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Morning Media Newsfeed: Disney Cuts 700 | FCC vs Shared Stations | Tribune Names CEO

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Disney Interactive Lays Off Roughly 700 (THR)
The Walt Disney Company has laid off approximately 700 employees at Disney Interactive, a company spokesperson confirmed. Prior to the layoffs, roughly 2,800 employees worked at the division, representing a cut of approximately 26 percent of its total workforce. Variety Cuts were expected, but not on this scale. They were anticipated to mostly affect Disney’s Playdom group, which produces games for social media platforms. A Disney rep said the layoffs will occur across the board in the business unit. Re/code Last month, Disney Interactive reported its second consecutive quarter of profitability after a long string of losses, credited to the success of Disney’s console game Disney Infinity. However, in tandem with the layoffs, the company will cease in-house console game development beyond supporting Infinity and publishing the as-yet-unreleased game Fantasia: Music Evolved, developed by Harmonix. New Disney games will instead be licensed out and developed by other studios. NYT Disney Interactive makes up a tiny piece of the Disney empire. The entertainment conglomerate as a whole had $1.84 billion in profit and $12.31 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter; Disney Interactive had operating income of $55 million on revenue of $403 million, according to financial filings. Reuters Disney’s games and online division has for years been a persistent money loser and a small but significant drag on a corporate empire that spans movie-making and television to cable network ESPN, theme parks and cruise lines. Last year, Disney Interactive lost $87 million as revenues rose 26 percent from 2012; the division has lost a total in recent years of more than $1 billion.

Shared TV Stations Face Breakup Under U.S. FCC Proposal (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., one of the largest U.S. television station owners, would be forced to give up some properties it controls under a proposal by Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler, agency officials said. Wheeler wants to ban, within a specified period, some shared-service arrangements that have let companies avoid a U.S. ban on owning more than one TV station in a local market, said two officials briefed on his plan. Reuters On March 31, the FCC will vote on the new rules. Wheeler is proposing new rules that would count a broadcaster as having an ownership interest in any station where that owner sells 15 percent or more of advertising time. Another proposed rule would also ban two or more broadcasters that technically compete against each other in the same market from banding together and jointly negotiating retransmission agreements with cable and satellite companies. NYT Seeking to contain costs, stations in the same market that are affiliated with different television networks have been increasingly adopting agreements to share resources like employees, administrative units and equipment. But the FCC and the Justice Department have expressed concern that those agreements can drive up prices for consumers by reducing competition. TVSpy American Cable Association president and CEO Matthew M. Polka said in a statement, “FCC chairman Wheeler deserves high praise for addressing the broken retransmission consent market and moving to correct one of its most serious flaws — the collusion practiced by dozens of TV stations owners, who are supposed to be competing with one another.” Variety If the rules are passed, station owners can apply for waivers and will receive them if they can demonstrate how a joint services agreement serves the public interest.

Jack Griffin Named Tribune Publishing CEO (LA Times / Company Town)
Veteran publishing executive Jack Griffin has been named chief executive of the new Tribune Publishing Co., leading a group of eight newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. The publishing chain is being spun off as a separately traded public company by Chicago-based Tribune Co., which plans to retain ownership of its TV stations and related broadcast properties. NYT The appointment of Griffin as chief executive comes at a crucial moment for the Tribune Company as its creditor owners prepare to spin off its newspapers from its more lucrative broadcast assets. In an era of dwindling newspaper advertising, other companies, including Time Warner and News Corp., have made similar decisions to cleave their print assets from higher-performing broadcast and cable assets. Financial Times Tribune Publishing will have to pay Tribune’s broadcasting group, which owns 42 local television stations across the U.S., a one-time dividend of $325m after the spin-off of the company, which is likely this spring. It has also separated its real estate portfolio from the newspaper group, with the newspapers expected to pay rent to the broadcasting company following the split. FishbowlNY Griffin is the former CEO of Time Inc. and has spent the last three years serving as CEO of Empirical Media, a consulting firm. He joined Time Inc. in August 2010, and by February 2011 he was forced out.

Bill Whitaker Named 60 Minutes Correspondent (CBS News)
CBS News veteran Bill Whitaker has been named a 60 Minutes correspondent, it was announced Thursday by Jeff Fager, the executive producer of 60 Minutes and the chairman of CBS News. Whitaker is based in Los Angeles and will move to the New York area and begin appearing in the fall on the CBS newsmagazine. TVNewser Whitaker has been with CBS News for 30 years, joining in 1984 with stretches reporting from Atlanta, Tokyo, South Africa and Los Angeles. He has covered a wide range of topics, including earthquakes in Japan and Haiti, presidential campaigns, the O.J. Simpson trial and the early stages of the Afghanistan War. Deadline Hollywood While based in Atlanta, he won an Emmy for his reports on the collapse of Jim and Tammy Bakker’s television ministry and covered the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis.

Guardian to Make Management Changes (NYT)
The Guardian will make broad changes among its most senior editors this year, the newspaper said Thursday, announcing that Janine Gibson, the editor-in-chief of its operations in the U.S., will return to London. Gibson, who has led Guardian U.S. as it broke a series of stories based on documents obtained from former national security contractor Edward Snowden, will become editor-in-chief of theguardian.com and a deputy editor within the larger organization. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media Gibson will be replaced by Katharine Viner, who’s been in charge of The Guardian in Australia. Emily Wilson, currently network editor for The Guardian, will take over in Sydney when Viner moves to New York. The Guardian Viner, Wilson and Gibson will take up their new roles in mid-2014.

The New Newsweek Is Here (FishbowlNY)
The much-anticipated print reboot of Newsweek hit newsstands Friday, while the online edition of the magazine launched Thursday. IBT Media plans to print only 70,000 copies. FishbowlDC The magazine’s cover story features a profile of the elusive man who invented the Bitcoin — Satoshi Nakamoto. Newsweek went to an all-digital format in January 2013, when then-editor Tina Brown reinvented the brand as Newsweek Global. IBT Media subsequently bought the magazine in August 2013 with plans to return it to a print format. USA Today The cover piece, which ran online Thursday, revealed the unconfirmed identity of the elusive founder of crypto-currency Bitcoin, birthing a literal interpretation of reporters chasing a story. In a bizarre sequence, reporters at other news outlets rushed Thursday to the house belonging to Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto in Temple City, Calif., near Los Angeles, and waited to confirm Newsweek‘s piece. As Nakamoto, who later seemed to be denying his role in Bitcoin, fled the throng with a reporter from The Associated Press, a chase ensued through the freeways of Los Angeles.

Noah Banned in Several Middle Eastern Countries (THR)
Darren Aronofsky’s Noah — inspired by the Biblical story of Noah’s ark — is starting to come under fire in the Middle East for contradicting Islamic law by portraying a prophet. On Thursday, censorship boards in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates informed Paramount they will not allow the release of the film. Similar rulings are expected in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait, according to Paramount insiders. NYT The film, which stars Russell Crowe, has drawn early criticism in the United States for using a biblical story to convey contemporary messages about the environment, but it has not yet been widely viewed.

Kerry Sanders Temporarily Blinded After Hours of Live Shots (TVNewser)
Florida-based correspondent Kerry Sanders has ducked bullets and crawled through minefields covering the news for NBC. But he faced an even more dangerous situation outside a Florida courthouse last month: a malfunctioning TV light. Sanders was temporarily blinded while covering the Michael Dunn trial in Jacksonville. Poynter Sanders explained that the injuries were caused by a malfunctioning HMI TV light that slowly damaged his corneas while he reported live on the Today show, MSNBC and NBC Nightly News. Networks and high-end production companies use HMI, or hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lights, because the lights are color balanced for outdoor use. The light they put out is about the same color as sunlight. But the lights are dangerous if used incorrectly. As his doctors predicted, his eyesight is returning, slowly. He says he is currently about 80 percent healed and plans to return to NBC following his full recovery.

Here Are The Finalists for The Year’s Best Brands on Twitter, Vine And Everywhere Else (Adweek)
Each year, the list of branded social media accomplishments grows longer, and the Shorty Awards are never far behind in recognizing them. This year’s roster of finalists, announced Thursday, includes nominees in categories ranging from “Best Brand on Vine” to the delightfully meta “Best Use of Social Media by One Brand Responding to Another Brand.”

Lisa Belkin Leaves The Huffington Post for Yahoo! (Capital New York)
Yahoo! has added another byline to its growing roster of journalism heavyweights. Lisa Belkin is joining the site as a senior national correspondent. The former long-time New York Times staffer will leave her job as a senior columnist covering family life and parenting for The Huffington Post, where she has worked since 2011. Belkin is the latest departure from HuffPost’s group of marquee journalists recruited several years ago as the site was shifting its emphasis to original, in-depth reporting. At least three other Times veterans have left HuffPost in the past year: Tim O’Brien, Tom Zeller and Peter Goodman, whose exit for a job as editor-in-chief of the International Business Times was announced just two days ago.

NJ Adds to Magazine, Energy Staff (FishbowlDC)
National Journal’s editor-in-chief Tim Grieve announced Thursday the magazine has hired a managing editor. Amanda Cormier comes on board as editor Richard Just and deputy editor Andie Coller begin their redesign of NJ. She previously wrote for the online magazine BKLYNR and has also worked at The New Yorker. Two more hires were announced as well. Jason Plautz will be the new energy reporter. He is currently a reporter at Environment and Energy News after having worked at Inside Climate News and Sports Illustrated. Additionally, Emma Roller will come on board from Slate as part of NJ‘s wire team. She edited and wrote for Slate’s Weigel and Moneybox blogs and has also interned at NPR and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Machinima to Lay Off 42 Employees in Sales Reorganization (TheWrap)
Machinima will lay off 42 employees from its sales division, the company said Thursday. The changes come as Machinima, one of the first massive networks of YouTube channels, is in a state of flux. It is in the process of raising new financing and searching for a new CEO, as co-founder Allen DeBevoise looks to move on to a new venture. The three leading candidates to run Machinima are former Shine America CEO Emiliano Calemzuk, former Ovation TV executive Chad Gutstein and a third person, according to individuals familiar with the company’s thinking.

CNN Team Told to Stop Broadcasting From Crimea (Politico / Dylan Byers on Media)
A CNN team in Crimea was told to stop broadcasting on Thursday or it would be kicked out of its hotel. CNN International correspondent Anna Coren told Anderson Cooper her team was told by the management of the hotel that unless it stopped broadcasting the hotel would kick the group out. Coren told Cooper her team got the “very strong feeling” the hotel was getting pressured.

DirecTV in Talks With Disney on Deal for Internet Rights (Reuters)
DirecTV is in talks with Walt Disney Co. to license the rights to offer Disney’s broadcast and cable channels as part of an Internet-based product, DirecTV said on Wednesday. The deal would mirror a first-of-its kind agreement that Disney and satellite rival Dish Network Corp. announced earlier this week. A new pact could give both Disney and DirecTV, the No. 1 satellite operator, an additional revenue source as consumers gravitate toward online video services such as Netflix and watch more television online. The Internet rights being discussed are part of a large-scale programming agreement that would replace a deal between the companies that expires in late December.

TWT Expands Stable of Conservative Voices With Christine O’Donnell (FishbowlDC)
In what appears to be an effort to staff its paper with outspoken conservative voices that appeal to a Tea Party audience, The Washington Times announced Thursday that former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is being brought on as a columnist. This follows the recent hirings of former House majority leader Tom DeLay, defense hawk Cliff May and radio hosts Tammy Bruce, Steve Deace and Rusty Humphries.

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