Telenet will not only give us the necessary support, their technological know-how can also seriously help us to carve out a strong position in a sector which will evolve more and more over the coming years.”
Qatar-based satellite operator Es’hailSat has ordered its second satellite, which will be built by Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric (Melco).The satellite, Es’Hail 2, will be positioned at the Middle East hotspot of 26° East. It will have a Ku- and Ka-band payload and will provide TV distribution and government services as well as the first satellite capacity for Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation.The satellite is expected to launch at the end of 2016. Es’hail 1 was launched on December 18 last year and provides satellite capacity to Al Jazeera and BeIN Sports, among others.“With the success of our first satellite – Es’hail 1 – we are delighted to move forward with our satellite procurement programme with Melco. Es’hail 2 demonstrates both our commitment to providing premium satellite capacity for broadcasters in the MENA region and to building a sustainable satellite industry for the State of Qatar,” said Ali Al Kuwari, CEO of Es’hailSat.
A+E Networks has chosen Clearleap to provide technology for IP on-demand video services in the US and Canada.The partnership, which launched this month, marks the first agreement between both companies and includes the opportunity for the addition of multiplatform services.While its partnership currently applies only to the US and Canada, Clearleap said that historically, many of its US-based customers have expanded their international presence using Clearleap’s technology.“The logistics of publishing on-demand content have become dramatically complex,” said Richard Shirley, A+E Networks’ vice-president of distribution business development. “At A+E, we’re always looking to leverage technologies that will help us manage complexities and ensure the content viewers are looking for is available when they want it.”