Philippines' ABS-CBN scraps deal to buy into rival TV network – Arab News

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MANILA: Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN Corp. said on Thursday it has terminated a deal to acquire a minority stake in local operator TV5 Network Inc, weeks after some lawmakers questioned the legality of the plan.
ABS-CBN, which has been broadcasting content mostly online since losing its rights to operate radio and television frequencies in 2020, gave no reason for the scrapping of the deal, which it said was a mutual decision.
The termination follows concern from some legislators at an inquiry last week that TV5 could be violating its franchise if it went ahead with the plan to sell a 35 percent stake to ABS-CBN for $38.3 million (2.16 billion pesos).
“The parties confirmed that they have not implemented any of the transactions covered by the investment agreement,” ABS-CBN said in a statement.
The deal could have allowed ABS-CBN to show some of its programs to a wider audience through TV5’s free-to-air channels. ABS-CBN has said such channels remain the best source of entertainment and public service to Filipinos.
ABS-CBN shares sank nearly 12 percent to a one-month low upon resumption of trading after a one-hour halt on Thursday. The broader stock index was up 0.19 percent.
ABS-CBN lost its congressional broadcast franchise in 2020 and was among several media groups hit by legal or licensing problems after angering former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Prior to that, it was the country’s biggest broadcaster, with a reach of up to 55 million people domestically and millions more Filipinos overseas.
The two firms also dropped a deal for TV5’s cable unit to acquire a 38.88 percent equity interest in ABS-CBN’s Sky Cable Corp.
KABUL: The Afghan government is set to ban video-sharing platform TikTok and online multi-player game PUBG within the next three months, an official confirmed on Tuesday, following a string of bans on content deemed immoral since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year.
The Taliban announced a ban on both popular apps earlier this year, with the group’s Spokesman Inamullah Samangani saying in April that the move was necessary to “prevent the younger generation from being misled.”
Internet access in Afghanistan, along with its youth population, has grown rapidly in recent years, with 10 million users, according to data from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. More than 63 percent of the country’s population of 40 million are under 25 years old.
Afghan officials agreed on a timeline for the ban over the weekend after a discussion with telecommunication companies and internet service providers in the country, the ministry’s Spokesman Anayatullah Alokozai told Arab News.
“After a series of meetings that we had with telecommunications companies, the companies promised in the latest meeting on Saturday that they will close TikTok in one month and PUBG game in three months,” Alokozai said on Tuesday.
The upcoming ban on TikTok is likely the Taliban’s attempt to curtail dissent, Afghan journalist Abdulhaq Omeri told Arab News.
“TikTok users have recently increased in Afghanistan. People criticize the actions of the Taliban’s government in live videos and short clips. Through banning TikTok, the Taliban want to stop them,” he said.
In South Asia, TikTok and PUBG are currently banned in India. The former was also briefly banned in Pakistan last year when Islamabad called on the platform to control content deemed immoral and indecent.
Omeri said “it is impossible for the Taliban to succeed in banning TikTok and PUBG,” as similar moves in other countries were not effective with people circumventing the ban with the help of virtual private networks.
But some Afghans say the ban could be a good thing for the younger generation.
“PUBG and TikTok are a threat to the youth’s future as most of them are having difficulties in their studies and are facing mental health issues,” Omeri said.
Manizha Khan, an education specialist from Kabul, pointed to how some users had spent too much time on the game and “become very loud and rude.”
“I would be very happy if PUBG is banned because it is extremely addictive and promotes violence and abuse among the youth,” Khan told Arab News.
She lamented the TikTok ban, however, as she has been using the app to lift her spirits, listening to interpretations of the Holy Qur’an and watching cooking videos.
“I personally use TikTok for daily motivation away from social life, which I currently don’t have much of,” Khan said. “The ban will take this opportunity from me.”
LONDON: The Pentagon will review its overseas clandestine social media operations after Twitter and Meta removed pro-US accounts from their platforms last month.
The in-depth audit was ordered on Monday by Colin Kahl, undersecretary for policy at the Department of Defense, to review the activities of military branches engaging in online psychological operations, or “psyops.”
Pentagon spokesman Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a statement that the military’s information operations conducted by the Department of Defense “support national security priorities.”
“These activities must be undertaken in compliance with US law and DoD policy,” he said. “We are committed to enforcing those safeguards.”
The review was prompted after research by Stanford Internet Observatory and the social media analytics firm Graphika last month revealed that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms blocked campaigns aimed at influencing opinion in Central Asia and the Middle East.
The campaigns, believed to be the first of their kind, focused on discrediting Russia, China, Iran and other countries, while promoting US views and values.
Some of the accounts identified by researchers published news pieces from Washington-funded media groups, such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, as well as links to US military websites.
Although researchers could not verify who was behind the pro-US accounts, Meta and Twitter said that the account activities originated in the US and UK.
According to reports, officials at the White House and other government agencies ordered the inquiry after growing increasingly concerned about the use of clandestine online warfare and influence operations.
Although psychological operations have been widely adopted by the US military for a long time, the deployment of fictitious internet personas and false media sources is a relatively new tactic that has proved to be particularly controversial and often attracted the attention of Congress.
In 2008, the Special Operations Command launched the Trans-Regional Web Initiative to promote truthful, but pro-US, messaging in North Africa and the Middle East. After drawing increasing scrutiny from lawmakers, Congress decided in 2013 to stop funding the program.
Although the initiative was interrupted, other information operations have continued on social media platforms.
These have sometimes been compared to online disinformation campaigns carried out by Russia, China, Iran and other US adversaries using similar strategies to sow division and discord in a given country.
Although most of these campaigns receive little attention and have a limited reach, Congress believes that such clandestine efforts could backfire because they evoke the propaganda operations that authoritarian governments use to push messages at home and abroad, and risk undermining US credibility.
LONDON: Spotify Technology SA is locking horns with Amazon.com Inc’s Audible, with the launch of its audiobook service in the United States.
Spotify users in the country will have access to over 300,000 audiobook titles, the Swedish firm said in a blog on Tuesday.
Users will be able to browse the catalog on the Spotify app and purchase through the website, it added, similar to the purchase of Spotify subscription.
The audiobooks market was estimated at $4.8 billion in 2021 and was expected to grow at about 14 percent compound annual growth rate to $9.3 billion by 2026, according to media consultancy Omdia.
Spotify has charted an aggressive expansion path as it looks to supplement its earnings from music streaming with other revenue-generating formats such as podcasts, on which it has spent more than $1 billion to add popular names such as Joe Rogan to its roster.
RIYADH: Manga Arabia, one of the latest creative content projects from leading global media group SRMG, today signed an agreement with Malaysian comic publisher Kadokawa Gempak Starz (KGS). Amongst other co-produced projects, this partnership will include the debut of the new series of X-Ventures – a Manga Arabia series originally co-developed under a previous partnership agreement by Manga Arabia’s team of talented authors and creators and KGS’s world-class illustrators and editors.
The first season of X-Ventures followed the adventures of three young Saudi heroes Laith, Lynn and Ziad, and invited readers along on their thrilling journeys. The 12-chapter story blends adventure and entertainment, granting readers an insight into the fascinating world of oil and energy sources while sparking their imagination. The second season of the X-Ventures series will have the team tackle an archeological mystery, taking them on a daring journey filled with fun and excitement brought by the young heroes.
This partnership will also see Manga Arabia comics translated into Malay and Chinese – the first time Manga Arabia has been translated for new markets. Manga Arabia currently includes two Arabic magazines, Manga Arabia Kids and Manga Arabia Youth.
Commenting on the expansion of the partnership with KGS, Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of SRMG, said: “Building on our strong partnership with leading Malaysian comics publisher KGS is an important further step in expanding the Manga Arabia offering for fans across the world. This partnership is a further demonstration of SRMG’s commitment to providing audiences with premium content that informs, entertains and inspires.”
Mr. Chris Yew Chen Han, CEO of KGS, commented: “KGS is excited to continue our partnership with Manga Arabia, a creative fusion that further clarifies our international vision to extend our reach to markets beyond Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and even the United States. This partnership also includes translations of Manga Arabia into Malay and Chinese; not only is this the first time that Manga Arabia has been translated into another language, but it will expand the offering for Malay and Chinese Manga fans.
Dr. Essam Bukhary, Editor-in-Chief of Manga Arabia, commented: “We are thrilled to work with KGS to bring Manga Arabia to the wider global community, proving that Arab-origin stories and content can inspire audiences well beyond the borders of the Middle East. The popularity of the X-Ventures series is the first of many successful stories in our new journey with KGS.
DUBAI: CNN Arabic has partnered with the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education on two major projects in the areas of Arab youth development and female empowerment, Emirates News Agency reported. 
The projects are a part of CNN Arabic’s key initiatives marking its 20th anniversary. 
The Siraj initiative will train 300 Emirati and Arab youths in core journalistic principles and practices over the next three years. 
The UAE-based course aims to equip young people with skills to boost their employability and competitiveness in the job market. 
Siraj is part of the foundation’s recently launched NOMU initiative, which is committed to a national vision for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 
Earlier this summer, 55 people completed the first Siraj course virtually, and two more cohorts of Emirati youth will begin six-week courses integrating online and in-person learning and development in October. 
Participants sourced by the foundation will work directly with CNN journalists and executives on topics such as ideation and brainstorming, strategy building, storytelling, critical and design thinking, debate skills, and distribution and audience reach, with sessions supplemented by exercises and practical learning programs. 
The second project on which CNN Arabic and the foundation are collaborating is centered on women’s empowerment project and will highlight the contributions of Arab women who have made a difference in their communities. 
The foundation has assisted CNN Arabic in identifying and granting access to 30 women who have benefited from its programs and the Refugee Education Fund in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE, providing them with filmmaking equipment and training. 
The content will be featured in CNN Arabic’s Her Story section and will be widely shared on social media.
“These unique projects give our participants skills that they can utilize in their personal and professional lives as well as a platform in which to make their stories heard across the world. In CNN Arabic’s 20th anniversary year, these initiatives show the impact that journalism can have on the world around us and society at large,” CNN Arabic Editor-in-Chief Caroline Faraj said. 
Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education CEO Dr. Sonia Ben Jaafar said: “Creativity and communication are vital in the modern workplace and the young people who participate in these programs will develop skills, which will enable them to thrive in their current and future careers. 
“As a foundation, we are excited to work with CNN Arabic, an organization that shares our values and is wholeheartedly committed to upskilling Emirati and Arab youth and promoting female empowerment in the region. 
“Together we look forward to equipping young people with the tools to succeed as journalists and bringing to life the untold stories of the many inspirational women across this region.”
 

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