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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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