ATEC Australian Tourism Export CouncilTourism industry will continue fight against backpacker taxThe Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), is extremely disappointed the Government will push ahead with its decision to raise taxes on backpacker visitors, who will now pay a marginal tax rate of 32.5% from their first dollar earned, further encouraging them to take their holiday in New Zealand.“This budget locks in a tax which will deliver a negative result for Australia’s tourism industry and which will drive our backpacker visitors into the arms of our New Zealand competitors,” ATEC Managing Director, Peter Shelley said following today’s Federal Budget release.“Over the past few months ATEC has worked alongside other concerned industry representatives to find alternative solutions to this tax, and we met the Government’s deadlines and demands to work with them on a negotiated outcome.“Tonight we have had no alternative proposal and, instead, face a further decline in the number of working holiday maker visitors compounding an already apparent labour shortage for tourism businesses in regional and remote Australia.“Australia’s tourism industry will not stand by and watch as the Turnbull Government introduces a tax that sends out a message that working holiday makers are not welcome – a message that is in stark contrast to the growth-focused approach taken by New Zealand.“This is an issue which will not go away and one we will be pushing hard during the upcoming election.”Mr Shelley said innovations in visa processing, including new user-pays, fast-tracked visas for India and the UAE, along with three-year multiple entry visas for India, Thailand, Vietnam and Chile were welcome.“ATEC is pleased to see the Government has heeded industry’s advice and retained visa fees, and the Passenger Movement Charge at current levels and also provided premium processing at airports which will help to us to engage the international luxury market.“We welcome the support of Trade Minister Ciobo in working to retain the Government’s funding commitment to Tourism Australia, which will help to keep Australia competitive in what is an increasingly aggressive market.”“With our overall tourism exports achieving extraordinary rates of growth and contributing significantly to our export income, we need to be embracing and strengthening the opportunities offered by Australia’s export tourism industry.“With outstanding results such as an 8% year-on-year increase in international visitor numbers, 18% growth in expenditure and a forecast to reach export earnings of more than $42 billion a year in the next 5 years, we should be doing all we can to build on all our market segments.“While Australia is a highly desirable destination for international visitors, the enormous global growth in travel means we face stronger competition from an increasing number of countries who see the economic value of gaining a greater share of the market.”Source = Australian Tourism Export Council
State Rep. Bruce Rendon and State Sen. Darwin Booher applauded ARAUCO’s plans to build the largest continuous particleboard press in North America, and generate an estimated 250 permanent jobs.Rep. Rendon and Sen. Booher, along with other community leaders, worked together to grow support for the project by ensuring that the proper individuals were made aware of the significance of the $325 million development and the positive effects that it would have locally.Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City, said the expansion was a long-time coming, and praised the company for their contribution to the community.“This was a huge collaboration amongst community leaders,” said Rep. Rendon. “We were all in it to win this opportunity for our community. A lot of hard work was done on this project.”Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, also expressed his support for the project.“I am thankful ARAUCO has chosen to expand its business in our community and appreciate all of the hard work that went in to making this happen,” said Booher, R-Evart. “The new facility will leverage Michigan’s vast forestland, boost our strong timber industry, and continue the storied history of our state’s great manufacturing heritage.”Ground-breaking is estimated for late 2016, with the rollout of the first panel during the latter part of 2018.### Categories: Rendon News 17Sep Lawmakers praise ARAUCO expansion, new jobs
Rep. Bronna Kahle recently introduced a plan to boost the development of technology associated with clean fuels while helping revitalize Michigan communities.Kahle’s proposal would make research and development related to powertrains using clean fuels and electric vehicles eligible for community revitalization incentives. The goal is to spark private investment and create jobs through electric vehicles and other clean mobility technologies such as compressed natural gas.“This is another logical step in continuing and broadening Michigan’s economic comeback,” Kahle said. “Our plan promotes job creation, community revitalization and clean fuels – three positive goals that can be accomplished together with the right strategy.”Kahle’s legislation would broaden the Michigan Strategic Fund’s community revitalization incentive program to include advanced propulsion and mobility technologies vital to the development of power trains that use clean fuel.It could assist innovative companies such as Venchurs Vehicle Systems in Adrian, which provides compressed natural gas fleet conversions for many Michigan companies.“The clean fuel ecosystem needs to be supported for all of us here in Michigan so we can continue to provide jobs and compete with neighboring states,” said Jeff Wyatt, CEO at Venchurs Vehicle Systems. “This industry continues to be important and is clearly at the top of the agenda for the automotive industry going forward. We are grateful for Rep. Kahle’s proposal to promote the clean fuel industry because it will help both our environment and our economy.”House Bill 6328 was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for consideration.##### Categories: Kahle News,News 12Sep Rep. Kahle introduces plan to boost clean fuel technology in Michigan
ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares February 11, 2014; NewsweekNewsweek reports that the Internet protest of NSA surveillance launched yesterday saw more than 5,000 websites participate through placing memes and banners on their sites. The effort was launched by Demand Progress as “The Day We Fight Back” and was backed by a broad coalition of activist groups and companies, including Access, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, BoingBoing, Reddit, Mozilla, ThoughtWorks, and many more.David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, which he cofounded with Aaron Swartz, said: “Today the greatest threat to a free Internet, and broader free society, is the National Security Agency’s mass spying regime. If Aaron were alive he’d be on the front lines, fighting back against these practices that undermine our ability to engage with each other as genuinely free human beings.”As the protest got started many were likening it to the SOPA/PIPA protests, but as Brian Fung of the Washington Post writes, “today’s protesters face the much more challenging task. In 2012, protesters were trying to stop what they viewed as a bad bill. Today, they’re trying to push a positive legislative agenda. How the demonstrators fare could tell us a lot about the challenges of online organizing, as well as about the future of Internet protest.”Still, he suggests, “Today’s protesters benefit significantly from the fact that the USA Freedom Act has already been introduced in Congress and has lawmaker support. They’re also backed by the tech companies that have substantial lobbying power on the Hill. If the bill passes, activists will be able to claim that their efforts at Internet organizing contributed in some measure to actual legislation, adding momentum for further actions down the road.”For those unfamiliar with the USA Freedom Act, here is how the ACLU summarizes it:The legislation seeks to rein in the NSA by doing the following:End the bulk collection of Americans’ records shared with third parties and put reasonable limits on Patriot Act powers targeted at people in the United States. The new restrictions would apply not only to phone records collected under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, but national security letters and pen registers that have also been abused.Amend the 2008 FISA Amendments Act to require that the government obtain a court order before using information about Americans collected during foreign intelligence operations.Increase transparency by allowing communications providers to disclose the number of surveillance orders they receive, mandate the government publish how many people are subject to surveillance orders, and make public significant FISA court opinions since July 2003.Create a public advocate that could advise the secret surveillance court in certain cases.Some believe that these steps are fine, but insufficient, as this fight may be one that will be waged on many battlefields over the next few years. According to Roy Singham, chairman of the global technology company ThoughtWorks, “Aaron showed us that being a technologist in the 21st century means taking action to prevent technology from being turned against the public interest. The time is now for the global tribe of technologists to rise up together and defeat mass surveillance.”—Ruth McCambridgeShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
ShareTweetShareEmail0 SharesApril 14, 2014; WBUR, “Cognoscenti”Joseph Darby, tax lawyer cum sportswriter, thinks that the Internal Revenue Code is one of the most unintentionally hilarious books ever written. For those of you who from time to time struggle with its vagaries with regard to nonprofit corporations, this might not resonate, but it’s all in how you look at it.For instance, he writes:“We all value clarity in the written word. Code Section 509(a) provides the following definition of a ‘private charity’: For purposes of paragraph (3), an organization described in paragraph (2) shall be deemed to include an organization described in section 501(c)(4), (5), or (6) which would be described in paragraph (2) if it were an organization described in section 501(c)(3).”He says there are also many useful definitions in the code you may be able to make use of in day-to-day life, as in the following found in Code Section 168(i)(2)(B):(B) COMPUTER OR PERIPHERAL EQUIPMENT DEFINED. — For purposes of this paragraph–(i) IN GENERAL. — The term “computer or peripheral equipment” means–(I) any computer, and(II) any related peripheral equipment.”He also observes, “The average Internal Revenue Code sentence is written in a style that places special emphasis on maximizing the ratio of words to periods. Maybe at one point in time the Government Printing Office charged extra for periods compared to other letters and symbols—I don’t know. In all events, nowhere are the sentences longer, the dependent clauses more dependent, the independent clauses more independent and tangled, the participles more dangling and the gerunds more wildly off the reservation than in the tax law of our land.”And in illustration, he points to former Code Section 341(e)(1), dealing with so-called “collapsible corporations.” He says it was repealed in 2003 but “is just too impressive an example of Congress’s writing flair and verbal panache to be ignored.”For purposes of subsection (a)(1), a corporation shall not be considered to be a collapsible corporation with respect to any sale or exchange of stock of the corporation by a shareholder, if, at the time of such sale or exchange, the sum of – (A) the net unrealized appreciation in subsection (e) assets of the corporation (as defined in paragraph (5)(A)), plus (B) if the shareholder owns more than 5 percent in value of the outstanding stock of the corporation the net unrealized appreciation in assets of the corporation (other than assets described in subparagraph (A)) which would be subsection (e) assets under clauses (i) and (iii) of paragraph (5)(A) if the shareholder owned more than 20 percent in value of such stock, plus (C) if the shareholder owns more than 20 percent in value of the outstanding stock of the corporation and owns, or at any time during the preceding 3-year period owned, more than 20 percent in value of the outstanding stock of any other corporation more than 70 percent in value of the assets of which are, or were at any time during which such shareholder owned during such 3-year period more than 20 percent in value of the outstanding stock, assets similar or related in service or use to assets comprising more than 70 percent in value of the assets of the corporation, the net unrealized appreciation in assets of the corporation (other than assets described in subparagraph (A)) which would be subsection (e) assets under clauses (i) and (iii) of paragraph (5)(A) if the determination whether the property, in the hands of such shareholder, would be property gain from the sale or exchange of which would under any provision of this chapter be considered in whole or in part as ordinary income, were made – (i) by treating any sale or exchange by such shareholder of stock in such other corporation within the preceding 3-year period (but only if at the time of such sale or exchange the shareholder owned more than 20 percent in value of the outstanding stock in such other corporation) as a sale or exchange by such shareholder of his proportionate share of the assets of such other corporation, and (ii) by treating any liquidating sale or exchange of property by such other corporation within such 3-year period (but only if at the time of such sale or exchange the shareholder owned more than 20 percent in value of the outstanding stock in such other corporation) as a sale or exchange by such shareholder of his proportionate share of the property sold or exchanged, does not exceed an amount equal to 15 percent of the net worth of the corporation.In case you lost count, the previous passage contains 342 words and only one period. Impressive!—Ruth McCambridgeShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
Share126Tweet4Share5Email135 SharesIMG_0854 / stand4securityOctober 26, 2016; Chronicle of Higher EducationOn Tuesday, we reported in our nonprofit newswire that the dining hall workers at Harvard had reached a “tentative agreement” with the university. And yesterday, we heard word that the contract essentially required no concessions of the workers. They got what they asked for: at least $35,000 a year and coverage of what were to have been additional healthcare costs. Wages will be retroactively raised by more than 2.5 percent a year.“We achieved every goal without exception, with no concessions to Harvard,” Unite Here Local 26 President Brian Lang said.We wonder what went on behind the scenes. Did a donor, or two or three, express moral indignation after that article by one of the dining hall workers appeared in the New York Times? Was it the support for the strikers voiced by the Boston and Cambridge City Councils, or the juxtaposition of the poverty they were studying with a new multimillion-dollar grant with the poverty they were abetting? Was it the Boston Globe’s editorial board making its opinion known? Or was it a combination of all of the above, with a generous portion of student activism thrown in? More than 500 students organized by the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) walked out of class on Tuesday in support of the strikers.Katie Lapp, Harvard’s executive vice president, commented in a statement that the five-year agreement “represents a fair and reasonable resolution to negotiations. […] The university has sought a resolution that maintains superior compensation for our dining workers, acknowledging their role as integral members of the Harvard community.”The Harvard Crimson describes the moment that the union negotiators walked out to greet those still protesting at 1 am or thereabouts on Tuesday morning.Abhinav Reddy, a School of Public Health student and graduate student union organizer, described the final moments of the night. Local 26’s bargaining team joined the demonstrators remaining outside, he said, and “everyone gathered back up and started chanting.”“You could just see it on their faces before they even said anything,” Reddy said. “And everybody was like screaming and yelling, and then they said ‘we won, we got it.’”SLAM member Grace F. Evans ’19, also present at the negotiations’ conclusion, said workers came out of the building visibly emotional before Lang announced to the assembled crowd of supporters that the union had “won.”“It was a really emotional moment,” she said. “The workers were crying but Brian Lang was smiling, so we knew it was good news.”Here is an excerpt from the Boston Globe editorial:Although the labor standoff in Cambridge involves one of the world’s most prestigious universities, it follows a familiar pattern: a large institution trying to save money on the backs of its lowest-paid workers…The editorial brought up the tax breaks given to the institution by Boston and Cambridge and its responsibility to the regional economy, and then it concluded…The timing of the strike packs at least a bit of irony at a university renowned for its study of income inequality and poverty.“Here we have a benefactor who’s donated $2 million to study race relations when an endemic outcome of centuries of racism is protesting outside Harvard’s windows,” says Sandhira Wijayaratne, a Harvard Medical School student who’s part of the Racial Justice Coalition on campus supporting the cafeteria workers’ strike. Many of the cafeteria workers are immigrants, and more than half identify as people of color.“If the university really wants to demonstrate its commitment to racial equity, a strong first step would be to pay its dining workers fairly and provide them with affordable health insurance.”He’s right.Your move, Harvard.Harvard’s concession comes just as Tufts janitors are facing a strike vote. Overall, the question that has been long brewing regarding the responsibility of such nonprofits to play fair with their employees and local communities is being called by Congress and local communities alike.—Ruth McCambridgeShare126Tweet4Share5Email135 Shares
Share16Tweet9Share8Email33 SharesADAPT Medicaid Rally, Source: SEIUJuly 26, 2017; Disability ScoopHome- and community-based services allow people with disabilities to live outside institutions. That Medicaid cuts that would strip individuals of their freedom are up for consideration is appalling, and disability advocates have been taking noticeable action by staging die-ins resulting in dozens of arrests. Sixty-four people were arrested on Tuesday in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.Activism among people with disabilities is not a new phenomenon, but it seems to be receiving increasing attention in recent days as the proposed healthcare bill would result in sweeping Medicaid cuts, essentially eliminating in-home services for persons with disabilities.“Today, a majority of senators ignored the pleas of their constituents and moved ahead with debating disastrous health care proposals that will result in people losing health care coverage and threaten the Medicaid home and community-based service system. All roads from this vote are bad for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of the Arc, a nonprofit that promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilitiesThe Republican health care acts have been called “an assault on people with disabilities.” The current proposal would change Medicaid’s payment system from one based on patient need to a per-capita payment to the states. States would receive a set payment for each Medicaid enrollee, regardless of how much money they need to spend on recipients, incentivizing states to spend less per enrollee. As healthcare costs shift from the federal government onto states, cuts would be required for states to remain afloat. As home- and community-based services are often made available through state Medicaid waivers, these are likely to disappear as the funding is cut.This means that people with disabilities who rely on hired caregivers for assistance with daily living tasks such as taking medication, eating, and bathing will no longer receive these services in their homes. They would be forced to live in residential care, which not only has worse outcomes for persons with disabilities, but also costs more, and violates the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, which mandates service delivery in the least restrictive environment possible. Furthermore, people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty. That means that even those who don’t require home- and community-based services are threatened by funding cuts.Given the dire situation persons faced by with disabilities and their loved ones, it comes as no surprise that ADAPT has staged protest after protest and will likely continue to do so until people with disabilities are able to access the services and programs they need. Earlier this week activists chanted, “I’d rather go to jail than die without Medicaid.” People with disabilities are fighting as if their lives depend on it, because they do.—Sheela NimishakaviShare16Tweet9Share8Email33 Shares
Share6Tweet14Share1Email21 SharesPexels. Public domain. [CC 0]August 9, 2017; Washington PostRight after a blustering challenge of North Korea to a potentially world-destroying face-off, President Donald Trump also tried to restart the war on drugs between holes of golf.“Strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society,” Trump said. “I’m confident that by working with our health care and law enforcement experts, we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win.”Trump criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for having fewer drug prosecutions and not enacting longer sentences. The implication was that these trends exacerbated the opioid epidemic, which would soon be put right if he had anything to say about it.This stance, however, ignores the ongoing bipartisan agreement that the War on Drugs was a failed initiative that increased this country’s prison population precipitously while not achieving its purpose. It also omits the role of prescription drugs in feeding the problem. Opioids obtained through legal channels drove the rise in abuse for much of the Obama presidency. In response, late in his term, the Obama administration’s CDC released some stricter national prescribing guidelines. In fact, Trump’s own commission on the matter recommended in its July 31st interim report a focus on easing access to inpatient treatment and medications, better monitoring of opioid prescriptions, and more training for healthcare providers.Trump also appeared to be checking off the greatest hits of drug policies from decades past, including a bit of Reagan-era “Just Say No” in his declaration:The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem. If they do start, it’s awfully tough to get off. So we can keep them from going on, and maybe by talking to youth and telling them, “No good; really bad for you in every way.” But if they don’t start, it will never be a problem.—Ruth McCambridgeShare6Tweet14Share1Email21 Shares
Share8Tweet13Share9Email30 SharesFrom the FitchburgWI.gov website.October 4, 2017; Wisconsin State JournalA coalition of nonprofit leaders and community activists have launched a recall campaign against the new mayor of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, a suburb of some 25,000 residents just outside of Madison.The unusual reason for this atypical action? The mayor has proposed cutting city funding for several local nonprofits that serve the less affluent sections of town in order to provide raises for city employees and to expand first responder services.The Wisconsin State Journal reports that a group opposing Mayor Jason Gonzalez’s decision to eliminate funding for nonprofits from his proposed 2018 city budget said that “recall efforts to have him removed from office have begun and will continue unless the funding is restored.”The mayor responded to the backlash by saying there is “wiggle room” in the $20 million budget to fund nonprofits, if the city council wants it, but he told the paper that the money might not get allocated the same way as it has been.“There is going to be a competitive process” for nonprofits to go through to receive money from a special fund, Gonzalez said. “We’re trying to identify areas in the budget that have money that we could perhaps redirect in that direction.”One example cited by the State Journal is the local Boys & Girls Club, which has received $50,000 from the city in each of the past three budgets. Its CEO is demanding the same funding in the 2018 budget to cover costs of providing transportation and meals for children at the club’s youth center.One city council member, Julia Arata-Fratta, wants the club to get in line with other nonprofits and tap into a single pot of money that a governmental group would oversee. Through an amendment to the budget, she hopes to move funds to nonprofits that serve the city’s most economically disadvantaged and highest crime areas.The Boys & Girls Club has challenged the process, telling the State Journal that the plans for a competitive process have not been reviewed by community partners or city staff. Gonzalez is accusing the Club of “attempting to coerce approval from the council with tactics similar to those he has used in the past.”The group of Fitchburg residents working to recall Gonzalez is demanding last year’s level of funding for the Boys & Girls Club, as well as funding for two other local nonprofits—a food pantry and a “Healthy Neighborhoods” program. They claim that over 2,400 families from Fitchburg’s poorest neighborhoods would be impacted by a lack of funding to the food pantries, and that a reduction in programming would affect more than 800 youths who use the Boys and Girls Club. One leader, an unsuccessful city council candidate last year, called the elimination of funding for nonprofits from Gonzalez’s proposed budget “inhuman and an injustice to the people of color.”“Gonzalez, who grew up in a single-family household on Madison’s South Side and became the first Latino elected Fitchburg mayor when he defeated the incumbent last November, chafed at criticism that his budget ignores the needs of minorities,” said the State Journal article. The mayor cited a new park, a ride-share program, and a $50,000 appropriation from the city’s Community and Economic Development Authority as examples of how the city helps low-income underserved residents.The budget calls for a four percent increase from 2017’s budget, which Gonzalez says pays for cost-of-living increases for city employees, in addition to a new fire station, ladder truck, and ambulance. Gonzalez said the new fire equipment will reduce response times in the city’s low-income neighborhoods.It’s not unusual for community-based nonprofits and their supporters to vigorously and vociferously argue for funding in front of local elected officials. And it’s not unusual for community activists to use the political tool of a recall election to express their disapproval of those same elected officials. But it is unusual to see nonprofit leaders join with activists to employ that tool as leverage for getting more funding. It’s a game of hardball most nonprofits shy away from, perhaps to the detriment of their causes and clients. The merits of the argument in Fitchburg aside, it will be interesting to see how effective of a strategy it is in restoring that lost funding.—Larry KaplanThe title of this newswire has been changed to better reflect the circumstances in Fitchburg.Share8Tweet13Share9Email30 Shares
Share8Tweet5Share2Email15 Shares“More empty classroom stuff, UMBC” by Seth SawyersDecember 11, 2017; Washington PostFrom coast to coast, it is getting harder to find enough qualified teachers to fill classrooms. At the beginning of this school year, Valerie Strauss, Washington Post education writer, reported that “the annual nationwide listing of areas with teacher shortages, compiled by the U.S. Education Department, shows many districts struggling to fill positions in subjects such as math, the traditional sciences, foreign language and special education, but also in reading and English language arts, history, art, music, elementary education, middle school education, career and technical education, health, and computer science.”In many industries, difficulty in getting positions filled with skilled workers would result in wages and benefits increasing. Despite all the talk of a desire for market-based solutions in education, underfunded public schools are choosing to redefine what it takes to be a “qualified” educator.This week, Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an emergency order to address his state’s teacher shortage, one that has grown by 40 percent in the last decade, resulting in 1,000 unstaffed classrooms at the beginning of the 2017 school year. He noted in his order that Virginia faces a “growing crisis that we have to stop and reverse if we are serious about the commonwealth’s economic future.”McAuliffe recognizes that “high quality teachers are the key to unlocking the potential in our children.” His solution is to allow undergraduate programs to offer education majors, a step that will reduce both the number of years and the price to become a qualified teacher.Under McAuliffe’s emergency order, pursuing an education certification would take at least one less year. As Jim Livingston, president of the Virginia Education Association, told the Washington Post, “Most public colleges and universities in Virginia require that teaching candidates first complete a bachelor’s degree in a subject area such as math, science or social studies. Then, aspiring educators must enter a teacher preparation program, which often requires a fifth year of school… McAuliffe’s order would reduce the cost of pursuing a career in education.”In announcing his action, McAuliffe said:Given the cost of higher education and the severe need for additional teachers, I believe changing this requirement will encourage more Virginians to pursue careers in education and will help supply more future teachers to meet the growing needs of our public school system.The initial reaction from educators was positive; they believe the change will not dilute teacher quality and may in fact lead to improvement. Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, said, “Allowing teacher preparation programs to develop four-year models, in my view, has the potential to create stronger preparation and more effective teachers in a shorter time frame than the current master’s focused approach.”Redefining what it means to be a qualified teacher is a high-stakes game. Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute, recently wrote that “not only are underprepared teachers less effective on average, they are also 2 to 3 times more likely to leave teaching than fully prepared teachers, creating a revolving door that makes solving shortages an uphill climb.” If Virginia’s new approach can make teaching more attractive as a career choice and not result in less skilled teachers, it will be a home run. If not, even if more classrooms are led by certified teachers, it will not result in better education.—Martin LevineShare8Tweet5Share2Email15 Shares
TV technology company Arris has launched new software for the Arris Whole Home Solution.The Moxi 2.0 software release contains a HTML5 WebKit-based browser and supports customisabel app storefronts and downloadable apps. The release also features a web services API and SDK to enable app development on the platform.
Telekom Austria’s A1TV service saw an 18.1% uptick in subscribers over the first half of this year, taking its total to 206,300. Its bundled fixed-line customers passed the one million mark.Overall, however, Telekom Austria continued to suffer from intense competition in its domestic market, with fixed line customers declining overall. The group’s domestic revenues for the period dropped by 6.1% to €1.38 billion.Internationally, Telekom Austria was hit be price competition and other problems, leading to an overall decline in revenue for the group by 4.9% to €2.12 billion and a drop in EBITDA of 6.6% to €726 million.
Maneul Sequeira, ONOSpanish cable operator ONO plans to add new functionality to its TiVo platform and test new ways of marketing the DVR version of the service, according to director of technology Manuel Sequeira.Interviewed by DTVE ahead of next week’s Cable Congress, ONO’s Sequeira said the operator is pleased with the progress of the TiVo service so far. ONO implemented software upgrades to the service in July and November last year and is in the process of adding new functionality to the platform. “We are in the process of bringing new features and functionality to the box. We are quite happy about the way it’s going. For the future it’s about continuing to evolve the platform, but there will be no big changes. It’s a very good product for top-tier customers,” said Sequeira.ONO is offering two version of the platform – a DVR version and a zapper (which is basically the same box with the DVR functionality disabled). The operator is considering introducing pilot schemes whereby potential customers will be given a free trial of a DVR box and then downgraded to a zapper if they decide they don’t want to sign up to the full service. At the moment this is still very much at the trial stage, says Sequeira.The zapper version of the box offers a range of functions including HDTV that mark it apart from the non-TiVo legacy digital set-tops supplied by ONO. “It’s a better digital experience than non TiVo boxes. Going forwards we expect most of our subscribers will take TiVo,” said Sequeira.The total number of subscribers to the TiVo service stood at 56,000 in September 2012. ONO launched TiVo in September 2011.To read the full interview with Manuel Sequeira, click here.
Jakob Mejlhede has been named chief content officer of Modern Times Group’s next-generation division, MTGx.He will remain as senior VP, acquisitions and production at MTG, a buying role he has held for several years.The new role will see him secure volume deals and other content agreements for MTG’s digital platforms, which include the popular VOD service Viaplay.“MTGx will be a lighthouse within digital content development and I am honoured to be an active part in shaping the future of digital content,” said Mejlhede.“As a group MTG has access to the best content in the world and one of MTGx missions is to fully utilise the potential across all the new and exciting platforms, to take the viewer and user experience to the next level.”MTG launched last year with the stated mission to acts an “accelerator and enabling hub for Modern Times Group’s digital planning and execution”.
Telefunken Communications has partnered with Pace-owned Aurora Networks to launch fibre-based fast internet services in Germany.Telefunken said that residential and commercial customers in select communities in Rhineland-Palatinate will be able to take advantage of the new services.Telefunken started construction work earlier this year and activated its first residential customers early last month – who can now enjoy internet services with speeds of up to up to 150Mbps.They will soon also be able to sign-up for telephony, digital TV and interactive on-demand services, while business customers will soon be able to sign-up for advanced capabilities, including data rates up to 250 Mbps.Aurora Networks is supplying its Unified PON (Passive Optical Network) portfolio for the service.This includes high-density and outdoor-hardened chassis platforms, the industry-leading Node PON technology, a comprehensive range of ONTs for both residential and business applications, and its AurOS software solution for DOCSIS Provisioning of EPON (DPoE).“We focus on providing fiber-optic based high-speed broadband services in Germany in areas unserved and underserved with other terrestrial networks like ADSL and Coax-cable,” said Hardy Heine, Telefunken Communications’ head of marketing and sales“Our clear target is to become a leading player and preferred partner for communities in our market. Significant for our expansion strategy in Germany are partnerships with other competent key players in the industry, such as Aurora Networks, so that we can provide our customers with a range of cutting-edge services with the highest quality.” Aurora Networks is exhibiting at ANGA COM in hall 10.1, booth Q9.
French cinema website AlloCiné has launched its own YouTube multichannel network.AlloCiné has launched 10 thematic channels on YouTube, providing trailers, dedicated playlists and full-length videos.Among highlights on the network at launch are the first images of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Taken 3.As well as trailers and highlights of new releases, the network will provide filmographies of actors and directors in dedicated playlists as well as full-length videos.AlloCiné has teamed up with online video specialist Melberries to launch the network, which comprises channels AlloCiné La Chaîne Officielle , AlloCiné Comédie, AlloCiné Action, AlloCiné Frisson, AlloCiné Fantastique, AlloCiné Emotion, AlloCiné Animation, AlloCiné Kids, AlloCiné Culte and AlloCiné Création.
This year has seen a 21-point increase in the proportion of US SVOD customers, with “unprecedented numbers” flocking to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, according to new research.The Hub Entertainment Research study found that 68% of the US broadband customers polled in 2016 subscribe to an online streaming service, up from 47% in 2015.Some 37% of consumers were also now found to have two or more SVOD subscriptions, compared to 19% in 2015.Netflix remained the dominant player with most subscribers, though Hulu and Amazon were found to be growing the fastest, at a rate of 60% and 59% respectively compared to last year.“Consumers have accepted the idea that online TV services are worth paying for on a monthly basis,” said Hub Entertainment Research principal, Peter Fondulas.“These findings show that subscription services like Netflix and Amazon are attracting more and more viewers with a combination of attractive features: deep catalogue, growing numbers of original series, an intuitive interface, and a transparent log-in process.”Hub Entertainment Research’s Jon Giegengack added that consumer appetite for TV content is enough to support lots of providers. “The ‘all you can eat’ model of SVOD platforms is emerging as a clear favourite and the fact that most SVOD subscribers use more than one SVOD platform is a telling development.”The annual study, which has run since 2013, tracks 1,502 US broadband customers who watch at least five hours of TV per week. The latest version of the study was conducted last month.
Nordic telco Telia Company saw its TV numbers continue to make modest progress in the second quarter, while revenues grew substantially.The telco’s total TV subscribers across Europe reached 1.657 million at the end of June, up from 1.648 million in March and up from 1.586 million year-on-year, led by solid growth in its home market of Sweden.In Sweden, Telia’s TV numbers edged up from 739,000 in Q1 to 747,000 at the end of June.Across Europe outside Sweden, numbers were flat. In Lithuania, local subsidiary Teo saw its TV subscribers rise from 217,000 to 222,000, while in Estonia, Telia’s local subsidiary saw its TV numbers stay flat at 175.000.TV numbers in Finland fell from 488,000 to 485,000 over the quarter, while numbers in Denmark slid by 1,000 to 28,000.While TV subscriber growth was modest, TV service revenues grew substantially, driven by higher ARPU in Sweden as well as growth in subscriber numbers. TV ARPU in Sweden grew from SEK176 to SEK185 over the quarter, and up from SEK164 year-on-year.Danish and Estonian ARPU also grew, to DKK345 and €8 respectively. Lithuanian TV ARPU was flat at €9.10, while Finnish ARPU edged up slightly to €9.90.
Attenborough and the Giant Sea DragonUK public broadcaster the BBC has restructured its specialist factual and natural history units team, handing execs new roles and creating new positions.Tom McDonald will remain at the helm of the natural history and specialist factual departments, but now as overall strategy for television and digital.His post covers natural history, science, religion and ethics on BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four.Last year, he commissioned big-ticket factual programmes such as Seven Worlds and Attenborough and the Giant Sea Dragon.McDonald will now work closely with new commissioning editor for science and factual, Scotland, Craig Hunter, and commissioning editor for religion and ethics Fatima Salaria.Hunter was previously factual commissioning editor for Scotland, ordering series such as Big Blue Live and Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor, while Salaria was assistant commissioner at the BBC Content Commissioner Development Program, working on religious-themed content such as Carols from King’s and My Mediterranean with Adrian Chiles.They will now take the editorial and digital lead for their respective roles.“These two new appointments demonstrate our commitment to genre specialism and to simplifying processes within the BBC to the benefit of our suppliers and our audience,” said Alison Kirkham, BBC controller of factual commissioning.The BBC plans to hire a commissioning editor for history and two commissioning editors that will work across factual genres.Kirkham took on her role as permanent factual commissioning chief in September last year. She had held the role in an acting capacity since May 2015 when Emma Swain took on a role assessing future commissioning processes.Swain left the BBC a month before Kirkham took her new post, in August 2016.
Russian service provider VimpelCom has rebranded to Veon as part of its efforts to transform itself “from a telco to a global tech company”.Veon said it is undergoing a “reinvention” based around the rollout of its new Veon-branded internet platform – a service that it launched in Italy in Q4 2016 and now aims to bring to all its markets by the end of 2017.“Veon will offer exciting services delivered by the best global digital brands. The platform will introduce a new generation of consumers, in the markets of tomorrow, to the mobile internet,” said the company in a statement.The internet platform is designed to let users stay connected for free, no matter the status of their data plan – even when they are out of credit – and uses data analytics and artificial intelligence to “put the user in control”.Veon is developing partnerships with consumer and business brands in a bid to transform the personal internet experience for customers in emerging markets, and today announced deals with Studio+, Deezer and Mastercard.“The launch of Veon, our new internet platform, will bring genuinely free messaging services, a fresh digital engagement model and new services from music to banking to consumers,” commented Veon CEO Jean-Yves Charlier.In a new mission statement posted to the Vimpelcom website the company said: “The telecom industry has struggled in recent years. As a sector we have not reinvented ourselves and have been significantly disrupted by innovative startups. For VimpelCom these problems were exacerbated by our poor financial performance and inefficient operations.“Thanks to a new world-class management team we have rebuilt our financial and operational foundations. We are now in a much better position with an improved capital structure and stronger operating companies. This progress gives us unique advantages to disrupt from within and have specifically stayed clear of bolt-on acquisitions, media plays or standalone innovation units.”The company announced its rebrand alongside its fourth quarter 2016 results, in which it reported total revenue of US$2.35 billion and EBITDA of US$783 million. This represented year-on-year organic declines of 0.2% and 2.5% respectively.The newly-named Veon is headquartered in Amsterdam and claims to provide more than 200 million customers with voice, fixed broadband, data and digital services across 13 markets: Russia, Pakistan, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Georgia, Laos and Italy.The company operates under the Beeline, Jazz, Djezzy, Kyivstar and Banglalink brands and owns 50% of a joint venture in Italy which operates under the WIND and 3 brands.