July 22, 2017

Feature: The Accent Whisperers of Hollywood

When it was time for a take, Bay followed her actors into the mansion, slipping in her earbuds as she walked upstairs. She took a seat just beyond the spare bedroom where Cooper and Gilgun had begun blocking their scene. As the filming began, she leaned forward in her chair, cupping her ears and staring into a bank of monitors. Occasionally she whispered to the script supervisor about a word that might require rerecording, or “looping,” in postproduction. When a problem was persistent, Bay quietly squeezed her way past the crew to deliver a note directly to an actor — a bold entry onto the director’s turf, but most of the time a welcome one.

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To teach you new ways to talk, Samara Bay is likely to tell you to stand up and act like a 5-year-old. Credit Art Streiber for The New York Times

Television viewers, exposed to hundreds of different dialects every day, are increasingly aware of the tiniest differences in how people speak, even as the number and degree of distinctions continue to expand. There’s a wide and complex range of Minnesotan on “Fargo,” and Tatiana Maslany, the Canadian star of “Orphan Black,” does a dizzying array of British, American and even Eastern-European-inflected English accents. But the specificity isn’t relegated to stars. Bay says she was recently dispatched to the set of another TV show to work on a bit player’s Haitian Creole. She read the script and character notes and went to YouTube, a miraculous repository (especially under the “accent” tag), then crosschecked her YouTube finds with a Haitian-language specialist at M.I.T.’s linguistics department, who narrowed them down and sent her a few of his own field recordings. All for a few lines uttered briefly by a one-off character in a network drama that has been canceled.

The right dialects can help actors create a sense of authenticity and also quickly transmit a lot of information about their characters. An actor could sound generally as if he were from the South and pronounce “pen” like “pin.” Or he could also speak in African-American Vernacular English (for instance, pronouncing “south” like “souf”) and sound as if he were from Bankhead, a largely African-American Atlanta neighborhood. An actor could speak with all these linguistic specificities, but with a particular quicker and more clipped speech pattern that has to do with his own upbringing, and then he’d sound like Earn Marks, the character portrayed by Donald Glover in “Atlanta.” In other words: exactly like who that character is, and no one else.

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This kind of efficiency and precision is pleasing for actors who take pride in their craft. It also sends a powerful signal to viewers: This is a quality production. For most of Hollywood history, accents were a character feature that could reasonably be ignored or drawn from a very limited menu of “Southern” or British or vaguely Eastern-European dialects. Charlton Heston didn’t bother to modulate his theatricalized Middle American accent for the role of a Mexican drug-enforcement officer in the 1958 noir classic “Touch of Evil.” Mickey Rooney’s 1961 turn as the bucktoothed Mr. Yunioshi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was straight out of a World War II-era propaganda cartoon. It was not until Meryl Streep took home an Oscar for her perfectly accented portrayal of the title character in the 1982 drama “Sophie’s Choice” that audiences began to understand mastery of dialect as a sign of artistic merit.

Samara Bay explains the unique qualities of four major accents: Australian, Irish, Bostonian and Standard American.

With the rise of prestige TV in the United States, the demand for skilled performers from around the world — particularly well-trained British performers — has increased, as has the desire to quickly communicate quality with authentic-sounding accents. Actors have worked hard to deliver. For his role in the HBO series “The Wire,” Idris Elba (raised in London by a Sierra Leonean father and Ghanaian mother) spent long days with cops to improve his Baltimore sound, which is generally regarded as one of the most subtly accurate and astonishing dialect portrayals of all time. His fellow Brit Andrew Lincoln (“The Walking Dead”) set up camp in Georgia for a few months before filming began to immerse himself in the region’s manner of speaking. Gillian Anderson, born in Chicago and raised in North London, is a rare case of an actor who is naturally bi-accented. In interviews on British television, she sounds British; in America, she sounds American. It might seem like an act, but it’s her personal history, which is exactly what an accent is: an ever-changing assemblage of sounds based on where we’ve lived, who we’ve known and our perception of how we should sound based on our surroundings.

All of that said, much of Bay’s day-to-day work involves helping actors learn to eliminate specificity from their speech. Casting directors for most gigs, especially commercials, prefer something called “General American,” a kind of nowhere accent found only on TV. That makes it hard for some actors to get a foot in the door. Olivia J. Holloway, an actor from a small town in South Carolina, told me about the paradox of speaking in dialect at a time when consciousness of dialect is higher than ever in Hollywood. She hired Bay after she realized she’d been put in a box with other black women from the South; agents kept mentioning how well she’d work in a “12 Years a Slave”-type movie or “Queen Sugar”-type show. To break out, she realized, she would need to learn how to sound as if she were from everywhere or nowhere — but “if you’re from nowhere,” she told me, “you’re nobody. And who’s going to believe in you then?”

Attention to dialectical detail is a relatively recent development, not just in Hollywood but also in human history. Sarah Thomason, a professor of linguistics at the University of Michigan, told me a story, probably apocryphal, set around the turn of the 20th century. A French linguist named Jules Gilliéron began charting regional dialects on maps. Lovely and rich with detail, his earliest maps disappeared over time because of the unstable ink he had used to draw them. Thomason says she often began her classes with his story. It perfectly illustrates the slipperiness of dialect, she says, and our inability to capture it as it exists out there, in the wild, where it’s ever-changing, messy and human.

Of course, being human, we’ve tried to tame its wildness. For a long time, especially in an English academy like Oxford or on the BBC, students and broadcasters were taught a standardized, “proper” form of English called Received Pronunciation that tidied up and rounded off diction like a polished stone. Boris Johnson, David Attenborough and Emma Thompson all speak variations of R.P., which is an idealized accent called a sociolect, not a dialect — its entire purpose is to manage sounds, not the regional idiosyncrasies in vocabulary and grammar that make dialects dialects.

American English has always been more unruly. In 1942, Edith Skinner, a drama professor at Carnegie Mellon who coached Broadway actors on the side, codified what were to her the proper-sounding forms of pronunciation and diction in a book called “Speak With Distinction.” Deploying a series of lessons and drills — practice phrases included “or what ought to be taught her” and “a tutor who tooted the flute” — she taught a form of “Standard American English” that doesn’t exist in a natural form anywhere. (Central Indiana is often cited as being the source of a sort of Everyman broadcasterese, but people there in fact speak with an identifiable Midland American, for instance merging words like “cot” and “caught” to sound the same.)

Skinner’s Standard tries to do away with many of the dialectic peccadilloes that make American speech sound so distinctively American. “It’s the choos and joos, mainly,” Bay explains. “And that linking ‘cha’ sound: didya, cantya, wudya, cudya.” Still, American Stage Speech, also called Good Speech, can be useful, Bay says. If you are asked to play the smartest person in the room, for example, or an angry person trying to hold it together, Skinner’s prescription can help you sound rather tight and clipped and proper.

The world of dialect coaches is small — there are only a few dozen working in Hollywood and New York, and nearly all of them share a single manager (a woman named Diane Kamp, who splits her time between the Catskills and a ranch in Montana). There is no union; nearly everyone is freelance, and a few are associated with a university’s theater department. As a result, they are generalists. At 37, Bay is among the youngest. She has a few repeat high-profile clients (she also worked with Negga on the 2016 film “Loving”), and while she now mostly books steady, longer-term gigs like “Preacher,” her reliable fallback is still charging clients for sessions on a sliding scale. (Dialect coaches charge from as little as $100 to $400 or more an hour.) Actors, or their agents or managers, find her because they either have booked a role that demands a certain sound or aren’t booking anything because they don’t sound a certain way. They are often hoping to achieve that general American sound to break in or refashion their career for the Hollywood market.

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Bay grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif. She started out wanting to be an actor and was introduced to speech training in San Francisco, at the American Conservatory Theater. She performed in regional theater and eventually Off Broadway, in a Theater for a New Audience production of “Measure for Measure.” When she was 23, she was accepted into the Shakespeare Lab, a six-week program run by the Public Theater in New York. There, she studied under a dialect coach named Kate Wilson, who helped her realize that as great as acting was, she also loved, and was adept at, helping other actors work on their accents. Before long she had individual actors wanting one-on-one sessions.

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After 11 years of coaching, Bay has found a consistent approach. Within the first five minutes of the first session, she is likely to tell you to stand up, put away your notebook and run through a set of physical gestures tied to vowels. “Now, we’re going to be like 5-year-olds,” Bay might say. And: “Remember how acting takes your whole body? So does speech.”

She will rub her belly, make her mouth a circle, and go “ooo-ooo-ooo” and nod at you to do the same. This is “oo” as in “do,” but a lot of her clients, Western Europeans and South Americans in particular, misplace this sound into words like “good,” so that the vowels in “do good” sound overly alike, suspiciously foreign: “Doo goood.” This is fine if you’re an Italian chef auditioning for the Food Network and want to keep a bit of your accent intact. It’s not so fine if you’re trying to play a California surfer or a car dealer in Michigan or nearly anyone else, especially someone blandly all-American. You have to drop the “oo” and find the sound in the middle of your mouth.

Bay will show you important variations. She will change her belly-rub into a light stomach punch, and ask you to relax your jaw and feel the sound travel back from midtongue to get the “uh” in “cup.” The understanding of that back-of-the-throat “uh” — a sound so common we throw it in between phrases to give ourselves time to think — will open up the sonic landscape of America to you. Suddenly, “cup” is not “cop” — it’s like “love” and “does” and “what” and “none.”

Yes, Bay will note, these words aren’t all spelled with an O or a U or any single letter or series of letters that would tell you they should sound the same. Spelling is truly, entirely irrelevant to pronunciation. Then, if you’re smart, you’ll pick up your notebook and write that down.

Bay holds most of her sessions in the living area of the three-bedroom apartment she shares with her husband (a writer), their 2-year-old son and their dog in the hills below the Hollywood sign. Bay sits at her dinner table, next to her client, with both their chairs pushed as far out as the small space allows, because they often move their arms, sometimes standing, leaning, positioning their bodies to more ably work through awkward sounds.

One day Bay was working with Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, a British actor who had been cast in a low-budget indie film as a struggling American porn star. He and Bay ran through a whole scene — a fantasy about fame and money — without stopping, then again, slower, more nit-picking, with Bay acting as a sort of referee, pausing on spots that didn’t quite sound right, offering corrections.

“I’ve already got this spot of land picked out,” Jarrett said. “I’ve got my mahnsion — ”

“Maaan-shun,” she said, “get rid of that big open ‘ah’!,” The right sound was more like the “aa” in “can”: ugly.

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“How ugly?” he said.

“Very,” Bay replied. She moved to Stewart-Jarrett’s next line, which contained an especially tricky phrase that included the words “America and.” Bay says that much of her training involves not just the words themselves but “the liaisons between words.” It is there in the gaps that we make sounds suggesting restive thought or high emotion — and where an actor’s native accent has a tendency to creep in.

“America and” was a liaison minefield: It contained three different “a” sounds, two of them in rapid succession between the words, separate but intimately connected not just in the same sentence but also within the same phrase, thought and breath. Our mouths also have a lot of trouble linking one vowel sound to another. Different English dialects deal with the adjoining-vowel problem differently, Bay said. British English solves it with an R — “Americar and.” American English is, again, closer to the back of the throat, burying the second “a” into a glottal “ungh” — more like “America’and.” Stewart-Jarrett tried this a few times, his eyebrows raised in a look suggesting both mild surprise and deep concentration. “Sorry,” he said, moving on. “I got a little carried away. Carried? Cay-ree-d?”

“It’s a big open ‘care,’ like ‘air’ or ‘Eric,’” Bay said. “The R influences the vowel sound. It’s not exactly right, but a bigger proportion of the country says it that way, says it technically wrong, so that it’s not really wrong anymore.”

Afterward, outside Bay’s apartment, Stewart-Jarrett and I were walking to our cars when he stopped me. “It’s a bit weird,” he said, “letting someone else into this process. A bit naked-feeling.” For the entire session he’d been speaking with an American accent. Now his natural British accent sounded jarring, like a put-on. He sounded like an actor.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/magazine/accents-hollywood-dialect-coach.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Facebook Is Pursuing a Subscription Tool for News Outlets on Its Site

News outlets have become increasingly dissatisfied with how online platforms like Facebook and Google are consuming the digital advertising market and gaining more control over the online distribution of news. This month, a group of publishers started an effort to gain group bargaining rights so they might be able to negotiate more effectively with the online platforms that are threatening their business models.

While nearly all publishers have shifted their attention to increasing digital revenue, most are still seeking profitable solutions that will work in the long term.

Although many publishers recognize the importance of online platforms for getting their content in front of broad audiences, there are also drawbacks. Publishers are concerned about losing valuable ties to their readers, particularly subscriber data and payment connections. Readers may also become accustomed to staying in Facebook to consume news, instead of, say, navigating directly to publishers’ sites.

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At the same time, Facebook has drawn criticism, particularly from publishers, for its role in distributing untrue articles that readers can mistake for real news.

Other companies have used publishers’ wariness of Facebook to their advantage. Last year, Google introduced its AMP tool, a way to expedite the delivery of partners’ articles in search results. Amazon, meanwhile, is paying publishers to post articles on Spark, its commerce-related social network unveiled this week.

Facebook’s move to test a news subscription product may be an effort to appease publishers as it combats this and other issues, including regulatory and antitrust scrutiny. And if Facebook were to adopt the subscription feature, it would move the platform closer to controlling the relationship with the reader — a relationship that news outlets used to own directly.

It is not clear if Facebook will benefit financially from a news subscription feature. The company does not intend to take a cut of payments to news outlets, according to one of the people familiar with the talks. Facebook indirectly benefits, however, by encouraging people to spend more time on its site; while they are there, those users will see more ads.

As more publishers move toward subscription models, a news subscription service like the one Facebook has proposed could work to their advantage by driving more casual readers to pay for news.

But it could have risks. If many news outlets participate in the feature, it could create a bundling effect, allowing readers to read potentially hundreds of free articles a month — 10 from The New York Times, 10 from The Washington Post, 10 from The Wall Street Journal, and so on — before they are asked to pay.

Correction: July 19, 2017

An earlier version of this article misidentified the news outlet that first reported Facebook’s plan to introduce a new subscription tool. It was The Wall Street Journal, not Digiday.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/technology/facebook-subscription-instant-articles.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Consolidation Is in the Air, and John Malone Is Fanning It

So perhaps it is little surprise that he and a top lieutenant, Gregory Maffei, contacted two top investors in Univision at the Allen Company media and technology conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, this month to broach the idea of a potential investment, the people briefed on those talks said.

Univision, which was taken private by a group of investors for $13.7 billion in 2007, has considered going public for several years and first filed preliminary papers to do so in 2015. The company’s leveraged buyout saddled it with a heavy debt load — roughly $8.3 billion as of March 31 — making determining a valuation somewhat tricky.

It is unclear whether the broadcaster and its backers will choose to take on a major investor, sell the company or continue to pursue an initial public offering. It is also unclear whether other potential bidders like Grupo Televisa, the Spanish-language content producer that had bid for Univision a decade ago, will emerge.

For the moment, Univision’s investors and Mr. Malone remain far apart on an acceptable valuation for the company, one of these people said.

If Univision pursues an initial offering, it would likely do so in the first half of 2018, this person added. The people who spoke of the Univision and Scripps discussions insisted on anonymity because negotiations were continuing.

Meanwhile, Scripps and Discovery have held merger discussions, people with knowledge of those talks said. Scripps has also discussed a potential transaction with other suitors, one of those people added.

News of the talks sent shares in Scripps Networks up 14 percent on Wednesday. That gave the channel operator a market value of just under $10 billion. Shares in Discovery were up nearly 5 percent, giving the company a market value of about $15.5 billion.

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News of the discussions, as well as Mr. Malone’s interest in Univision, was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

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For Scripps, a tie-up with Discovery would make sense. The two companies held talks to combine several times — most recently in 2014 — though those discussions fell apart over a range of issues, including price.

Winning over Scripps would mean placating the company’s eponymous family, which controls roughly 92 percent of the broadcaster’s voting stock and which votes as a group.

Discovery, which is backed by Mr. Malone and the Newhouse family, has been an active deal maker since the collapse of the Scripps talks three years ago. The broadcaster has pushed abroad to expand its international presence, with deals to buy Eurosport and other foreign programming rights.

That could prove compelling to Scripps, whose portfolio of channels is primarily domestic except for holdings like a 50 percent stake in Britain’s UKTV.

Among the potential benefits of the deal for Discovery would be cost savings and an opportunity to dominate the market for women’s television. The deal would bring together Discovery’s Investigation Discovery, OWN and TLC with Scripps’s HGTV and Food Network.

Scripps has also developed a significant presence on emerging platforms like Snapchat’s Discover.

The two companies’ properties could also be combined into an entertainment-focused “skinny bundle,” a collection of channels that pay-TV subscribers could choose instead of a more standard and more expensive broad array of programming. Discovery has sought to create such an offering, which could include channels like OWN and TLC as well as Scripps properties.

And Scripps’s chief executive, Ken Lowe, is friends with his counterpart at Discovery, David Zaslav. Both men were inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in April.

But some analysts seemed unimpressed by what a merger of the two companies would yield. Todd Juenger, an analyst at Bernstein, said combining Discovery and Scripps would allow them to cut costs but would not change the fact that many pay-TV providers simply do not want several of the channels that they have to offer.

“Do we find the pitch compelling?” Mr. Juenger wrote in a research note. “In a word, ‘no.’”

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/business/media/scripps-discovery-merger.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

A Gamer Channel’s Mission: Send the Trolls Packing

The motto of the channel, led by four women, is “build up, never tear down.”

That makes Misscliks something of a haven at a time when gamer culture has been criticized for being misogynistic and unforgiving. In recent years, the games industry has grappled with episodes like the Gamergate movement in 2014, when female game developers, creators and players were the subjects of a targeted harassment campaign. In 2016, Microsoft apologized after it hired women to dance on platforms at a gaming conference in San Francisco.

To change that culture, Misscliks and other efforts have sprung up. One advocacy group, AnyKey, which pushes for inclusive spaces in gaming and e-sports, was founded in February 2016. Industry groups like Girls Make Games and Pixelles, which provide training and internship programs for women to get into video game development, have also emerged.

Twitch has also ramped up against harassment. The company has introduced tools like AutoMod, which uses machine learning and natural language processing to identify and block inappropriate content during chats. Twitch has also given broadcasters the power to ban specific words and links from a chat; allowed broadcasters to assign moderators to police chats during live streams; and added a button on every channel that lets people more easily flag or report unwanted content.

“We take harassment very seriously and understand how important this is for the entire Twitch community,” Twitch’s public relations director, who uses just the name Chase, said. Of Misscliks, he said it “has successfully cultivated an inclusive and positive community, so if other creators are striving for a similar vibe, we encourage them to check out that channel.”

Misscliks was founded in 2013 by four women in the video game and e-sports industries, including one of Twitch’s employees, Anna Prosser Robinson, a host and programming manager at the live-streaming platform. Ms. Prosser Robinson tapped Geneviève Forget of the video game publisher Ubisoft; Stephanie Harvey, a professional e-sports player; and Stephanie Powell, a community manager at Roll20, an online tabletop gaming service for games like Dungeons Dragons.

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Anna Prosser Robinson, a Twitch employee and the host and programming manager for Misscliks, a channel on the live-streaming platform. Misscliks was founded in 2013 by Ms. Prosser Robinson and three other women in the video game and e-sports industries. Credit Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

The quartet, who volunteer time to Misscliks while still engaged in their day jobs, said they created the channel after realizing how often women in the video game industry are made to feel undervalued.

“We were tired of being anomalies,” Ms. Prosser Robinson said. “It was like, ‘Oh, there’s a girl who does gaming, isn’t she a sparkly unicorn?’ We thought if we could make it more normal to see women’s faces in e-sports and make a support network, maybe they’d stick around.”

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On any given day, Misscliks features rotating shows and content. Unlike many other Twitch channels that are built around a single personality, Misscliks is collaborative. It has a range of hosts, and users are invited to write in and pitch ideas for shows.

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One regular show on Misscliks is “Let’s Play,” in which hosts play video games and people tune in to watch. Another show is dedicated to discussing and playing Heroes of the Storm, a multiplayer online battle arena video game published by Blizzard.

Misscliks also has a behind-the-scenes Slack channel for its creators and hosts, where people can talk openly about any issue, or ask for help if they are experiencing online abuse or bullying.

“Platforms, organizations and leagues are seeing that women, people of color, L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. folks are an important part of their user base and audience,” said T. L. Taylor, a professor of comparative media studies at M.I.T. and director of research at AnyKey. “Making sure they are able to participate is key to the bottom line.”

The popularity of the Misscliks mission has yet to be determined. The channel has just over 23,000 followers, a fraction of the millions of followers drawn to some of the more popular Twitch channels.

Ms. Prosser Robinson, who oversees the daily operation of Misscliks with the help of one or two others, said the channel was not aiming to be huge or a giant profit-making entity. While Misscliks makes some revenue from advertisers and subscriptions, the money goes back into the streamers and the channel, she said.

More rewarding are the messages that Ms. Prosser Robinson said she now often receives from gamers on how the channel makes gaming feel more inclusive.

On a recent day, one Misscliks viewer left a comment during one of the channel’s Dungeons Dragons shows that read: “Back in the day when I played a lot in the late 80s and early 90s, there were not many girls playing. It’s awesome to see all the women playing these days.”

Ms. Prosser Robinson said these messages were part of the “little steps” being made toward dealing with harassment in gaming.

“At least people now have a general awareness that it’s important, which is very different compared to a few years ago,” she said.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/technology/personaltech/a-gamer-channels-mission-send-the-trolls-packing.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

BBC Publishes Pay of Top Stars, Revealing Gender Gap

Although direct comparisons were difficult, because many of those named handle more than one assignment, the publication of the data, an annex to the organization’s annual report, immediately prompted discussion about pay disparities. (The figures were released as pay bands, rather than as precise numbers.)

Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, said less than 0.25 percent of the broadcaster’s 43,000 talent contracts last year involved annual pay of more than £150,000.

“On gender and diversity, the BBC is more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the Civil Service,” Mr. Hall said, though he added that the disclosures highlighted “the need to go further and faster.”

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Chris Evans in 2016. In addition to his BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, he hosted a season of the motoring program “Top Gear.” Credit Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

By 2020, the BBC intends for all “all our lead and presenting roles to be equally divided by men and women,” he said. Of the top talent hired or promoted in the past three years, he said, more than 60 percent were women.

Mr. Hall said the BBC had set a “rough target” that called for 15 percent of its highest paid stars to be of minority backgrounds by 2020; of those hired or promoted in the last few years, nearly 20 percent belong to minorities.

Critics were not satisfied. Harriet Harman, a Labour Party member of Parliament, said the “lid has been lifted” on pay discrimination, citing an “old boys’ network where they are feathering their own nests and each other’s, and there is discrimination and unfairness against women.”

The BBC has long faced criticism from commercial rivals who regard its prominent position as a bar to their ambitions.

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Mr. Hall said the BBC was now competing for talent not only with broadcasters like ITV and Sky, but also with online media giants like Netflix, Amazon and Apple.

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He cited research showing that BBC users overwhelmingly agreed that the organization should employ top actors and journalists “even if it means paying the market rate.”

Gerry Morrissey, the leader of the labor union Bectu, which represents thousands of engineers, technical workers and other production staff who make a small fraction of what the on-air stars take home, called for a yearly minimum salary of £20,000.

The list revealed that Chris Evans, who hosts BBC Radio 2’s breakfast show, was the highest-paid male celebrity, with a salary of at least £2 million. Claudia Winkleman, who hosts “Strictly Come Dancing,” the British equivalent of “Dancing with the Stars,” and BBC Radio 2’s arts program, is the corporation’s highest-paid female celebrity, earning between £450,000 and £499,999 (which also happens to be the pay range for Mr. Hall, the BBC chief).

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Claudia Winkleman in 2016. She hosts “Strictly Come Dancing,” the British equivalent of “Dancing with the Stars.” Credit Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Social media sites lit up with comments on what appeared to be pay disparities. For example, Laura Kuenssberg, the political editor of BBC News, makes £200,000 to £249,999, less than Nick Robinson, a BBC Radio 4 anchor and her predecessor in the role, who makes £250,000 to £299,999.

Gary Lineker, a former soccer star who now hosts the highly watched “Match of the Day” highlights program, earned £1.75 million to just under £1.8 million.

In contrast, the BBC’s highest-paid female sports figure, Sue Barker, a former tennis champion who plays a lead role in the broadcaster’s Wimbledon coverage, earned £300,000 to £349,999.

(Clare Balding, who also hosts Wimbledon coverage but who plays a more prominent role in BBC sports coverage throughout the year, took home £150,000 to £199,999 — putting her in the same pay band as John McEnroe, the American former tennis star, who provides occasional commentary on matches.)

Huw Edwards, one of the main anchors of the BBC’s flagship “News at Ten,” earned £550,000 to £599,999; Fiona Bruce, another main anchor, made about £200,000 less.

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Some of the personalities came forward to defend their pay. Andrew Marr, an author and news broadcaster known for his hard-hitting political interviews, said in a statement that he was paid £400,475 a year — for “the weekly Sunday morning show, my radio work, documentary commissions, television obituaries, and work on big news events.” Mr. Marr said his annual salary was £139,000 less than it had been two years ago.

Several stars of the long-running soap opera “EastEnders” were on the list. And the actor Peter Capaldi, who is in his final season as the star of the sci-fi series “Doctor Who,” was paid more than £200,000 a year.

“The right has for a long time targeted the BBC as wasteful and inefficient, as part of its free-market agenda,” said Tom Mills, a sociologist at Aston University in Birmingham, England, and the author of “The BBC: Myth of a Public Service.” Top salaries at the broadcaster increased in the 1990s, he said, partly in response to pressure to make the BBC more commercial.

He said the BBC should consider a ceiling on salaries, perhaps based on a multiple of the salary of its lowest-paid workers. The high salaries, he said, contribute to a growing public feeling that the broadcaster is elitist.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/world/europe/bbc-salaries-pay-gender.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Critic’s Notebook: Watching ‘Fox & Friends,’ Trump Sees a Two-Way Mirror

In January, the hosts, “Romper Room”–style, even pretended to be watching Potus, showing a video feed of the White House and asking him to flash the lights on and off if he was watching. (Producers added an effect of the lights flickering, a “TV trick” the hosts later acknowledged.)

Video by Jarrod Starnes

It is the only TV-show account Mr. Trump follows on Twitter (though he follows several other Fox personalities). When he doesn’t watch it live, he records it. When he tweeted earlier this month that “I have very little time for watching T.V.,” he had retweeted six videos from the show over the course of three days.

“Fox Friends” has been on the air since 1998; Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade have been with it since the beginning. (They’ve been partnered with a string of female co-hosts, currently Ainsley Earhardt.) For years, it was a nontaxing mix of news, lifestyle and conservative couch gab, a warm-up before Fox’s day of politics and commentary.

Suddenly, for no other reason than its No. 1 fan, it is the most powerful TV show in America. (It’s also easily the most-watched cable news morning show, averaging 1.6 million viewers in the second quarter, following a post-Trump ratings boost.) Mr. Doocy and Mr. Kilmeade now offer strategic advice on health care legislation. Politicians use the show as a kind of virtual Oval Office pitch meeting. In turn, Mr. Trump’s live tweets set and reshape the show’s focus.

This can make for a wild ride. On Tuesday morning, after the failure of the Senate Republican health plan, the hosts had to keep up with the president’s tweets as they whiplashed from “REPEAL failing ObamaCare now” to “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail” to advocating “full Repeal” again. “Fox Friends” deflected responsibility to the Senate: “As Congress Spars, President Focuses on Jobs,” one chyron read.

Other times, the show drives the president’s agenda. On July 10, “Fox Friends” wrongly reported that James B. Comey, the fired F.B.I. director, had leaked “top secret” information in his memos about meeting with Mr. Trump. The president quickly echoed the charge on Twitter: “So illegal!” (“Swiper, no swiping!”)

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Ms. Earhardt on the set of “Fox Friends.” Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

“Fox Friends” briefly corrected its report the next day. The president did not.

TV news has covered and worried presidents for decades, but it has never been as central to the mind-set of a president as Mr. Trump: reality star, producer and cable-news junkie. But since his amour fou with CNN and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” has gone bad — he claims not to watch them anymore yet somehow stays deeply familiar with them — he has favored “Fox Friends,” which requites his love.

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When the United States military dropped a giant bomb in Afghanistan in April, the show set the video to the tune of Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.” (“That video is black and white, but that’s what freedom looks like — that’s the red, white and blue,” Ms. Earhardt said.)

Video by Tilo Jung

This month, while other news outlets covered the news that Donald Trump Jr. had met with a Russian lawyer promising damaging government information on Hillary Clinton, “Fox Friends” argued that Americans didn’t care about it.

Boy, did they not care! They not-cared so much that “Fox Friends” reminded the audience constantly, for days on end, how little they cared. “Media in Hysterics Over Russian ‘Scandal,’” read a typical chyron. A panel of seven “moms from all walks of life” — including several conservative media activistswere asked whether the Russia story mattered to them “as moms.”

Diagraming the feedback loop between “Fox Friends” and the president requires a very small bulletin board and maybe six inches of yarn. On July 11, the show aired a segment blaming Democrats for “obstructing” Mr. Trump’s nominees. At 6:42 a.m., it posted the segment on Twitter, and Mr. Trump retweeted it quickly. At 6:59, he tweeted:

Ten minutes later, that tweet was on the “Fox Friends” video wall, prompting the hosts to criticize the Democrats again.

“This is anti-American,” said Mr. Kilmeade.

“Well, it’s anti-Trump, ultimately,” said Mr. Doocy.

“Which is anti-American,” said Mr. Kilmeade.

In the context of “Fox Friends,” at least, Mr. Kilmeade is right. Mr. Trump — a regular caller to the show in his “Apprentice” and birther days — represents the version of America “Fox Friends” has promoted for years, one anxious about security and heavily invested in the culture wars. “We were doing Donald Trump issues before Donald Trump was Donald Trump,” Mr. Doocy recently told The Hollywood Reporter.

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To watch “Fox Friends” is to get a specific picture of that America and its emotional triggers: “the media” (understood not to include Fox), liberals disrespecting police, liberals disrespecting Ivanka. The Charlie Gard story, about the British parents seeking treatment for their terminally ill infant — a proxy for the health care debate — is big right now, as are inspirational religious pieces and reports about leftist college students.

Political overtones aside, the “Fox Friends” ethos is classic cable-niche targeting: identifying a specific audience — traditionalist, nostalgic, alienated from the culture of big cities — and making it feel seen.

In Friday’s “Breakfast With Friends” segment, for instance, the correspondent Abby Huntsman found a group of older men in a diner near Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. One criticized millennial “crybabies” who “want everything for nothing.” Another went on a riff about why liberals cheered against New England in the Super Bowl (because of the name “Patriots”) until Ms. Huntsman prompted him: “So how come you think the media is so focused on Russia? Does that bother you?”

“Fox Friends” knows what its viewers want to hear, even if it sometimes nudges them on what to say. And viewers stay loyal to a program they feel speaks to them directly, whether it’s the masses watching “Fox Friends” or the superfan in the White House who sees it as “Fox Friend” — singular.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/arts/television/donald-trump-fox-friends.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Britain Cracking Down on Gender Stereotypes in Ads

The answer, the report found, is no. The agency found that stereotypes could “restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities” of ad viewers, especially girls and teenagers who are figuring out their identities and goals.

“Our review shows that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children,” said Ella Smillie, the lead author of the report. “Such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take.”

The Committee of Advertising Practice, which sets British advertising standards, in consultation with the industry, will develop new standards, starting later this year. The Advertising Standards Authority, an independent body, will then enforce those rules.

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An image from a baby formula ad.

“While advertising is only one of the many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole,” said Guy Parker, the chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority.

The specifics have yet be developed, but the regulator offered some examples.

“It would be inappropriate and unrealistic to prevent ads from, for instance, depicting a woman cleaning,” the report said. But, it said, “an ad which depicts family members creating mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up” might be banned under the new guidelines.

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That would affect major British retailers like Asda, the supermarket chain, which ran a television commercial that shows a mother bearing the bulk of the work — carrying groceries, cooking and setting up a Christmas tree — while the father is either passive or absent. The ad ended with the slogan, “Behind every great Christmas, there’s mum.”

According to GfK, a market research firm that gathered survey and other qualitative evidence used in the report, some participants felt the Asda ad “failed to demonstrate the mother’s value to the family,” although others felt the portrayal was accurate.

Showing a father “trying and failing to undertake parental or household tasks” could be deemed problematic under the new rules, according to the report.

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Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, a feminist organization, said stereotypes were central to gender inequality “from the gender pay gap to violence against women and girls.” She added, “They are well past their sell-by date and cause significant harm.”

The industry’s project to address stereotypes in ads, which began in April 2016, has not been universally praised. In an article in The Times of London, a journalist, Andrew Ellson, called the proposed new standards an assault on freedom of speech.

But Lindsey Clay, chief executive of Thinkbox, a marketing group in Britain, called the report “a wake-up call for the advertising industry.” She said the new standards should not be regarded as a restriction, but as an opportunity for greater creativity.

As an example, Ms. Clay referred to “This Girl Can,” a 2015 ad by Sport England, an organization that promotes physical fitness. It showed a wide variety of women and girls — of different ages, shapes and sizes — engaging in fitness activities. Their bodies are far from perfect, and the ad captures the effort and even the frustration of working out.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/world/europe/britain-ads-gender-stereotypes.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

‘Game of Thrones’ Returns to Record Ratings


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Ed Sheeran and Maisie Williams in the Season 7 premiere of “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s most-watched series ever. Credit Helen Sloan/HBO, via Associated Press

Winter is popular.

Sunday’s Season 7 premiere of “Game of Thrones,” which kicked off the show’s final stretch, brought record ratings for the series and HBO.

As of Monday the episode had been watched by 16.1 million people across all platforms, including traditional cable, streaming and on-demand viewing. This is a 50 percent increase from last year’s Season 6 kickoff episode, making it the most-watched premiere ever for both “Game of Thrones” and HBO.

Those numbers will climb this week, as more people stream the episode or watch on-demand. Season 6 of the fantasy epic ultimately averaged 25.7 million viewers per episode. “Game of Thrones” is HBO’s most-watched series ever.

Sunday’s episode also brought HBO the highest number of concurrent viewers across its streaming services, HBO Go and HBO Now. (There were reports of site crashes, though HBO said those were mainly in Latin America.)

The Season 7 premiere was arguably the most hotly anticipated episode in the show’s history, coming after a longer-than-usual hiatus between seasons. “Game of Thrones” seasons have traditionally debuted in April, but the show required a longer production period this time.

After Sunday’s premiere, the fantasy epic has 12 episodes remaining — six more this season, and a final six in Season 8.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/arts/television/game-of-thrones-record-ratings-hbo.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Commitment Issues and Fraught Hometown Visits as ‘Bachelorette’ Nears End

Still, it’s hard not to feel a hint of dread for Rachel as this “process” draws to its inevitable conclusion. She comes across as an absurdly charming, bright, sincere, emotionally balanced grown-up, not to mention a black woman operating in one of America’s whitest TV landscapes — probably the show’s biggest catch of all time. It would have been challenging for producers to pick a slate of men who could match her physically, intellectually and emotionally, even if they weren’t invested in seeding the deck with fame-hungry buffoons and cryptoracists. (A significant proportion of the remainder are personal trainers.) And we have just watched her say that there is only one man left ready and willing to tell her that he’s in love with her, so maybe she’ll just go with him. As delightfully absurd as this show is, there’s something a little too real about that.

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JON CARAMANICA One of the promises of reality television — and one very rarely fulfilled — is that you might get a voyeuristic peek into a life you might otherwise be shut out of. An unguarded moment is golden. Rarely does it matter what was being guarded in the first place; the obliteration of the wall is the thing.

But even a show like “The Bachelorette,” premised upon the quest for emotional vulnerability, rarely finds its way to true revelation. There are camera operators and grips, producers and supervising producers and executive producers, runners and assistants and Chris Harrison. Every move is the product of a dance that involves many.

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Which is why it’s so intriguing when intruders make their way into the show, as they did Monday night, during Rachel’s hometown dates. Here are temporary characters who haven’t been thoroughly vetted. And though these encounters have some structural scripting — on these visits, there is almost always a one-on-one between the show’s star and a parent, typically the mother, of the contestant — they also offer a welcome respite from the chiseled jawlines and petty infighting that are routine features of the show.

This season’s hometown dates were extremely memorable, largely owing to the extended, uncomfortable trip to Aspen, Colo., to visit Dean’s family, especially his father, to whom he had not spoken in about two years. Dean’s mother died when he was 15, and he told Rachel that in the immediate aftermath, his father had been emotionally unavailable to the point of abandonment. A few years after his mother’s death, Dean’s father converted to Sikhism, took on a new name, Paramroop, and remarried.

Dean has been the most buttoned-up of this season’s contestants, but from the moment he and Rachel approached his father’s house, he was visibly unsteady. And when he and his father were left alone by the others, what unfolded was an intimate, sometimes overwhelming conversation between two people struggling to find a way to hear each other. Dean accused Paramroop of failing as a parent when he was most needed. Paramroop accused Dean of being stuck in the past. The conversation was fractured, messy, wounding — and alarmingly real.

It made for entrancing viewing, and a vivid lesson in what can happen when documentary cameras — a kinder term for reality-TV cameras — are granted the opportunity to witness a genuinely unprocessed, borderline calamitous moment with a minimum of intrusion.

The rest of the episode had some smaller doses of unanticipated reality — the rich Baltimore accents of Eric’s family and friends, the nettlesome intensity of Bryan’s mother, the cumbersome couch with built-in cup holders at Peter’s family’s home — making this episode this season’s best, for reasons that had little to do with Rachel directly.

After Paramroop stormed out of the conversation with Dean, Rachel tracked him down for some of that expected one-on-one time. Initially, he appeared to be open to the overture. But just as the two were set to sit down for their sharing time, Paramroop turned his head and caught the camera’s hungry lens, then walked away, restoring the wall.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/arts/television/bachelorette-commitment-issues-and-fraught-hometown-visits.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ Gets a Wide Release, and an Easy Trip to No. 1


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Jay-Z’s “4:44” belatedly joined the race for No. 1 a week after its release. It easily shot to the top of the album chart. Credit Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Never underestimate Jay-Z.

Last week, it seemed pretty likely that the rapper-mogul would make a soft landing on the Billboard album chart with his latest release, “4:44.” In its first week out, “4:44” was streaming only on Tidal, Jay-Z’s own digital service, and the company withheld data from Nielsen, and thus from chart consideration. When “4:44” was released widely last week, it joined the race for No. 1, but without its first-week momentum, an opening at the top looked like a long shot.

Yet “4:44” — released by another of Jay-Z’s companies, Roc Nation — shot to No. 1 with ease, with 174,000 copies sold as a full album and 122 million streams in the United States, according to Nielsen. (Those streams include Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon and most other major digital outlets, with a notable exception: Spotify.) All told, “4:44” had the equivalent of 262,000 album sales in its second week, more than triple that of its closest competitor, “Issa Album” (Epic) by the rapper 21 Savage of Atlanta, whose 77,000 equivalents landed him at No. 2.

Also this week, Kendrick Lamar holds at No. 3 for a fourth week straight with “DAMN.”; DJ Khaled, whose “Grateful” was No. 1 for the last two weeks fell to No. 4; and Ed Sheeran’s “÷” holds at No. 5.

Aside from Jay-Z and 21 Savage, the only prominent debut on the chart is by the band Haim, whose “Something to Tell You” (Columbia) started at No. 7.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/arts/music/jayz-444-billboard-chart.html?partner=rss&emc=rss