Month: May 2013
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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is preparing to introduce legislation perhaps as early as Thursday that would dramatically overhaul the television business and will probably be met with strong opposition from the broadcast and cable industries if it ever gets off the ground.
Specifically, McCain wants to require pay-TV distributors to give consumers the option to buy channels on an individual or a la carte basis instead of the current system in which they must buy large bundles of channels.
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He is also interested in protecting Aereo Inc., the start-up that delivers the signals of broadcast TV networks — including CBS, Fox and ABC — to consumers via the Internet. Broadcasters say Aereos service violates copyright laws and are suing in an attempt to shut it down.
Fox and CBS have even threatened to take their programming off broadcast TV and create cable channels if Aereo wins in the courts. Broadcasters are currently paid by cable and satellite operators for their channels, and they fear that if Aereo survives, it could threaten that revenue stream.
According to Washington insiders briefed on McCains plans, the senators proposed legislation would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to strip the licenses of any broadcaster that moves to a cable model.
Many of the details of McCains proposed bill are still sketchy, and his office would only confirm that he is drafting a la carte legislation.
This is not the first time McCain has tried to push a la carte on the television industry. A previous effort in 2006 failed to gain much momentum.
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The second time may not be the charm. McCain is no longer a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight over the FCC and the media industry, and top lobbyists doubt he still has the juice to push the bill through.
Next week, the Senate Commerce Committee is set to hold a hearing on the state of the industry, and top lobbyists from the cable and broadcast industries are scheduled to testify. McCains office is scrambling to have proposed legislation ready.
The issue of selling cable channels in bundles has divided much of the media industry. Although many consumers blame the cable and satellite operators for how channels are sold, the reality is that it is often the programmers who dictate the terms.
Big media companies such as Viacom, Walt Disney and News Corp. typically package their channels when they sell them to distributors such as Time Warner Cable and DirecTV. Programmers argue that this allows them to offer discounts on more popular channels.
At the same time, though, it also gives programmers leverage to get unpopular channels carried, distributors say. In February, New York cable operator Cablevision Systems Corp. accused Viacom — which owns MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon — of using its muscle to force the carriage of smaller networks that customers dont want.
Consumer advocates argue that offering channels on an individual basis would save subscribers money. The pay-TV industry says that is not the case because if a network such as ESPN suddenly went from being in 100 million homes to 50 million homes, it would have to increase what it charges to distributors (who pass much of those costs on to consumers) in order to continue to afford its programming.
Cablevision sues Viacom over issue of bundling
News Corp.s Carey downplays threat to take Fox to cable
News Corp.s third quarter profit cllmbs
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.
A series of Forbes Insights profiles of Thought Leaders changing the business landscape: Greg Schwartz, Co-Founder and CEO, UpTo…
Detroit is making a comeback, though you might not see the seeds of growth and revival from most of the headlines about the city or by walking down many of its streets just yet. The city infamously known as the poster-child for the run-down rust-belt and failed urban policies, is using technology as a path to rebirth. Among those leading the charge is Greg Schwartz, a Detroit-area native and University of Michigan grad that honed his skills in New York city as the Director of Digital Business for Warner Music Group. He was a visionary in the mobile apps industry before anyone knew what an app was, having created one of the first mobile phone applications offered to consumers in the US back in 2002.
About six months after Sandy slammed Fire Island, the beaches, marinas and tourist attractions on the barrier island are reopening, with marinas at Watch Hill and Sailors Haven slated for relaunch Friday, officials said.
Fire Island Concessions LLC, which operates both marinas, is expected to reopen them, though electricity had not been restored to the slips at the marinas as of Thursday, Fire Island National Seashore spokeswoman Paula Valentine said.
Theres electric out there, but boats may not have electrical capability, and at Sailors Haven Marina, only the west side of the marina has slips available, she said.
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Local politicians and Fire Island business owners plan a news conference on Ocean Beach Friday to announce the start of the summer season.
Valentine said electricity has also not been restored to facilities at Barrett Beach and Talisman Beach. And Barrett Beach this summer is expected to be without lifeguards because of the effects of federal cutbacks through the sequester, Valentine said.
The Watch Hill Campground is expected to reopen Saturday; Sayville Ferry Service should resume from Sayville to Sailors Haven/Sunken Forest on Monday; and Davis Park Ferry Co. is slated to begin service from Patchogue to Watch Hill on May 18, though both ferries plan to operate on limited schedules until June 22.
Camping in the Fire Island wilderness area is scheduled to begin May 25, according to a FINS news release, but because of the Sandy-caused breach at Old Inlet, access to the wilderness area will be only through Watch Hill.
The Fire Island Lighthouse is expected to reopen by Memorial Day weekend, according to the news release. But because Sandy destroyed many of the boardwalks leading to the lighthouse from Robert Moses Field 5, visitors may have to trek down the beach on foot.
As of right now, everything will be open, but maybe not entirely accessible initially because there will still be work taking place during the summer and maybe even beyond after contracts are implemented, Valentine said.
North Texas small business owners dont get a lot of sleep in this post-recession economy.
Their heads are swimming:
Will clients pay on time? If not, what recourse is there?
What effect will new health care legislation have?
If business grows, expands and invests, will it get hit with new regulations that kill the business?
These are the things that keep small business owners up at night.
About a dozen business owners gathered today at the Rosewood Mansion at Turtle Creek for the Bank of America Small Business Owners roundtable to discuss the issues they are facing.
David Vilbig, manager at Vilbig Associates, said many business owners struggle to make a profit.
I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs and this is the longest one I’ve ever seen, Vilbig said. Everybody I talk to is having the same thing: Are you busy? Yes. Are you making any money? No.
Vilbig and others said one of the biggest challenges is getting clients to pay. Many companies delay paying, which causes a chain reaction down the line for others.
If you don’t get paid by one of your clients, they know there’s nothing you can do about it, Vilbig said. I only deal with people that I know I’m going to get paid.
Tracy Merzi, publisher of the Dallas Business Journal, moderated the discussion. One question dealt with obtaining capital and why more businesses don’t pursue it.
Rick Ortiz, president and CEO of the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said many business owners are scared of the financing side of the business.
When they finally learn that and understand it, they realize, Wow, if I would have just known this before I could have saved myself a lot of headaches, Ortiz said.
Facebook updated its Android app today, with a flurry of new features. The cutesy / creepy stickers that recently hit its messenger platform are now a part of its core application, along with the ability to delete unwanted comments from posts. The highlight of this new software push is a redesigned layout for business pages, which rolled out on iOS and its mobile web UI last month. Under this retooled interface Like, Directions, Check In and Call buttons at the top aid discovery in the style of Google Maps, Foursquare or Yelp. If youd like to take closer at Facebooks refined setup for Android, feel free to socialize with the source link below.
Update: Although it wasnt noted in the changelog, weve noticed a new ongoing notification that appears after updating, and judging by the comments, so have some of you. It can be switched off in the apps settings, but its on by default and drops a Facebook icon in your notification bar with shortcuts to areas like messages, friend requests and service notifications. You can get a peek at the surprise addition in the pic above — let us know if youre feeling appreciative or angered in the comments.
Update 2: Without warning, the ongoing notification setting and accompanying icon / notification widget has disappeared from our Android devices, and from those of several readers. There was no update to the app, but the menu item is nowhere to be found and the bar disappeared after a device restart. Was this an accidental leak or just an early test by Facebook? Weve contacted the company to find out more information, but for now all we have are these screengrabs.
Warren Buffett has mixed feelings about fiscal and monetary policy coming out of Washington, DC
In a wide-ranging interview with FOX Business’ Liz Claman, the billionaire chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway expressed dismay at Congress’ failure to stop the sequester, the mandated budget cuts that took effect in March.
Buffett said the cuts were designed by Congress two years ago as “something so dumb it could never happen. Then of course it happened,” said Buffett.
“This was done with a meat axe,” he added. “It was done in an intentionally stupid way and then they let it happen.”
Buffett, affectionately called the Oracle of Omaha because of his deep roots in that Midwestern city, was interviewed by Claman at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha.
Meanwhile, Buffett had nothing but praise for monetary policy initiated by the Federal Reserve since the start of the financial crisis in 2008-2009. Historically low interest rates, set at a range of 0%-0.25% in December 2008, have benefited the US economy, as well as Berkshire Hathaway, according to Buffett.
The low interest rates have hurt savers, Buffett conceded, but the rates have to go back up at some point.
“There’s no question that our business and the US is better off due to the policies of (Fed Chairman) Ben Bernanke. But (low interest rates) won’t last forever and its going to be a very interesting when the first sign comes” that interest rates will be moving higher again.
Stock markets have flourished over the past few years as the Fed has kept interest rates low and pumped money into the economy through massive bond buying purchases. Many analysts believe the markets will take a big hit when the Fed finally reins in its easy money policies.
Buffett said those policies could one day lead to inflation, and that he’s predicted as much for a long time, but that he’s been wrong. Rather than pushing inflation higher, the Fed’s policies have recently led to lower inflation, also a concern.
Buffett advised President Obama to keep Bernanke at the helm of the Fed for another four-year term. Bernanke’s term, his second, ends on January 31, 2014.
“If I were the president I’d have him (Bernanke) keep the baton,” he said.
Buffett said he expects markets will continue to move higher over time because, historically, they always have.
During the interview, Buffett was joined by former Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) CEO Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway’s Vice-Chairman Charlie Munger, and Berkshire’s newest board member, money manager Meryl Witmer.
Buffett said Berkshire’s board is “100% in agreement” on the company’s succession, but he declined to elaborate.
Asked why Gates sits on the board of Berkshire Hathaway but Buffett does not sit on the board of Microsoft, Buffett responded, laughing, “The answer is I’m not qualified.”
The 89-year-old Munger said he would not be joining Buffett, his long-time business partner, on Twitter, the social media messaging board. The 82-year-old Buffett began tweeting last week.
NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will announce today a new lawsuit filed against Bank of America (BAC) and Wells Fargo (WFC) for allegedly violating the mortgage modification rules in the $26 billion National Mortgage Settlement reached in 2012 with the Department of Justice, 48 states and the nation’s five biggest banks, his office said in a statement.
Industry insiders say the New York attorney general’s move will put pressure on the banks to do principal write downs on loans, which the banks and government regulators have resisted, arguing it will hurt investors in the bonds built on those loans, including senior citizens, pension funds and institutional investors and hedge funds.
“Attorney general Schneiderman intends to sue Bank of America and Wells Fargo for repeatedly violating the terms of the National Mortgage Settlement,” his office says in a statement. “Since October 2012, the attorney general’s office has documented 339 violations of standards agreed to by Wells Fargo and Bank of America in last year’s settlement.”
Wells Fargo declined comment. Bank of America didn’t return calls for comment. The New York attorney general’s office says in a statement that he intends to ask a court “to impose injunctive relief and to require strict compliance under the settlement.”
The suit marks the first time an attorney general has “brought a legal enforcement claim under the auspices of the National Mortgage Settlement,” Schneiderman’s office said in a statement.
The $26 billion settlement with the major banks is loaded with 304 rules, or “servicing standards,” meant to shore up bad and illegal mortgage lending practices at Ally Financial/GMAC, JP Morgan Chase (JPM), Citibank (C), Bank of America and Wells Fargo, because they “persistently failed to provide fair and timely services to their customers,” the attorney general says.
Specifically, the attorney general alleges the two banks violated four standards “dictating the timeline for banks to process mortgage modification applications.” The standards include giving borrowers written approval of a loan modification within three business days, and notifying borrowers within five days of application about missing documents that may hold up loan modifications, among other things.
The New York attorney general has steadily pushed the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the big banks to do more to cut borrowers’ principal balances still outstanding on loans that the major banks still hold on their balance sheets.
Last month, Schneiderman expressed concerns about Wells Fargo, questioning the pace of relief provided by the bank to homeowners under the $26 billion settlement.
Schneiderman says he has already “applauded President Obama for nominating Mel Watt as the permanent head of Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA), the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” according to a statement, “but called on him to take immediate action to replace acting FHFA Director Edward DeMarco with a new acting director who will allow principal relief for struggling homeowners.”
However, federal officials and state prosecutors have resisted the push to let banks cut loan principal on mortgages packaged into bonds, because doing so would hurt innocent investors not responsible for allegedly abusive mortgage practices.
Already, in a 2008 settlement with Bank of America, the bank said it would cut borrowers’ payments by more than $8 billion to settle allegations of abusive mortgage practices by state attorneys general.
But that triggered a backlash by investors who said the bank could merely pass the cost of that settlement on to them, instead of directly reducing the loans it held on its books. Bank of America has steadfastly denied those allegations.
“It would be a pyrrhic victory to settle the mortgage crisis with the money of public institutions, pension funds and seniors,” Chris Katopis, executive director of the Association of Mortgage Investors, has said. His members have an estimated $300 billion of assets under management, and he has said he is “greatly concerned” that the settlement could use “other people’s money.”