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ESPN vs Charter could be end of the table bundle … and tele…

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By OutKick’s Clay Travis

In the summer of 2014, the cable and satellite bundle peaked. One hundred million households were subscribed to ESPN, the most successful channel in the history of cable, and the apex of the greatest business in the history of media had been reached.

But no one knew it.

Cable, satellite, and media executives were all blissfully unaware of what was coming. Fox Sports FS1 had launched the prior year — yours truly appeared on the very first show in the history of the network, a 2013 college football preview show. In the summer of 2014 the SEC Network would make its debut. The SEC Network was, in fact, the single most successful cable and satellite channel debut in the history of the cable industry. With the launch of the SEC Network, ESPN, the channel’s owner, stood at the pinnacle of its power, the company seemed indestructible, a gold plated money minting machine.

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Billions of dollars in profits flowed off ESPN each year, enabling all of Disney to flourish. It was the crown jewel of the company, a profit spigot, the Titanic of the cable fleet.

But an iceberg loomed ahead.

And almost no one saw it coming.

The era of cable and satellite cord cutting began in the fall of 2014.

Quietly, at first.

So quietly, in fact, that most at ESPN and in the cable industry refused to acknowledge what was occurring. A few million here, a few million there, slowly a trickle turning into a stream and then the stream turning into a river and before long there was a flood of cord cutters.

If they made a movie about the cord cutting disaster — and at some point they might — a quant would be the hero. Someone deep in the recesses of ESPN’s business department who looked at the cable revenue spigot and started to realize what was going on — the greatest business in the history of media was sputtering, just as ESPN spent greater and greater sums of money on sports rights. That person probably jumped and waved their arms, begged ESPN executives not to keep spending money on sports rights like drunken sailors.

And that person was summarily ignored.

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By the summer of 2023, just nine years after peak cable was hit in 2014, only 70 million households were paying for cable or satellite subscriptions. ESPN had lost 30% of its business, just as the cost for sports rights loomed larger and larger.

And then last week, inexplicably, things got worse. Charter Communications, home to 15 million cable and satellite subscribers, refused to bend the knee to ESPN’s price increase demands and cut the channel — along with ABC and all other Disney properties — off air just as Florida prepared to kick off against Utah on the opening Thursday night of college football.

And the games remained off air all throughout Week Zero and into the first full weekend of college football.

Now, the NFL season looms for ESPN, the Jets against the Bills, Aaron Rodgers vs. Josh Allen on Monday Night Football and still there’s no resolution in sight.

How did ESPN’s business die?

Gradually and then all at once.

Nine years ago ESPN was in 100 million households, without Charter they are in around 55 million households. In the space of nine years, ESPN has lost almost half its audience, half its business, half its subscription revenue.

This is a massive media story, one of the biggest of our lives. And it’s not just ESPN. ESPN just stands to lose the most because it had the most lucrative business model in cable. It’s all of the cable and satellite bundle, the entire cable neighborhood is on fire.

As much as you’ve read about this ESPN-Charter battle so far? It should be ten times that much. Because this is how the free ride that most of us sports fans have grown used to comes to a screeching halt. This is bad, very bad, if you’re a sports fan, a sports media employee, a sports executive or an employee of a sports team, this is asteroid hitting the planet bad, a dinosaur level extinction event.

Whether you’re a star athlete, an owner, or just a fan, if you care who wins games or simply enjoy watching those games, we’re all about to have to pay a ton more for that privilege.

Put simply, everyone is f—ed.

Including, potentially, everyone in all of media, not just those of us in sports media.

Because the golden cable cash spigot has suddenly run out of coins and if sports collapses, the entire cable bundle may collapse with it.

How do we begin to figure out what comes next?

Well, we first have to start at the beginning, when ESPN was founded in 1979 in Bristol, Connecticut. Few knew it then, but ESPN was destined to become the greatest cash producing business in the history of media. 

Some people think of me as anti-ESPN, but that’s not accurate. I used to be one of the biggest ESPN fans on the planet. Because I did and still do love sports to an unhealthy degree. Before Keith Olbermann decided men should become women’s sports champions, he, alongside Dan Patrick, were the best tag team of sports anchors in my life. Every morning as I got ready for school I would sit on the couch in my Nashville, Tennessee home and watch SportsCenter as I shoveled cereal in my mouth. If you’d told me in 1993 that at some point Keith Olbermann or Dan Patrick would have ever known my name, I would have walked on air for a week, a month even.

Because when I was fourteen years old, I was convinced that Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were two of the coolest dudes on the planet.

And it wasn’t just that duo. Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Linda Cohn, Stuart Scott, these ESPN anchors were all legends in my mind.

Because I was old enough to remember an era when our family didn’t have cable. When you got a couple of minutes of crappy local sports highlights, when you had to get the newspapers and, oh no!, your team was on the west coast and you’d have to go the entire day waiting to see if they won or not. Hell, I listened to games on the radio. And not because I happened to be in the car on a long ride while a game was going on, because that was the only way I knew to hear a game live. There was no option to watch it on TV, not even on pay-per-view.

If you haven’t ever found yourself squinting at the bottom of the TV screen to see the score ticker go by on CNN Headline News or ESPN, you really have no idea what I’m talking about.

But for sports fans, ESPN in those days was the oasis in a media desert, our salvation, nirvana for the sports fan soul.

I didn’t understand ESPN’s business back in those days, but I understood the raw concept of supply and demand. ESPN was selling what I wanted. And chances are it was selling what you wanted too. And what did we want? The games. (And the highlights, at least back then).

Over the decades, ESPN ran a game plan that allowed it to become the most lucrative media company in American history. They used our cable and satellite subscription fees — our cable bill — to buy up sports rights and as their cable and satellite subscription revenue grew they bought better and better sports rights. And when the cable and satellite companies balked at paying ESPN more, what did they do? They got fans to threaten to leave the cable and satellite companies so that the cable and satellite companies always buckled and ended up paying more.

We were the addicts and ESPN had the games that sated our need.

It was a hell of a business, like I said, the best business in the history of American media.

By the fall of 2014, ESPN was making around $6 a month per subscriber, at $6 a month x 100 million subscribers that means ESPN was making around $7 billion a year. Toss in another couple of billion in advertising and we’re talking about a $9 billion, roughly, revenue enterprise.

A quick refresher for those of you who don’t understand the cable and satellite business — every channel has a cost per month. So while you might pay $100 a month for a cable or satellite subscription, each channel costs a different amount. Some channels cost a quarter a month, others a dollar, ESPN was far and away the most expensive channel, costing several dollars a month for every single cable and satellite subscriber, all 100 million of us at the peak in 2014. And ESPN used all the money they made off cable and satellite subscriptions to buy up sports rights. The better the sports rights, the more they could charge, it was a phenomenal business, a fly wheel of cash.

Presently, ESPN spends roughly nine billion a year on sports rights. The company has committed, and this is before they have to pony up for new rights for the NBA and new rights for the college football playoff, $45 billion in sports rights fees through 2027. $45 billion! With tens of billions more still to come for the NBA and college football, ESPN wants to keep both.

The biggest and most expensive rights packages presently? That’s the college football playoff and the NFL’s Monday Night Football package, each of which airs exclusively on ESPN’s cable channel. ESPN pays $2.7 billion per year for Monday Night Football, a gargantuan sum of money for less than twenty games a year. That’s well over $100 million per NFL game.

But the flaw in the business, and all businesses have flaws, was this — most people paying for ESPN, that is, most of the 100 million subscribers in 2014, weren’t actually sports fans. Yet they still paid $100 a year for ESPN. Your Aunt Gladys, who hadn’t watched a sporting event in decades, paid the same every month for ESPN as you did. Only she didn’t know. Because your cable bill was never itemized. You knew what HBO cost a month, because it was extra, a premium channel — and your mom and dad, like my mom and dad, may well have refused to pay extra for it, leaving you gorging on the free previews back in the day — but you never knew what ESPN or TBS or TNT or AMC or CNN or Fox News cost because the cable cost wasn’t itemized by channel, it was buried in your cable and satellite bundle, in your monthly bill.

Now let’s pause for a moment and go back in time to 2014, when the cable and satellite bundle peaked.

Do you know what else happened in 2014 in the world of media?

“House of Cards” season two debuted on Netflix.

Do you remember “House of Cards?” Kevin Spacey played a diabolical South Carolina politician hellbent on the pursuit of power. It was a great show, but it was also an incredible gamble, because it was the first ever Netflix original show. Up to that point, Netflix had made all of its money by buying up everyone else’s reruns and bundling them in its streaming service. I still remember how stunned I was, as I sat bleary eyed up in front of my family’s first flat screen TV, and watched each “House of Cards,” episode keep playing, one after the other unless I stopped each new episode, the weekly scheduled show was no more, Netflix released entire seasons all at once.

Let’s consider the stature of two media companies back in 2014 when “House of Cards” season two debuted — Disney, ESPN’s parent company, and Netflix, which just released season two of its first ever original series, were widely divergent in their power.

Disney stock traded at $84 a share when season two of Netflix debuted in 2014. Netflix, meanwhile, traded at $57 a share. Their market caps were wildly different, but let’s fast forward to today, Netflix is presently $445 a share. That means in the past nine years, your initial Netflix stock purchase has increased by roughly 8x. Meanwhile, Disney is currently $81 a share, a LOWER price than it was nine years ago.

Netflix, which was a $25 billion market cap stock in 2014 is now worth just shy of $200 billion and Disney is a $148 billion market cap stock, roughly the same as it was in 2014.

How did this happen?

Streaming.

It turns out “House of Cards,” star Frank Underwood’s biggest kill wasn’t on screen at all, it was in the media business. 

Netflix, which soon had many competitors in the streaming space, destroyed the cable and satellite bundle.

In 2014, I paid for one streaming service, Netflix. Now, and I shudder to even lay all these out, the Travis household is subscribed to what feels like every streaming service on the planet. And we still have cable too, you’re welcome, Comcast. The Travis household is subscribed to Amazon Prime — I think we actually have two of these accounts because I lost our password and it was either get divorced or just have my wife sign up a new account because I couldn’t track down the old password — Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Peacock, Apple+, Paramount, I still think we pay for the WWE Network somehow, basically if you have created a streaming service we pay for it.

Disney made tens of billions on the cable and satellite bundle. Do you know what Disney has made off streaming so far? They’ve lost $11 billion.

Let me repeat that, they’ve lost $11 billion. I’m not a math genius, but when you have to make $11 billion to get back to zero, that doesn’t seem like a great business to be in.

And the same is true for every American company that has entered streaming except for Netflix.

All of them have lost money, every single one. Netflix is the only American content company to make money off streaming so far.

Why is that?

Because Netflix’s only business is streaming.

Every other one of these big media companies, except for Apple and Amazon, which are using streaming as ancillary offerings for their primary businesses, has cut their own cable and satellite throat by creating a streaming service because they were afraid Netflix would have the streaming industry to themselves.

The cable and satellite industry was the best business in world media history. And all of these big media companies destroyed that business by going all-in on streaming, which so far is the worst business in world media history.

Okay, you might be thinking, how does this impact sports and the ESPN/Charter battle?

Well, you know the broadband wires in your house that you probably forgot are there — it turns out that’s actually a way better business for the cable and satellite companies than the cable and satellite business is.

We’re all addicted to the Internet.

And we can’t get on the Internet without those broadband cables (at least most of us can’t). And that business is a way better business now than cable and satellite.

Charter has been in the cable and satellite business for a long time. But they have smart business guys too and those smart business guys are seeing all of you drop cable and satellite bundles and they see that the long range cable business is not going to be particularly profitable. What’s more, even if they don’t have smart quant guys they can see what Disney is telling everyone about ESPN because Disney CEO Bob Iger keeps telling everyone his plans for ESPN

And that plan is this, succinctly, “We’re going to take ESPN directly to consumers as a streaming service eventually, but not yet. First we’re going to bleed the cable and satellite companies for as much money as we can.”

In the meantime ESPN+ is just an attempt to monetize all the content that isn’t good enough to be on regular ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, the SEC Network, you get my drift. ESPN+ is just a test case for the future when all of ESPN will be streamed direct to the consumer.

But ESPN got cocky — they went and told everyone that eventually ESPN would put all its games on a direct to consumer streaming company. And then they wouldn’t need the cable and satellite companies at all to bring their channel to the masses.

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But, in the meantime, ESPN expected the cable and satellite companies to keep paying them full freight. But that wasn’t all, ESPN expected they could keep raising prices too. Effectively ESPN told the cable and satellite companies that it was going to cut their arms and legs off, but it wasn’t sure when it would decide to do so. Still, ESPN expected for the cable companies to sharpen the sword for them.

And most cable and satellite companies didn’t fight back that hard because they also have exposure to the cable and satellite bundle. Comcast, for instance, doesn’t want to lose ESPN because if they do then all the NBC cable properties will lose a ton of money due to the cord cutting. So they may not like their ESPN deals, but they can at least convince themselves that they are making a ton of money by milking the cable and satellite bundle dry too.

But the Charter guys, who don’t own cable channels like Comcast, look at the math and think, “We don’t really care about the cable and satellite bundle because we make most of our money off broadband.” So unlike virtually every other carriage dispute we’ve seen, when ESPN’s games being pulled made fans furious and the resulting threats terrified the cable companies, the Charter people are actually encouraging you to go sign up for YouTube TV or whatever other streaming service you want to use. Why? Because they make more money off broadband, they don’t really care about their cable business any more.

And they know that ESPN wants to cut their arms and legs off, but they’re calling ESPN’s bluff here because for the first time ever, ESPN’s got less leverage than the cable company does. ESPN needs cable more than cable needs ESPN.

So ESPN is f—ed

And so, maybe, is the entire cable and satellite bundle.

Because Charter knows that if ESPN goes direct to consumer, guess what, THEY STILL MAKE MONEY!

Because you have to stream ESPN on their broadband service and they take a share of the sign up money to bring ESPN to the home too.

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And ESPN knows that their cable and satellite business is collapsing but, and this is key, they’ve also done the math and realize that streaming is going to destroy their existing cable business. Because, and this is what no one seems willing to say, ESPN doesn’t just have one bad business now — the cable and satellite bundle — they have the streaming business too, which is an even worse business. And, and this is very key, each business is accelerating the demise of the other. Streaming isn’t making ESPN stronger, it’s making ESPN weaker because it’s hastening the destruction of a profitable business — cable and satellite — for a money-losing business — streaming.

And that’s what many are still missing — as the cable and satellite bundle boat takes on water and sinks, the streaming bundle is also taking on water and sinking too. ESPN has tried to sell people on the idea that at the exact moment that the cable and satellite bundle collapses they are going to step to a brand new business, the streaming business, and it’s going to be a sturdy and successful lifeboat that carries them to richer waters.

But the reality is, streaming is a way worse business than the cable and satellite bundle. Because the only people who pay for ESPN will be sports fans. The free ride is over, your Aunt Gladys is never signing up and subsidizing your sports viewing again.

For the record, I’m not great at math. The only math class I ever took in college was – and I’m not making this up – something called, “Mathematical Concepts,” It was me and every sorority girl at George Washington University.
 

So it was the greatest class of my life.

Anyway, let me help you here with my rudimentary math ability. Let’s say ESPN makes $8 billion a year now in subscription fees. ($10 a month x 70 million subscribers they has before Charter cut this by 15 million). Toss in another two billion in advertising and let’s say ESPN presently nets around $10 billion a year. Okay, how many people will sign up for ESPN as a direct to consumer streaming service? If they could get 70 million subscribers we’d all have to pay $120 a year for ESPN streaming by itself. (This assumes advertising will still be the same, which it won’t, but let’s just be generous and pretend it will.) But, as I noted above, many of these people paying for ESPN now as part of their cable and satellite package never watch ESPN.

So how many people will actually subscribe to a direct to consumer ESPN streaming service? Turns out there are some early test cases.

The NFL Sunday Ticket is the most desirable direct to consumer product on the planet. Do you know how many households subscribe for NFL Sunday Ticket? Around three million.

Uh oh.

Wait a minute, you’re telling me that the NFL can only get around three million households to sign up for actual NFL games, all of the out of market games, in the entire country?

We’ve got a major math problem here for ESPN.

Let’s be generous again and say that ESPN can get 7x as many subscribers as the NFL can for Monday Night Football and college football. That’s 20 million, roughly, subscribers. What would those 20 million people have to pay for ESPN over streaming to replicate what ESPN makes now? $500 a year. That’s roughly $40 a month.

And that’s if everyone pays that amount all year around.

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Which they won’t.

Not even close.

Because here’s the other problem — most people will pay seasonally for the sports they actually care about the most.

Many ESPN streaming subscribers will pick the months they care about the most — football season — and cancel for non-football season. Especially when the service costs this much a month. (Most ESPN+ subscribers aren’t paying for the service now or its bundled for free alongside other products so ESPN+ isn’t a good test case.) Churn is a major issue on streaming, which is why there has to be constantly new offerings. And even with this constant flow of new content lots of people cut their subscriptions, return and binge, and then cut their subscriptions again. And this doesn’t even consider the amount of shared passwords ESPN will have for games, that will be a huge mess.

As if this math weren’t bad enough, remember that ESPN has $45 billion already in sunk sports costs. They bought like the cable bundle was going to last forever. And they still have to buy forever in the future. The NBA and college football playoffs which both expire soon are going to cost tens of billions more. It’s likely ESPN is going to end up with $100 billion in total sports rights costs before long.

And what happens if they don’t buy these rights? No one signs up. So ESPN is locked into a bad streaming business that keeps getting worse.

That’s why Charter has essentially called ESPN’s bluff. They’re telling ESPN to go ahead and launch their direct to consumer streaming service because Charter thinks they’ll make more money on this than they do on cable. But ESPN knows the streaming math doesn’t add up. And I’m honestly not sure what the long range plan here is for ESPN. Because the math, I don’t think, ever adds up. And this is why I think ESPN is trying desperately to find a buyer for the network. Because the ultimate flaw of ESPN’s business is now revealing itself.

And it’s this — ESPN doesn’t actually produce anything of value, it just rents the games from the leagues.

ESPN is the sports version of Blockbuster Video. You remember Blockbuster, right? They didn’t produce anything, they just carried the movies you came to rent. And Netflix destroyed them too.

ESPN, truth be told, has never fit what works for Disney. Because Disney, whatever you think about the company, is in the production of content it owns forever business. The Marvel movies, Star Wars, Pixar, the animated films, the amusement parks, Disney is in the business of creating content that will last for generations. Notwithstanding the looming disaster that is the new woke, live action version of “Snow White,” your kids and grandkids will probably watch these old animated movies and enjoy them just like you did. Same with Star Wars and the Marvel movies. Your grandkids will know who Darth Vader is.

But a Thursday night college football game or an NBA game on Christmas that’s played this year?

It’s all disposable content immediately replaced by the next rented games on the network.

None of it has any lasting value.

That’s bad for Disney, but ESPN is worse than Blockbuster Video because when Blockbuster Video collapsed the entire shopping mall didn’t go bankrupt with it. The grocery store was still open, the Subway still made sandwiches, the gas station stayed open, a new store probably opened where Blockbuster used to be.

But ESPN’s demise threatens to destroy every shop in the neighborhood.

TNT, Turner, AMC, Nickelodeon, you name the channel, all of them are basically being held together by the cable bundle. And ESPN is the most important channel in the cable and satellite bundle, it’s the linchpin, the anchor store. ESPN is your neighborhood shopping mall’s anchor tenant — the Macy’s, the Nordstrom, the Dillard’s the JC Penny. When a mall’s anchor tenant leaves the mall is often dead for, the rest of the shopping mall collapses around it. That’s why the best analogy for ESPN isn’t Blockbuster, it’s Sears, a big mall anchor tenant that collapsed and went bankrupt.

(Side note: I actually think CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News will be okay long range because the demand for live news isn’t going away, they’ll have to just find new ways to distribute their content. Plus, unlike ESPN which has to pay tens of billions for sports rights, the news isn’t licensed, it’s easier to cut costs. But all the non-live cable channels? They’re going to vanish into the streaming universe. Shark Week will come to Netflix or the like. They’re all finished.)

Okay, if you’ve read to this point, you might be thinking, “This feels like it’s going to be really bad, Clay.”

Uh, yeah, it is, that’s why I called it a media extinction level event.

The asteroid is going to hit everyone in media.

In a major way.

This is also why I don’t see why anyone buys ESPN. Unless you desperately need the sports rights ESPN has right now, why wouldn’t the streaming companies, if they really want to get in the sports business, just outbid ESPN for the NBA and the college football playoff and the other rights as they come to market? ESPN’s only real assets are the rights they presently own. So why would you pay ESPN for the rights fees when you could just wait and outbid them for those games as they come to market? The only value ESPN has is if someone has to have these existing sports rights immediately. But if you wait over the next five to ten years those ESPN rights end and the leagues will sell to the highest bidders on the open market.

And the streaming companies deciding to bid is the best case for the sports leagues.

Because unless the streaming companies step up to the plate, athlete salaries and sports team valuations may have peaked. Because, remember, athlete salaries and sports teams valuations have been subsidized by the cable and satellite bundle too. Do you really think NBA players you’ve never heard of deserve $50 million a year salaries? Of course not. They’re getting paid that because of the cable and satellite bundle. The regional sports networks, which fund much of this salary largesse, are already going bankrupt and no one seems to be able to explain what happens next in terms of local sports rights.

But this isn’t just sports.

Every cable and satellite channel is in danger of bankruptcy too. As I laid out above, ESPN is the anchor tenant in the cable and satellite bundle mall. The only thing holding our mall together is sports and live news. And sports may have just left the building.

Now, to be fair, in the time I wrote this maybe Charter and ESPN have come to an agreement and the immediate collapse of the cable and satellite bundle will be forestalled. Maybe this will all happen in three or four years instead of right now.

But it is happening.

It is inevitable. We’ve basically reached the scene in Avengers where Thanos, the evil villain in the Marvel films, snaps his fingers and half of the population vanishes.

It’s like that, except with media companies.

And unlike in the Avengers, no one can travel back in time and reverse the snap. In fact, crazily, with the rush to streaming the cable and satellite companies have been competing to see who can snap first. They’re all Thanos-ing themselves.

Intentionally.

So, yeah, this is bad. Probably way worse than you ever thought it was.

And if you’re a sports fans like me and you just want to sit down on your couch and pick up one remote and watch every game with ease, that’s never happening again. Watching sports is going to cost you a ton, way more than you ever paid for cable. And some of the games you want to watch are going to be on services that aren’t available in your market or aren’t at a price point you’re willing to pay.

And what’s old may become new again.

You might find yourself scanning for games on your radio. You might be hitting refresh on your phone to watch scoreboards, the new digital version of the cable and satellite streaming scores on the bottom of the screen that we grew up with.

And no matter what teams you root for, you’re about to pay infinitely more to watch them.

If you can find their games at all.

And as much as you may think ESPN’s woke politics suck, things are about to get much worse for every sports fan.

But, again, it’s not just sports, it’s all of cable.

I liked the cable and satellite bundle. You probably did too. And I liked the mall too. I enjoyed going there, getting a pretzel in the food court, buying a new pair of jeans.

I went to my local mall recently, the one I grew up going to, the one I used to have a job in at the local “American Eagle,” but the anchor tenants are all gone.

The parking lot was empty.

Most of the stores were vacant.

The bustle and hubbub was all gone, almost no one was there.

It was a ghost town.

It felt just like one of those zombie shows.

That I used to watch on cable.

Mattress Peddlers

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Language Barriers Complicate the Geography of News

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News deserts are expanding. Nearly two decades ago, the United States had about 9,000 newspapers; as 2019 came to a close, it had 6,700. Of the country’s 3,143 counties, over 200 have no newspaper or other sources of credible news. Half of these counties only have one newspaper and two-thirds do not have a daily newspaper. These losses have been especially glaring in the Midwest and the East.

A lack of access to credible news facilitates the spread of disinformation and drives up political and social polarization. It erodes trust in the news media and can exacerbate the digital divide between residents with good internet access who can seek out diverse sources of news and people with poor or no connectivity.

Residents who speak very little or no English who live in communities dominated by local news outlets that only provide news and information in English confront another serious problem: They live in linguistic news deserts. These residents are usually left behind when it comes to finding out about critical government, school, business, and other key developments and events in their communities.

More from Emma J. Murphy

In Missouri, over 19 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic or Latino and nearly 22 percent of Missourians speak a language other than English in their households. About 33,000 people, nearly 3 percent of the state’s population, speak Spanish. More than 15 percent of people in Sullivan County in northern Missouri speak Spanish, the highest in the state; 8 percent have limited proficiency in English. But the county has only one newspaper, a weekly called The Milan Standard, which publishes in English.

Missouri has only ten media outlets that serve specific cultural and ethnic communities, but these are concentrated in St. Louis and Kansas City. For example, Red Latina, a digital daily news website (it also offers a monthly magazine) provides national and local news for the St. Louis area. It also covers state elections and legal developments, as well as cultural and entertainment events like the Missouri State Fair. The paper also has a companion radio program, “Radio Red Latina,” that features music and news updates.

Midway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Columbia’s nearly 190,000 residents have a healthy selection of English-language news outlets to choose from with about two newspapers, two magazines, four radio, and three television stations. But there are no publications providing news exclusively in other languages, even though about 10 percent of Columbia residents speak a language other than English at home, 3.7 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, and about 6.5 percent of the residents in Columbia were born in another country.

The existence of multiple news outlets does not mean that all residents have access to news.

Kassidy Arena works at KBIA, the NPR affiliate in Columbia, Missouri. Last year, she produced “¿Dónde está mi gente?” a six-part Spanish-language news project that spotlighted Hispanic and Latino communities in central Missouri. For Arena, the definition of what constitutes a news desert is too narrow; the existence of multiple news outlets does not mean that all residents have access to news. The language barrier is just one issue: Often, Latino communities don’t see themselves or their issues reflected in the media.

Nick Mathews, a professor of journalism at the University of Missouri, writes that the presence of a local newspaper helps to foster broader connections: When people cannot access local news, the community connections and bonds weaken. They can end up isolated from their neighbors, resources, government leaders, and more. Without access to news, they cannot fully participate in their communities.

Community groups, social services, and local religious groups all play a role in disseminating news to people who can’t readily use existing English-language outlets. When COVID-19 peaked, many Latinos, who were disproportionately affected by the disease, lacked good access to Spanish-language public-health information about how to protect themselves from the virus and how to get vaccinated. Religious leaders stepped in to fill the gap. One pastor, Francisco Bonilla, founder of Casa de Sanidad, a church in the southwestern city of Carthage, ran a Spanish-language radio station that offered sermons and music. During the pandemic, he offered interviews with nurses and health experts.

College students are also leading efforts to broaden access. Four journalism students at the University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Columbia launched De Veras, a digital news website, earlier this year to serve central Missouri’s Latino communities. The social media–centered project translates local news as well as information on accessing resources for the region’s Spanish-speaking population. The students met with community members in towns outside Columbia with large Latino populations to better understand their needs. They also partnered with statewide online publications, like the Missouri Independent.

How can newsrooms bring down language and cultural barriers? Some New Jersey news outlets take advantage of special programs like the NJ News Commons Spanish Translation News Service, which brings English- and Spanish-language news outlets together to provide news and information first produced in English to Spanish-speaking communities. Public radio is also a valuable source of content. Radio stations are in a unique position: They are often available across large portions of the country and are accessible to people without reliable internet access. Iowa Public Radio, where Arena once worked, has established a beat for news, culture, and events for the state’s Latino and Hispanic communities. The NPR affiliate also translates some regional and statewide stories on the site into Spanish.

Hola, America, an independent online publication, has local affiliates in Iowa, Illinois, and the Quad Cities (a region on the border of Iowa and Illinois). This website offers all of its news in both Spanish and English.

News outlets should aim to create a specific beat or assign a reporter to an underserved community. Having regular contact with a journalist covering their issues creates a sense of trust between the community and the media. But these efforts must be sustained or any trust built up will fall apart. “We just have to figure out the sustainability part before we make promises that we can’t keep,” says Arena.

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When disaster strikes, go online: N.L. unveils new

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A laptop, the screen that says Hurricane Warning.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government’s new emergency preparedness website won’t be available unless it’s needed. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

September’s arrival means hurricane season could be around the corne, and in anticipation of extreme weather events, the provincial government has launched a new website.

But you can’t see it — at least not yet.

The new emergency preparedness tool will be housed directly on the government’s website, and will be activated only in the case of an emergency.

The idea is the site will host the most up-to-date and accurate information during a weather-related emergency event, in order to prevent disinformation from spreading elsewhere online.  

“We all know that there’s rumours or information that gets out before it’s confirmed,” said Public Safety Minister John Hogan on Thursday. “And in a disaster, that can lead to serious consequences.”

Justice Minister John Hogan stands in front of a podium with microphones.
Public Safety Minister John Hogan says September is peak hurricane season in the province. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The website will be activated when the Emergency Services division of the Department of Justice and Public Safety deems an extreme weather emergency to be a threat to the public. 

“We want people to know that once this website is activated, the threat of extreme weather is real and adequate. Safety precautions need to be taken immediately,” said Hogan.

The website will be deactivated when the threat has passed.

“If you look for the web page now, you won’t find it because currently everything is all clear,” said Hogan.

A series of steps

The website will use a series of steps to indicate the level of threat to the province.

In the case of a hurricane, Step 1 will be a hurricane watch, monitoring which communities may be affected.

As a potentially dangerous weather event draws nearer, Step 2 would be a hurricane warning, which will recommend people prepare themselves.

“Once we move into that, then, ultimately, we’re hoping by now if you haven’t dug out your emergency preparedness kit you should definitely be thinking about that.” said Jamie Kennedy, director of emergency services.

Step 3 will be activated when the dangerous weather event is happening and the public needs to keep up with real-time information, such as road closures, impacts on infrastructure and evacuation orders.

The website will remain at Step 3 until the weather event comes to a close.

Jamie Kennedy points to table that has the contents of an emergency preparedness kit on it. John Hogan stands behind a podium.
Emergency Services director Jamie Kennedy says every house should have enough food, water and medicine to last at least 72 hours. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Kennedy says Step 4 will likely look like a deactivation of the website as the government assesses relief efforts. 

“And then we may need to have a hurricane recovery web page established.” 

Emergency preparedness kits

With hurricanes Fiona and Igor striking the province in Septembers of past years, Hogan said, now is the time to remind the public of emergency preparedness.  

Kennedy walked through the items that every home should have in anticipation of a disaster,

“The rule of thumb is that we want people to have … enough food and water for 72 hours,” said Kennedy. 

Seventy-two hours is the estimated time frame of how long first responders would need to help the most urgent needs of a community, he said. 

A table with batteries, goof, a first aid kit, keys, a phone charger, a lamp, and two first aid kits.
Kennedy says every household should have an emergency preparedness kit at the ready. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

A full list of items in the government suggested emergency preparedness kit include:

  • Two litres of drinking water per person, per day.
  • Non-perishable canned and dried foods.
  • Prescription glasses and medication.
  • Personal hygiene items.
  • Extra water for washing.
  • First aid kit.
  • Battery-operated radio.
  • Battery-operated flashlight.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Phone charger and battery bank.
  • Cash.
  • Spare house and car keys. 
  • Changes of clothing and footwear.
  • Copies of all personal documents — like identification, insurance and bank account information — in a waterproof bag.
  • A printed emergency plan with contact numbers.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags for each member of the household.

Anyone with small children should include formula, diapers, wipes, bottles and games or books in their kit, and people with pets should include pet food, extra water, bowls, a leash and a kennel.

Get the news you need without restrictions. Download our free CBC News app.

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Dependence on tech caused ‘staggering’ education inequality…

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A UNESCO report says schools’ heavy focus on remote online learning during the pandemic worsened educational disparities among students worldwide.

By Natasha Singer

In early 2020, as the coronavirus spread, schools around the world abruptly halted in-person education. To many governments and parents, moving classes online seemed the obvious stopgap solution.

In the United States, school districts scrambled to secure digital devices for students. Almost overnight, videoconferencing software like Zoom became the main platform teachers used to deliver real-time instruction to students at home.

Now a report from UNESCO, the United Nations’ educational and cultural organization, says that overreliance on remote learning technology during the pandemic led to “staggering” education inequality around the world. It was, according to a 655-page report that UNESCO released Wednesday, a worldwide “ed-tech tragedy.”

The report, from UNESCO’s Future of Education division, is likely to add fuel to the debate over how governments and local school districts handled pandemic restrictions and whether it would have been better for some countries to reopen schools for in-person instruction sooner.

The UNESCO researchers argued in the report that “unprecedented” dependence on technology — intended to ensure that children could continue their schooling — worsened disparities and learning loss for hundreds of millions of students around the world, including in Kenya, Brazil, Britain and the United States.

The promotion of remote online learning as the primary solution for pandemic schooling also hindered public discussion of more equitable, lower-tech alternatives, such as regularly providing schoolwork packets for every student, delivering school lessons by radio or television, and reopening schools sooner for in-person classes, the researchers said.

“Available evidence strongly indicates that the bright spots of the ed-tech experiences during the pandemic, while important and deserving of attention, were vastly eclipsed by failure,” the UNESCO report said.

The UNESCO researchers recommended that education officials prioritize in-person instruction with teachers, not online platforms, as the primary driver of student learning. And they encouraged schools to ensure that emerging technologies like artificial intelligence chatbots concretely benefited students before introducing them for educational use.

Education and industry experts welcomed the report, saying more research on the effects of pandemic learning was needed.

“The report’s conclusion — that societies must be vigilant about the ways digital tools are reshaping education — is incredibly important,” said Paul Lekas, the head of global public policy for the Software & Information Industry Association, a group whose members include Amazon, Apple and Google. “There are lots of lessons that can be learned from how digital education occurred during the pandemic and ways in which to lessen the digital divide.”

Jean-Claude Brizard, the CEO of Digital Promise, a nonprofit education group that has received funding from Google, HP and Verizon, acknowledged that “technology is not a cure-all.” But he also said that while school systems were largely unprepared for the pandemic, online education tools helped foster “more individualized, enhanced learning experiences as schools shifted to virtual classrooms.”

​Education International, an umbrella organization for about 380 teachers unions and 32 million teachers worldwide, said the UNESCO report underlined the importance of in-person, face-to-face teaching.

“The report tells us definitively what we already know to be true: A place called school matters,” said Haldis Holst, the group’s deputy general secretary. “Education is not transactional, nor is it simply content delivery. It is relational. It is social. It is human at its core.”

Here are some of the main findings in the report:

The promise of education technology was overstated.

For more than a decade, Silicon Valley tech giants as well as industry-financed nonprofit groups and think tanks have promoted computers, apps and internet access in public schools as innovations that would quickly democratize and modernize student learning.

Many promised that such digital tools would allow schoolchildren to more easily pursue their interests, learn at their own pace and receive instant automated feedback on their work from learning analytics algorithms.

The report’s findings challenge the view that digital technologies are synonymous with educational equality and progress.

The report said that when coronavirus cases began spiking in early 2020, the overselling of ed-tech tools helped make remote online learning seem like the most appealing and effective solution for pandemic schooling even as more equitable, lower-tech options were available.

Remote online learning worsened education disparities.

UNESCO researchers found the shift to remote online learning tended to provide substantial advantages to children in wealthier households while disadvantaging those in lower-income families.

By May 2020, the report said, 60% of national remote learning programs “relied exclusively” on internet-connected platforms. But nearly 500 million young people — about half the primary and secondary students worldwide — targeted by those remote learning programs lacked internet connections at home, the report said, excluding them from participating.

According to data and surveys cited in the report, one-third of kindergarten through 12th grade students in the United States “were cut off from education” in 2020 because of inadequate internet connections or hardware. In 2021 in Pakistan, 30% of households said they were aware of remote learning programs, while fewer than half of this group had the technology needed to participate.

Learning was hindered and altered.

Student learning outcomes stalled or “declined dramatically” when schools deployed ed tech as a replacement for in-person instruction, the UNESCO researchers said, even when children had access to digital devices and internet connections.

The report also said students learning online spent considerably less time on formal educational tasks — and more time on monotonous digital tasks. It described a daily learning routine “less of discovery and exploration than traversing file-sharing systems, moving through automated learning content, checking for updates on corporate platforms and enduring long video calls.”

Remote online learning also limited or curtailed student opportunities for socialization and nonacademic activities, the report said, causing many students to become disengaged or drop out of school.

The report warned that the shift to remote learning also gave a handful of tech platforms — like Google and Zoom — extraordinary influence in schools. These digital systems often imposed private business values and agendas, the report added, that were at odds with the “humanistic” values of public schooling.

Regulation and guardrails are needed.

To prevent a repeat scenario, the researchers recommended that schools prioritize the best interests of schoolchildren as the central criteria for deploying ed tech.

In practical terms, the researchers called for more regulation and guardrails around online learning tools. They also suggested that districts give teachers more say over which digital tools schools adopt and how they are used.

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Enterprise tech happenings: August 2023

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Enterprise tech happenings: August 2023

Digital Realty announces a new cooling tower initiative

Digital Realty announced a new cooling tower initiative at its SIN10 data centre that aims to pioneer new levels of water conservation and efficiency in its data centres in Singapore. This initiative is the first of its kind to be implemented in Singapore’s data centre industry. Employing a process known as DCI electrolysis, Digital Realty eliminated the use of chemicals to treat blow-down water discharge – water that is drained from cooling equipment to remove mineral build-up – from the cooling towers in its chiller systems.

This allowed Digital Realty to triple the number of times the same pool of water can be used at its SIN10 cooling towers before it is discharged as wastewater, resulting in 1.24 million litres of water saved monthly. Since the implementation of DCI electrolysis in February, Digital Realty has reduced monthly blow-down water discharge at SIN10 by 90%. Water usage efficiency (WUE) at SIN10 has improved by 15%, besting the Singapore Public Utilities Board’s industry benchmark of 2.6 Cu.m/MWh for data centres by 30%.

QNAP’s new six-bay NAS comes with AI-powered video and image recognition applications

QNAP’s new TS-AI642-8G six-bay NAS is powered by a 64-bit ARM Cortex-A76/-A55 SoC octa-core processor with up to 6 TOPS NPU (Neural network Processing Unit), 8GB of RAM, and an ARM Mali-G610 MC4 graphic processor.

This helps accelerate AI image recognition, surveillance video analysis, and smart surveillance applications. Users can achieve a 200% performance boost in AI image recognition in QuMagie photo management, significant performance boosts in capturing text in images with AI OCR in Qsirch full-text search engine, and increase cameras for real-time analytics in QVR Face Insight facial recognition and the QVR Human people counting solution. The TS-AI642 is a professional Surveillance NAS, allowing you to install QVR Elite to deploy 2 free channels or up to 64 channels through purchasing additional licences. With its dual-port HDMI, users can play and switch between multi-channel videos on two monitors.

The TS-AI642-8G is available in Singapore at S$1,500 from Convergent Systems and comes with a three-year limited warranty.

Local businesses not using AI as an excuse to replace staff

A study released by SS&C Blue Prism shows that despite negative headlines about generative AI taking over people’s jobs, businesses in Singapore are turning to automation to support their workforce and better serve their customers, rather than cutting jobs, with 77% of local businesses are likely to make changes to their business model to contest the challenging economic climate today, only 18% said they will look to reduce the size of their workforce. More than two in five (44%) decision-makers say the primary use of automation is to remove repetitive tasks so that workers can focus on more valuable work.

Singapore leads the way in online privacy and cybersecurity awareness

According to new research by NordVPN, Singaporeans are first in the world in terms of cybersecurity and Internet privacy knowledge. However, results show that the world’s online privacy and cybersecurity awareness is declining every year.

Research showed that Singaporeans are good at creating strong passwords (98%) and know-how devices get infected with malware (94%). They also know what kind of sensitive data they should avoid sharing on social media (93%), or how to deal with suspicious streaming service offers (91%). However, only 8% of Singaporeans are knowledgeable about online tools that protect digital privacy, and only one out of 10 know what data ISPs collect as part of the metadata.

The annual National Privacy Test (NPT) is a global survey aimed to evaluate people’s cybersecurity, and online privacy awareness, and educate the general public about cyber threats and the importance of data and information security in the digital age. It gathered 26,174 responses from 175 countries this year.

Zyxel unleashes a trio of cloud-ready networking products for SMBs

Zyxel Networks has unveiled a trio of cloud-based networking solutions that are designed to be cost-effective, dependable high-speed Wi-Fi solutions for small businesses: the SCR 50AXE Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E Secure Cloud-managed Router, NWA90AX 802.11ax Dual-Radio PoE Access Point, and GS1915 GbE Smart Managed Switch.

The SCR 50AXE Cloud-managed Router combines security, Wi-Fi 6E technology, and cloud management in one affordable device. It comes with best-in-class security out of the box, with no extra subscription or licensing costs. It is also cloud-native, allowing even non-IT staff to seamlessly manage connectivity and security via the Nebula app.

The NWA90AX Access Point ensures SMBs of any size can enjoy the game-changing benefits of WiFi 6, including faster speeds in crowded areas, wider ranges, and greater IoT capacity. The user-friendly design means it can be installed, configured, and managed easily by any employee.

The GS1915 Smart Managed Switch continues the theme of simplicity without compromise. Its effortless deployment and easy-to-use interface make it ideal for SMBs looking to maximise efficiency without the need for dedicated IT teams.

The  SCR 50AXE, NWA90AX, GS1915 are priced at S$399, S$249, and S$379 respectively from Insiro Pte Ltd.



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Week 1: Washington Huddle web exclusive

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The NFL season kicks off this week and so does the Washington Huddle. In this web exclusive, Craig Loper and Commanders postgame show radio host Scott Jackson look ahead to Washington’s season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

For more on the Commanders, check your local listings for the Washington Huddle.

Washington Huddle broadcast schedule:

NORFOLK (WVBT) Friday night at 10:30 p.m.

RICHMOND (WRIC) Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m.

ROANOKE (WFXR) Sunday morning at 10:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON (DC News Now) Saturday night at 10:30 p.m.

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Mozilla Explains How Car Companies Use & Abuse Customer Dat…

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“What did I learn in researching the privacy and security of 25 of the top car brands in the world? Modern cars are a privacy nightmare and it seems that the Fords, Audis, and Toyotas of the world have shifted their focus from selling cars to selling data.” Think about that statement from Misha Rykov, a researcher for the Mozilla Privacy Not Included initiative. How bad is it? Read on.

Jeff Bezos was one of the first to realize that enormous profits could be made from selling customer data. Some people think Amazon started as an online bookseller. Wrong. When the company was just a gleam in Bezos’ eye, the main focus was to vacuum up all the data available from what people searched for and ordered on Amazon’s website and sell it to marketing firms.

Google, Facebook, and a host of other companies do much the same thing. Cellphone data is routinely collected and sold. There’s money to be made from mining all that data. That’s why when your spouse searches for a new pair of tennis shoes, that fact is noted by data centers all over the world. Since the digital world knows you and your spouse are affiliated, suddenly ads for Adidas, Nike, New Balance, and others start popping up in the margins of whatever you are reading online.

A Computer On Wheels

Tesla started the trend when it stuck a large touchscreen into the interior of the Model S in 2011. Suddenly, the phrase “computer on wheels” became popular as drivers became bedazzled with the idea of a car that was also a computer. Or was it the other way around?

Mozilla recently did a deep dive into the data collection and privacy protections offered by 25 car companies to their customers. All of them failed, some more spectacularly than others. Here’s what the Mozilla researchers found.

  • All of them collect too much personal data — Mozilla reviewed 25 car brands during the course of its research and handed out 25 “dings” for how those companies collect and use data and personal information. Every car brand it looked at collected more personal data than necessary and used that information for a reason other than to operate a vehicle and manage its relationship with the driver.
  • Car companies have so many more data collecting opportunities than other products and apps we use — more than even smart devices in our homes or the cellphones we take wherever we go. They can collect personal information from how you interact with your car, the connected services you use in your car, the car’s app (which provides a gateway to information on your phone) and gather even more information about you from third party sources like Sirius XM or Google Maps.
  • They can collect intimate information about you — from your medical information, your genetic information, to your “sex life” (seriously), to how fast you drive, where you drive, and what songs you play in your car — in huge quantities. They then use it to invent more data about you through “inferences” about things like your intelligence, abilities, and interests.
  • Most (84%) share or sell your data — It’s bad enough for the behemoth corporations that own the car brands to have all that personal information in their possession, to use for their own research, marketing, or the ultra-vague “business purposes.” But then, most (84%) of the car brands Mozilla researched said they can share your personal data — with service providers, data brokers, and other businesses you know little or nothing about. Worse, nineteen (76%) say they can sell your personal data.
  • A surprising number (56%) also said they can share your information with the government or law enforcement in response to a “request.” Not a court order but something as easy as an “informal request.” Car companies’ willingness to share your data has the potential to cause real harm and inspire cars and privacy nightmares.
  • Keep in mind that we only know what companies do with personal data because of the privacy laws that make it illegal not to disclose that information like the California Consumer Privacy Act. So-called anonymized and aggregated data can be shared with vehicle data hubs and others. So while you are driving from A to B, you’re also funding a car maker’s thriving side hustle in the data collection business.
  • Most (92%) give drivers little to no control over their personal data — All but two of the 25 car brands Mozilla reviewed earned a “ding” for data control. Only two car brands, Renault and Dacia, said that all drivers have the right to have their personal data deleted. But those brands operate primarily in Europe which has a robust General Data Protection Regulation privacy law. In other words, car brands often do whatever they can legally get away with to your personal data.
  • Mozilla couldn’t confirm whether any of car companies met its Minimum Security Standards — Dating apps and sex toy manufacturers publish more detailed security information than automakers do. Even though the car brands Mozilla researched had several long winded privacy policies (Toyota wins with 12), it could not confirm that any of the brands meet its Minimum Security Standards.

Mozilla Privacy Findings

Mozilla says its main concern is that it can’t tell whether any of the car companies it contacted encrypt all of the personal information stored in the onboard computers installed in the cars they manufacture. The company reached out by email to ask for clarity, but most of the car companies completely ignored its requests. Those who did respond — Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Ford — still didn’t completely answer the most basic security questions.

Mozilla says when it first started looking into cars and privacy, only one thing was clear — it’s complicated even to the car markers themselves. In response to a standard set of privacy and security questions, Mercedes Benz told Mozilla it wasn’t possible to give “universal answers.” With all the data being collected by vehicles, apps, connected services, and more, not even the companies themselves fully understand the monster they have created.

Mozilla On Informed Consent

Most manufacturers have lengthy data collection consent procedures and assume drivers consent to them simply by electing to drive the car. The Nissan policy is nearly 10,000 words long and makes drivers “promise to educate and inform all users and occupants of your Vehicle about the Services and System features and limitations, the terms of the Agreement, including terms concerning data collection and use and privacy, and the Nissan Privacy Policy.”

The Tesla opt-out policy is simply bizarre. “If you no longer wish for us to collect vehicle data or any other data from your Tesla vehicle, please contact us to deactivate connectivity. Please note, certain advanced features such as over the air updates, remote services, and interactivity with mobile applications and in-car features such as location search, Internet radio, voice commands, and web browser functionality rely on such connectivity. If you choose to opt out of vehicle data collection (with the exception of in-car Data Sharing preferences), we will not be able to know or notify you of issues applicable to your vehicle in real time. This may result in your vehicle suffering from reduced functionality, serious damage, or inoperability.”

The Takeaway

I am watching a series on TV at the moment in which a thief only steals cars with cassette players so he can listen to his favorite music while he drives. Frankly, if you want to drive an automobile that won’t collect your personal data, you may need to limit your search to cars that are at least 30 years old.

We voluntarily submit to so many intrusions into our privacy because it is convenient to do so. I have friends with Google Assistant or Alexa installed in their homes who look at me like I just hoovered down from Mars when I suggest those devices are listening to, recording, and dissecting every word that gets said in their house all day every day. They think I’m kidding.

Some states now are making it a felony to drive out of state to seek certain medical services. All they have to do is contact the manufacturer of your vehicle and make a “request” to find out exactly where you went and when. If you are a woman of child-bearing age, you might want to drive a 1986 Town Car instead of anything manufactured this century.

We complain endlessly about government intrusion, and yet we voluntarily make it exceptionally easy for governments to intrude for any good reason or even no reason at all into our private lives. And we are supremely comfortable with that. Why that would be is a great mystery.

Car companies see data collection as a multi-million dollar post-sale business opportunity. Is there anything you can do to protect your privacy? Sure, disable apps, don’t use Google Maps, and only buy new cars from companies which can explain their data collection policies in clear, easy to understand language. Good luck with that!


 




I don’t like paywalls. You don’t like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don’t like paywalls, and so we’ve decided to ditch ours.

Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It’s a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So …



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Former Furze Platt pupil to co-host ‘dream’ BBC

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A former Furze Platt student has landed his dream gig of a BBC Radio 1 breakfast show.

Sam MacGregor, 24, who grew up in Gringer Hill and also attended Claires Court, will co-host with his best friend of more than six years, Danni Diston.

The pair have been standing in for various presenters over the past three years, working freelance roles while juggling day jobs until they were offered their own weekly spot.

Sam said: “You can believe in yourself all you want, but there’s so many factors that have to come into play to make this happen.

“I had this written down as one of my goals for years and years and it really is a dream come true to see it happen. I am super proud.”

A longtime listener of BBC Radio 1, Sam said Scott Mills became his ‘radio idol’ and he ‘religiously’ listened to his content for 13 of the 24 years that he was on air at the station.

He said: “When you listened to his show, you always felt like part of a community and part of something really big and fun. I thought, if I could be a tiny part of that, it would be like I never had a job. I’d just be laughing with mates and playing my favourite songs.”

In secondary school and sixth form, Sam would create internet radio shows on a laptop in his friend’s kitchen.

When he moved on to study geography at Cardiff University, Sam got involved with student radio from day one.

He won best male presenter at the National Student Radio Awards in 2019, an award also won by Greg James.

Whilst studying abroad in Sydney, he hosted a late night radio show, and by the end of his final year in Cardiff, he was running the student radio station and cover presenting in stations across Wales.

He said: “Any time I wasn’t in the library, I was in the pub or at the radio station. I spent my whole life doing it, and absolutely loved it. It was so fun to chat with your mates through a microphone and not know who’s listening.”

Sam met Danni at university in late 2017 and the pair first hosted on BBC Radio 1 in 2020 for the Christmas Takeover, before covering Boardmasters Festival in 2022 and the Big Weekend 2023 in Dundee.

“It’s an amazing thing – we’ve both independently had this dream of having a Radio 1 show but being able to do it together is really special,” he said.

Talking about live broadcasting, Sam said “I quite like the pressure. I’m lucky that I get to do it with Danni.

“ I know I’ve got someone to bounce off and someone to have fun with and that’s important. It’s meant to be a laugh, and things do go wrong – and that’s magic because that’s live radio. Radio isn’t perfect but it is natural and authentic.”

The show, airing for the first time on Saturday, will be the first weekly BBC Radio 1 show to be broadcast from Wales.

Sam said: “It’s really important to represent listeners and every aspect of the UK. We have so much different stuff to chat about from Cardiff and South Wales. Our lifestyles will be different and we can reflect that as well.”

He said it ‘means so much’ to them that the show will be broadcast from the city where he and Danni became best friends, began presenting and now call home.

Aled Haydn Jones, head of Radio 1, said: “I’m so excited to hear Sam and Danni’s new Weekend Breakfast show from Cardiff.

“They’re already key members of the Radio 1 family, this just makes it official.”

Sam added: “It was surreal to have my family and friends recognise that this has always been my dream and for them to see it come true. I don’t take for granted that I’m very, very fortunate.”

Sam and Danni’s new Weekend Breakfast show will air every Saturday and Sunday from 7am to 10am on BBC Radio 1.



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Mozilla Explains How Car Companies Use & Abuse Customer

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“What did I learn in researching the privacy and security of 25 of the top car brands in the world? Modern cars are a privacy nightmare and it seems that the Fords, Audis, and Toyotas of the world have shifted their focus from selling cars to selling data.” Think about that statement from Misha Rykov, a researcher for the Mozilla Privacy Not Included initiative. How bad is it? Read on.

Jeff Bezos was one of the first to realize that enormous profits could be made from selling customer data. Some people think Amazon started as an online bookseller. Wrong. When the company was just a gleam in Bezos’ eye, the main focus was to vacuum up all the data available from what people searched for and ordered on Amazon’s website and sell it to marketing firms.

Google, Facebook, and a host of other companies do much the same thing. Cellphone data is routinely collected and sold. There’s money to be made from mining all that data. That’s why when your spouse searches for a new pair of tennis shoes, that fact is noted by data centers all over the world. Since the digital world knows you and your spouse are affiliated, suddenly ads for Adidas, Nike, New Balance, and others start popping up in the margins of whatever you are reading online.

A Computer On Wheels

Tesla started the trend when it stuck a large touchscreen into the interior of the Model S in 2011. Suddenly, the phrase “computer on wheels” became popular as drivers became bedazzled with the idea of a car that was also a computer. Or was it the other way around?

Mozilla recently did a deep dive into the data collection and privacy protections offered by 25 car companies to their customers. All of them failed, some more spectacularly than others. Here’s what the Mozilla researchers found.

  • All of them collect too much personal data — Mozilla reviewed 25 car brands during the course of its research and handed out 25 “dings” for how those companies collect and use data and personal information. Every car brand it looked at collected more personal data than necessary and used that information for a reason other than to operate a vehicle and manage its relationship with the driver.
  • Car companies have so many more data collecting opportunities than other products and apps we use — more than even smart devices in our homes or the cellphones we take wherever we go. They can collect personal information from how you interact with your car, the connected services you use in your car, the car’s app (which provides a gateway to information on your phone) and gather even more information about you from third party sources like Sirius XM or Google Maps.
  • They can collect intimate information about you — from your medical information, your genetic information, to your “sex life” (seriously), to how fast you drive, where you drive, and what songs you play in your car — in huge quantities. They then use it to invent more data about you through “inferences” about things like your intelligence, abilities, and interests.
  • Most (84%) share or sell your data — It’s bad enough for the behemoth corporations that own the car brands to have all that personal information in their possession, to use for their own research, marketing, or the ultra-vague “business purposes.” But then, most (84%) of the car brands Mozilla researched said they can share your personal data — with service providers, data brokers, and other businesses you know little or nothing about. Worse, nineteen (76%) say they can sell your personal data.
  • A surprising number (56%) also said they can share your information with the government or law enforcement in response to a “request.” Not a court order but something as easy as an “informal request.” Car companies’ willingness to share your data has the potential to cause real harm and inspire cars and privacy nightmares.
  • Keep in mind that we only know what companies do with personal data because of the privacy laws that make it illegal not to disclose that information like the California Consumer Privacy Act. So-called anonymized and aggregated data can be shared with vehicle data hubs and others. So while you are driving from A to B, you’re also funding a car maker’s thriving side hustle in the data collection business.
  • Most (92%) give drivers little to no control over their personal data — All but two of the 25 car brands Mozilla reviewed earned a “ding” for data control. Only two car brands, Renault and Dacia, said that all drivers have the right to have their personal data deleted. But those brands operate primarily in Europe which has a robust General Data Protection Regulation privacy law. In other words, car brands often do whatever they can legally get away with to your personal data.
  • Mozilla couldn’t confirm whether any of car companies met its Minimum Security Standards — Dating apps and sex toy manufacturers publish more detailed security information than automakers do. Even though the car brands Mozilla researched had several long winded privacy policies (Toyota wins with 12), it could not confirm that any of the brands meet its Minimum Security Standards.

Mozilla Privacy Findings

Mozilla says its main concern is that it can’t tell whether any of the car companies it contacted encrypt all of the personal information stored in the onboard computers installed in the cars they manufacture. The company reached out by email to ask for clarity, but most of the car companies completely ignored its requests. Those who did respond — Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Ford — still didn’t completely answer the most basic security questions.

Mozilla says when it first started looking into cars and privacy, only one thing was clear — it’s complicated even to the car markers themselves. In response to a standard set of privacy and security questions, Mercedes Benz told Mozilla it wasn’t possible to give “universal answers.” With all the data being collected by vehicles, apps, connected services, and more, not even the companies themselves fully understand the monster they have created.

Mozilla On Informed Consent

Most manufacturers have lengthy data collection consent procedures and assume drivers consent to them simply by electing to drive the car. The Nissan policy is nearly 10,000 words long and makes drivers “promise to educate and inform all users and occupants of your Vehicle about the Services and System features and limitations, the terms of the Agreement, including terms concerning data collection and use and privacy, and the Nissan Privacy Policy.”

The Tesla opt-out policy is simply bizarre. “If you no longer wish for us to collect vehicle data or any other data from your Tesla vehicle, please contact us to deactivate connectivity. Please note, certain advanced features such as over the air updates, remote services, and interactivity with mobile applications and in-car features such as location search, Internet radio, voice commands, and web browser functionality rely on such connectivity. If you choose to opt out of vehicle data collection (with the exception of in-car Data Sharing preferences), we will not be able to know or notify you of issues applicable to your vehicle in real time. This may result in your vehicle suffering from reduced functionality, serious damage, or inoperability.”

The Takeaway

I am watching a series on TV at the moment in which a thief only steals cars with cassette players so he can listen to his favorite music while he drives. Frankly, if you want to drive an automobile that won’t collect your personal data, you may need to limit your search to cars that are at least 30 years old.

We voluntarily submit to so many intrusions into our privacy because it is convenient to do so. I have friends with Google Assistant or Alexa installed in their homes who look at me like I just hoovered down from Mars when I suggest those devices are listening to, recording, and dissecting every word that gets said in their house all day every day. They think I’m kidding.

Some states now are making it a felony to drive out of state to seek certain medical services. All they have to do is contact the manufacturer of your vehicle and make a “request” to find out exactly where you went and when. If you are a woman of child-bearing age, you might want to drive a 1986 Town Car instead of anything manufactured this century.

We complain endlessly about government intrusion, and yet we voluntarily make it exceptionally easy for governments to intrude for any good reason or even no reason at all into our private lives. And we are supremely comfortable with that. Why that would be is a great mystery.

Car companies see data collection as a multi-million dollar post-sale business opportunity. Is there anything you can do to protect your privacy? Sure, disable apps, don’t use Google Maps, and only buy new cars from companies which can explain their data collection policies in clear, easy to understand language. Good luck with that!


 




I don’t like paywalls. You don’t like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don’t like paywalls, and so we’ve decided to ditch ours.

Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It’s a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So …



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Former Furze Platt pupil to co-host ‘dream’ BBC Radio 1 bre…

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A former Furze Platt student has landed his dream gig of a BBC Radio 1 breakfast show.

Sam MacGregor, 24, who grew up in Gringer Hill and also attended Claires Court, will co-host with his best friend of more than six years, Danni Diston.

The pair have been standing in for various presenters over the past three years, working freelance roles while juggling day jobs until they were offered their own weekly spot.

Sam said: “You can believe in yourself all you want, but there’s so many factors that have to come into play to make this happen.

“I had this written down as one of my goals for years and years and it really is a dream come true to see it happen. I am super proud.”

A longtime listener of BBC Radio 1, Sam said Scott Mills became his ‘radio idol’ and he ‘religiously’ listened to his content for 13 of the 24 years that he was on air at the station.

He said: “When you listened to his show, you always felt like part of a community and part of something really big and fun. I thought, if I could be a tiny part of that, it would be like I never had a job. I’d just be laughing with mates and playing my favourite songs.”

In secondary school and sixth form, Sam would create internet radio shows on a laptop in his friend’s kitchen.

When he moved on to study geography at Cardiff University, Sam got involved with student radio from day one.

He won best male presenter at the National Student Radio Awards in 2019, an award also won by Greg James.

Whilst studying abroad in Sydney, he hosted a late night radio show, and by the end of his final year in Cardiff, he was running the student radio station and cover presenting in stations across Wales.

He said: “Any time I wasn’t in the library, I was in the pub or at the radio station. I spent my whole life doing it, and absolutely loved it. It was so fun to chat with your mates through a microphone and not know who’s listening.”

Sam met Danni at university in late 2017 and the pair first hosted on BBC Radio 1 in 2020 for the Christmas Takeover, before covering Boardmasters Festival in 2022 and the Big Weekend 2023 in Dundee.

“It’s an amazing thing – we’ve both independently had this dream of having a Radio 1 show but being able to do it together is really special,” he said.

Talking about live broadcasting, Sam said “I quite like the pressure. I’m lucky that I get to do it with Danni.

“ I know I’ve got someone to bounce off and someone to have fun with and that’s important. It’s meant to be a laugh, and things do go wrong – and that’s magic because that’s live radio. Radio isn’t perfect but it is natural and authentic.”

The show, airing for the first time on Saturday, will be the first weekly BBC Radio 1 show to be broadcast from Wales.

Sam said: “It’s really important to represent listeners and every aspect of the UK. We have so much different stuff to chat about from Cardiff and South Wales. Our lifestyles will be different and we can reflect that as well.”

He said it ‘means so much’ to them that the show will be broadcast from the city where he and Danni became best friends, began presenting and now call home.

Aled Haydn Jones, head of Radio 1, said: “I’m so excited to hear Sam and Danni’s new Weekend Breakfast show from Cardiff.

“They’re already key members of the Radio 1 family, this just makes it official.”

Sam added: “It was surreal to have my family and friends recognise that this has always been my dream and for them to see it come true. I don’t take for granted that I’m very, very fortunate.”

Sam and Danni’s new Weekend Breakfast show will air every Saturday and Sunday from 7am to 10am on BBC Radio 1.



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