Sunday, October 25, 2009

Global News Link: EU Press Freedom

See the latest report on press freedom by Reporters Without Borders
In the EU, Bulgaria is at the bottom with both France & Spain falling

See UNESCO's support of press freedom

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Society of the Spectacle

Guy Debord was a writer who was part of a group called the “Situationists. They advocated found and fabricated “situations,” like the order of city streets or public protests. Any environment was a situation that needed responsible reaction. In 1967, Guy Debord created a book and eventual film called The Society of the Spectacle. It is the best known Marxist critique of mass media, released shortly before the rising consciousness of May 1968.

Society of the Spectacle starts by explaining that the world is an immense accumulation of images that sell capitalism. There is however a totalitarian control of all media, mainly through television, and now the internet. Mass media and advertising are owned by powerful people who sell the ideology of advanced capitalism in the way that religion was sold in the past. Debord actually sees the transition from Orthodox icons to propaganda posters to capitalist media.


The spectacle is not a collection of images but a social relation mediated by images.”: The false reality of the spectacle is called “false consciousness.Debord proposed that people now build relationships through the spectacle, meaning you may talk to someone about a movie, but never talk with them as a person.

Today’s media shows a fake reality in order to mask the capitalist degradation of human life.

The spectacle presents itself as a vast inaccessible reality that can never be questioned. Its sole message is: ‘What appears is good; what is good appears.’ The passive acceptance it demands is already effectively imposed by its monopoly of appearances, its manner of appearing without allowing any reply.

The spectacle is the ruling order’s nonstop discourse about itself, its never-ending monologue about of self-praise, its self-portrait at the stage of totalitarian domination of all aspects of life.

The alienation of the spectator, which reinforces the contemplated objects that result from his own unconscious activity works like this: The more he contemplates, the less he lives; the more he identifies with the dominant images of need, the less he understand his own life and his own desires.

The constant decline of use value that has always characterized the capitalist economy has given rise to a new form of poverty within the realm of augmented survival

Media & Economics

Media: Tools of communication
Economics: Concerns production, distribution, and consumption of resources

Media & Economics concerns the direction of resources to funding, advertising and ownership of media.

Network, 1976

Just as American media dealt with television & politics before Europe, it should also be noted that America media dealt with commercial funding issues and subscription television before Europe. America was already dealing with "selling out" in the 1970's when the film Network appeared while Europe was still most state funded at the time.

In Papathanassopoulos' The Funding of Television in the Age of Digitalization, he describes that after deregulation in the 80’s and early 90’s, digital television was the next phase of socio-economic development. The result was more diversification and a more competitive market. While you see a delay in Europe behind the US in commercialization, due to the increasing globalization of technology, digitalization happens by a closer margin at comparable times.

European television advertising resulted in $30 billion in revenue in 1996. The Nordic countries have historically attracted advertising to print, as with Germany. Other countries emphasize TV advertising over print. Researchers speculate that advertising will play an increasingly small role in funding television. The increase seen in Europe simply corresponds to economic growth in general.

Italy and Spain ban alcohol ads on television and the Evin law of 1991 bans alcohol advertising in France on television and now the internet. Under the law, alcohol adverts are only allowed in the print media, on the radio and in sales outlets.

Television networks also make money through sponsorship, which is increasingly attractive to brands who want to associate with events. Barter is common for game shows, meaning backing the show with products and content direction.

The author suggests that pay TV will increase. The types include traditional, subscription to premium, and versions of video-on-demand. Spain and Italy were new in the scene but France was established with Canal +. France is the second largest pay TV in Europe.

With digital television is the fragmentation of audiences. This means advertisers must be more selective and can target groups. The economic climate effects both digital and pay TV which reduce in recessions. The author concludes with a long list of strategies to advance digital television, including packages and added value such as sports tickets.Finally he states that though digital television is a bigger market, there is more competition than ever.

Case Study: Canal+
•Canal+ started in 1984, earning 1 million subscribers by 1986
Canal Satellite started in 1996
Has supported film production, including David Lynch’s last 3 films
Began broadcasting in digital in 2005
Has Canal+ is a brand that has also been extended to other countries and is part owned by the French network including Spain, Netherlands, Poland and others
Carries American shows like The Daily Show and South Park
Is owned by Vivendi, a French media conglomerate. Vivendi has had financial ups and downs but claimed earnings of $30 billion in 2008.
Vivendi owns the American school publisher Houghton Mifflin
Vivendi Universal is owned in majority stake by GE/NBC Universal but Vivendi owns 20% of NBC Universal

Advertising Case Study: Louis Vuitton
Estimated at least 200 million annually
Most advertising budgets do not include internal means of marketing such as websites which have flash videos and commercials, as well as the sponsorship of events which is growing
Important new client as in 2008 they were convinced to finally create both television and cinema spots
Over the past year the company has been promoting a global “journey” print and commercial campaign using celebrities to represent life journeys, including Gorbachev.

Print Advertisements in Europe
Importantly the general category of print ads can mean magazines, newspapers and also public space such as billboards. Some campaigns are also used on the internet. Importantly print ads provide materials for cultural semiotics and understanding the regional value systems.

What makes an advertisement seem European versus Global?

Service Plan, Germany above and Nike by DDB Paris, both 2009

Media Ownership
In Marc Hayward's article "Vernacular Geopolitics and Media Economies in an Enlarged Europe," in Media in the Enlarged Europe he addresses the relationship between Italian media and the Middle East. He identifies two specific incidents in 2001. The first is Silvio Berlusconi, politician and media magnet’s deal with Saudi Prince Al Waleed to sell a shares of his energy company in order to prevent a conflict of interest as Prime Minster.

Al Waleed is an entrepreneur and international investor, but does not have real political power within the House of Saud or in Saudi Arabia, he has amassed a fortune through investments in real estate, the stock market and businesses. He has never held political office. He has 17 honorary degrees and is an honorary citizen of Cannes and received the president’s medal of honor from Sarkozy.

At the approximate time that Al Waleed worked with Burlesconi, RAI was also backed by Al Waleed and Al Baraka bank for global distribution.

•Radio Televisione Italiana (originally Radio Audizioni Italiane)

•Founded in 1945

•State owned like the BBC, and dominates the market like the BBC against Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Sky Italia

•Funded by a TV license fee similar to the BBC

•Diversified like the BBC to include radio, terrestrial, digital, theme channels and reaching near by countries

•Averages 3 billion annually in revenue

The greater question that the author has is what is meant by the combined Italian-Arab expansion of media? Arab Radio Television is an Arab backed channel funded in Rome for distribution. Italian media is being supported by Arabs for global distribution and Arabic Media is being supported by Italians for global distribution. The result is transnational, geopolitical alliances that transcend traditional political systems like the UN. However the author notes that the countries were supporting distribution, not influencing content. Importantly understanding the relationship between Italy and the Middle East is part of understanding an enlarged Europe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

State of Emergency

Carl Schmitt was a German philosopher who first wrote a book called “On Dictatorship” in 1922. He was interested in the power granted to the president to declare a “state of emergency.” This power was seen as the essence of dictatorship, rather than rational legal authority (bureaucracy). Schmitt was actively part of the Nazi party and refused to renounce it, so after the war he lived in exclusion. Later in 2005, Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben wrote a book called “State of Exception,” in which he explained that in a crisis a government will make exceptions to laws. By maintaining a constant “state of emergency,” a government seems justified to make decisions on demand, in exception to bureaucracy. A “state of emergency,” is the legal form that has no form.

For Agamben the state of emergency was the rise of the Nazi regime, the post WWII Cold War efforts and more recently 9-11, which continues in Iraq. Agamben writes, “the state of emergency since then has become the norm.” The media actively support the “state of emergency” through fear based news. Following Agamben’s book release in Italy, fashion photographer Steven Meisel made a photo series for Italian Vogue in September 2006. Like Badiou getting French media attention for writing about Sarkozy, Agamben's influence on Italian fashion press shows the integration of intellect into European media.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Privacy, Scandal & Misinformation

Privacy, scandal and misinformation are continually negotiated by the media. Often, privacy must be compromised to get at the truth of a scandal, which boosts ratings. During a scandal, misinformation can become the focus of media, continually updating the latest truth.

Almost every French president has been part of a scandal in some capacity, most notably Mitterand for hidden health issues and an illegitimate daughter Mazarine Pingeot, below.

Sarkozy has made the press mainly for his personal relationships. He was married in 1982 and had two children, with the best man in his wedding later being a direct political opponent. He then officiated the wedding of Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz in 1988 and in 1989 she left her husband for Sarkozy and they continued an affair until they were married in 1996. They had one son. In 2007 Sarkozy divorced Cecilia and met Carla Bruni who he married in Feb 2008. Bruni is an Italian born French singer and modeled who previously dated Jagger.
Read more on politics and love making the press:

However, due to the French legal structure, all citizens, from president to peasant, have the right to paparazzi free private lives.

French Privacy Law
Europe and Scotland allow political critique as the “life blood of democracy.” By contrast the rest of Europe still operate under Napoleonic code. This was a civil code established in 1804 and integrated into law that remains to this day. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified. The code also protected the civil servants from slander or insult, which makes it illegal in many European countries.

Raymond Kuhn an authority on the topic of French privacy law writes: France exhibits some of the same tendencies in political self-promotion and media intrusion as other advanced liberal democracies, with greater emphasis on marketing and image projection by politicians and a more investigative media than in the past. The cross-national differences, however, are even more pronounced. First, there is a high level of legal protection of individual privacy, including that of politicians. Second, there is a lack of a ‘tabloid culture’ among mainstream news media. Third, French public opinion is unwilling to regard aspects of a politician's private life as part of the public domain. As a result, although the dividing line between politicians' public images and private lives has become less clear-cut over time, the distinction still remains more marked in France than in Britain or the United States.

In "The Public and Private in Contemporary French Politics," Kuhn explains that in terms of the interface between the public and private spheres, media coverage of politicians in contemporary France has been marked by … a high level of legal protection accorded to their private lives under the terms of legislation introduced in 1970 that is applicable to all citizens…

French police collected mug shots of all of the paparazzi present near Princess Diana’s crash

Article 9” of the Civil Code protect French presidents and ordinary citizens.
Expressed consent is needed for
-private life information
-photos of private life
-“False Light,” presentation can be challenged
The fine for breaking this law is 45,000 euros
However the problem is that “private life” is not properly defined. Being outside has been ruled public and non-French citizens in France are not entirely protected.

Since the 1970's the issue of privacy has extended to the web. The French Liberty of Communication Act was adopted on June 28th, 2000. The Act requires all persons wishing to post content on the Internet to identify themselves, either to the public, by publishing their name and address on their website (in the case of a business) or to their host provider (in the case of a private individual). Earlier provisions, which would have imposed large penalties and jail sentences on anybody violating this requirement and required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to check the accuracy of the personal details given to them, were dropped in the final version of the legislation.

French political blog “No Parasan!”

Kuhn writes, the trend on the part of politicians towards the mediatisation of their private lives has been amplified by the routinisation of the internet as a medium of political communication, and in particular by the spread of the blog’ phenomenon. The blog allows a politician to bypass the traditional intermediary filters and gatekeepers of the mainstream news media. In terms of process, the production of blog content is fully under the control of the politician as source and so can be put into the public sphere unmediated. With regard to content, the nature of the blog allows for a mix of public and private information to be disseminated: politicians may not only give their views on public events, but can also control the release of more personalised information, including elements of their private lives if they so choose.

In Strategy of Deception, Paul Virilio is writing about the media and political climate at the end of the 20th century. He begins by talking about the urban wasteland, a place of poverty of information. In places where there is less education and less media, there is also less truth and law available to people, meaning more power for misinformation. The premise of the book is that the strategy of deception is advanced planning of information. Virilio describes undisclosed government support of paramilitary groups, ultimately “promoting the lawless no-go areas of the world’s urban wastelands. We can see then that the current legal caviling is merely a smokescreen – disinformation on an industrial scale." Virilio also emphasizes the great lawlessness of the former Yugoslavia – kidnapping, extortion, torture, murder, arms and drug trafficking. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) intervened with strategic bombing ultimately removing Yugoslavian presence.

Virilio continues that it is already difficult to distinguish true from false online and also still a lawless place where criminals can invade power systems. Virilio also discusses the role of information jamming, the practice of blocking communication through destruction of satellites or website interference. It is different from hacking into systems and information warfare which is strategically placed media.

Italian Wiretapping Scandal
Wiretapping is a direct invasion of privacy and is often associated with both scandal and misinformation. During 2006, Italy reached a tipping point of wiretap reports. There were wiretaps being reported from business CEO’s to World Cup referees. It was discovered that the commercial provider Telecom Italia was actually to blame and was the first ever major corporate wiretapping of civilian cell phones. Both Vodafone and Ericson confirmed their phones had been used. The result was a law preventing wiretapped conversation in court. Two chiefs of security for Telecom Italia then died within 6 month period. Investigations into the alleged suicides of both Adamo Bove in Italy and Costas Tsalikidis in Greece raise questions about more than the suspicious circumstances of their deaths but no journalist took on an investigation for the public. Italian independent media released the statement that “As more troubling revelations come out of Europe, it may become more difficult to ignore how easily spying programs can be hijacked for illegitimate purposes. The brave soul who pursues this line of inquiry, however, should fear for his or her life.”

Most US wire tapping is done by the government on mobile phones. The DCS 3000 is a wiretapping technology used by the FBI.
A British company suggests assuming that all calls are being heard and gives some tips.

Promotion of Accurate Information
One way to respond to scandal is through media campaigns that address the scandal directly. There was negative media coverage of the death of the Sudanese refugee Aamir Ageeb on board Lufthansa flight LH558 from Frankfurt to Cairo. The 30-year-old was so mishandled by three officials of the federal border patrol that he suffocated; the border guard forced him to wear a motorcycle helmet, tied his hands and feet, and, at take off, violently pushed his head down to his knees with all his strength. Lufstansa changed its policy in 2000 to be more accommodating and launched a media campaign but they were continually accused of having a “Deportation Class.”

Media can also function promote accurate, public information. Below are examples clarify the laws about the counterfeit trade.

Finally, every individual can help promote accurate information through the internet. See SOS Georgia: "We built this web site to be a clearinghouse for information about Georgia during the war and now the occupation…Here at SOS Georgia we are striving to present the true facts about what is really going on, stories from Refuges and people on the scene, contact information for source for Journalists and a way for supporters of Georgians around the world to connect with one another, exchange ideas and make plans for protest and rallies. Most of all we are trying out best to keep Georgia free from Russian occupation as an independent country with strong ties to the west."