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Morning Media Newsfeed: Comcast, TWC Face Senate | Pauley to CBS | CNN’s Digital Video Push

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Senate Panel Expresses Caution on Merger of Cable Giants (NYT)
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed concern on Wednesday that the proposed $45 billion merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable would raise the prices consumers pay for cable television and high-speed Internet service while leaving them with fewer choices for video programming. But the senators generally failed to rattle Comcast and Time Warner executives or cause them to diverge from their basic defense of the merger: that it will not affect competition because the two companies do not compete anywhere. Only one senator, Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, said during the three-hour hearing that he wanted the merger blocked. CNNMoney Comcast and Time Warner Cable said that the merger will lead to improvements in services for customers, creating scale and cost savings that will drive new investments. Several Republican senators, most notably Orin Hatch of Utah, seemed to agree. Although the combined company would have a presence in 19 of the top 20 U.S. markets, Comcast executive vice president David Cohen noted that Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t compete in any of those cities. He argued that customer choices therefore won’t be affected. The Washington Post / The Switch “There’s no doubt that Comcast is a huge, influential company with more than 100 lobbyists” hired to persuade regulators and lawmakers to approve the deal, said Franken. “But I’ve also heard from over 100,000 consumers who oppose the deal.” Cohen said at the hearing that he couldn’t promise to reduce prices on their services. The rise of cable bills at three times the rate of inflation is among the many concerns consumers have about the proposal that would merge the top two cable firms and the biggest and third-biggest broadband providers. Adweek It’s not that the Senators didn’t have “concerns.” The stats that will define the combined company’s unmatched size — 19 of the top 20 markets, 23 of the top 25, and 37 of the top 50 — give lawmakers pause. They even struggled to understand whether or not the combined company would dominate advertising sales. But they stopped short of opposing the merger, calling on the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice “to consider carefully the impact on consumers as they review the pending merger,” said judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy. WSJ / MoneyBeat The hearing came a day after Comcast submitted a 180-page document justifying its purchase of Time Warner Cable. The filing walked through the various parts of the media industry that could be affected by the deal, including online video, television programming and broadband Internet access, as well as local ad sales in the cable market. If the deal wins approval, Comcast would have 30 percent of the nation’s pay-TV subscribers and nearly 40 percent of U.S. broadband subscribers.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Comcast Pleads Case | DirecTV Restores TWC | Breitbart Loses Whip

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As Comcast Takes Next Step in TWC Merger, Opposition Groups Band Together (TVNewser)
Comcast took the next step in its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Tuesday morning by filing a joint Applications and Public Interest Statement with the FCC. In a blog post about the filing, Comcast EVP David Cohen argued that the deal is good for consumers, especially current TWC customers. Those opposed to the deal, understandably, don’t think so. Fifty groups sent a letter to the attorney general and FCC chairman Tuesday asking that the deal be blocked. Capital New York The 650-page document filed with the FCC outlines the reasons Comcast believes the proposed merger with TWC would be in the public interest. Much of the document spelled out in granular detail arguments made by Comcast in its original announcement of the proposed deal, but there are some notable new takes. Comcast now sees itself as a tech company, in competition with Google, Facebook and Netflix just as much as traditional competitors like DirecTV and Verizon. Comcast argues that it doesn’t compete with TWC, as they do not operate in the same areas. Variety Critics have claimed the Comcast-TWC merger, which would create an entity that controls 30 percent of the country’s pay-TV market, is decidedly not in the public interest because it would result in fewer choices and higher prices for consumers. Moreover, the combination “could compromise the open nature of the Internet,” Sen. Al Franken told Justice Department officials last month. CNET Last week, Comcast filed a Hart-Scott-Rodino notification with the U.S. Department of Justice, which will begin the antitrust review of the merger. And on Wednesday, Cohen will testify about the merger before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Now that the official filing has been made in the merger, which was announced in February, the FCC will have a self-imposed deadline of 180 days to review and make its decision. USA Today Facing a growing number of customers flocking to streaming video and content providers demanding more payment for programs, TWC agreed in February to be bought by Comcast for $45 billion. The acquisition would give Comcast access to key media markets that it has coveted, including New York and Los Angeles, and occupy about 40 percent of the Internet service market, or about 32 million customers.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Walters’ Retirement Set | Vox.com Goes Live | Megaupload Sued

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Barbara Walters’ Final Scheduled Television Appearance Announced (ABC News)
Almost a year after she announced her plan to depart daily television, Barbara Walters is preparing to say farewell. Her last day co-hosting The View, a program that she created, will be May 16, and ABC will air a two-hour special highlighting her life and career that night, from 9-11 p.m. ET. TVNewser Walters will continue to executive produce The View and will contribute to ABC News as the news warrants. THR / The Live Feed The ABC News headquarters in New York City will also be named in her honor, as the Barbara Walters Building, during a dedication ceremony this spring. Walters acknowledged that she’s sad to leave but that “it feels right for me,” repeating what she’s previously said about wanting to leave before people complained about her being on television too long. Reuters Walters, 84, has suffered from health problems recently, including a concussion after she fainted and hit her head last year and a bout of chickenpox. In 2010, she had open heart surgery. Since announcing her retirement, she hosted 20 Years of The 10 Most Fascinating People, the final show of her yearly special program about intriguing personalities. During her long career, Walters was known for her interviews on U.S. television with world leaders including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and every U.S. president since Richard Nixon. She also interviewed celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise. Mediaite Walters joined ABC in 1976, when she famously became the first female anchor ever on an evening news program. She later became a co-host of 20/20 and launched The View in 1997.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: AP Journalists Shot | Schultz’s Legal Woes | Blade Sues U.S. Gov’t

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AP Photographer Killed, Reporter Wounded in Afghanistan (The Associated Press)
An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. FishbowlNY Niedringhaus and Gannon were covering the nation’s election when a policeman opened fire on their vehicle. Niedringhaus was killed instantly and Gannon was shot twice and later underwent surgery. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media Niedringhaus and Gannon were traveling in a convoy of election workers delivering ballots from the center of Khost city to the outskirts, in Tani district, protected by the Afghan National Army and Afghan police. As they were sitting in the car waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, yelled “Allahu Akbar” — God is Great — and opened fire on them in the back seat with his AK-47. He then surrendered to the other police and was arrested. BBC News The attack came as Afghanistan intensified security ahead of presidential elections on Saturday, in response to threats of violence by the Taliban. The new president will succeed Hamid Karzai, who has been in power since the 2001 fall of the Taliban but is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term. The run-up to this historic election had already been the bloodiest, and fears of electoral fraud are pronounced. NYT Niedringhaus, a German citizen who was based in Geneva, first came to Afghanistan after joining the AP in 2002, and she quickly formed a partnership with Gannon. They were among a band of female photographers and correspondents who persevered through many years of conflict in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. In the process, they helped redefine traditional notions of war reporting. Even as they covered the battlefield, they also focused attention on the human impact of conflicts known for their random, unpredictable violence against civilians.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Letterman to Retire | Mozilla’s Eich Resigns | Fusion’s TV First

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David Letterman to Leave Late Show (TVNewser)
During the taping of Thursday’s Late Show, David Letterman announced next year will be his last on the show he’s hosted for more than two decades. The news was first reported on Twitter by R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, a guest on the show, just after 4 p.m. ET. Letterman, who turns 67 next week, signed a contract extension in October. Adweek The duration of the new deal seemed a sure sign that the clock was ticking on Letterman’s late night tenure. Two years prior to signing the extension, the host had agreed to a two-year deal. NYT Letterman said he had informed CBS president Leslie Moonves of his intention to step down from The Late Show at the end of his current contract, which has about 16 months left. A specific end date has not yet been set. Letterman is considered by many to be the most original voice in the late-night format, and Moonves has been steadfast in his assurances in recent years that he would never ask Letterman to retire, saying at one point, “You don’t do that to a television legend.” Mashable Letterman hosted Late Night on NBC from 1982 to 1993 before starting Late Show on CBS in 1993. In 2013, he surpassed Johnny Carson as the longest-running late night talk show host in television history. He has been part of more than 6,000 late-night broadcasts. USA Today It’s unclear how CBS will replace Letterman, and when, precisely. Craig Ferguson, who hosts the Letterman-produced Late Late Show, is not being considered as a replacement, insiders say, even though his contract technically promises it. Moonves is known to have been interested in The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart over the years, but in the past Stewart has said he is not interested in a network talk show. Stewart’s Comedy Central partner Stephen Colbert is seen as a more likely candidate, and is available sooner: His contract with Comedy Central expires in December, though Stewart is free in 2015. Chelsea Handler also announced plans to leave her late-night E! show this year.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Amazon Unveils Fire TV | Strahan to Join GMA | Peabody Award Winners

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Amazon Announces Set-Top Box ‘Fire TV’ (LostRemote)
Amazon continues its quest to become more than an e-commerce powerhouse, announcing Wednesday a set-top box that allows HDTV viewers to connect to Amazon’s video offerings. Mashable The set-top device, called Amazon Fire TV, will be sold for $99. It is a small flat box with a remote control. The hardware aims to take on the Apple TV, Roku and even the Xbox One. The Internet-connected set-top box, which uses voice search when you speak into the remote and also serves as a gaming console, was announced during a launch event in New York City on Wednesday with Amazon VP Peter Larsen playing master of ceremonies, not CEO and founder Jeff Bezos. WSJ The new Fire TV is an ambitious move by Amazon to break into the living room. Amazon offers a streaming-video service to its Prime subscribers, but until now has been largely dependent on other hardware manufacturers to deliver that content to televisions. Sales of streaming media devices such as Roku are expected to grow 24 percent this year, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics. Apple currently leads the market, followed by Roku and Google, the firm said. NYT Fire TV will show a range of content from other providers, including Hulu, Netflix and ESPN. With a separate $40 controller, it can be used to play games, including a version of the extremely popular Minecraft. Among the improvements and enhancements promoted for Fire TV: a voice search function that allows users to utter a name like “George Clooney” or a genre like “horror” and see results instantly pop up, and a prediction feature that knows what you want and queues it up. THR The small black box began shipping Wednesday, Larsen told a crowd of reporters. It has a premium price point in line with Apple TV. Roku, meanwhile, costs as low as $50 and Chromecast retails for $35.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Fox’s 49th Quarter Win | 60 Minutes Owns Up | RIP, @ColbertReport

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2014 Ratings: Fox News No. 1 for 49th Consecutive Quarter (TVNewser)
Fox News finishes its 49th consecutive quarter and 147th consecutive month as the top-rated cable news network, besting the competition in both total day and primetime during the first quarter of 2014. In addition to delivering cable news’ top 14 programs in total viewers and top seven programs in the adults 25-54 demographic, Fox News was the only cable news network to grow compared to the year-ago quarter. Despite a strong March for CNN, MSNBC held on to the second-place spot among the cable news networks in both total day and primetime. HuffPost The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was one of the biggest stories of the month, and CNN — whose obsessive coverage of the plane has brought it both ratings victories and repeated criticism — reaped the rewards in March. The network beat MSNBC in weekday primetime in the demo at the end of the quarter, averaging 240,000 viewers in the 25-54 category to MSNBC’s 201,000. Those numbers represent a 71 percent increase in the demo compared to March 2013. Variety The numbers come as MSNBC pushed hard during the period to cover the “Bridgegate” scandal surrounding New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and they raise the question of whether CNN will be able to sustain its March momentum when and if the MH 370 story loses the interest of news audiences.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: AJ Journos Denied Bail | CNN Hits Digital High | FCC Limits JSAs

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Al-Jazeera Reporters Plead for Release (The Associated Press / The Big Story)
Three Al-Jazeera journalists on trial in Egypt directly asked the judge on Monday to release them, insisting the terrorism charges against them were preposterous. The judge denied the request for bail by Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed during the fourth hearing in the trial that opened on Feb. 20. TVNewser The judge did not accept their plea, adjourning the case until April 10. Australian Broadcasting Corp. It was Greste’s fourth appearance in court after more than 90 days in prison, and in an unusual move he was allowed to directly approach the judge and tell him why he should be freed. In words translated for the judge, Greste said that he had only been in Egypt for two weeks before his arrest and he had no connection with the Muslim Brotherhood. NYT One of the journalists even recounted drinking alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam. It was the first time the journalists were allowed to speak in court, about a hundred days after being detained. All three worked for Al Jazeera’s English-language news channel, and their case has elicited protests from human rights and free-speech groups. Mansour has said in public letters to the journalists’ families that he hoped they were soon released. And for a brief moment on Monday, the judge appeared sympathetic to the journalists’ arguments. CNN International Fahmy told the court that he and his colleagues worked in public rather than in secrecy, and covered Egypt as they would other countries. He questioned how any journalist could be labeled a terrorist. Their lawyers also took up the issue of Fahmy’s health. Fahmy injured his shoulder before his arrest in December. He has complained about not getting proper medical treatment while in prison and says that because of the lack of treatment, he no longer has full use of his right arm. The trial was adjourned until April 10.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Elliott Exits GMA | Piers Morgan Bows Out | NYT Mag Names New Editor

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Josh Elliott Exiting ABC’s Good Morning America for NBC Sports (TheWrap)
After months of speculation over Josh Elliott’s future at ABC News’ Good Morning America, contract talks broke down over the weekend and he will leave his anchor spot for a gig with NBC Sports. Amy Robach will be promoted to news anchor, effective immediately. TVNewser Elliott’s jump to NBC and return to sports comes at the end of intense contract negotiations with ABC News. Elliott will work on most high-profile NBC Sports programs including Sunday Night Football, NBC Olympics and Triple Crown horse racing. NBC is expected to reveal more later this week. Deadline Hollywood Elliott, who had been making about $1.2 million salary at GMA, turned down an offer to stay with the show for $4-$5 million. After his fellow anchor Lara Spencer nailed down a lucrative multiyear contract Thursday, Elliott raised his ask to $10 million a year. Per the terms of Elliott’s exit, he cannot appear on NBC’s Today show for six months. NYT Elliott is the second member of the GMA team to be recruited away from the show by NBCUniversal. Sam Champion, who had been the weather anchor for GMA, was hired by the Weather Channel to start up a new morning show on that cable channel, which is owned by NBCUniversal. ABC did make a strong effort to retain Elliott, offering him about $5 million a year, according to one executive with knowledge of the negotiations. Variety Robach, Elliott’s replacement, began her career as a general assignment reporter in South Carolina and moved on to become a morning anchor in Washington, D.C. She spent five years at NBC where she was an anchor at MSNBC and co-host of Weekend Today. Co-anchors Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos remain as the leads of the show.

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Morning Media Newsfeed: Turkey Blocks YouTube | NBC Ends Two Sites | Twitter on The Charts

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Turkish Telecoms Authority Moves Against YouTube After Twitter Ban (Reuters)
The Turkish telecoms authority TIB said on Thursday it had taken an “administrative measure” against YouTube, a week after it blocked access to microblogging site Twitter. NYT / The Lede The Turkish government blocked access to YouTube after an audio recording was uploaded to the platform in which the foreign minister and senior military and intelligence officials could be heard discussing the security situation in Syria. WSJ The leaked recording published anonymously purported to show a conversation in which Turkey’s foreign minister, spy chief and a top general appear to discuss scenarios that could lead to a Turkish attack against Jihadist militants in Syria. After the two-part voice file was published, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the TIB requesting that it shutter YouTube. The content represents a “first degree threat to national security,” the ministry said, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. CNN Turkey’s top media regulating agency announced a similar ban on the broadcast of the conversation to television and radio channels. Turkey’s political elite has been battered by a campaign of wiretap leaks recorded by unknown operatives and distributed daily for more than a month on the Internet. Until Wednesday, all of the wiretaps seemed to be recordings of phone conversations between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his inner circle, government officials and some top corporate executives. Politico The move comes just days before significant local elections. Turkish residents decried the Twitter blockage, which prevented them from using the site in any way. A Turkish court overturned the ban on Wednesday, although it could stay in place until after Sunday’s elections. The Twitter crackdown came after similar information appeared on the site questioning the government’s credibility.

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