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No related posts. From the print editionBy Frank McNeil | Special to The Tico TimesIt is a time to honor history. The 25th anniversary of the Esquipulas II Peace Agreement, aka the Guatemala Accords, was commemorated this week at the National Theater in San José. Signed by five Central American presidents on Aug. 7, 1987, the accords brought peace, first to Nicaragua and eventually to El Salvador and Guatemala. They also extricated the United States from the worst effects of the Iran-Contra affair.I write about these matters with a bit of authority. I witnessed it up close, knew the major players (or their lieutenants) and wrote a contemporary account, “War and Peace in Central America” (Scribners, 1989). As Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz wrote in his memoirs that the driving force behind the peace was Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias, who shares credit with Guatemala’s then-president, Vinicio Cerezo. I also would cite two old friends, now dead: Arias’ principal Costa Rican collaborators, Foreign Minister Rodrigo Madrigal Nieto and the ambassador to the U.S., Guido Fernández. There is much to write about, including how Nicaragua’s Sandinistas and their Cuban mentors misplayed their hand, the immense stupidity of the Iran-Contra affair, the rather different characteristics displayed by each of the three civil wars and the political tangle that the Central American wars became in the U.S. I will skip it all and go to the central features that made the Peace Accords important, even today:1. The carnage in the warring countries and the likelihood war would spread to Honduras and Costa Rica. As a Salvadoran insurgent leader of Leninist persuasion put it, “Costa Rica, too, will have its hour of glory.”2. The courage that Arias displayed in confronting the “Cabal of the Zealots,” as the U. S. Congress styled the authors of Iran-Contra.3. The winning strategy crafted by Arias with Cerezo’s help. It was a strategy of “don’t let yourselves, country X, be snookered into being the last holdout against a peace agreement.”Central America was one of the final two hot conflicts of the Cold War. It played no real role in the Soviet collapse – in contrast to the Afghan uprising against Moscow – but it was deadly for Central Americans. Arias’ predecessor, Luis Alberto Monge, had bought time for Costa Rica by declaring neutrality. That proclamation got slammed by U.S. “hawks,” though Monge had made clear he was talking about military neutrality, and would continue to advocate democratization as part of a peace settlement. Any American with an ounce of sense who has worked in national security and foreign affairs knows that the U.S. doesn’t always get it right. The Contras were one such moment. By the time Arias became president, the pressures from the Cabal of the Zealots to turn Costa Rica into a Contra base on the order of Honduras had grown. Hawks were in the saddle of U.S. policy in Central America. (They were not – thank heavens – in charge of policy toward the Soviets. As Jim Mann’s lucid account in the book “The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan” makes clear, Reagan and Shultz pursued peace with the Soviets over the objections of the rest of Reagan’s advisers.)The “hard right,” as Shultz styled them, wanted no part of peaceful settlement and preferred to fight to the death of the last Nicaraguan. This is the moment when analysis became art. Where the big boys of Contadora, Mexico and South America, supported by Europe, had failed, Arias would succeed. He moved with Cerezo’s help, and in a crucial moment with the help of the president of El Salvador, Napoleon Duarte, to get one party, and then another, to agree to a simultaneous cease-fire, a cessation of arms shipments to insurgents, and in Nicaragua, peaceful elections sealed by the February 1988 cease-fire between the Sandinistas and the Contras at Sapoa, Nicaragua, on Feb. 7, 1987. The Iran-Contra revelations and CIA Director William J. Casey’s fatal illness drove out the most wild-eyed conspirators, but the Reagan administration remained divided, while democrats, led by Speaker Jim Wright and Congressman Mike Barnes, supported Arias. The deep anger of neoconservatives become public when Arias got the Nobel Peace Prize. Robert Kagan said his reaction was “unbridled disgust,” and an unnamed, more senior official (obviously Elliot Abrams) slammed the Nobel Committee for rewarding “an anti-American stance.” Shultz had to disown these comments in The New York Times the next day.The point, however, is that while the U.S. government was divided, it took great courage for Arias to take on the hardliners, who cut off economic aid to Costa Rica for a considerable time. In the end, it was the administration of George H.W. Bush that ended the efforts to restart the Contras, a decision sealed by a meeting between Secretary of State designate James Baker and Speaker Wright. Peace came to Nicaragua, and Violeta Chamorro defeated Daniel Ortega in free elections, effectively ending war in Central America, though fighting would continue for a time in El Salvador and Guatemala. No mean achievement. Frank McNeil served as U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica during the administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. 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May 3, 2017Part of site preparation is the removal of the old concrete batchplant and the old concrete truck.[photos by lvb]The batchplant is hoisted onto a flatbed truckand leaves Arcosanti after many years of productive service in the construction of the buildings here.The concrete truck is moved.The whole area is flattened and the surface evened out.More to come.
Categories: Sheppard News State Rep. Jason Sheppard of Temperance invites Monroe County residents to meet with him during his March in-district office hours.“I’ve scheduled office hours at numerous times and locations throughout the district to try and accommodate anyone who wants to meet with me in person,” Sheppard said. “There has already been a lot of action at the Capitol this year, and I’m interested to hear from the residents of my district. Anyone is welcome, and no appointment is needed.”The times and locations are as follows:Monday, March 6 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Dena’s Family Restaurant, 15391 S. Dixie Highway in Monroe;Friday, March 10 from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at Gander’s Family Restaurant, 4219 Luna Pier Road in Luna Pier;Friday, March 24 from 8 to 9 a.m. at Barry’s Bagels, 3366 W. Sterns Road in Lambertville;Friday, March 24 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Great Lakes Eatery & Pub, 103 Cabelas Blvd. E. in Dundee.For those unable to attend, Rep. Sheppard’s legislative office can be reached at (517) 373-2617, by email at JasonSheppard@house.mi.gov and online at RepJasonSheppard.com. 03Mar Rep. Sheppard invites residents to in-district office hours ###
The Michigan House’s mental health task force will meet Monday, Aug. 21, at Mid-Michigan Community College, state Rep. Jason Wentworth announced today.Wentworth, of Clare, is a member of the bipartisan House C.A.R.E.S. task force, comprised of seven Republicans and seven Democrats seeking to explore ways to enable Michigan residents facing mental health challenges to live happier, healthier and more independent lives. The task force, co-chaired by Reps. Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville and Klint Kesto of Commerce Township, is named for the key elements the House hopes to address in order to support vulnerable citizens: Community, Access, Resources, Education and Safety.“I’m looking forward to learning more about the challenges residents, veterans and health care professionals are facing in northern Michigan regarding mental health care,” Wentworth said. “This is a great opportunity to listen to representatives from entities in our community discuss mental health services. People will also have a chance to submit information and ideas they feel would be helpful as we move forward looking at reforms to improve access to care and eliminate confusing regulations.”The public is invited to attend the meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Ester C Room on the second floor of the main building on the campus of Mid-Michigan Community College, 1375 S. Clare Ave. in Harrison. People are also encouraged to submit written suggestions regarding mental health services in Michigan online at www.House.mi.gov/CARES.Information gathered will help legislators develop reforms that result in more consistency in mental health services statewide, better support for veterans, attention to substance abuse, enhanced training for law enforcement and more.### 08Aug House mental health task force to meet in Harrison Categories: Wentworth News
13Feb Rep. Victory testifies in support of bill to create the Water Asset Management Council Categories: Victory News Legislation brings Michigan one step closer to fixing infrastructureState Rep. Roger Victory (center) testified before the Michigan House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of legislation to create a nine-member Water Asset Management Council. He was joined by state Rep. Triston Cole (left) and state Rep. Rob VerHeulen.State Rep. Roger Victory today testified before the Michigan House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of his legislation to create a nine-member Water Asset Management Council.The Water Asset Management Council will have nonprofit, public and private members who have expertise in water, sewer, and storm water containment, treatment and disbursement policies. The goal is to better assist water asset management plans for all water-related agencies and integrate assets for the future of Michigan’s water infrastructure.“We need to identify areas of the state and local infrastructure that are in need of repairs and make recommendations regarding how to address these issues,” said Victory, of Hudsonville. “The Water Asset Management Council is the first step in finding a solution and preparing the future of Michigan’s water infrastructure.”Members will serve three-year terms without direct compensation.The Water Asset Management Council is required to submit an annual report regarding water asset conditions and the impact of investments. The council will prepare an annual report to the Legislature and to the Michigan Infrastructure Council that details the activities of the council and the money spent related to water assets.House Bill 5406 remains under consideration by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.###
State Rep. Jason Wentworth, chair of the bipartisan House Select Committee on Reducing Car Insurance Rates, tonight issued the following statement after the State of the State Address expressing his disappointment in the governor’s lack of emphasis on car insurance reform:“I’ve heard time and time again that the number one financial burden facing Michigan families is the out-of-control costs associated with the state’s broken no-fault car insurance system. It’s the most-pressing issue holding back our state, and I have concerns over the governor designating just one sentence of her address to this desperately needed reform – let alone provide any details on how we can make car insurance more affordable for every driver across the state. While I welcome the governor’s focus on fixing Michigan’s roads, it seems as though she is lost as to how much it costs residents to drive insured on those roads – in good shape or bad. By putting car insurance reform on the back burner, Governor Whitmer has made it clear changing our state’s current system is at the bottom of her to-do list. Regardless of her priorities, the House will continue working diligently with the Senate throughout the deliberation process to deliver for the more than seven million drivers across Michigan who share our frustration.” 12Feb Rep. Wentworth: Governor failed to detail car insurance reform Categories: News Chairman issues statement after governor’s State of the State speech
Portion of M-53 to be renamed in Macomb CountyState Rep. Jeff Yaroch with state Rep. Sheryl Kennedy on the House floor speaking in support of the plan to honor fallen U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Freiwald.A plan from state Rep. Jeff Yaroch and co-sponsored by state Rep. Sheryl Kennedy to honor fallen U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Freiwald was approved this week unanimously by the Michigan House.A portion of M-53 in Macomb County between 31 Mile Road and 32 Mile Road would be known as the Chief Petty Officer Jason Freiwald Memorial Highway.Freiwald, a U.S. Navy SEAL, suffered wounds during combat operations with heavily armed militants in Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2008. He died on Sept. 12, 2008 at the age of 30.“Chief Petty Officer Freiwald is a dedicated hero, and this memorial highway recognizes his bravery and ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms,” said Yaroch, of Richmond. “We must recognize the men and women who continue to defend our country and honor those who put their lives on the line.”Freiwald was born on Dec. 20, 1977 in Utica. He later graduated from Armada Senior High School. He enlisted in the Navy on April 25, 1996, and reported to Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois.As a music teacher in Armada, Rep. Kennedy had the distinct honor of having Jason and his siblings as students from kindergarten to sixth grade.“I can honestly say that even at that young age, there was no sweeter, more giving child or devoted family,” said Kennedy, of Davison “Although losing Jason has been tragic to the community that knew and loved him, especially his parents and brothers that also bravely served their country, I’m proud to stand with my colleagues to memorialize his service and sacrifice.”Freiwald served on SEAL Team 5 for two years before transferring to SEAL Team 3 in Coronado.House Bill 4061 moves to the Senate for consideration.### Categories: News,Yaroch News 01Mar Reps. Yaroch, Kennedy: Plan honors fallen U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Freiwald
ShareTweetShareEmail0 SharesApril 29, 2014; Appleton Post-CrescentA few weeks ago, NPQ covered a story about a student-run magazine in Fond du Lac High School in Wisconsin. Following a story written by the editor on “rape culture,” leaders of the school invoked a little-known policy requiring all student publications to undergo scrutiny and checking before publication. The outcry was immediate and national, ending up in the local legislative body. As promised, this is a follow-up to that story.The newly enforced policy has caused a significant delay in the publication of the next issue of the student-led magazine, Cardinal Columns. As of the end of April, the issue, which has been ready since early in the month, had not been approved. Several changes were being demanded, including the removal of a picture associated with an article covering the censorship controversy; the photo depicts a student with duct tape over his mouth.In a classic act of civil disobedience, a group of students, apparently not part of the magazine’s staff, staged a sit-in outside the administrative offices of the school protesting the censorship and calling attention to the delay in publication. The sit-in was to begin at 8 a.m. The principal of the school told the students to break up and go back to school or punishments would be meted out. About 10 students stayed behind and joined the principal in the Performing Arts Center of the school in a conversation that some adults from the general public were allowed to attend, although not representatives of the local press.One day after these events, the principal, John Wiltzius, handed in his resignation, effective the end of the school year. Although no connection was stated openly in his letter or in any subsequent statements by him or the school district, it’s certainly some coincidence that it follows so soon after his actions regarding the student protests.—Rob MeiksinsShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares October 20, 2014; The AtlanticWhether one supports or opposes the candidacy of Michelle Nunn for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, Nunn’s apparent dismissal of former president George H.W. Bush’s request that she drop him from her campaign ads is a little unsettling.Nunn headed the Points of Light Foundation under Bush I and has used Bush’s name and image in her ads to indicate her admiration for the former Republican president and her ability to work with people of both political parties. Bush’s people don’t like Nunn’s use of Bush in her campaign. According to Bush spokesman Jim McGrath, “Michelle and her team have been clearly, repeatedly and consistently told that President Bush did not want them to use his photo as part of this campaign. Apparently, the Nunn team feels they can repeatedly disregard the former president’s wishes, which is very disappointing because it’s so disrespectful.” However, Bush son (and George and Jeb brother) Neil Bush, who served as chairman of the Points of Light Foundation board, has defended Nunn against Republican attacks, though not specifically about the request of his dad regarding the campaign ads, saying that Nunn (the daughter of Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn) teamed up well with him and “worked the nonpartisan side of the job pretty well.”With its emphasis on volunteerism, a policy that politicians of both parties find little in to criticize, the Points of Light Foundation maintains a powerhouse board populated by current and former politicians plus a number of nonprofit leaders. As of February 2014, according to GuideStar, the board included Ray Chambers (the conservative Republican financier and chair of the Amelior Foundation), Dave Eisner (formerly the head of the AOL Foundation and of the Corporation for National and Community Service under Bush II), Boyden Gray (the former council to George H.W. Bush when he was vice president and a member of the board of the Tea Party-supporting FreedomWorks), and Artur Davis (former Democratic Congressman from Alabama who shifted to the Republicans in 2012)—and, of course, Neil Bush. Because of the “Points of Light” nomenclature, it may be that prominent Democratic politicians were somewhat more averse to signing on as trustees, though former Pennsylvania senator Harris Wofford, one of the nation’s top boosters of volunteerism and of AmeriCorps, was on the board into 2009.Despite the somewhat Republican cast of politicians on the Points of Light Foundation board, the organization under Nunn’s leadership has scored well with federal grants made available from both Republican and Democratic administrations, receiving around $119 million in grants and other assistance from the Corporation for National and Community Service alone between FY2000 and FY2014, as shown on USAspending.gov.Assume, as we fully expect, that Points of Light under Nunn was nonpartisan. It would have been completely foolish for her to have mucked around with putting a nonpartisan (c)(3) into the partisan political realm given Nunn’s long history as the recipient of hints from Democratic leaders that she ought to run for something in the rock-ribbed Republican environs of Georgia, not to mention her identity as the daughter of a conservative Democrat who, if we recall correctly, never had the whiff of personal or political scandal associated with him. President George H.W. Bush has endorsed Nunn’s opponent for the senate seat, which may make him squeamish about this appearance in Nunn’s ads, but the message Nunn is portraying is, like Neil Bush admitted, pretty accurate: She worked well with Democrats and with the GOP as she piloted the Points of Light Foundation as a centerpiece in the nation’s volunteerism and stipended volunteerism infrastructure.The policy agenda of Points of Light, significantly carried out in partnership with Service Nation, which Points of Light co-founded, geared significantly toward supporting and expanding national service programs such as AmeriCorps. The Service Nation strategy reflects a political analysis of what ought to be done to address social problems in this nation. As the former leader of Points of Light, Nunn can demonstrate that she worked with presidents and politicians of both parties. Supporting and promoting such programs as AmeriCorps, the Senior Corps, and the Serve America Act, Nunn is a policy advocate of volunteer-oriented programs that have garnered support from the likes of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and the late Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Nunn’s resume reveals the kind of politician Nunn is presenting herself to be, promising to work across party lines to break the logjam in Congress.Truth is, Michelle Nunn did work with former President George H.W. Bush; if President Bush has endorsed her opponent, so be it. Let the voters of Georgia figure out whether Nunn’s focus on volunteerism and service is the right agenda for the state and the nation.—Rick CohenShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
Share35TweetShare6Email41 SharesNYC Rally To Raise The Minimum Wage / The All-Nite ImagesDecember 10, 2015; Public News ServiceAcross the State, nonprofits are struggling to maintain a highly skilled and dedicated workforce. Low-wages and increasingly demanding jobs create difficultly in recruitment and retention of human services workers. In 2014, Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), a statewide membership organization, released a report examining turnover rates in child welfare and childcare organizations. The average annual turnover rate for both types of organizations was over 30 percent…these trends run parallel throughout the entire sector.New York’s human services nonprofits employ 200,000 workers in day-care centers, senior centers, homeless shelters, and similar efforts, and half of them make less than $15 per hour, or $31,000 per year. A third of the 200,000 make less than $10.50/hour, which translates to around $21,840 per year. A household with one adult and one child living in Buffalo would have to make $51,696 in annual income to meet their basic needs; in the New York City metro area, the income would need to be in the area of $78,476.A coalition of advocacy groups led by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the Fiscal Policy Institute, and the Human Services Council are leading an effort to have state-funded nonprofits pay workers at least $15/hour. The request is backed up by a report, “A Fair Wage for Human Service Workers,” released this month. The report points out:Despite being a highly skilled workforce, the human services sector has one of the highest prevalence of low wages in the private sector, behind food service and retail.Women make up 82 percent of the statewide workforce, and people of color account for 50 percent of human services workers in the state.Human services workers are highly educated, with two-thirds of workers having some college education and close to half holding bachelor’s degrees or higher.Allison Sesso, director of the Human Services Council, says the low wages stem from government driving those salary levels down: “Ninety-percent-plus of the nonprofits’ budgets come from contracts and fees with government.” Sesso also thinks that the predominance of women in the nonprofit workforce affects wages. “The work is not valued the same as work in a financial institution, which has traditionally been male-led work,” she says. “I think that is part of the reason why this work doesn’t pay as well.”As readers may recall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised the minimum wage for fast-food employees to $15 an hour, and he has declared that said the minimum wage for all state workers would also be raised.Sesso believes that now is the time to make this demand. “I do hope that there is a tide turning and there’s more conversation about this and more of a recognition of a need to increase the floor,” she says. “The fast-food workers really led the way, and we’re following straight behind them.”Cuomo does not need a new law to make the change. “He can take action on his own,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, a leader of the new wage push. “We’d like to see this in the governor’s State of the State [speech in January].”Still, this could lead to inequities within agencies, because the same groups are not yet calling for a $15 minimum for nonprofit employees working in jobs under New York City contracts. There are at least 30,000 such workers, according to Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission. Mayor de Blasio recently raised the minimum wage at city-funded nonprofits to $11.50 an hour for workers, but that is a far cry from $15.Kellermann says the costs of an increase to $15 would be substantial. The number of employees of nonprofit human service agencies under city contract is between 40,000 to 50,000 at a cost of $1.5 billion, according to a report from the coalition. About half of them are estimated to make less than $15 an hour.A six-year phase-in is being proposed, and would cost the state about $60 million to $70 million in just its first year and $250 million to $300 million in subsequent years.—Ruth McCambridgeShare35TweetShare6Email41 Shares
Share27TweetShare10Email37 SharesCredit: Nicolás BoullosaMay 17, 2017; TennesseanThe Village at Glencliff, an innovative effort to develop a tiny-home community as an answer to homelessness, continues to face opposition as it moves forward.As described in an earlier NPQ newswire, Glencliff is designed to house up to 20 people at great risk of dying if they remain on the streets. Opponents are claiming that it was a mistake to approve the project and are asking the Nashville Metro Board of Zoning Appeals to deny approval to any further development.Over the last several months, the project has driven a wedge between neighbors in the Glencliff area. It’s spurred debate and argument on social media, and spilled offline into a couple of community meetings, as well as a Sunday morning protest of the project and a counter-demonstration outside the church.The project is a joint effort by Open Table, a local social service agency, and the Glencliff United Methodist Church, which will build the tiny-home community on six acres of undeveloped land on the church’s property. From the perspective of church leaders, the project is a clear expression of their religious mission. Rev. Sandra Griggs, pastor of Glencliff United Methodist, told the Tennessean that the project resonates with the congregation: “It’s part of their faith to take care of each other and to share what they have. They have this piece of underutilized property. It’s a part of who we are as a Methodist church. It’s the call to love God and neighbor.”According to the Tennessean, when it approved the project, the zoning board relied on both federal and state legislation that requires zoning laws to respect religious expression:The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act[,] also called RLUIPA…protect[s] places of worship from discrimination and burdensome zoning rules. The Tennessee Religious Restoration Act…which mandates that local governments cannot curtail religious exercise when it applies land use regulations, offers stronger protections than the federal one.Yesterday, the board was scheduled to hear an appeal from the Memphis Metro Council member who represents the neighborhood where the project is located. Reflecting opposition from some of his constituents, he sees the project as a social service program sponsored by Open Table, and therefore one not permitted under the city’s zoning ordinances.Opponents have focused their objections on process issues. Rather than consider this a church project, zoning officials should have treated it as a request for a zoning variance by a social service organization and required Open Table to work with the community to reach a compromise before granting approval.Dayle Ward, who has lived a little more than a mile from the church for 14 years, said her biggest problem with the project is the lack of community input. She also feels the planning for it has been haphazard. “What they did was rather than reaching out to the community they did all of this behind our backs,” Ward said. “They dumped it in our lap and basically said, ‘You have to accept it.’”When the zoning appeal is heard, the crux of the matter will be whether the project belongs to the church or to Open Table.—Martin LevineShare27TweetShare10Email37 Shares
The number of TVs connected to the internet will top 550 million by 2016, according to new research. That will mark an enormous increase on the 124 million sets that were connected at end-2010.The forecast, from Digital TV Research, suggest that South Korea will be the market leader, with 43% of homes having a connected TV by 2016. The most popular method of connecting a TV to the internet is currently via a games console. However, Digital TV Research forecasts that the number of connected TV sets will outstrip the number of connected consoles by end-2012.
Following last month’s creation of a commission to study the impact and need for regulation of connected TV, French media regulator the CSA has revealed further details of how it is to operate.Emmanuel Gabla, the head of the commission, has announced the creation of five study groups to study different aspects of the question. Gabla said the commission would meet three or four times a year and would issue regular communiqués on how it was progressing.A number of interested parties have expressed concern about the impact of connected TV services on the French system of supporting local production, which requires broadcasters and ISPs to subsidise content creation. European Commissioner Neelie Kroes is expected to make an official statement on connected TVs and devices by the end of this year.The CSA is to organise a colloquium on April 28 at the Quai Branly museum in Paris to discuss matters related to connected TV.
UK pay TV group BSkyB reported strong results this morning, adding 15,000 TV subs and has 10.3 million TV customers.The company was keen to flag that with 3.2 million customers now take TV, internet and telephony, meaning it has eclipsed Virgin Media as the largest triple play provider in the UK. The total subscriber base is now 10.55 million.Sky had 4.2 million HD subs at the end of March. It also said that 250,000 of its customers could now watch its 3D service. Sky reported a 5% year-on-year increase in revenue of £5.1 billion (€6.2 billion) for the nine months to end-March. Operating profit increased 25%, taking the total to £939 million. “In what remains a tough economic environment, strong and consistent execution of our plan has delivered good growth across our product range,” said Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s CEO. “The decision to focus our marketing on home communications has paid off with our fastest quarter of growth since launch and confirmation that Sky is now Britain’s favourite triple play provider.”BSkyB’s programming deal with HBO and increased investment in original content contributed to an £88 million rise in programming costs in the nine months to end March. The news Corp-backed UK pay TV operator inked an output deal with HBO in mid-2010 and then created the Sky Atlantic channel in early 2011 to house that content. It has also recently invested in a raft of original UK programming and has pledged to spend £600 million a year on British content by 2014. These programming initiatives were largely responsible for a 5% increase in programming costs, taking the total to £1.7 billion.Channel costs also increased, £22 million, as Sky added new high definition channels to its service.
Portuguese pay TV operator Zon Multimédia is launching an integrated quad-play offering, adding mobile voice to its Iris offering for the first time.The new offering, 4P Iris, will offer bundles from €69.99, comprising 149 TV channels including 23 HD services, up to 100Mbps broadband, free fixed calls to Portugal and 50 international destinations and unlimited mobile voice and SMS.Zon has provided a calculator on its website to enable customers to work out how much they could save by taking the new offering.Users can take one to three SIM cards as part of the offering and can combine prepaid and data plan cards.
Bosnian service provider BH Telecom has contracted playout technology specialist PlayBox Technology to provide its channel-in-a-box playout system to deliver two new channels for its cable network. PlayBox will supply its AirBox content playout and streaming system, which can support both SD and HD services and formats including MPEG-1, 2 and H.264 as well as HDV and DV streams from most production platforms capable of providing AVI, MPEG, MXF, QuickTime or WMV content, according to the company.The contract was won by local system integrator BCH, based in Sarajevo.“The PlayBox Technology system fits in very well with BH Telecom’s essentially tapeless operation of two new channels for its cable television network. It consists of two AirBox channel-in-a-box servers, one for each of two high-definition programme channels, plus Multi-Backup Manager which provides failsafe automatic switchover to a third AirBox if a primary server goes down. The AirBox servers feed a digital video broadcast multiplexer and UDP switch,” said BH Telecom technical director Admir Šabić.“The new servers give BH Telecom the ability to work with a live input stream, adding graphics when needed. AirBox was chosen because it is inherently easy to use, and also easy to expand if additional channels are required in the future. Training was completed in just two days.”
Polish service provider Netia has signed a preliminary agreement to buy 100% of shares in TK Telekom from the Polish railway, PKP Group.Netia will pay PLN221 million (€54.5 million) for TK Telekom, in a deal that will expand Netia’s infrastructure footprint and increase its fibre network footprint with approximately 7,500km of fibre backbone.“The transaction will increase scale up Netia Group’s operations by over 11% in general and by over 28% in the B2B segment in particular,” said Netia Group’s head of strategy and corporate development, Andrzej Kondracki.Netia CEO, Paweł Szymański, said: “The acquisition of TK Telekom will significantly increase Netia’s assets base, expand our fibre optic infrastructure footprint as well as contribute a portfolio of strategically important clients.“The acquisition of TK Telekom represents another step in Netia’s consolidation of the Polish telecommunications, which is also one of our strategic goals.”The enterprise value of the transaction represents approximately 5.2 times TK Telekom’s pro-forma EBITDA for 2014. Completion of the deal is subject to clearance by the Polish competition office (UOKIK) and approval from PKP’s shareholders.
Frank RuttenFox International Channels has promoted Frank Rutten to executive vice-president, Fox Sports Europe & Africa.Rutten, who will report to Jan Koeppen, president of Fox International Channels Europe and Africa, will continue to have operational responsibility as managing director of Fox Sports in the Netherlands and will continue to be based in Amsterdam.Fox has built a portfolio of sports channels on the basis of its Dutch-based EMM business, and now operates six linear channels and an online platform. In addition to the Netherlands, the company operates channel in Italy, Turkey, Israel, Greece and sub-Saharan Africa.Rutten was CEO of EMM before Fox’s acquisition of the company in 2012. The Dutch outfit was created in 2008 by the 18 teams of the Dutch Eredevisie top-tier football league, of which Rutten had been CEO prior to his appointment to head up EMM.“Frank is a talented and respected executive in the Sports field whose experience and leadership of our Dutch operation is a huge asset to developing our network of locally anchored sports business across Europe and Africa,” said Koeppen.Rutten said, “Fox Sports is a powerful brand and the world’s leading sports television network, both in terms of distribution and programming rights. Since 2012 FIC has provided tremendous opportunities for the Dutch clubs and fans and I couldn’t be more excited about taking on this expanded role and have the opportunity to build on our success in Holland and other territories.”
Klaus IllgnerExtending HbbTV to vertically integrated operator environments including IPTV is among the priorities for future development of the specification, according to Klaus Illgner, chairman, HbbTV Association.Speaking at the HbbTV Symposium in London today Illgner said the development of companion screen services, and enabling the triggering of apps in environments where there is no trigger within a broadcast signal available, were also priorities.Illgner said that the HbbTV Association is trying to promote the hybrid broadcast-broadband technology as well as developing the technical specifications. He said that the association is in the process of developing a test suite for version 2.0 of the specification, which will be ready soon.The group is moving away from CE-HTML to HTML5, which is “really the technology of today” and simplifies app development, according to Illgner, with the new spec now including support for HEVC and subtitling – including for on-demand content.Other developments include companion screen features. “We are ahead of any other technology in the market because we not only use casting technology but enable you to go direct to broadcast services from the app. This is really new in the market, combining internet and broadcast services in the companion screen environment,” said Illgner.Illgner said HbbTV is now well established in the broadcast environment, and the association is working on its implementation in the IPTV environment. The latest version of the spec, HbbTV 2.0, has been developed with operator and vertically integrated platforms in mind, he said.Priorities include application discovery outside of broadcast environments, implementation in multicast environments and the development of HbbTV apps in a broadband environment. Coexistence of broadcaster and operator apps and interoperability between the two is also an area where further work is needed, said Illgner.He revealed the HbbTV Association is also looking at how HbbTV could be adapted to different national requirements and how it could support smart TV and manufacturer-defined portals. Internet connectivity is now so bound up with the TV experience that HbbTV needs to embrace OTT applications, said Illgner. He said that HbbTV can also be adapted for commercial services, with support for advertising insertion, for example.Currently, signalling in the broadcast stream kicks off applications. The HbbTV Association is looking at how to enable this if the broadcast trigger is absent. There is also an effort underway to consider specific local requirements to see what should be developed within the common platform, said Illgner.Speaking after Illgner, Rob Koenen, principal architect at Netherlands-based TNO, said that application discovery over broadband would be implemented soon within a new HbbTV specification. The group had decided to let the TV discover where to retrieve the app via the internet, using a solution that been modelled on RadioDNS, which allows digital radios to discover additional information that goes with radio programmes. “We built a spec based on what RadioDNS has done,” said Koenen.Matthew Huntingdon, CTO of Freesat and representative of the Free TV Allicance, combining Freesat, HD+, Fransat and TivuSat, also speaking in the morning session, said that free-to-view operators had developed branded TV guides while trying to maintain a horizontal supply chain, based on retail.Huntingdon said that branded TV guides encourage viewer loyalty and deliver a compelling look and feel that can be tailored to specific country requirements. Operators are also more committed to long-term development and consistent customer support than TV manufacturers. Huntingdon said that IPTV operators had also had problems developing standard ways of delivering their services to integrated digital TVs, and these could be helped by branded guides.He said that the HbbTV steering board recognised that some applications are not supported by the existing specification. Work on this is set to be completed by the middle of next year. The board is working on requirements for standard, privileged and operator specific needs. For privileged and operator specific apps, there will be an agreement between the operator and the manufacturer. Operator specific requirements will typically be implemented via a set-top box, while ‘privileged’ requirements, which could cut across a number of different operators, could be implemented within TVs.Oliver Friedrich, senior expert at Deutsche Telekom Innovation Laboratories, said that it is unlikely that Deutsche Telekom will be able to carry an HbbTV label on its set top boxes but would more likely use parts of the specification. However, he said, Deutsche Telekom’s HbbTV strategy is still under development. He said that Telekom needs the HbbTV specification to be able to include broadcasters’ catch-up services. With regard to delivering IPTV direct to TVs, Friedrich said that Telekom supported HbbTV’s Operator Apps initiative.Friedrich said that HbbTV needed to address migration of viewing to mobile. He said the HbbTV second screen initiative could create a common European framework for casting content from second screen devices to TVs. Fredrich said that there is a need for work on cloud-based services such as cloud DVR.Friedrich said that there is also a need to align work on all web-related aspects of HbbTV with the W3C’s web and TV framework, as the work of the W3C is setting the pace.
Netflix has launched on Liberty Global’s Horizon advanced TV platform in the Netherlands – the first launch of the service by the international cable group following the deal struck between Liberty Global and the streaming video giant in September.Netflix is now available on the Ziggo cable platform in the Netherlands. Ziggo subscribers can access the Netflix app direct on channel 150 on their Horizon Mediabox guide or alongside other on-demand apps.The Netflix launch on Ziggo will enable the latter’s customers to view shows including The Crown, Narcos, Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black direct on their TVs via the Horizon service.Ziggo’s addition of Netflix to its Horizon offering follows the addition earlier this month of RTL Netherland’s subscrdiption video-on-demand service Videoland, which is available on the adjacent channel 151.Ziggo is offering Videoland free of charge to its subscribers for one month. The SVOD service normally costs €8.99 s month.The deal between Liberty Global and Netflix, which followed the launch of the SVOD service on UK cable operator Virgin Media in 2013 – a deal signed before Virgin was acquired by Liberty – represented something of a change of heart on the part of the cable giant.Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries had previously indicated he saw Netflix as representing a kind of transitional phase in the development of SVOD that would ultimately be supplanted by cable, which could offer superior connectivity and a compelling user experience.Since then, however, at least in Europe, Netflix and infrastructure-based network operators have moved towards seeing each other as key partners, with the former emphasizing its original content play and the latter looking to convergence and their role as aggregator and distributor of OTT services as part of their overall content play.