WarnerMedia hires former NBC exec in reorganization
By MAE ANDERSON
AP Technology Writer
Monday, March 4
NEW YORK (AP) — WarnerMedia is hiring former NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt as chairman of its entertainment and direct-to-consumer divisions in a reorganization.
Greenblatt will run the company’s marquee HBO property as well as Turner cable networks TNT, TBS and truTV, among other properties that were previously run separately.
The moves come after HBO’s longtime chief executive Richard Plepler said he will exit the cable channel.
Last week a federal appeals court last week upheld AT&T’s $81 billion takeover of Time Warner that was finalized in June 2018, approving one of the biggest media deals on record in the face of opposition from the Trump administration.
Telecom companies have been acquiring producers of entertainment, news and other content to compete with tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Netflix. WarnerMedia plans to launch an upcoming streaming service later this year, a three-tiered offering with a slate of new and library content centered around the existing HBO streaming app.
In a statement WarnerMedia said the moves will “provide the company with the agility and flexibility needed to build WarnerMedia’s brands across a variety of evolving distribution models with a more coordinated approach to the company’s original programming.”
CNN leader Jeff Zucker is adding sports to his duties and will become chairman of WarnerMedia News & Sports as well as CNN President.
AT&T shares slipped 47 cents to $30.35 in morning trading.
Fyre debacle shows how smaller acts can get burned in modern music festival economy
March 4, 2019
Festivals can offer great exposure for smaller acts, but the competition for slots is fierce.
Jonathan Wynn, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Alexandre Frenette, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Associate Director of The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy, Vanderbilt University
Disclosure statement: Alexandre Frenette has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Jonathan Wynn does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Vanderbilt University and University of Massachusetts Amherst provide funding as founding partners of The Conversation US.
The Fyre documentaries on Hulu and Netflix gave a behind-the-scenes look into an ill-planned music festival and its aftermath.
Both films tell the story of how co-producers Billy McFarland and Ja Rule convinced investors and festival goers into forking over millions of dollars for what promised to be a luxurious, music-filled getaway on an island in the Bahamas. The festival, which was supposed to be headlined by Blink-182 and Major Lazer, ended up being canceled at the last minute, leaving audiences stranded, local workers unpaid and the producers in legal jeopardy.
Most viewers probably enjoyed seeing the producers receive their comeuppance and snickered at the millennials lured to the event by Instagram influencers.
But as scholars who study festivals, musicians and the careers of creative people, we thought of the lower-tier musicians who rely on events like Fyre.
For every Blink-182, thousands of smaller acts hope to hit the stage. With musicians increasingly dependent upon live performances, how can these smaller acts thrive under the festival model?
A synergistic relationship
Fyre isn’t the only recent festival debacle. Last year, the Bay Area’s XO Music Festival was canceled after low ticket sales, artists dropped out and various legal issues.
A high-profile band can afford the occasional misfire, but what about the others? Of the 33 announced acts at Fyre, only one band performed: a “local no name band” that was never on the bill.
The relationship between festivals and talent seems straightforward. Larger acts cost more but draw ticket sales and media attention. Smaller acts work for producers in three ways: They are cheaper, fill the bill and lend festivals some authenticity.
The book “Music/City” explores the balance between corporate interests and the spirit of creating unique music-driven experiences. Austin’s South by Southwest festival, for example, is unique in that it was founded on the idea of giving a platform for unknown acts to perform before New York and Los Angeles record executives.
In the book, a singer-songwriter explained that festivals work for musicians because they get to perform for fans but also help “find people who have never heard of you.” Musicians are, she said, trapped in “taste silos”; festivals can broaden their audiences.
Festival organizers see value in smaller acts too. One producer explained that they lend authenticity by “representing the city’s culture.” For a producer who schedules performers at a major country music festival, he balances “legend type artists” with smaller, cheaper and promising acts.
A disease of excess supply
But when it comes to getting paid, there’s vast inequality.
Festival headliners can make millions. For example, Beyoncé, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar made between US $3 million and $4 million at the 2017 Coachella festival. Lower-tier acts can expect to make around $15,000 per performance at a major music festival.
For smaller acts, this is still a significant amount, especially when you consider how difficult it is to make a living as a musician.
A 2018 survey of over 1,200 U.S. musicians found that 42 percent of their income came from performances, while only 5 percent came from recorded music and streaming services. The average U.S. musician, however, earns under $25,000 a year, and over 60 percent of them say their music income isn’t enough to make ends meet. The National Endowment for the Arts found that musicians are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than other professionals.
Why is a music career so challenging?
One reason is that aspiring musicians contend with what French sociologist Pierre-Michel Menger refers to as the disease of “excess supply.” In other words, there is a permanent oversupply of musicians, which leads to a lot of underemployed performers. Data from The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project show that career musicians are likely to hold multiple jobs at once, combine arts- and non-arts-related work and moonlight in other creative fields.
Even successful acts that headline festivals and venues gigs make only a sliver of the profits. A 2018 report on the music industry shows how ticket profits are divided, with artists taking home 30 percent of the profits at best. While fans spend more on music than ever, artists – both big and small – still only make 12 percent of the $43 billion in total revenue in the music industry.
Hope lies in smaller festivals
One of the issues with larger festivals is that they’re all beginning to look strikingly similar.
In 2017, 40 percent of the Boston Calling Music Festival’s 47 bands performed at New York’s Governor’s Ball, Tennessee’s Bonnaroo or California’s Coachella. The online music magazine Pitchfork described Boston Calling as the least unique of the nation’s top 19 festivals.
Perhaps that’s because a handful of corporations now own most of the festivals.
For example, the Madison Square Garden Company recently purchased a controlling share of the company that produces Boston Calling. Coachella was bought by the conglomerate that also puts on Bumbershoot, Firefly and Bayou Country Superfest. And Live Nation now owns a controlling stake in Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and 60 other festivals around the world.
On the other hand, smaller, niche festivals tend to have more variety than splashy, more corporate mega-events.
Staying in Massachusetts, smaller festivals like Wilco’s Solid Sound, the Green River Festival, the Springfield Jazz Festival and Fresh Grass display a wider array of artists. Last year, an attendee of all four festivals would not see the same act twice.
Green River producer Jim Olsen told us that he looks for acts that aren’t a natural fit for mega-events, like his 2019 headliner, the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. Olsen said his mid- and lower-tier acts can expect to earn roughly two to three times more than their regular concert fee.
As the summer festival season approaches, audiences should consider checking out smaller events. Sure, they garner fewer headlines than the massive mega festivals. But attendees will see more variety, pay less money and will be able to support a greater number of emerging acts.
EPA’s plan to regulate chemical contaminants in drinking water is a drop in the bucket
March 1, 2019
Author: Laurel Schaider, Visiting Scientist, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University
Disclosure statement: Laurel Schaider receives funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the Casey & Family Foundation. She is a research scientist in environmental chemistry and engineering at Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass., where she leads the Institute’s drinking water quality research program.
After more than a year of community meetings and deliberations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in February 2019 that it would begin the process of regulating two drinking water contaminants, seeking to stem a growing national public health crisis. If EPA follows through, this would be the first time in nearly 20 years that it has set an enforceable standard for a new chemical contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The chemicals at issue, PFOA and PFOS, have contaminated drinking water supplies across the country affecting millions of Americans. They belong to a class of synthetic chemicals called PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, that are widely used in products including firefighting foams, waterproof apparel, stain-resistant furniture, food packaging and even dental floss.
These chemicals have been linked with numerous health problems, including cancers, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low birth weight and effects on the immune system. Studies show exposure to PFAS in children can dampen the effectiveness of vaccines – a topic my colleagues and I are currently investigating as part of a project called PFAS-REACH. In laboratory studies, low levels of PFAS can alter mammary gland development, which could have implications for increasing breast cancer susceptibility later in life.
What’s more, PFAS are highly persistent. Once released into the environment, they don’t break down – a fact that has led many to dub these substances “forever chemicals.”
A persistent problem
PFAS have been used for decades, but only in the last few years have we begun to grasp the full extent of contamination. A 2016 study reported that over 16 million Americans are exposed to these contaminants in drinking water, and a more recent estimate put that number at 110 million.
PFAS find their way into water supplies from military fire training areas and airports, as well as industrial sites and wastewater treatment plants. For instance, in 2010 my colleagues and I at the nonprofit Silent Spring Institute, which studies links between environmental chemicals and women’s health, first detected PFAS in public and private drinking water wells on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Department of Defense has identified approximately 400 current or former military sites with known or suspected contamination, stemming mostly from use of firefighting foams.
Today there are more than 4,700 PFAS substances in use. All are chemically similar and highly persistent. The United States phased PFOS out of products in 2000 and PFOA in 2006, but they are still turning up widely in drinking water, which is why states want EPA to set standards specifying what levels of exposure are safe. Meanwhile, studies suggest that some newer PFAS chemicals have similar health effects, and most have not been studied at all.
Scientists are working hard to better understand these chemicals in order to mitigate the public’s exposure. For example, researchers at the STEEP Superfund Research Program, a multi-institutional effort which I am a part of, are investigating how these chemicals move through the environment, their chemical characteristics, how they accumulate in our bodies, and their impacts on our health.
PFAS contamination is a problem near many military bases, which use the chemicals in firefighting foams.
A shifting landscape
EPA has been considering regulating PFOS and PFOA in drinking water since 2009. The agency’s recent announcement is a step in the right direction, but still only addresses these two chemicals in drinking water and any new federal standard won’t be fully implemented for years.
Earlier this year my colleagues and I published an analysis in which we showed wide variation in the way state and federal regulators manage these contaminants in drinking water. We found that seven states have their own guideline levels for PFOA and PFOS. Of these, Vermont, Minnesota and New Jersey have adopted levels that are more stringent than EPA’s current non-enforceable levels.
More recently, New Hampshire, New York and California have also proposed guideline levels lower than EPA’s. The day after EPA announced its plan, Pennsylvania officials announced they would create their own standards, citing concerns about EPA’s sluggish efforts to address the issue.
Meanwhile, some states are developing their own guidelines covering additional PFAS chemicals. For instance, Minnesota has included in its guidelines a chemical called PFBS, which is used in Scotchgard. North Carolina regulators are focusing their efforts on a substitute called GenX that seeped into local water supplies from a plant upstream and has been detected in their air and soil.
A key question now is how EPA’s drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS will compare with what states are doing. Will the agency consider the full body of scientific evidence on health risks associated with exposure to this class of chemicals when setting a “safe” limit in drinking water? Will it consider effects on sensitive populations, such as pregnant women and children? Although the science is still evolving, one thing is clear: The more we learn about these chemicals, the more we see health effects at lower and lower levels.
It is important to give states latitude to adopt more stringent approaches than those set by EPA, and a lot can be learned from how states set guidelines. However, the emerging regulatory patchwork raises concerns that some Americans are not adequately protected. Some states have the resources and technical know-how to conduct their own risk assessments, but others may lack the funding and expertise.
Political and social factors, as well as pressure from industry, can lead to wide disparities in exposure, with some communities protected and others left vulnerable. A federal standard would ensure that everyone is protected, regardless of whether their states have the will and the resources to develop their own standards.
It’s all in the family
EPA’s plan includes other steps that sound promising, such as listing PFOS and PFOA as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law to establish liability for contamination and support cleanup, enhanced monitoring in drinking water, and better reporting of releases from industry. But the plan largely focuses on addressing problems at existing contaminated sites, not on keeping these chemicals out of water supplies and the environment.
Conducting risk assessments on individual PFAS compounds one at a time is impractical. As a result, many advocacy groups and scientists – including my colleagues at the Green Science Policy Institute – are calling for these chemicals to be regulated as a class.
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA has authority to restrict approval of new toxic chemicals. But in reality, new ones are approved all the time without thorough evaluations. Given concerns about the extreme persistence and mobility of PFAS compounds, in my view it makes good sense to restrict this entire class of chemicals.
There are precedents for such action. In 1979 the United States banned PCBs after these persistent and toxic chemicals became widespread in the environment. The global community banned chlorofluorocarbons in 1996 when scientists learned that they damage Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer. And in 2017 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to ban an entire class of toxic flame retardants from consumer products.
There is ample evidence for treating PFAS the same way. The question is whether federal regulators have the will.