Sunday, December 17, 2017

Who will buy the Tampa Bay Times?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “The media ownership regulations of 2017 should match the media marketplace of 2017"

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.

In a major change of policy, the Federal Communications Commission recently relaxed its media ownership rules to allow broadcasters and cable companies to own local newspapers.

Until now, cross ownership of print and electronic media in the same market was prohibited by FCC regulations. You can get more detail from Variety, Ted Johnson: FCC Relaxes Media Ownership Rules in Contentious Vote

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “The media ownership regulations of 2017 should match the media marketplace of 2017,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. He said the agency was “dragging the broadcast rules into the digital age.” Pai added that the changes are needed, given current consumer habits, as people get their news not just from local stations, but from websites, podcasts, and social media.”

From recent activities, it is widely known that the Tampa Bay Times has been in a financial quandary for some time. The Times has struggled with dwindling revenues from newspaper advertising and has not been able to develop and monetize a successful on-line presence.

Privately held in a complicated arrangement with the Poynter Institute, the Times most recent round or rescue financing has raised a number of questions about the newspaper’s independence.

The Tampa Bay Times needs a buyer, and these changes in the FCC ownership rules may have dealt the Times and the Poynter Institute a market with a lot of money and a serious interest in print/online properties.

Possible Candidates (Information from Wikipedia)

WFLA-TV, virtual channel 8 (VHF digital channel 7), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to TampaFlorida, United States and also serving the nearby city of St. Petersburg. The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group, as part of a duopoly with St. Petersburg-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WTTA.

2015 US revenues $896.4 million USD.

WTSP, virtual and VHF digital channel 10, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to St. Petersburg, Florida, United States and also serving TampaOwned by Tegna, Inc., WTSP maintains studio facilities located on Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg, and its transmitter is located in Riverview.

2016 Revenues US $3.3 billion.

WTVTvirtual channel 13 (VHF digital channel 12), is a Fox owned and operated television station  licensed to TampaFloridaUnited States and also serving the nearby city of St. Petersburg. Owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, WTVT maintains studio facilities located on West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, and its transmitter is located in Riverview.

Twenty-First Century Fox reported revenue of $28.5 billion for fiscal 2017.

Charter Communications is an American telecommunications company, which offers its services to consumers and businesses under the branding of Spectrum. Providing services to over 25 million customers in 41 states,[1] it is the second largest cable 
operator in the United States by subscribers, just behind Comcast, and third largest pay TV operator behind Comcast and AT&T U-verse/DirecTV.[4] It is the fifth largest telephone provider based upon residential subscriber line count.
In late 2012, with the naming of longtime Cablevision executive Thomas Rutledge as their CEO, the company relocated its corporate headquarters from St. LouisMissouri, to StamfordConnecticut, although many operations still remain based out of St. Louis.[5] On May 18, 2016, Charter acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks for a combined $71.4 billion, making it the third-largest pay television service in the United States

Operating revenue US$ 29.003 billion

Frontier Communications Corporation is a telecommunications company in the United States. It was known as Citizens Utilities Company until May 2000 and Citizens Communications Company until July 31, 2008. The company previously served primarily rural areas and smaller communities, but now also serves several large metropolitan markets. Frontier is the fourth largest provider of digital subscriber line (based on coverage area) in the United States.[5][6]In addition to local and long-distance telephone service, Frontier offers broadband Internet, digital television service, and computer technical support to residential and business customers in 29 states in the United States. (In Pinellas and Hillsborough counties they operate the former GTE Verizon FIOS cable and internet service.)

Most recent revenue 2013 US $4,761.576 million.

It is not the local operations but the large corporations that own them who would be interested a broadcast, internet, regional print combo that could be a veritable media powerhouse in the Tampa Bay area. A one-stop shop for major media buys.

Will the Times sell?

There was a time not too long ago that broadcast and especially Internet companies proposing a merger or buyout would have been not so politely shown the door at the Times.

Things are different now. Revenues are dropping. Real property has been sold to keep the newspaper afloat. Concessions to those with money, power and their own interests have been made to secure additional financing.

Staffing is down, and over-all journalistic quality is suffering.

The wolf is no longer at the door, he is roaming the halls.

This move by the FCC has given the real values of troubled print operations a temporary shot in the arm. In a media market like Tampa Bay, competition to acquire the Times could turn into a momentary bidding war.

All of this will last only for a short time. As soon as the media moguls get over the “my newspaper is bigger than your newspaper” the values of what’s left will fall through the floor.

Now may very well be the time for Tash and his band of cohorts to take the money, set up an endowment for the Pointer Institute, pay off the creditors and call it a day.

After all of that is done there may not be much left to spread around among the good old boys at the Times, but it is far better than a bankruptcy or fire sale where there is only one bid and when they open the envelope, the bid is from Peter Schorsch.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

St. Pete City Council Members can express a personal opinion.

When the City Charter allows it why are City Council Members reluctant to take a stand?

For over a month, I have been trying to get a response from current and recently elected City Council members regarding their personal opinion about Mayor Rick Kriseman’s Chief of Staff Kevin King.

The City Charter specifically allows Council members to express their personal opinion concerning chief or higher management-level employees which would apply to Mr. King, who serves as the Mayor’s CHIEF of Staff.
As amended through November, 2017

Sec. 4.05. - Administrative affairs; Council participation.

(a) Prohibitions. Except as otherwise specifically authorized by the Charter,
neither the Council nor any of its members, may do any of the following,
whether publicly or privately, directly or indirectly, individually or

Sec. 4.05. - Administrative affairs; Council participation.

(d) Appointment of certain high-level staff positions. This section does not prohibit any individual Council Member from expressing a personal opinion concerning the appointment by the Mayor of any chief or administrator-or-higher management-level employee or the creation of any new position classified as management or professional non-management; or

As outrage grows, especially in the Democratic Party, about the sexual misconduct of public officials and the chorus of voices calling for action regarding people who are accused of improper conduct swells, it is time for City Council members to give us their opinion. Otherwise, we must assume that their silence endorses Mr. King and his past actions.

Additionally, the failure of City Council to take a personal position on this matter could make it very difficult to discipline any other staff members or employees who commit improper acts or create a sexually hostile workplace.

It would also seem that without City Council support, it would be very dangerous and difficult for victims and witnesses of improper activity to come forward.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fix the Mess - Rescind Vote On Hagan's Retribution

Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

We posted here that it appears there's deception and some incompetence regarding Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan's retribution motion to pursue those who filed ethics complaints against him. Hagan irresponsibly threw his controversial retribution item on the Consent Agenda and created this latest big mess at County Center.

We included an email from Tom Rask in our previous post. A response thread to Rask's initial email can be found here.

Mary Helen Ferris of the County Attorney's office responded to Rask stating
In response to your concerns, the agenda item approved by the Commission on November 15th only authorizes payment of legal fees. State law requires the County to pay for successful defense of charges against public officials, including ethics complaints. It was in the discretion of the Commission whether to include the claim for attorneys fees in the covered fees, and the Commission voted to include them. 
The matter itself is in Commissioner Hagan name alone. It is his and his lawyer s decision how to proceed with the case.
Ferris's response led Rask to respond back and point out the following:
When you say that "State law requires the County to pay for successful defense", presumably you are referring to FS 111.07. Said statute allows (but does not "require") your agency to "defend any civil action arising from a complaint etc. etc". There is no requirement, only authorization.You also say that such defense includes defense against ethics complaints. Quite the contrary, because an ethics complaint is NOT a "civil action". The Florida Commission of Ethics is under the Legislature, not the judiciary. See this Florida Attorney General Opinion (AGO), namely AGO 90-74, saying exactly what I'm telling you. It's an opinion that Hillsborough County itself sought in 1990. 
Unless that AGO has been superseded by a subsequent AGO or by court decisions, the county is definitely not "required" to pay to defend ethics complaints. 
Furthermore, citing from that same AGO:
If Hillsborough County makes a determination that acts alleged in an ethics complaint against an official or employee of the county arose from the officer's or employee's official duties and that a public purpose was being served at the time of such acts, the reimbursement of legal expenses for the officer or employee would appear to be authorized.
Note the "if, then" conditionality. If the county does X, then it may do Y.
In approving agenda item A-69, the BoCC made no such determination that the ethics complaint "arose from the officer's or employee's official duties AND that a public purpose was being served at the time of such acts."
In summary:
1. Mr. Hagan misrepresented his petition as being a future action when in fact he had already filed.
2. The commission has not made the required determination referred to in AGO 90-74
3. The County Attorney's office has failed to correctly state law to the commissioners, and likely did so before they voted.
4. The commissioners may have voted differently if they had known item 1, 2 and 3. 
The Eye received a copy of the Petition Hagan's attorney filed with the Ethics Commission to pursue reimbursement from one of the complainants, George Neimann.

Note the Petition was received by the Ethics Commission on Monday, November 13, 2017 - 2 days BEFORE the November 15, 2017 BOCC meeting where Hagan deceptively threw his retribution request onto the Consent Agenda. 

Hagan's lawyer had already submitted the Petition to the Ethics Commission the week before the BOCC meeting and before the commissioners ever voted.
Hagan filed Petition BEFORE BOCC meeting
Hagan failed to inform the commissioners publicly at the meeting when the agenda item was discussed that his attorney had already filed the petition. Hagan failed publicly to inform the commissioners he was asking the commissioners to approve something that he had already done. Every commissioner must answer if they knew the Petition had already been filed against George Neimann. The public deserves to know that answer from each of them.

In addition, what did the County Attorney know and when did he know it? 

This messy issue was brought up at the Wednesday, December 6 BOCC meeting during public comment from Tom Rask, Shirley Wood (one of the four complainants who filed an ethics complaint against Hagan) and from Yvette Neimann (George Neimann's wife). We captured their public commentfrom the county's online meeting transcript. The transcript and video can be found at HTV.

Rask's public comment reiterates the problems with Hagan's Agenda item A-69 vote that he included in his email back to Mary Helen Ferris. He asked the commissioners to bring the agenda item back so the commissioners, at the least, do things right and through proper procedure.

Shirley Wood and Yvette Neimann made impassioned pleas to the commissioners to rescind their previous vote. Shame on any commissioner who put the other complaininants under burdensome stress if Hagan is only targeting Neimann.

The county commissioners must take action to fix another smelly mess at County Center because proper procedure was not followed - again. 

The commissioners should rescind their previous vote. Even the Times wrote an editorial that Ken Hagan should drop effort to recover attorney’s fees in ethics complaint stating "Hagan’s strident position rings less of altruism than it does of bald-faced revenge." 

Because that is exactly what it is. Hagan's retribution makes him look small, vengeful and petty. What other commissioner wants to look like that? Why would any commissioner want to be tied to Hagan's deceit and vengefulness?

Apparently, Hagan wants to keep the Go Hillsborough crony debacle front and center. 

We will oblige. 

This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay