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Bid32.31 x 800
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Day's Range32.17 - 32.47
52 Week Range21.34 - 36.25
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Market Cap5.5B
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PE Ratio (TTM)42.62
EPS (TTM)0.76
Earnings DateFeb 4, 2020 - Feb 10, 2020
Forward Dividend & Yield0.20 (0.64%)
Ex-Dividend Date2019-10-01
1y Target Est32.75
  • Financial Times

    The EU’s efforts to thrive in a more hostile world

    Here at the FT, we have taken a strong interest in the economic aspects of “European sovereignty”, a brand of political and policy thinking we have a little cheekily dubbed “Europe First”. is on industrial policy and, in particular, the promotion of battery manufacturing on European soil. As the story shows, an active industrial policy, with the public sector consciously jump-starting and co-ordinating the development of an entire sector, has moved from minority concern to more or less the consensus view in just a few years — and, it seems, with success so far.

  • Bloomberg

    Russian Artist Puts $150,000 Banana to Shame

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Forget Maurizio Cattelan’s $150,000 banana, duct-taped to the wall at Art Basel in Miami last week and eaten by a less well-known trickster artist. (The buyers of the artwork are fine with that — it came with a manual that prescribes replacing the fruit every week or so, anyway.) The best art of this type comes from Russia, because there, it actually means something.The art object that, as any responsible critic should recognize, eclipses Cattelan’s headline-grabbing “Comedian,” was sold online on Dec. 9 for 1.5 million rubles ($23,600). It was created by Artem Loskutov, an artist from Novosibirsk, Russia, who started the now nationwide tradition of “Monstrations,” annual rallies where people carry nonsensical signs. (“We Can’t be Knocked Off Course: We Don’t Know Where We’re Going,” one said this year.) The object is a piece of canvas-covered cardboard with a steel plaque glued to it and Loskutov’s signature, in marker, underneath. On the plaque, a woman named Nailya professes her love for a man named Andrey Kostin, in English, and tells him, “We are of the same blood,” an apparent corruption of the line from Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book,” “We be of one blood, ye and I.”Loskutov’s description of the materials used in creating the work says, “found object, stainless steel, 5X14 cm; marker, canvas on cardboard.” But the plaque is, strictly speaking, a stolen object, not a “found” one. Until a few days ago, it was affixed to one of the 6,800 benches in New York City’s Central Park “adopted” by donors to the Central Park Conservancy.It came from what’s probably now the most famous of these benches: Earlier this month, it got a prominent mention in a 29-minute video by anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, an arch-foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, that has been viewed more than 5 million times (and counting) on YouTube. The video is dedicated to the relationship between Andrey Kostin, the (married) president and chief executive officer of the state-owned bank VTB and state television anchor Nailya Asker-Zade. The state banker, according to Navalny, has showered Asker-Zade with expensive gifts, including prime real estate and the use of a yacht and a private plane. The cost of it all appears to be too high even for Kostin’s significant legitimate income, Navalny wrote.Kostin hasn’t commented on the video, nor has VTB, Russia’s second biggest bank by assets. Asker-Zade, known for her fawning interviews with members of Putin’s close circle, thanked Navalny on Instagram for the publicity.Navalny’s made-for-YouTube investigations are political tools rather than journalistic endeavors, and much of the film’s substance should probably be classed as opinion rather than fact. But when it comes to the Central Park plaque, Asker-Zade is mentioned in Central Park Conservancy’s 2015 annual report among donors of between $10,000 and $24,999. Navalny specializes in exposing impossibly lavish lifestyles that embarrass Putin allies and scandalize the average Russian. Judging by his video’s viral spread and the indignant comments it’s spawned on social networks, he handily hit his mark here.To put his allegations in context, Navalny wrote in a separate post that by his count the total value of the gifts is comparable to the amount that’s been raised by Rusfond, one of Russia’s biggest charities dedicated to funding medical treatment for seriously ill children, over its 23-year history. That would be difficult to prove, but is important for what happened next.Suddenly, the plaque disappeared from the bench, an event Navalny was quick to report on Twitter. On Dec. 9, it resurfaced in Loskutov’s possession. To turn it into art, Loskutov didn’t just paste it on cardboard and scribble his name underneath. He promised to donate the proceeds from its sale to Rusfond. The same day, he announced the object had fetched 1.5 million rubles in an informal auction he had run online. (The original screws from the bench were offered as a bonus.) To complete the performance, proof of the transfer to Rusfond is still needed. But Loskutov’s work has already garnered numerous comments to his tweets and Facebook posts — both accusing him of theft (even many Putin foes were uneasy about this) and praising him for his audacity.  One commentator summed the whole situation up like this: “They stole our money and we’ll steal their memories.” Although there's no proof Asker-Zade or Kostin engaged in theft.On Tuesday, Loskutov took to Facebook and Twitter again to post a quote attributed to a host of greats, most often to Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” It’s unclear, though, if he meant himself or the bureaucrats and managers of state-owned companies whom Navalny often accuses of graft.The New York Times’ art critic Jason Farago recently offered what he called “a reluctant defense” of Cattelan’s banana on the basis of the artist’s “willingness to implicate himself within the economic, social and discursive systems that structure how we see and what we value.” If that defense is valid, Loskutov’s action works on more levels than Cattelan’s work. It’s art as Robin Hood-style theft, art as tabloid journalism, art as political protest, art as social commentary, art as commerce and art as charity all rolled into one. It’s not a case of art imitating life or the other way round, but art’s bold intrusion into life as it plays out under one of the world’s most dispiriting authoritarian regimes.Loskutov’s performance, whatever its consequences for him, deserves a place among other audacious Russian art works such as Voina Art Group’s 2010 depiction of a gigantic penis on a St. Petersburg drawbridge exactly opposite the secret police office or Petr Pavlensky nailing himself to the pavement on Moscow’s Red Square in 2013. It’s easy these days to be cynical about the value of art and to play tricks on audiences based on the amount of money some wealthy people are willing to pay for fatuous objects. It’s much riskier, and much more meaningful, to challenge allegedly corrupt elites and the enforcers and benefactors of authoritarian nations. Where political opposition is feeble, art has a role to play.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Financial Times

    Paytm pain: India’s biggest unicorn hits headwinds

    FT subscribers can click here to receive Tech Scroll Asia by email. Hi everyone — Paytm, Asia’s biggest unicorn outside China, looks to be in trouble, with implications for its investors SoftBank and Alibaba. A fintech revolution is hurtling through south-east Asia as Indonesia is seized by an e-money craze.

  • Bloomberg

    Now for the Bad News: Medicare Costs Are Accelerating

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- As debates rage over the cost of U.S. health care, Medicare’s actuaries have issued a new report. In 2018, overall national spending on health care rose 4.6% from 2017, to a total of $3.6 trillion.That may sound like a big jump, but the 2018 numbers partially reflect the re-imposition of a tax on health insurance, which is a one-time effect rather than an underlying trend. Even with that renewed tax, spending rose more slowly than GDP last year, so the share of the economy devoted to health care declined. The new figures show that the slow growth that has occurred over the past decade or so has mostly continued.What is the cause of this little-noticed deceleration in health costs? Early on, the conventional wisdom was that the 2008 financial crisis was the reason. I argued back then that this was unlikely to be the case and that changes in the delivery of health care were more likely driving the shift. Today, the consensus on the causes of the continued slow growth has come around, as reflected in a New York Times report on the latest health-care figures.“The factors leading to the slowdown are not fully understood,” the article said. “For years, economists thought they were the result of lagging effects of the recession. But as the pattern has continued far into the economic recovery, they increasingly point to changes in the delivery of health care itself.”Whenever the conventional wisdom shifts like this, we should be wary. And indeed the recent data carry a warning: The spending growth of Medicare, which made up more than a fifth of total national health-care expenditures in 2018, has been picking up. This may presage a broader acceleration.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare expenditures rose more than 6% in the fiscal year that ended at the end of September; the actuaries’ report also shows a 2018 increase in the program’s spending growth.Part of the 2018 increase in Medicare is the result of the health insurance tax, which affects private insurance plans within Medicare. But even apart from that, the program’s spending on care delivery itself (instead of administrative costs or taxes on private plans) grew by 5.7% in 2018, compared with 4.7% in 2017. And Medicare spending growth has remained high so far in 2019, as the CBO data show.Two trends here warrant more attention. The first is that the shift away from fee-for-service reimbursement, which involves paying based on the volumes of services provided, and toward value-based payment, based on paying for the quality of care delivered, is moving too slowly. Maintaining slower growth in Medicare spending will require more forceful movement away from fee-for-service payments. The leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services should get over its reported infighting and move more aggressively on this front.In addition, Medicare Advantage plans, the private plans within the program, are expanding rapidly. In 2018, enrollment in these plans rose by 8%, compared with less than 3% for Medicare enrollment overall. The plans accounted for 35% of all Medicare beneficiaries in 2018, and that share is very likely to continue rising.There has been much debate about the impact of these plans. Most evidence from the past several years, including from studies of what happens when private plans voluntarily decide to stop offering insurance in a local area, suggests they have lower costs and better quality than traditional Medicare.  Over the next few years, policymakers will need to consider revamping the system under which the Medicare Advantage plans are paid, since payments are still based on traditional Medicare payments in each local area. That works fine when the private plans are a small share of the overall system, but causes problems as they cover, or come close to covering, the majority of beneficiaries: pricing care for 20 percent of beneficiaries based on the costs for the other 80 percent makes sense, but pricing care for 80 percent based on the costs for the other 20 percent does not.  Finally, there is the hotly debated question of how much consumers are paying out of their own pockets for health care. That’s a legitimate concern, but the actuaries’ report provides some striking data on this subject: In 2018, out-of-pocket expenses represented 10.3% of total health spending, down from 11.4% of total spending in 2012.  What explains the drop? Although deductibles have risen, more consumers are paying out of pocket for low to moderate levels of costs. The Affordable Care Act provided limits on how much consumers themselves are responsible for, so people with insurance but very high health costs don’t run the same personal financial risks that they did a decade ago when there were no such caps.  Advocates of counting on these out-of-pocket expenses to reduce overall spending may be concerned that a small share of spending is coming in this form. But those advocates believe the strategy works better than it actually does. In practice, having consumers pay more out of pocket doesn’t affect health-care spending all that much.  The bottom line is that we’ve had another year of slow growth in overall health-care costs. That’s great news. But we should be paying careful attention to what is happening in Medicare, where costs have accelerated recently.  To contact the author of this story: Peter R. Orszag at porszag5@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Peter R. Orszag is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the chief executive officer of financial advisory at Lazard. He was director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2009 to 2010, and director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2007 to 2008. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Financial Times

    Weinstein and accusers reach tentative $45m deal

    and his bankrupt film studio have agreed in principle a $45m settlement with a group of women who accused him of sexual assault, which would put an end to nearly all civil lawsuits against the disgraced movie mogul, according to people familiar with the matter. The rest would go to accusers and creditors of the film studio, according to people involved in the negotiations. The settlement is not finalised, these people cautioned, and must still be approved by a US bankruptcy court.

  • Reuters

    PRESS DIGEST- New York Times business news - Dec. 10

    - Amazon.com Inc said in a legal complaint unsealed on Monday that it had lost a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon because President Trump used "improper pressure" to divert the contract from the company to harm its chief executive, Jeff Bezos. - Four months before the first deadly crash of Boeing Co's 737 Max, a senior manager approached an executive at the company with concerns that the plane was riddled with production problems and potentially unsafe. - A war of words erupted on Monday between The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Warner Bros over "Richard Jewell," a new Clint Eastwood-directed film that depicts the newspaper's reporting after a bomb exploded at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

  • Bloomberg

    Paul Volcker Was the First Monetary Rock Star

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Paul Volcker's leadership of the U.S. Federal Reserve was enormously consequential. The former chairman — who died Sunday in New York at the age of 92 — bequeathed to his heirs and the global economy two major legacies: one from which subsequent Fed chiefs benefit and another that central bankers have sought to dismantle.The benefit is an economic system from which inflation has been wrung. Surging prices were the biggest challenge facing American post-war dominance. In the months after Volcker was appointed Fed chairman in 1979, consumer prices were increasing at about 15 percent. It's almost hard to grasp how different things were, with inflation now struggling to hold above 2 percent.Volcker pushed interest rates to 20 percent to wrest control of inflation. A deep recession followed, as did an economic spurt in the 1980s when the medicine worked and borrowing costs came down. Inflation was just never the same again and has been steadily receding as a pernicious force ever since.It's the relative absence of inflation that has given central bankers everywhere the ability to fine-tune expansions or revive growth without worrying about the proverbial genie escaping. That some of Volcker's successors, including Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen and occasionally Alan Greenspan, worried about too low inflation is testimony to the impact of the Volcker-era accomplishments.(1)Now, to the legacy that more recent Fed leaders have tried to pull apart. The scale of Volcker's assault on inflation and his towering physical presence contributed significantly to the cult of the central banker, the primacy of an all-knowing, all-seeing chairman. Volcker was omnipresent in news, the personification of what the Fed was up to. He even appeared on magazine covers in Australia, where I grew up. I remember thinking: Who is this guy with the cigar smoke twirling around him? He was sometimes referred to as the second-most-important person in the U.S., after the president.Perhaps it was inevitable such a radical policy was going to be associated with an individual rather than an institution. Many central banks, including the Fed, formally make decisions through votes on a policy committee. But there's one person the public focuses on.Perhaps, too, it was inevitable that the expansion of capital markets that followed the Cold War would bring inordinate attention to monetary gurus. Volcker's successor Greenspan, dubbed "the Maestro" by author Bob Woodward, took this to a whole other level.Lately, central bankers have become uncomfortable with their royal status. When Bernanke took over from Greenspan, he began de-emphasizing the role of chairman and focused on inflation targets as a way to get people to look at numbers rather than individuals. The financial crisis accelerated this. The Fed now publishes reams of information and projections, holds press conferences and, yes, releases the famous dot plots, charting rate forecasts.Jerome Powell, the current Fed chair, is thought to be ambivalent about some of this crisis-era paraphernalia. Powell comes across as someone who knows the limitations of the Fed's wisdom.The decoupling of leader from institution has a ways to go. The fanfare that greeted Christine Lagarde's arrival at the European Central Bank testifies to this. Same with the rock-star status accorded Mark Carney when he became governor of the Bank of England in 2013. It resembled monetary Beatlemania. The idolization of Volcker was the first step on this slippery slope.But Volcker was a modest man in his personal lifestyle and humble about his shortcomings. He would approve of a bit of central bank de-canonization at this moment. Certainly his own role in economic history is assured.(1) The accomplishments of the era were not solely his doing; other forces less visible at the time were at work. China's ascent, as a proxy for the integration of the global economy and the creation of a global pool of labor, began about the same time. Deng Xiaoping's reforms, begun in 1978, shaped the global economy as much as any single American official.To contact the author of this story: Daniel Moss at dmoss@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Philip Gray at philipgray@bloomberg.net, Beth WilliamsThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Daniel Moss is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies. Previously he was executive editor of Bloomberg News for global economics, and has led teams in Asia, Europe and North America.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Financial Times

    The missing middle

    , I thought I’d devote my own Swamp Note to sharing a recent episode from my son’s middle school which speaks to the extreme times in which we live. On a more serious note, recently, my son’s very racially and socioeconomically diverse middle school has been dealing with the problem of inappropriate and/or hateful speech, online and offline.

  • Leave Pete Buttigieg’s McKinsey NDA Alone

    Leave Pete Buttigieg’s McKinsey NDA Alone

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- News organizations this week declared that the electorate needs to know exactly what Mayor Pete Buttigieg did, and for whom, a decade ago during his stint at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The Democratic presidential candidate has asked McKinsey to release him from the terms of his non-disclosure agreement so that he can answer their questions.Here’s hoping McKinsey stands up to the pressure.The issue arose after the New York Times published an article about work the consulting firm did for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (McKinsey has flatly denied the major allegations made in the piece.) The newspaper followed up with an editorial demanding that Buttigieg tell voters the identities of his clients and the nature of the work he did for them. Others piled on. The Huffington Post, for example, accused the candidate of “dodging questions.” Buttigieg, who has insisted he has no regrets about his time at McKinsey, has lately become a critic of his former employer, calling its work with immigration authorities “disgusting.” The Los Angeles Times calls the contretemps a “collision of the growing use of nondisclosure agreements in the private sector with the public’s expectation of transparency from candidates seeking higher office.”But there was no collision until the news media chose to create one. Non-disclosure agreements are neither evil nor new. They’re a tool of long standing to enable one party to share its secrets with another, confident that the second party will keep those secrets confidential. Without such agreements, the provision of professional services would become effectively impossible, because clients would never be sure their secrets would be kept — including, in many cases, the secret of the fact that they hired a lawyer or consultant at all. That some secrets hidden by a particular non-disclosure agreement are of interest to others can’t be relevant to whether to undo it; the agreement exists precisely because the information it protects has value.When I teach contract law to first-year law students, here's how I explain non-disclosure agreements: Suppose that you sue me, claiming to have been wrongfully terminated. I offer you a choice. I will pay you either (1) $50,000 to drop the lawsuit with no strings attached or (2) $100,000 to drop the lawsuit and promise not to disclose any of the underlying facts to anyone. The structure of the second offer means that I value your silence at more than $50,000. If you value your right to speak out about the underlying facts at less than $50,000, you will accept that offer. If you place a higher value on your right to speak out, you will demand more. If we wind up making a deal, at whatever price, it means that you believe you’re better off selling your right to speak out than keeping it.Why on earth should that decision be anyone else’s business? The agreement isn't enforceable unless you've been paid, and you entered into the agreement with your eyes wide open. If we regulate nondisclosure agreements — for example, by following the lead of several states that now allow judges in certain circumstances to order them unlocked — then we reduce the value of the agreements to both the parties paying the money and the parties receiving it. Thus the next time around, the party desiring to protect its secrets will pay less, as it must take into account the possibility that the secrets won’t stay secret.Of course, we can all imagine circumstances in which one party is coerced or deceived into signing the agreement, but those can be dealt with according to the usual rules regarding coercion or deception in the contracting process.In any event, it’s hard to see how any of the usual critiques of NDAs apply to Pete Buttigieg. He wasn’t settling a complaint. Certainly nobody claims that he was coerced. He was simply getting paid for professional services.Newspapers can argue that the public interest demands that the non-disclosure agreement be set aside. But courts have repeatedly rejected this argument. That would be a good rule for politics too.The fact that people would like to know what secrets Buttigieg has promised to keep for McKinsey doesn’t place any obligation on McKinsey at all. McKinsey & Company is the sort of place that will always attract ambitious young people planning to move on to the next big thing. It's hard to see how the fact that having worked there is now causing one of them difficulties in a campaign for public office places any obligation on McKinsey.Yet, weirdly, the news media seem to consider the whole thing McKinsey’s fault. Here’s the Times again: “The most straightforward solution is for McKinsey to release him from his vows of silence — or at least to substitute a significantly more permissive agreement.”No, that solution isn’t straightforward. We might pardonably call it ridiculous. Why should McKinsey bear the loss? McKinsey’s clients — not Pete Buttigieg — are the ones the agreement protects. Confidentiality is the principle on which much of the world of professional services is built. Consulting firms, law firms, public relations firms, just about everybody who regularly does business with major companies requires employees to sign non-disclosure agreements. Many of these service companies, as part of their orientation, instruct new hires never to tell anybody who their clients are. Part of the security one gets in return for the fees paid to a law or consulting or public relations firm is the assurance that your secrets will stay secret.If due to news media pressure this longstanding arrangement is cast aside, future clients of law firms or consulting firms will know that there’s a new risk in engaging the firm — to wit, that secrets seen as politically juicy will no longer stay secret. Due to this risk, future clients will pay less for the firm’s services. This development in turn will lead to lower compensation for employees. That’s a fairly hefty cost to place on tens of thousands of bystanders so that the news media can satisfy its hunger for information about a single political candidate.Happily, there’s another way out. The candidate has raised a lot of money; the media organizations eager to make a feeding frenzy of whatever might emerge are (mostly) profitable. Rather than demand that McKinsey give it away for free, Buttigieg or the news media or some combination thereof should purchase McKinsey’s rights to enforce the contract. This is the simplest, fairest, and most efficient answer — and the negotiation process itself would yield important information. Because if the would-be purchasers can’t find a price at which McKinsey will sell the secrets the agreement protects, we’ll know that the news media and the activists value them less than the company does.In which case they should stay secret.To contact the author of this story: Stephen L. Carter at scarter01@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • At US$31.84, Is It Time To Put The New York Times Company (NYSE:NYT) On Your Watch List?
    Simply Wall St.

    At US$31.84, Is It Time To Put The New York Times Company (NYSE:NYT) On Your Watch List?

    The New York Times Company (NYSE:NYT), which is in the media business, and is based in United States, saw a...

  • New York Times (NYT) Up 5.4% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Continue?

    New York Times (NYT) Up 5.4% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Continue?

    New York Times (NYT) reported earnings 30 days ago. What's next for the stock? We take a look at earnings estimates for some clues.

  • Bloomberg

    Hollywood Shows How Antitrust Laws Can Flop

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- In 1939, about 80 million Americans — more than 60 percent of the population — bought movie tickets every week. To meet the demand for fresh entertainment, Hollywood studios released new movies at the rate of one a day, 365 in all.The year’s motion pictures counted so many classics — including “The Wizard of Oz,” “Dark Victory,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Stagecoach,” “Ninotchka,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and, of course, “Gone with the Wind” — that 1939 is often called Hollywood’s greatest year.A decade later the studio system that produced these touchstones and made movie-going an everyday pastime was largely gone — destroyed by a combination of antitrust action and marginal tax rates that reached 90 percent for the industry’s well-paid salaried employees.In its place, Hollywood adopted an early form of the gig economy, with project-based contracts and profit participation, taxed at lower capital gains rates, instead of steady employment.A winner-take-all system of star talent and blockbuster bets replaced the diverse ecology of working actors, staff writers, B-movies and cheap tickets at second- and third-run theaters. Film rental and ticket prices rose, the number of films produced fell, and, by 1950, the number of actors and directors under contract had plummeted to a third of what it was at its height. (Unions offered benefits and some protections, but in 2018, to take one example, only 6,057 of the 20,000 members of the Writers Guild of America West earned any income.)Today, as a resurgent left, sometimes joined by the populist right, demands a return to punitive taxes and blunderbuss enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws, the Hollywood experience offers a timely reminder of how economic crusaders can destroy what they don’t understand. By hampering creativity and increasing risk, ill-informed antitrust action can ultimately harm the consumers it is supposed to protect.Last month, the Justice Department filed a motion to drop the Paramount consent decrees that have governed most of the movie industry for more than 70 years. The rules have prevented studios from owning theater chains and imposing film rental terms that antitrust enforcers deemed anti-competitive. (Disney, which was not involved in the original case, is exempt.)Times have changed, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a speech to the American Bar Association. We no longer have to worry about practices such as “block booking,” in which a studio bundles its releases to a given theater.“Today, not only do our metropolitan areas have many multiplex cinemas showing films from different distributors, but much of our movie-watching is not in theaters at all,” said Delrahim, who oversees the Justice Department’s antitrust division. These days, the most prolific studio in Hollywood is Netflix.Delrahim only hinted that the antitrust cases might have been misguided even in their own day.“It is important,” he said, “for antitrust enforcers to recognize the risks of misapplying antitrust law in creative fields that experience significant change.” He was talking about today’s tech companies, but he could have been referring to movies on the cusp of the television era, when a landmark Supreme Court ruling forced movie studios to divest themselves of their theater chains.The vertical integration and licensing contracts that regulators interpreted as monopolistic actually dated back to the wildly competitive early days of feature films in the 1910s, when producers evolved effective ways to deal with risks and uncertainties specific to their business.Each movie is a unique product requiring a large upfront investment. Nobody knows whether it will succeed until people see it, and even popular films can take time to build an audience. All these factors led studios to emphasize long-term relationships and multiple-film licensing deals with “greater flexibility than the short-term, one-picture, one-theater contacts that the courts prescribed in the decrees,” write economists Arthur De Vany and Ross D. Eckert in a 1991 article in Research in Law and Economics.Take the studios’ use of block booking. Los Angeles Times reporters Ryan Faughnder and Anousha Sakoui recently described it as “essentially telling cinemas they had to take the studios’ likely flops if they wanted the hits.”This common characterization misses the point. Before movies hit the screen, no one knows which ones audiences will embrace. Producers surely had high hopes for “Charlie’s Angels” and “Terminator: Dark Fate,” to take a couple of recent disappointments, while “Joker” surpassed expectations.Rather than a nefarious plot to foist lousy flicks on unwilling exhibitors, block booking permitted cinemas to buy in bulk. The practice evolved in the 1910s as a way to keep theaters supplied with enough movies to change their offerings as often as twice a week. As more costly talkies emerged in the 1920s, contracts shifted from straight rentals to revenue-sharing deals.Regardless of the structure, “block booking was simply intended to cheaply provide in quantity a product needed in quantity,” writes economist F. Andrew Hanssen in a 2000 article in the Journal of Law and Economics. Cinema owners didn’t want to run around shopping for movies to show.They said as much at the time. ‘‘The exhibitor is in the position of buying a sufficient quantity of quality product for his theater to insure a continuous supply of merchantable pictures,” declared the exhibitors’ trade association in 1938. “To quit block booking would be to greatly increase the price of pictures.’’Besides, duds don’t seem to have posed a major problem. Examining contracts between Warner Bros. and independent cinemas in the Long Island area, Hanssen found that theater owners canceled fewer movies than their contracts allowed and ran them for longer than the minimums required — not the choices that dissatisfied customers would make.Block booking was also one of several ways studios avoided the biggest potential risk for a movie producer: having no place to show a film. Studio-owned theaters were another way to reduce this risk. Most were ordinary theaters that showed movies from a variety of studios.In a 2010 article in the Journal of Law and Economics, Hanssen analyzed booking sheets from Wisconsin cinemas owned by Warner Bros., a rare source of information on both how long a film was supposed to play and how long it actually did play. He compared these records with the film runs advertised for independent cinemas in the New York Times, using Sunday ads for the projected runs and tracking actual runs in the daily paper.He found that the studio-owned theaters were more likely than independent cinemas to drop films before their minimum runs were over, usually substituting a movie from a different vertically integrated studio for the original. The evidence suggests, he says, that the antitrust case’s Big Five studios were in fact colluding — but not in the way regulators feared.“The cooperation allowed film companies to better match films to audiences so that consumers could see more of the movies they valued most,” Hanssen writes.Antitrust enforcers hated the way studios rolled out their movies, with first runs reserved for the best theaters, followed by second-, third-, fourth- and even fifth-run venues, with rental prices getting cheaper as time went on. Nearly three-quarters of first-run theaters were owned by the studios — a statistic the Supreme Court cited as damning in its 1948 ruling in favor of the antitrust action.With the consent decrees in place, thousands of theaters upgraded to first-run showings, the number of discount cinemas fell, and simultaneous releases replaced gradual rollouts. The new pattern gave each new film less time to find an audience.“Earnings per screen in a first-run booking decline faster and generally are lower under a wide-release pattern, so more widely shown films have shorter runs,” observe De Vany and Eckert. One result was a decrease in the variety of films, with an increasing emphasis on big-budget pictures. Another was stricter enforcement of minimum run requirements, even for obvious flops.“It is argued that the steps we have proposed would involve an interference with commercial practices that are generally acceptable and a hazardous attempt on the part of judges unfamiliar with the details of business to remodel its delicate adjustments which have hitherto provided the public with what is a new and great art,” wrote the U.S. District Court in its Paramount decision, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court. “But we see nothing ruinous in the remedies proposed.”Hollywood did indeed survive. But neither theater owners nor studios nor the moviegoers were well served by the results. “Nothing ruinous” is an awfully low standard.To contact the author of this story: Virginia Postrel at vpostrel@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Virginia Postrel is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. She was the editor of Reason magazine and a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the New York Times and Forbes. Her next book, "The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World," will be published in 2020.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • McClatchy Goes Digital to Ward Off ‘Ghost Papers’

    McClatchy Goes Digital to Ward Off ‘Ghost Papers’

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- When I interviewed Craig Forman, the chief executive officer of McClatchy Co., last week, shares of the regional newspaper chain stood at 39 cents. Like its peers, it has struggled as print advertising has dwindled and subscribers have abandoned ship. Last month, the company said in a regulatory filing that it might not be able to continue “as a going concern” because of a pension overhang. That explains the depressed stock price.Coincidentally, last month was also when Alden Global Capital LLC bought a 25% stake in another struggling media company, Tribune Co. As I’ve noted before, the Alden Global business model is to treat newspapers as declining assets and bleed them for cash until there’s nothing left but a carcass. It will no doubt be imposing its draconian business model on the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and the other Tribune papers.Meanwhile, in August, the New Media Investment Group announced that it was buying Gannett Co. and combining it with its GateHouse Media subsidiary, which instantly created the largest newspaper chain in the country. New Media is controlled by Fortress Investment Group, and its approach is not terribly different from Alden Global’s. People are starting to call papers owned by hedge funds “ghost papers” — defined by the New York Times as “thin versions of once robust publications put out by bare-bones staffs.”Although they’ve had their share of layoffs, McClatchy’s 30 media properties, which include the Miami Herald, the Kansas City Star and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, are not ghost papers. A little more than a year ago, Julie K. Brown, a journalist at the Miami Herald, published an extraordinary expose of the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein; that series sparked an outcry that led to Epstein’s arrest in July. In October, the well-regarded McClatchy Washington bureau documented a disturbing rise in the rate of cancer treatments at Veterans Affairs hospitals. And just a few weeks ago, the Kansas City Star published a powerful examination of Missouri’s public defender system.“We are still determined to do essential journalism of genuine impact in our communities,” Forman told me in an email a few days before we met.The “death of local news” has become a meme among journalists. According to a study by University of North Carolina researchers, 1 in 4 papers has shut down since 2004. Newspaper employment has been cut in half. Combined weekday circulation has shrunk from 122 million to 73 million. The New York Times ran a series of articles over the summer called “The Last Edition,” which examined “the collapse of local news in America.”But Forman believes that, notwithstanding that 39 cent stock price, McClatchy can beat the odds and craft a model that will allow it to avoid the clutches of a rapacious hedge fund. In fact, he says, that’s what McClatchy is doing. That’s what I wanted to talk to him about.To be clear-eyed about this, it will be not be easy. In 2006, with industry-wide circulation already in steep decline, McClatchy bought another regional chain, Knight Ridder, for $4.5 billion. When the deal was completed, McClatchy was saddled with $5 billion in debt. (The “ball and chain of debt,” Forman called it when we spoke.) The company has to pay $124 million into its pension in 2020 — cash it doesn’t have. In the first three quarters of 2019, its adjusted earnings were a slim $64.9 million. Its revenue has declined 27 consecutive quarters on a year-over-year basis.On the other hand, McClatchy has reduced its debt from $5 billion to $700 million and has pushed off further payments to 2026. McClatchy family members haven’t received a dividend in a decade. And it is negotiating with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to take over its pension, which holds $1.3 billion in assets. These three moves — assuming the latter happens — will free up the cash McClatchy needs.To do what, exactly? Forman’s goal is to complete a digital transformation that will allow McClatchy to thrive again by going from a business that relies primarily on advertising to one that relies mainly on digital subscribers, just as the New York Times and the Washington Post have done so successfully.That may sound obvious, but no other regional chain has been able to accomplish it. That is partly because most of them were too busy cutting costs as revenue fell to spend the millions it would take to create a winning digital platform. And it’s partly because most of them lacked the scale to take full advantage of the ways digitalization could help revive them.“It’s not just about putting your content on a website,” Forman told me. “Any digital effort has to be centralized.” A sophisticated digital platform is far too expensive for any one of McClatchy’s papers to do on its own — it has to be done companywide. If done right, it offers data analysis and analytics, targeting of potential customers, site personalization and so on.Because McClatchy lacked a robust digital infrastructure during the 2016 election, “we mostly missed the Trump bump,” Forman said. The New York Times and the Washington Post have signed up millions of digital subscribers since the election. McClatchy hasn’t.“We have newspapers in much of purple America,” Forman said, pointing to states such as Florida and Georgia where Democrats suddenly have at least a fighting chance. “That’s where the 2020 election is going to be decided.” This time, he wants McClatchy to be ready to offer digitized political news to a national audience hungry to consume it.That may help on the margins, but for a company like McClatchy, the core subscriber is still going to live in the 30 metropolitan areas its papers serve. Forman told me that the top five categories McClatchy’s readers want are local opinion, breaking local news, sports, news-you-can-use service articles and investigations. That’s what his papers are trying to deliver. “You have to be essential to your community,” he said. The papers run by hedge funds have largely lost that ability because they are too thinly staffed. McClatchy is betting that high-quality digital journalism will be a winning strategy.So far, McClatchy has 200,000 digital subscribers and nearly 500,000 “paid digital relationships,” which include print subscribers who have activated their digital accounts. This year, for the first time, its revenue is split 50-50 between subscriptions and advertising. But given that the chain’s total circulation is close to 1 million (1.3 million on Sundays), it has a long way to go.“We’re in a race,” Forman told me. A race against the debt that will come due in six years. A race against the 2020 election that could boost its digital fortunes. A race to replace advertising dollars with subscription dollars while there’s still time.Forman and McClatchy are running as fast as they can.To contact the author of this story: Joe Nocera at jnocera3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Departure of Co-Founders Means Nothing for Alphabet Stock

    Departure of Co-Founders Means Nothing for Alphabet Stock

    News that co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down from active management at Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) will have muted impact on the company but could have a huge impact on Silicon Valley.Source: achinthamb / Shutterstock.com It's not big news because CFO Ruth Porat has been running Alphabet since she joined the team from Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) in 2015. Sunder Pichai has been running Google itself over the same tenure.The news should put Alphabet stock under the control of investors. This would give Porat the freedom to deliver the kinds of returns, in the form of stock splits and dividend payouts, Tim Cook has made Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) policy since succeeding Steve Jobs in 2011.InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading TipsBut it won't do that. That's because Page and Brin still control Google's voting shares. Investors should ask why. The Curse of the FoundersFounder control has been quite the phenomenon in Silicon Valley since Jobs was cast out of Apple, which he had co-founded, in 1985. Apple's subsequent struggles, and its rise after he re-joined in 1997, seemed to justify founders maintaining control of their public companies through a dual-share structure.The structure has a long history. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger is the sixth in his line to run The New York Times (NYSE:NYT). Family control was made a condition of sale when the company went public in 1967. The same structure holds at News Corporation (NASDAQ:NWS), despite occasional revolts. * 9 Tech Stocks You Wish You'd Bought During 2019 But recently the dual-share structure has become a plague. Dropbox (NASDAQ:DBX), Eventbrite (NYSE:EB), Blue Apron (NYSE:APRN), Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU) and Twilio (NYSE:TWLO) all went public in recent years with dual-share structures. Voting shares in Snap (NYSE:SNAP) are privately held, mostly by the co-founders. China's Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) listed first in New York because it has a dual-share structure, and listed in Hong Kong only after such structures were allowed.Founder control, however, can cost money. It took $1.7 billion to get Adam Neumann out at WeWork because of its dual-share structure.The issue has long-term implications. Between them, Page and Brin have five minor children. Should they inherit voting control of Google stock? How would that serve the interests of shareholders? Google at WarPorat and Pichai need all the authority they can get because Google is under unprecedented government attack around the world. Alphabet spent $21.7 million lobbying Washington last year and about $1 million per year on political contributions, equally split between the parties.As a global company, Alphabet is under attack over its taxes, its search results and its advertising policies in nearly every world capital. A company that Page and Brin launched with the mantra "don't be evil" is now seen by many as the personification of evil.The rot has gotten inside the company, with Google accused of wrongdoing by MeToo organizers, union organizers and right-wing agitators. Pichai has already cut back on its vaunted "all-hands" meetings, fearful of leaks.How Pichai and Porat deal with this won't just impact shareholder value. It could determine whether the internet remains a global resource, or whether it will be Balkanized, as the old phone networks were, by governments who see communication as a threat.Heavy government regulation, and a natural corporate reaction, could also turn Google into a new AT&T (NYSE:T). The latter is a risk-averse company that misses new opportunities like the cloud itself. Google, founded in 1998, is now worth more than three times AT&T. The Bottom Line on Alphabet StockAs an investment, Alphabet stock looks like a star. But it has done no better than the Nasdaq Composite average over the last two years.Barring a dividend, don't expect anything better, until Page and Brin really are out of the way.Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. His latest book is Technology's Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore's Law, essays on technology available at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at danablankenhorn@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in AAPL and BABA. More From InvestorPlace * 2 Toxic Pot Stocks You Should Avoid * 9 Tech Stocks You Wish You'd Bought During 2019 * 5 Under-the-Radar Marijuana Stocks With Over 100% Upside * Watch These 5 STARS Stocks as They Change the Future The post Departure of Co-Founders Means Nothing for Alphabet Stock appeared first on InvestorPlace.

  • The EPA’s Pernicious Attack on Science

    The EPA’s Pernicious Attack on Science

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, died last week. Ruckelshaus laid the foundation for environmental rules that have improved the quality of our air and water, and made science the cornerstone of the EPA. Yet his legacy, and our environment, are now in grave peril.Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump’s EPA administrator, is working to demolish the edifice that Ruckelshaus built by destroying the scientific foundation on which it stands. In November, the New York Times revealed that Wheeler is seeking to undermine the role of science in the process by which environmental standards are established and safeguarded. A draft EPA proposal would require medical studies used by the EPA to include raw data, including confidential medical records of study subjects. Otherwise the EPA could not act on a study’s conclusions.Wheeler cannot actually make the knowledge contained in previous scientific studies disappear. But most studies have not been conducted under the curious standards he now supports. By demanding the disclosure of confidential patient data — something most scientists are unable to provide, due to the privacy rights of study subjects — he would render countless studies null and void. As a result, an enormous body of public health science would be disregarded by the EPA in setting environmental standards.Instead, the EPA would rely on the limited body of research that does not rest on confidential data, limiting the scope of science in policy making and forcing regulators to ignore risks revealed in the full scientific data base. Producing new research to replicate the old studies could easily require another 15 years, during which polluting industries would be newly empowered to subvert air, water and chemical standards.In an open letter, the editors of six leading scientific journals pointed out that “foundational science from years past — research on air quality and asthma, for example, or water quality and human health — could be deemed by the EPA to be insufficient for informing our most significant public health issues. That would be a catastrophe.”We don’t have to speculate about the scientific knowledge that Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, and his patrons in the chemical and energy industries most wish to neuter with this proposal. Two key research studies, the “Six Cities” study published in 1993 by Harvard University researchers, and a 1995 follow-up conducted by the American Cancer Society, which confirmed the Six Cities results, are the twin pillars of air quality standards adopted by the EPA and international health agencies.The studies established that fine particles, the sort belched by coal plants and the like, are the most deadly form of air pollution. Pollution abatement efforts based on these studies are estimated to have added 2.7 years to the life of the average American, saving almost 200,000 lives last year alone.Yet these are not the only studies likely to be targeted. Science that documents the risks to children of lead exposure, or the links between the neurotoxin mercury, from coal power plants, to birth defects, or the risks of the pesticide chlorpyrifos to rural Americans, would also be vulnerable.Restricting the use of data in governance has not been a characteristic of democratic societies. Attacks on ideas are common. But the Trump administration’s attack on knowledge is especially pernicious.The World Health Organization has determined that air pollution is the world’s fourth-leading cause of death. Exposure to air pollution already kills 107,000 Americans annually — almost double the U.S. toll from the entire Vietnam War. If Wheeler succeeds in gutting scientific standards, millions of Americans, and billions around the globe, would become even more vulnerable to toxic pollutants.To contact the author of this story: Carl Pope at Carldpope@gmail.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Carl Pope is a former chairman of the Sierra Club and an adviser to Michael R. Bloomberg.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Financial Times

    US House passes bill seeking tougher action on Uighur detentions

    The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would force the Trump administration to take a tougher stance on Beijing over the mass detention of Uighurs in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. It was the latest example in a number of overwhelmingly bipartisan congressional actions aimed at intensifying pressure on China over everything from its human rights abuses in Xinjiang to its stance on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

  • Why Verizon is partnering with Amazon on 5G Edge Cloud Computing
    Yahoo Finance

    Why Verizon is partnering with Amazon on 5G Edge Cloud Computing

    Amazon and Verizon are teaming up to deliver 5G Edge Cloud Computing, bringing the processing power and storage closer to 5G users and wireless devices at faster speeds and ultra-low latency.

  • Hedge Funds Still Love The New York Times Company (NYT)
    Insider Monkey

    Hedge Funds Still Love The New York Times Company (NYT)

    "Since 2006, value stocks (IVE vs IVW) have underperformed 11 of the 13 calendar years and when they beat growth, it wasn't by much. Cumulatively, through this week, it has been a 122% differential (up 52% for value vs up 174% for growth). This appears to be the longest and most severe drought for value […]

  • Business Wire

    The New York Times Company to Webcast Its Presentation at the UBS Global TMT Conference

    The New York Times Company announced today that it will participate in the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York City on Monday, December 9, 2019. The New York Times Company (NYT) is a global media organization dedicated to enhancing society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news and information. The company includes The New York Times, NYTimes.com and related properties.

  • Reuters

    PRESS DIGEST- New York Times business news - Dec 3

    The following are the top stories on the New York Times business pages. - The Trump administration said on Monday that a new French tax that hit American technology companies discriminated against the United States, a declaration that could lead to retaliatory tariffs as high as 100 percent on French wines. - U.S. President Donald said on Monday that he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina, a move that would shatter previous agreements with these countries.

  • Financial Times

    A selection of the FT’s biggest stories and best reads every Friday

    Every December FT Magazine produces a special edition profiling women who have broken new ground, inspired others or brought attention to the most important issues of our time — and this year they want to hear from you. At the opening of a Louis Vuitton leather workshop in Texas last month, President Donald Trump was given a clue about an upcoming deal that would be the luxury sector’s biggest ever. In this sharp and entertaining piece, Harriet Agnew and Michael Pooler look at how the deal was done — and why.

  • Bloomberg

    Will the New EU Commission Be French or German?

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The new European Commission under President Ursula von der Leyen received overwhelming support from the European Parliament on Wednesday. Born of French President Emmanuel Macron’s improvisation and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s acquiescence, the commission will have to navigate the inclement waters of the Franco-German relationship.In July, Macron boldly proposed von der Leyen for the commission presidency over the party candidates who had campaigned for the job. Merkel assented, though she’d backed the political process: None of the campaigning candidates appeared capable of commanding a majority in the parliament. That body took it as a slight, and von der Leyen was approved only by a thin margin. Legislators then took barely veiled revenge on Macron by rejecting his chosen candidate for France’s European commissioner, Sylvie Goulard. Macron was forced to name tech businessman and former minister Thierry Breton instead, who managed to squeak by. After the parliament spent weeks interviewing proposed commissioners and rejecting some — a demonstration to von der Leyen that she wasn’t getting a free pass — it was finally ready on Wednesday to let her and the commissioners take office, a month later than previously scheduled. This doesn’t mean it won’t be a hurdle for von der Leyen going forward. The Greens, who abstained during the confirmation vote, will always demand more from the commission, and keeping the other centrist factions satisfied won’t be a breeze given the growing rift between the center-left and the center-right even in Germany, where they govern together.But the von der Leyen commission will probably have a bigger problem with the European Council, comprised of national leaders, than with the parliament. There, France and Germany, the two countries meant to take the EU forward after Brexit, have been at loggerheads lately. Macron has blocked the opening of accession talks with potential new EU members, Albania and North Macedonia, and pushed a plan to make Europe militarily more independent from the U.S. Germany disagrees on both counts. On Wednesday, Merkel responded forcefully to Macron’s criticism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as undergoing “brain death.” She said to the German parliament: “Europe cannot currently defend itself alone, we are dependent on this transatlantic alliance and that’s why it’s right for us to work for this alliance and take on more responsibility.”Macron’s open bid for sole leadership in Europe is an irritant to Germans. According to a recent article in the New York Times, at a recent dinner to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Merkel told Macron she was “tired of picking up the pieces” after his attempts at creative disruption. “I have to glue together the cups you have broken so that we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together,” Merkel reportedly said.This marks a low point in what generally has been a constructive relationship. In such a situation, von der Leyen’s commission faces the likelihood of deadlock in the European Council on its key proposals. France and Germany will each try to use the commission’s power to draft policies, and the large workforce that comes with that power, to back up their positions — that is, to satisfy Macron’s impatience and Merkel's compromise-seeking caution.Merkel, of course, has promised to retire from politics in 2021 — but a more assertive German leader probably would clash even more energetically with Macron.In such a situation, the sheer balance of nationalities in key staff positions can be important. On Wednesday, Politico’s Brussels Playbook, a well-informed newsletter about EU politics, reported that five commissioners’ heads of cabinet (or chiefs of staff) — including Breton's — will be German, and not one will be French. Breton hasn’t officially picked his head of cabinet yet, but even if the Politico report on him proves false, the balance would appear troubling for Macron. The senior staff positions are extremely powerful in EU decision-making, and if there's a strong German influence on the chief-of-staff level, it won’t be easy for Macron to push his proposals.On the other hand, as things stand today, France has a disproportionately large number of senior EU bureaucrats and Germany a disproportionately small one. Of the 30 officials holding the top administrative grade, AD 16, five are French and only two German. More generally, 12.8% of the 2,600 officials in the top four grades are French and 12.6% are German, even though, based on the countries’ populations, Germany’s quota should be higher and France’s lower. A balance of influence is difficult to achieve in the EU when there’s little agreement on key issues, such as the bloc’s future geopolitical role, its adherence to the transatlantic alliance, and key expansion and immigration policies. A lack of broad agreement and personal harmony among leaders turns the complex bureaucratic and inter-institutional processes into a series of mini-battles. Macron may have helped von der Leyen into the top EU job, but he appears intent on making it impossible for her to do anything meaningful as he keeps trying Merkel’s patience with his escapades.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Media Megamergers Can Be Good for Local News

    Media Megamergers Can Be Good for Local News

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Local news is in steep decline. A recent report from Pen America finds that the U.S. has lost more than 1,800 newspapers since 2004. The consequences include a decline in civic engagement and an increase in corruption. The report mentions how government officials in Bell, California, a city without a newspaper, were able to get rid of caps on their salaries and loot the public treasury.The report offers recommendations for philanthropists, tech companies, news outlets, governments and consumers who want to reverse the trend. But it cautions that there is no panacea. One of its ideas, though, may inadvertently move in the wrong direction.Pen America’s first suggestion for the government is that the Federal Communications Commission “restore pre-2017 regulations governing the ownership of TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers to prevent further consolidation and homogenization in local news media.” This move could backfire – and in one recent case, it already has backfired.Under its deregulation-minded commissioner Ajit Pai, the FCC in 2017 ended its restrictions on cross-ownership of broadcast outlets and newspapers in the same locality. In September, two judges in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s rules changes on the ground that the commission “did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.”That decision put a pending media deal on hold. Apollo Global Management Inc., a private-equity firm, recently formed Terrier Media to purchase media properties from Cox Enterprises Inc. and Northwest Broadcasting Inc. The new company would own 25 full-power TV stations covering roughly 13% of households with televisions.The Justice Department gave a go-ahead to the deal this spring. Since the deal complied with the FCC’s new ownership rules, it seemed to be only a matter of time before it could be consummated. Then came the September court decision, which goes into effect today. The rationale of the decision did not apply to the deal: Even opponents of the deal, such as Common Cause, have not alleged that it would reduce media ownership by women or racial minorities.  Rather, the deal simply didn’t comply with the pre-2017 rules. In Ohio, for example, Cox owns three newspapers in places it also owns TV broadcasters. The FCC’s rules, both before and after 2017, allow this cross-ownership. But the old rules, coming back into effect, forbid the transfer of these properties to a new cross-owner.The FCC is appealing the court decision, but instead of waiting, Terrier decided to change the terms of the deal to fit the old rules. Among the changes: Terrier said it was willing to change the publication schedule for the three newspapers so that they would appear in print only three times a week.On Nov. 22, the FCC approved the deal on certain conditions - including that the publication frequency of those three newspapers be reduced. A spokesperson for Terrier Media says, “The new company does not want to scale back local daily news coverage but will do so if that’s what is required by the Third Circuit ruling.”It’s hard to see how this forced modification of the company’s plans serves the public interest.Jan Rybnicek, a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Global Antitrust Institute, told me, “The media ownership rules are fairly outdated.” They were established in 1975, he said, “when newspaper and television were the only outlets. Now there are more alternatives and many newspapers are struggling.”Pai, the FCC chairman, had this kind of scenario in mind when he pushed to relax the rules. Defending the action in the New York Times in 2017, he wrote, “There’s ample evidence that the cross-ownership rule has led to less local reporting … a company that owns both a newspaper and broadcast outlet is able to gather the news and distribute it more cost-effectively across its multiple platforms.”It may not be possible to bring local news back to its former health, and how to revive it is not clear. But government regulation doesn’t have to contribute to the problem.To contact the author of this story: Ramesh Ponnuru at rponnuru@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a senior editor at National Review, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and contributor to CBS News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    An American Thanksgiving Story Without Any Heroes

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- American Thanksgiving is typically seen as a celebration of the cooperation between the English who settled the continent and the natives who helped them grow crops and saved them from starvation. It is a story about how multicultural cooperation and private-property incentives, both strong American principles, can boost a harvest.But as Thanksgiving 2019 approaches, I am struck by another lesson: America’s need to come to terms with a history that, as it relates to the treatment of Native Americans, has remarkably few heroes on the side of the white settlers.For contrast, consider the recent disputes over The New York Times 1619 project, which argues that anti-black racism has been in the DNA of the U.S. since the arrival of the first enslaved people in 1619. There has been a lot of pushback to this argument, most recently from the Civil War historian James McPherson. The U.S. also has a redemptive side, he says, as represented by the opponents of slavery. William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln and the millions of whites who supported the civil rights movement in the 1960s may make you feel slightly better about the American experiment.But when it comes to Native American history, there is no American president who fills a role remotely comparable to that of Abraham Lincoln or even Lyndon Johnson for African-Americans. Nor, until the 1960s, is there much history of entertainers, athletes or academics speaking up effectively for Native American rights.Presidents Grover Cleveland and Franklin Delano Roosevelt did set up and then improve the reservation system. Even if you favor those decisions, the result nonetheless reeks of segregation, of parsimoniousness, of a continued history of poverty and deprivation. The system is at best an unsatisfactory compromise rather than a source of national pride.Who since then are the white heroes — those who later deregulated casino gambling and mining rights for many reservations? Again, even if those decisions were for the better, it is hard to find much to boast about.Nor is there any major American political ideology that can sit comfortably with the historical treatment of Native Americans, which has been multipartisan in its awfulness. Many libertarians fail to decry the government coercion involved, since they also wish to invoke the growth of the American republic as a major event in the history of freedom. Even if most libertarians are embarrassed by how much of America’s glory is rooted in land theft and massacres, they do not emphasize land reparations as a solution.Nor does classical Marxism or communism offer a convenient base for condemnation of this aspect of U.S. history, as those ideologies emphasize the necessity of uprooting earlier modes of production so that economies can progress to capitalism and then socialism.Even the most optimistic narrative — the convergence of multicultural cooperation and market incentives — is incomplete. Multicultural cooperation breaks down if one side becomes so powerful that it can later simply take from the other side, and that is indeed what happened. So one lesson is that political cooperation usually rests on a delicate balance, with no assurance it will continue over time. (If you would like a case study in how such an order can unravel, I recommend Pekka Hämäläinen’s “Lakota America,” which is my favorite non-fiction book of this year.)A related lesson of Thanksgiving is that good news can end in bad news, with no real reversal in sight. That, too, is an appropriate reminder for an America that, at least up through the 1990s, was all too willing to congratulate itself as a world historical force for good.One final Thanksgiving lesson for 2019: A place you love — for me, the United States — can also be a country that in some crucial ways has had very few good guys, at least once you take all of the issues into account. That counsels skepticism about today’s heroes, because it suggests that a near-universal moral failing just might be in our national DNA.This lack of heroes should also make Americans more reluctant to judge their political opponents so harshly. All of us are part of a system built on longstanding historical crimes, and thus we have more in common with those opponents than we might like to think.Thanksgiving always has universal lessons. This year they just feel more depressing — and more urgent — than usual.To contact the author of this story: Tyler Cowen at tcowen2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at mnewman43@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. His books include "Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.