June 23, 2017

Just What Was on Trial in the Bill Cosby Case?

MORRIS Oh, feelings. They obviously had a role to play in this case and yet aren’t the usual basis for a legal strategy. So little of this trial was concrete. Mr. Cosby didn’t take the stand in his defense, which meant the case, in some sense, came down to Ms. Constand’s recollection versus his legacy.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

WORTHAM As soon as the push notification announcing the outcome of the trial arrived on my iPhone, I began obsessing over what part of the trial cast enough doubt to some of those 12 people. The answer is important, because it reveals so much about our culture’s relationship to women and how they are supposed to function within systems of power. What about Ms. Constand gave the jury pause? Her sexual identity? Her decision to trust Mr. Cosby? Her inability to recall the exact details of being drugged? Her initial reluctance to take legal action against someone she considered to be a friend, with the only thing compelling her to speak out being the deep knot in her gut that something happened that night that was not right? To me, she seemed to be trying to make the best decision possible at every moment, and abiding by a simple trust: that each of us lives according to a moral code that keeps us from harming one another unnecessarily.

MORRIS Too true. I’ll also tell you that this case has done a number on my 88-year-old grandmother and her 73-year-old baby sister. They sided with Mr. Cosby, partly because we’re from Philadelphia, where it’s cheesesteaks, Ben Franklin and Bill Cosby. But the bulk of my family’s support comes from being black women who’ve seen too many black men and women harassed by the city and the courts. When I talked with them about the case, we talked about the evidence. But we also talked about a history of feelings. And how a lot of their alignment has to do with the awareness that the criminal justice system tends to disfavor black people.

The travails of regular civilians might seem entirely separate from Mr. Cosby, who is American royalty. And I didn’t see race as a factor, even though many of his accusers are white. He made a case for integration on “I Spy” and exemplified black decency on “The Cosby Show.” His meaning as a uniter of all people might have made it tough to believe that he would abuse that power.

Photo
Andrea Constand, Bill Cosby’s accuser, leaving the courthouse after the judge announced his decision. Credit Pool photo by Ed Hille

But any time a black person is on trial, there’s a sinking feeling that blackness might be on trial, too.

WORTHAM Oh man. The degree to which your point — “any time a black person’s on trial, there’s a sinking feeling that blackness might be on trial” — had escaped me is slightly embarrassing. That’s exactly it. Mr. Cosby has not been part of the conversation around blackness and identity for decades, but his life means very much to those who remember feeling validated and vindicated by his presence during his heyday. A Cosby conviction would require a rebuilding of infrastructure too fraught to replace — his legacy spanned too many years, his foundation too fundamental to unearth.

MORRIS There’s also something potentially toxic about the mix of black men, white women, power and celebrity that we keep reliving, whether it’s famous entertainers or college athletes. We believe in black-white interracial romantic relationships, and yet there’s something fishy about them, too (see this season’s “The Bachelorette”). The year’s biggest sleeper hit, “Get Out,” is a movie about that very fishiness. That distrust comes from a long history of black men falsely being accused of raping white women. And even though no one has said a word about that history, it’s hard to read about this trial and not feel nausea.

WORTHAM You’re right — it’s there, lurking. This question brings me back to the moment in “O.J.: Made in America,” Ezra Edelman’s phenomenal documentary from last year, when black jurors reveal that their decision to acquit O.J. Simpson was framed partly as retribution for the police beating of Rodney King. A community activist, Danny Bakewell, says, “Now you know how it feels.”

Mr. Cosby isn’t O.J. — but is there anything more telling than the statement by Mr. Cosby’s publicist after the verdict? He said: “The legacy didn’t go anywhere. It has been restored.”

Photo
Bill Cosby leaving the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., on June 17 after his case was declared a mistrial. Credit Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Has it? Will we treat him like R. Kelly — acknowledging him as problematic but still, to varying degrees of reluctance, giving him a place in contemporary culture?

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

MORRIS Argh. Probably. Certainly. I don’t know! Last fall we debated this with Nate Parker and the resurfacing of 1999 rape charges against him in the months before his heavily anticipated movie, “The Birth of a Nation,” was set to open. He was acquitted, but many moviegoers had to decide whether to see his film, which wasn’t the hit its makers hoped it would be. That choice seemed acutely moral for black people, whose support was important to his film’s success.

There is something absurdly Kafkaesque about these trials; they’ve become crucibles that show the country where black America truly stands. It’s this nightmare that lies just beyond language and resides in the pits of our stomachs. When bad news breaks, we pray that neither the culprit nor the victim is black, because who could bear another mistrial, acquittal or conviction that feels as if it were beneath justice? Why must we bear these questions about what to do with a defendant’s art — and why is that answer bound up with who black people are or should be?

WORTHAM Wesley, I’ve just spent hundreds of words trying to work my way toward acceptance of the Cosby verdict, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get there. I’m exhausted by the realities of living in this country. The feeling of annihilation without repercussions looms larger and larger with each passing season. In addition to the mistrial, we also found out that the cop who shot Philando Castile in front of his young child was acquitted of murder. At the same time, the body of Nabra Hussein, a Muslim teenage girl, was found dead in a pond in the county not far from where I grew up in Virginia. Her friends say a man driving a red car got out and confronted the group, and assaulted Ms. Hussein.

Each of these events are inherently different, but they feel somehow linked, evoking an American dream gone sideways. And yet that’s the theme of 2017, isn’t it? This is what Solange is singing about on “Weary” when she says, “I’m weary of the weight of the world.”

Photo
Clockwise from center, the cast of “The Cosby Show”: Mr. Cosby, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Lisa Bonet, Tempestt Bledsoe, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Phylicia Rashad and Sabrina Le Beauf. Credit Al Levine/NBC and NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty Images

MORRIS I’m weary, too, Jenna and Solange! And yet, for the last few weeks, I’ve watched a lot of “The Cosby Show.” What a shock to rediscover its feminism, its catholic appreciation of art, its fantastical belief that Cliff and Clair Huxtable could have produced children as phenotypically, facially varied as the five they had. The show was funny. It was loosely topical. In Clair and as played by Phylicia Rashad, the show conjured a near-weekly idealization of womanhood and motherdom as fierce, glamorous, romantic and always right. Ms. Rashad made Clair intoxicatingly starry yet robustly human and distinctly feminist (somebody on this show is always letting a chauvinist in the front door).

There’s a great moment in which a friend played by Leslie Uggams comes to town, and the two of them put on wigs and do a high-energy version of the Bobbettes’ “Mr. Lee.” We knew Clair could sing — early on, she performed a solo with the church choir. But you were always discovering something new about this woman. And the show’s belief in Clair matched my belief in my own mother, that she could do anything.

This is all to say that, unlike Nate Parker or especially R. Kelly — whose music exploits his peccadilloes (his best songs are about the freakiest sex) — “The Cosby Show” is about a lot more people than the man it’s named after. It might be too good to just throw out.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

WORTHAM Amid all this heaviness, on Sunday night I went to see Alice Smith, a young jazz musician, perform in Manhattan. At one point, she slid into her rendition of Nina Simone’s take on “I Put a Spell on You.” In Simone’s version, the tone suggests a playful warning and forms a declaration of inevitability. As Simone sings, a bossy horn instrument flirts with her, teasing out all the ways that she is marking the territory of claiming her true love. In Ms. Smith’s version, she has all the malaise of Simone, but the playfulness contains a somberness deepened by sorrow. The piano accompaniment is a shade more haunting, invoking something closer to a demon lover than a terrestrial being who has done her wrong.

Ms. Smith’s recipe doubles Simone’s lyrics, stretching them out, repeating “I love you” a half-dozen times, as each line grows more resolute and determined than the last. In her hands, the song becomes a dirge to loving something that doesn’t return the favor, and conveys her resolve to carry on, anyway.

At the end of the song, her voice has pitched into a wail, and she sings,

You ain’t got to want me
I’m yours right now
I’m yours right now
Gon’ make you mine

The angst pouring out of her matched my own, but uncovered something new — a determination to make this place my own, regardless of its resistance to keep me from feeling at home within it.

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/21/arts/television/bill-cosby-mistrial-sexual-assault-constand-cosby-show-.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

State of the Art: How Battling Brands Online Has Gained Urgency, and Impact

But the effects of these campaigns go beyond business. In a nation where politics have grown pitched and sclerotic, fighting brands online suddenly feels like the most effective political action many of us can take. Posting a hashtag — #deleteUber, for instance, or #grabyourwallet — and threatening to back it up by withholding dollars can bring about a much quicker, more visible change in the world than, say, calling your representative.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Brand-focused online activism can work for every political side, too: Don’t like a New York theater company’s Trump-tinged production of Shakespeare in the Park? There’s a boycott for you, and Delta and Bank of America will give in.

Yet the mechanics of social media suggest it will be the cultural and political left, more than the right, that might win the upper hand with this tactic — especially when harnessing the power of brands to fight larger battles for racial and gender equality, as in the Uber and Fox News cases.

“Women and people of color have gravitated to social media and were early adopters of it,” said Shannon Coulter, a marketing consultant who co-founded Grab Your Wallet, a campaign aimed at urging retailers to stop selling Trump-branded products. “Social media is actually a lever for social justice. It’s a way of leveling the playing field.”

To see why, we must first understand why brands are suddenly more vulnerable to consumer sentiment than they once were. It all comes down to one thing: Social media is the new TV.

In the era when television shaped mainstream consumer sentiment, companies enjoyed enormous power to alter their image through advertising. Then came the internet, which didn’t kill advertising, but did dilute its power. Brands now have little say over how their messages get chewed up through our social feeds.

Newsletter Sign Up

Continue reading the main story

Yes, they can run ads on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and everyplace else. But social media elevates consumers over corporate marketing; suddenly what matters isn’t what an ad says about a company, but what your friends think about that company.

It’s no coincidence that the only ads that get talked about these days are those that ignite some kind of social-media outrage — Pepsi’s strange Kendall Jenner commercial, for example, or the Budweiser Super Bowl ad that some viewers took to be a pro-immigration political statement. Just about every cultural sentiment — even what to think about a piece of corporate messaging — comes to you filtered through a social feed.

It’s this loss of power that explains why brands have become so jumpy and reactive. Take the production of “Julius Caesar” that opened last week in Central Park as part of Shakespeare in the Park. In the play, a Caesar who is styled to look like Mr. Trump is graphically assassinated on stage, which many on the right took as disparaging the president.

A Shakespeare scholar might point out that a production of “Julius Caesar” that features the assassination of a Trump-like king is not likely to be an endorsement of presidential assassination — after all, one point of Shakespeare’s play is to warn against political violence. The scholar might also point out that featuring present-day personalities in old plays is an age-old practice; in 2012, a New York company staged a “Julius Caesar” with an Obama-like king, Delta sponsored it, and nobody got really bent out of shape about it.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

But none of that matters in 2017, when Twitter shapes the news. On social media, there’s no room for nuanced portrayals of complex artistic treatments. There are only quick snatches of graphic imagery in your scrolling feed — and the sight of a Trump-styled Caesar getting assassinated proved too much for powerless brands to stomach.

The dropped “Caesar” sponsorship — and JPMorgan Chase’s recent decision to hold back advertising on NBC News’s interview with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — prompted some worries that brand boycotts could chill art and journalism. But Ms. Coulter, of Grab Your Wallet, argued that even so, they were legitimate expressions of political sentiment.

“I think it’s ultimately healthy and positive even when I don’t agree with it — it’s healthy and positive that consumers are making themselves heard,” she said.

She also argued that it is the causes she is fighting for, including women’s equality, that will likely benefit from pressure on brands in the long run. Women tend to dominate social media. On most metrics, including sharing and usage, they outrank men online. If you’re a man, there’s a good chance your social feed was programmed by a woman. Women are also more deeply enmeshed in the consumer economy than men — by some estimates, they account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases.

“It’s only in the last 15 years that women became aware of their own consumer power,” Ms. Coulter said. “And now, online, they can show that they’re willing to flex it.”

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/21/technology/how-battling-brands-online-has-gained-urgency-and-impact.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

‘I’m Right Here!’ Sean Spicer Says While Toiling to Find Successor

“We’ve been meeting with potential people that may be of service to this administration,” said Mr. Spicer, who has done some of the outreach himself.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Yet few have been a good fit — and most Republicans in Washington said it would be among the hardest jobs to fill in the Trump administration.

The biggest shift Mr. Trump is discussing is a dramatic change to the briefing room schedule, including limiting briefings that he has described as a “spectacle” to once a week and asking reporters to submit written questions. Some of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers, including the Fox News host Sean Hannity, have urged him to curtail the freewheeling — and often embarrassing — barrage of questions. Mr. Trump has been particularly irked by CNN, and other allies such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have suggested banning the cable network.

“Donald Trump might as well get behind the podium himself, as the press coverage is the part of his presidency he cares the most deeply about,” said Tim Miller, who was communications director for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. “You can’t be a credible press secretary when your boss makes you tell preposterous lies. You can’t be a credible press secretary when you don’t know what your boss thinks on key issues because he changes his mind depending on the last person he talked to.”

Among the candidates: Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host, about whom Trump advisers remain “iffy”; Kimberly Guilfoyle, the Fox News commentator who said publicly that Mr. Trump had called her in recent weeks (she said she didn’t want the job); and David Martosko, an editor for The Daily Mail who was briefly considered for the role during the transition and has been talked about for other roles now (White House aides said he was liked by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, but was never under serious consideration and put out a statement withdrawing his name).

Filling the role of communications director, open for the last few weeks, has not gone much more smoothly.

Scott Jennings, a veteran Republican operative and a George W. Bush administration alumnus, was brought in to discuss the job. But he signed on with CNN as a commentator. Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Mr. Trump’s legal team, also discussed taking that role with two Trump advisers. And Jason Miller, who was Mr. Trump’s communications adviser in the 2016 campaign and is a favorite of the president, has remained out of the White House despite pleas to return.

A cluster of Trump advisers have been working on what has become a monthslong project of improving media relations for a president who prefers to take matters into his own hands, in 140-character increments on Twitter, undercutting whatever his advisers say on his behalf.

Several Trump aides, including Mr. Kushner, Mr. Spicer, Stephen K. Bannon and the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, have made their own phone calls searching for potential job candidates, sometimes not telling others in the building what they’re doing. Some believe that the communications director needs his or her own lane; others believe that the person should report to Mr. Spicer, for whom a new role as a deputy chief of staff has been discussed. Others said there might not be any kind of change.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

But so far, there has been no real signoff from the only person whose vote matters: the president.

The job is not all downside — Mr. Spicer has been pummeled on late-night shows and “Saturday Night Live,” but he went from being an obscure party spokesman with a reputation for blackballing reporters he didn’t like to being asked to pose for selfies with fans at the congressional baseball game last week.

The current setup is “sustainable, but it’s not a good way to get things done,” said Charles Black, a veteran Republican lobbyist.

“Donald Trump has been successful for 50 years speaking for himself both in public and in private, and he is indeed the best spokesman for himself,” Mr. Black said. “But presidents don’t have the luxury of speaking for themselves and representing themselves on every issue, every day. They need loyal people who can speak for them and answer multiple questions from reporters about things that the president doesn’t need to deal with.”

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/us/politics/im-right-here-sean-spicer-says-while-toiling-to-find-successor.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Netflix Lets Viewers Pick the Plot

Although the streaming service has not made plans to feature this kind of interactive viewing in, say, a future season of “House of Cards,” the potential is there for it to eventually expand beyond children’s programming.

Kids Interactive Adventure | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix Video by Netflix

The interactive initiative comes as Netflix is locked in a battle with the rival streaming services Amazon and Hulu over creating and acquiring as much children’s programming as possible.

Last year, Nielsen released a study that said that children 2 to 11 were watching two fewer hours of live television a day but that the amount of content they watched on digital platforms had spiked.

And the streaming services, which depend on paid subscriptions, are doing everything they can to hook children, and, by extension, their parents’ wallets. Last summer, Amazon acquired a significant amount of PBS’s library of original series to exclusively stream on its service, stealing away many titles previously available on Netflix and Hulu.

HBO is involved in the game, too: Two years ago it acquired first-run rights to “Sesame Street.” (The episodes still air on PBS at a later date.)

Netflix, which has spent serious money on original dramas, stand-up comedy and even Emmy campaigning, has made a huge investment in children’s programming. Currently Netflix has 47 original shows for kids, a number expected to jump to nearly 60 by year’s end and to 75 by the end of next year, a spokesman for the service said.

Photo
An image from “The Adventures of Puss in Boots.” Netflix released an episode of the show that includes interactive elements.

Netflix said its interactive project was more than two years in the making. As the creative team behind “Puss in Boots” developed plot points, Netflix needed time to improve its technology. Netflix will release another interactive episode next month involving its “Buddy Thunderstruck” series. Next year will bring an interactive episode of “Stretch Armstrong.”

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

In a blog post published on Tuesday, Ms. Fisher said: “The children’s programming space was a natural place for us to start since kids are eager to ‘play’ with their favorite characters and already inclined to tap, touch and swipe at screens. They also talk to their screens, as though the characters can hear them. Now, that conversation can be two-way.”

It is an open question whether other streaming services will follow with similar interactive programming.

Newsletter Sign Up

Continue reading the main story

Hulu has a virtual reality project in development tailored for adults for its VR app. The series, called “Door No. 1” is a choose-your-own-adventure show that revolves around a 10-year high school class reunion, though it has not been picked up to series yet. There are no interactive children’s programs in the works.

PBS, as part of its PBS Kids live stream, is planning digital interactive games that will complement programming that children have just finished watching. It is expected to be available later this year.

Amazon declined to comment on any plans.

Ms. Fisher said Netflix did not consult with educational experts before kicking off this experiment.

Nevertheless, some experts applauded the effort on Tuesday. “They guessed right,” said John Black, the director of the cognitive science program at the Teachers College at Columbia University.

“Having kids think about different ways in how stories could play out will lead some to think more deeply about the stories and to comprehend them more deeply,” he said.

There are others, however, who have concerns about the sheer volume of children’s programming developed by streaming services.

“A lot of this is unexplored territory,” said Melissa Henson, program director for the Parents Television Council. “The potential pitfall is video streaming services aren’t subject to the educational video requirements put on traditional broadcasters.”

Whether or not this kind of interactivity could be used with expensive dramas remains to be seen. TV’s top dramatic shows can cost $7 million to $10 million an episode to produce. Adding shooting time, and various plot lines that only a percentage of viewers may see, would make costs rise further.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

At this point, Netflix is in wait-and-see mode.

“As you can imagine, with two years of development, I’m really excited to see how our members engage with this,” Ms. Fisher said. “From there, we’ve built this tool set for our creators, and it’s ultimately about finding creators who want to tell complex stories in this way. We’ll see where things go.”

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/business/media/netflix-interactive-television-puss-in-boots.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

After Inquiry Into Cast, ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ Will Resume Taping


Photo
Chris Harrison, the host of “Bachelor in Paradise.” The show will return after an investigation of cast members’ behavior found no wrongdoing. Credit Richard Shotwell/Invision, via Associated Press

In a surprising twist, the latest season of ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise” is to resume taping after an investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct did not turn up evidence of wrongdoing, according to Warner Bros., the studio behind the show.

Cast members for the reality show were sent home two weeks ago — a rare occurrence, especially for a series that is part of ABC’s powerful “The Bachelor” empire — following the allegation of sexual misconduct, against a cast member. The temporary hiatus played out in the media for weeks, with tawdry headlines, mounting accusations and near certainty within the industry that this season would never air.

But in a statement on Tuesday, Warner Bros. said that it had reviewed the tape and that it “does not support any charge of misconduct by a cast member.”

It added, “Nor does the tape show, contrary to many press reports, that the safety of any cast member was ever in jeopardy.”

Warner Bros., which is part of Time Warner, said through a studio spokesman that the investigation was conducted with a law firm based in Los Angeles, Munger, Tolles Olson.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

The “Bachelor in Paradise” roster is made up of former cast members from “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” and takes place in a tropical location where alcohol flows and physical intimacy among participants is encouraged.

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/arts/television/bachelor-in-paradise-to-resume-taping-after-inquiry.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Eater Hires a San Francisco Restaurant Critic


Photo
Rachel Levin, Eater’s first dedicated restaurant critic in San Francisco, is likely to concentrate on midrange and affordable places. Credit Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Eater, the website devoted to food and restaurant news in nearly two dozen American cities, is expanding its footprint in San Francisco with its first dedicated restaurant critic there.

The website, which is owned by Vox Media, has hired Rachel Levin for the position. Ms. Levin is a freelance writer who has covered that city extensively and has also reported on food and restaurants for publications such as The New Yorker, Sunset and The New York Times. She will join Ryan Sutton, who reviews high-end restaurants in New York; Robert Sietsema, whose beat is New York’s more affordable restaurants; and Bill Addison, the site’s restaurant editor, who covers restaurants across the country.

In an email, Amanda Kludt, Eater’s editor in chief, said that since Ms. Levin will be the only Eater reviewer in San Francisco, she is likely to concentrate on midrange and affordable restaurants. She will be “hitting the very high and very low end only occasionally,” Ms. Kludt said.

As for why Eater decided on San Francisco, a city awash in money from the technology industry, Ms. Kludt said it was chosen in part because of its dynamic restaurant scene, which includes affordable options and a number of high-end tasting-menu restaurants. “The concentration of capital in the Bay Area continues to impact the area’s restaurant scene in a way that’s relevant to a national audience,” she added, “so any investment we can make in our coverage in the region is an important one.” Finally, she cited the fact that restaurant criticism in San Francisco has been in the same hands for decades, so Eater thought it would be a good idea to add a new voice.

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/dining/eater-restaurant-critic-san-francisco-rachel-levin.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

U.K. to Decide on 21st Century Fox Deal for Sky by June 29

As part of their review, British regulators scrutinized whether 21st Century Fox met the country’s broadcasting standards and whether the 11.7 billion pound, or $14.9 billion, takeover unfairly hampered the British media landscape. They also evaluated whether 21st Century Fox executives were “fit and proper” to retain broadcasting licenses in the United Kingdom.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

The timing is awkward for Mr. Murdoch and other 21st Century Fox executives, including his sons, James and Lachlan. They have tried to put an end to a sexual harassment scandal at Fox News that led to the ouster of its top host, Bill O’Reilly, and a chairman, Roger Ailes, yet those issues have arisen in the British review.

It is also likely to renew criticism that Rupert Murdoch holds too much sway over the British media, which he has denied.

James Murdoch, chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the chairman of Sky, said last month that he was confident the proposed transaction would be completed by the end of the year.

Here’s what you need to know about the British review, and how it may affect the Murdochs and plans for 21st Century Fox.

What is the review about?

Two politically independent British regulators — the Office of Communications, or Ofcom, and the Competition and Markets Authority — were asked by the government to review 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky soon after the deal was announced in December.

Much of the focus has centered on Ofcom’s investigation. It looked at whether the takeover would limit the types of media access British consumers would have and whether 21st Century Fox executives met the country’s broadcasting standards.

In a separate but connected review, the regulator also determined if 21st Century Fox’s management, particularly James Murdoch, were “fit and proper” to retain Sky’s broadcasting licenses. Ofcom will publish details of its ruling by June 29.

The “fit and proper” point represents a possible stumbling block for 21st Century Fox. When the company tried to acquire Sky in 2010, Ofcom criticized James Murdoch’s handling of a phone hacking scandal at The News of the World, a British newspaper — since shuttered — that was then part of News Corporation, a predecessor to 21st Century Fox. While the regulator said that James Murdoch’s actions “fell short,” he was cleared and Sky ultimately was deemed “fit and proper” in that review.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Now, 21st Century Fox is grappling with the aftermath of a sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. Regulators at Ofcom have met with lawyers who represented several of the accusers as well as one woman who made sexual harassment allegations against Mr. O’Reilly. These meetings have raised questions about whether Ofcom would take into account the allegations, and the company’s handling of them, in its judgment on whether the company passes the “fit and proper” test.

Newsletter Sign Up

Continue reading the main story

21st Century Fox has said in a statement about the scandal that it had taken “prompt and decisive action” and had overhauled the leadership and management at Fox News.

Analysts say there are four possible outcomes.

Ofcom may give its unconditional backing to the takeover, or recommend that the government block the deal, both of which are considered unlikely. It could recommend that 21st Century Fox make concessions, such as guaranteeing the independence of Sky News, the British news organization owned by Sky. Or the authorities may call for a more in-depth review by Britain’s competition authority, extending the outcome until the autumn.

Why does Rupert Murdoch want Sky?

Rupert Murdoch has long coveted total ownership of Sky, whose assets include broadband services, a Pan-European satellite television network and popular original broadcasting with rights to sporting events like the English Premier League.

He founded Sky in the early 1990s, helping to jump-start a satellite television revolution in Britain that quickly spread across Europe. The company is now one of the region’s largest private broadcasters.

Mr. Murdoch’s previous plans to buy the stake in Sky that he did not already own were scuttled because of the hacking scandal, leading to a widespread reorganization that included splitting his media empire into a publishing business and an entertainment business.

The possible takeover of Sky would cement Mr. Murdoch’s position in the fast-changing media sphere, where Netflix and Amazon are offering consumers new forms of programming. Sky owns NowTV, a European rival to these streaming services, which could help 21st Century Fox to compete.

Has the British election had an impact?

When 21st Century Fox proposed in December to take over Sky, many opposition lawmakers — and even some from the governing Conservative Party — were vocally opposed to the deal.

That situation has become even more complicated since British elections this month left Prime Minister Theresa May without a majority in Parliament, just as talks on Britain’s leaving the European Union put severe strains on her government.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Opposition politicians have argued that the deal would limit the country’s media offerings and that the Fox News scandal is evidence that the company does not pass Britain’s “fit and proper” test. 21st Century Fox denies both allegations.

What’s at stake for 21st Century Fox?

A decision — however unlikely — that 21st Century Fox executives are unfit to hold Sky’s broadcasting license would be a major reputational blow for Mr. Murdoch and his sons.

The proposed takeover is also central to 21st Century Fox’s global ambition to become a crucial player in determining how people watch programming online. Consumers now watch videos and shows on their mobile devices, an area where Mr. Murdoch’s company is lagging some of its rivals.

Analysts say that Sky — which is highly profitable and has 22 million customers across Europe — can offer 21st Century Fox direct experience with consumers, both as a provider of television and broadband services and through NowTV, its streaming unit.

And while 21st Century Fox is primarily interested in Sky’s programming and internet assets, potential concessions required by the British officials to guarantee the independence of Sky News may also weaken Mr. Murdoch’s hold over much of the British media.

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/business/dealbook/sky-21st-century-fox-murdoch.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

A Big Beneficiary of 2017 Tony Awards? ‘Oslo,’ a Play About Diplomacy


Photo
Jennifer Ehle in “Oslo,” which has experienced an increase in ticket sales since it won a major Tony Award. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The big money and the media attention at the Tony Awards are invariably directed at the musicals and the host, but the biggest short-term beneficiary of this year’s broadcast is a three-hour play about the Middle East peace process.

Oslo,” which won the Tony Award for best new play, had a 22 percent jump at the box office, according to figures released on Monday by the Broadway League.

The play, written by J. T. Rogers and produced by the nonprofit Lincoln Center Theater, is about the little-known back story of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that led to the 1993 Oslo accord.

“Oslo,” which also won a Tony for Michael Aronov as best featured actor, is the top-grossing play on Broadway at the moment, running slightly ahead of a popular revival of “Present Laughter,” starring Kevin Kline, who won the Tony for leading actor in a play.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

“Oslo” grossed $808,195 during the week that ended on Sunday, up from $660,561 the week before.

Another contender for best new play, “Indecent,” had its best week yet, $377,789, as its Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paula Vogel, urged supporters to see the play before it closes this Sunday.

Newsletter Sign Up

Continue reading the main story

Also notable at the box office last week: “Natasha, Pierre the Great Comet of 1812,” which featured a much-praised and rambunctious musical number on the telecast, grossed $1,319,766 at the box office, a nice jump given that it won only two small prizes, and “Bandstand,” which also was seeking a bounce from its musical number, had its best week yet, at $642,594. “Hello, Dolly!,” which won the Tony for best musical revival, grossed $2,297,057, fueled by enthusiasm for its star, Bette Midler, who won a Tony for her performance.

But “Waitress,” a musical that opened last spring, saw a huge drop, to $782,982 from $1,385,059, after the departure of its composer, Sara Bareilles, from the lead role.

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/theater/a-big-beneficiary-of-2017-tony-awards-oslo-a-play-about-diplomacy.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Megyn Kelly Interview With Alex Jones Draws 3.5 Million Viewers


Photo
Megyn Kelly and NBC generated a wave of criticism for airing an interview with Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist. Credit Evan Agostini/Invision, via Evan Agostini, via Invision, via Associated Press

It apparently wasn’t must-see TV.

Despite days of controversy leading up to it, “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” which featured an interview with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, earned just 3.5 million viewers, the lowest total of its three-week run.

The show had 1.3 million fewer viewers than a repeat of “60 Minutes” and a slightly smaller audience than ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” The show was up against coverage of the final round of the U.S. Open on Fox, which had about six million viewers in its final hour, according to early Nielsen figures.

In the 25-to-54-year-old demographic important to advertisers, Ms. Kelly’s newsmagazine show tied “60 Minutes” with a 0.7 rating.

Ms. Kelly and NBC generated a wave of criticism last week for even airing the segment with Mr. Jones, who has called the Sandy Hook school massacre a hoax. She defended the interview as important journalism, citing the growing size of Mr. Jones’s audience and his influence with President Trump.

Ms. Kelly’s premiere episode, which featured an interview with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, had 6.1 million viewers.

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/business/media/megyn-kelly-alex-jones-interview-nbc.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

21st Century Fox Faces a Showdown with British Regulators

It also is likely to renew criticism that Rupert Murdoch holds too much sway over the British media, which he has denied.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

James Murdoch, chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the chairman of Sky, said last month that he was confident the proposed transaction would be completed by the end of the year.

Here’s what you need to know about the British review, and how it may affect the Murdochs and plans for 21st Century Fox.

What is the review about?

Two politically independent British regulators — the Office of Communications, or Ofcom, and the Competition and Markets Authority — were asked by the government to review 21st Century Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky soon after the deal was announced in December.

Much of the focus has centered on Ofcom’s investigation. It is looking at whether the takeover would limit the types of media access British consumers would have and whether 21st Century Fox executives meet the country’s broadcasting standards.

In a separate but connected review, the regulator also must determine if 21st Century Fox’s management, particularly James Murdoch, are “fit and proper” to retain Sky’s broadcasting licenses.

That last point represents a potential stumbling block for 21st Century Fox. When the company tried to acquire Sky in 2010, Ofcom criticized James Murdoch’s handling of a phone hacking scandal at The News of the World, a British newspaper — since shuttered — that was then part of News Corporation, a predecessor to 21st Century Fox. While the regulator said that James Murdoch’s actions “fell short,” he was cleared and Sky ultimately was deemed “fit and proper” in that review.

Now, 21st Century Fox is grappling with the aftermath of a sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. Regulators at Ofcom have met with lawyers who represented several of the accusers as well as one woman who made sexual harassment allegations against Mr. O’Reilly. These meetings have raised questions about whether Ofcom would take into account the allegations, and the company’s handling of them, in its judgment on whether the company passes the “fit and proper” test.

21st Century Fox has said in a statement about the scandal that it had taken “prompt and decisive action” and had overhauled the leadership and management at Fox News.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

The review will be sent on Tuesday to Karen Bradley, the British culture minister, who will make the final decision on the sale.

Newsletter Sign Up

Continue reading the main story

Analysts say there are four potential outcomes.

Ofcom may give its unconditional backing to the takeover, or recommend that the government block the deal, both of which are considered unlikely. It could recommend that 21st Century Fox make concessions, such as guaranteeing the independence of Sky News, the British news organization owned by Sky. Or the authorities may call for a more in-depth review by Britain’s competition authority, extending the outcome until the autumn.

No matter what happens, it will probably be weeks, if not months, before a final decision is made.

Why does Rupert Murdoch want Sky?

Rupert Murdoch has long coveted total ownership of Sky, whose assets include broadband services, a Pan-European satellite television network and popular original broadcasting with rights to sporting events like the English Premier League.

He founded Sky in the early 1990s, helping to jump-start a satellite television revolution in Britain that quickly spread across Europe. The company is now one of the region’s largest private broadcasters.

Mr. Murdoch’s previous plans to buy the remaining stake in Sky that he did not already own were scuttled because of the hacking scandal, leading to a widespread reorganization that included splitting his media empire into a publishing business and an entertainment business.

The potential takeover of Sky would cement Mr. Murdoch’s position in the fast-changing media landscape, where Netflix and Amazon are offering consumers new forms of programming. Sky owns NowTV, a European rival to these streaming services, which could help 21st Century Fox to compete.

Has the British election had an impact?

When 21st Century Fox proposed in December its takeover of Sky, many opposition lawmakers — and even some from the governing Conservative Party — were vocally opposed to the deal.

That situation has become even more complicated following British elections this month that left Prime Minister Theresa May without a majority in Parliament.

Opposition politicians have argued that the deal would limit the country’s media landscape and that the Fox News scandal is evidence that the company does not pass Britain’s “fit and proper” test. 21st Century Fox denies both allegations.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

But without a clear majority in Parliament, and with talks on Britain’s leaving the European Union putting severe strains on her government, Mrs. May and her ministers are under pressure to postpone a final decision on the takeover.

What’s at stake for 21st Century Fox?

A decision — however unlikely — that 21st Century Fox executives are unfit to hold Sky’s broadcasting license would be a major reputational blow for Mr. Murdoch and his sons.

The proposed takeover is also central to 21st Century Fox’s global ambition to become a crucial player in determining how people watch programming online. Consumers now watch videos and shows on their mobile devices, an area where Mr. Murdoch’s company is lagging some of its rivals.

Analysts say that Sky — which is highly profitable and has 22 million customers across Europe — can offer 21st Century Fox direct experience with consumers, both as a provider of television and broadband services and through NowTV, its streaming unit.

And while 21st Century Fox is primarily interested in Sky’s programming and internet assets, potential concessions required by the British officials to guarantee the independence of Sky News may also weaken Mr. Murdoch’s hold over much of the British media.

Continue reading the main story

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/business/dealbook/sky-21st-century-fox-murdoch.html?partner=rss&emc=rss