Time Journalists: Report to the Business/Advertising Department

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

There are some changes in store at Timemagazine. According to a New York Timesreport (12/30/13), one of the biggest is happening behind the scenes, as parent companyTime Warner makes Time Inc. an independent entity. 

As the Times reports, this is happening at a particularly bad time–for Time in particular and for the magazine business in general.  TheTimes reports that Time seems to think it has a plan:

To combat these negative forces, Time Inc. will abandon the traditional separation between its newsroom and business sides, a move that has caused angst among its journalists. Now, the newsroom staffs at Time Inc.’s magazines will report to the business executives. Such a structure, once verboten at journalistic institutions, is seen as necessary to create revenue opportunities and stem the tide of declining subscription and advertising sales. 

Making journalists answer to the advertising side of the business is a pretty significant departure. But it’s important to understand that certain decisions are made all the time that mostly protect the interests of  either a media outlet’s parent company or a particular advertiser. FAIR’s been collecting these stories every year in our annual Fear & Favor report; in fact, one of the first examples (Extra!5/01) concerned Time magazine’s  ”Heroes for the Planet” series, which had an exclusive sponsor: Ford Motor Company. As FAIR’s report noted:

Asked about the conflict of interest presumed by having an automobile company sponsor an environmental series, Time's international editor admitted to the Wall Street Journal (9/21/98) that, no, the series wasn’t likely to profile environmentalists battling the polluting auto industry. After all, Alexander explained, “we don’t run airline ads next to stories about airline crashes.”

And in one rather famous example, Time ran a cover story about tornadoes the same week the parent company was releasing a movie called Twister, about…. Well, you get the idea. And there are regular features that might give readers pause; the magazine has cover of energy issues that is sponsored by oil giant Shell.

Who wants to kill off Mediapart?

Mediapart: “In France, the online press is officially subject to a VAT rate of 19.6%, while the printed press is subject to a VAT rate of 2.1%. This discriminatory tax on the online press has been dismissed as an injustice by successive governments over the past five years, leading to a suspension of its collection by the tax authorities. Mediapart, which with other online press organizations has led a high-profile campaign to have it removed, has for several years openly adopted the same VAT rate as the printed press. But suddenly, the tax authorities this month demanded that Mediapart pay the VAT rate of 19.6%, with backpayments due on every year since it launched in 2008. It has now been informed of the first tax adjustment, concerning the years from 2008 to 2010. Here, editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel details the gigantic sums demanded, and why this sudden and rushed move is plainly designed to put this wholly independent online journal, whose revelatory investigations have shaken administrations past and present, to the sword.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (December 4, 2013)

Samantha Bee investigates the shady business dealings of a private equity firm called Blackstone with European gambling company Codere, including the total avoidance of this major financial corruption story by the mainstream media. (7 minutes)

"Her": a new film by Spike Jonze

Joaquin Phoenix plays a man in the near future who has a romantic relationship with his computer operating system in a brilliant new film by Spike Jonze. 

Google's Robot Army: It’s coming to annoy us, not destroy us

The New Yorker:

If Amazon and Google’s collective plans succeed over the next few years, they could usher in a new era of human-robot interaction, one in which we regularly find ourselves face to face with robots in both public and private spaces.

France: Real-time interception of e-communications by security forces

European Digital Rights initiative (EDRi):

The “loi de programmation militaire (LPM)”, the “military programming law”, was adopted on 10 December 2013 by the French Senate after having been approved in first reading by the Parliament. This law enables the French secret services to intercept any electronic communication, under the direct authorisation of Prime Minister or the President.

All is not yet lost, however. Sixty members of Parliament or sixty senators may appeal to the Constitutional Court to question the legality of the whole text, or parts thereof. This would suspend the adoption of the law. Unfortunately, gathering sufficient support for such an appeal is proving harder than it would appear — the Socialists (who are in power) are being whipped into line, while the right-wing is divided between its normal support for whatever the secret services ask for and the political opportunity to score a “win” against the Socialist administration.

The main debate concerns whether the LPM authorises real-time collection of meta-data only or if this collection also includes content-data. A second debate concerns the adequacy of safeguards. The Senator in charge of the legislation, M. Sueur, argues that the new authorisation procedure actually improves the situation. First, he reinforced the powers of the National Commission for the Supervision of Security Interception, making it easier to have access to the processes that it is supposed to oversee. Second, the Minister of Home Affairs must now refer any interception measure to the Prime Minister for approval. The fact remains, however, that the Commission has no financial means and is composed of three parliamentarians chosen by the executive.

Those loopholes explain why the LPM has been strongly opposed by ICT businesses and human rights organisations alike. French associations of software editors, of advertising firms and big American firms like Google and Facebook all argue that this new law will feed the growing distrust in cloud computing in France and were concerned that “this law will necessitate the implementation of back-doors, access to which will be difficult to control”.

Nonetheless, the main problem for the campaign against the proposals was that mainstream media did not initially understand the problems and therefore misreported it. It is only after some in-depth and alarming articles on specialist websites like PCInpact or Numerama that awareness began to rise and it took a week and a lot of social media activity on the day of the vote before mainstream media began to report more accurately and comprehensively on the draft legislation. Now, finally, politicians started to become more interested in the legislation and it is likely that they will enter into a cross-party alliance to sign for a referral to the Constitutional Court. 50 promises of signatures were gathered on Monday.

Will the deputies send the article 13 to the Constitutional Court? (only

in French, 11.12.2013)


Draft military programming law (only in French)


About the Senate amendment (only in French, 12.12.2013)


Net Surveillance: Flood of protests against the French Patriot Act (only

in French, 9.12.2013)


How it will be organised the Internet surveillance in France (3.12.2013)


12 more deputies needed to send the law to the Constitutional Council

(only in French, 16.12.2013)


EDRi-gram: No Warrant Internet Spying By French Authorities (4.12.2013)


Domestic Spying, French Style

The New York Times: “On Wednesday, the French Senate voted to adopt a law giving government broad powers to monitor just about anything a person in France does on a cellphone or through an Internet connection. The timing of this move is troubling, given the French government’s outrage in October over revelations of spying on the French by the United States through the National Security Agency. Despite assurances from the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, that adequate oversight is built into the new law, in the post-Snowden era, opponents of the bill have reason to be skeptical.

Article 13 of the sweeping new Military Programming Law permits police and security forces to request telephone and Internet data and activity, including location information, “in real time,” without a judge’s authorization. It also extends government surveillance to any conduct that jeopardizes the “scientific or economic potential of France.” Presumably this means industrial espionage, but the language is disturbingly vague. The new law also grants the Ministries of Economy and Finance access to citizens’ data and activity.

The National Commission on Information Technology and Freedom, or CNIL — supposedly the main government watchdog over the new surveillance protocol — was not consulted in the drafting of Article 13.

In addition to concerns about citizens’ rights, service providers worry the law will hurt their businesses. Two powerful business lobbies — one of which counts Skype, AOL and Google as members — joined to express fears that the new law will cause customers to lose confidence that their data are secure. While French Senate passage of the bill — by a 164-to-146 vote — makes it final, it is possible for 60 deputies and senators to request a review by the Constitutional Council. France’s Green Party, which opposed the bill, has vowed to gather the support to do just that.

Article 13 sets a dangerous precedent for the expansion of citizen surveillance. And it fails to regulate in a transparent manner the vast amount of data sharing going on between technology service providers, the French national security apparatus and those of other governments. To dispel citizen and industry concerns, the French government should support a review of Article 13 by the Constitutional Council and ask the CNIL to review the law as well.”

France Broadens Its Surveillance Power

The New York Times: “For all their indignation last summer, when the scope of the United States’ mass data collection began to be made public, the French are hardly innocents in the realm of electronic surveillance. Within days of the reports about the National Security Agency’s activities, it was revealed that French intelligence services operate a similar system, with similarly minimal oversight.

And last week, with little public debate, the legislature approved an electronic surveillance law that critics feared would markedly expand electronic surveillance of French residents and businesses.

The provision, quietly passed as part of a routine military spending bill, defines the conditions under which intelligence agencies may gain access to or record telephone conversations, emails, Internet activity, personal location data and other electronic communications.

The law provides for no judicial oversight and allows electronic surveillance for a broad range of purposes, including “national security,” the protection of France’s “scientific and economic potential” and prevention of “terrorism” or “criminality.”

In an unusual alliance, Internet and corporate groups, human rights organizations and a small number of lawmakers have opposed the law as a threat to business or an encroachment on individual rights.”

After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought

The New York Times: “[After] starting what was widely viewed as a revolution in higher education, early results for such large-scale courses are disappointing, forcing a rethinking of how college instruction can best use the Internet.”