November 17, 2017 Last Updated 7:41 am

US media landscape set for a radical realignment; House tax bill to hit graduate students hard

Morning Brief: November 16, 2017 may be remembered as the day the US media market was forever changed, as the FCC voted to repeal long standing media ownership rules, and a series of mega media deals were reported

The day started with the knowledge that the FCC was about to vote to repeal media ownership rules that had prevented a near monopoly of media in any given market. The 3-2 vote in favor of media consolidate was a direct result of November’s election, another in a long line of consequential effects like pulling out of the Paris climate accord, that will have dire consequences for years to come. (I suppose one could argue that if the planet is being destroyed it doesn’t really matter who is reporting it.)

That the trade associations that supposedly represent publishers would be happy with this vote shows you how much the philosophy of oligarchy has seeped into the business. When media consolidate comes, and it is coming fast, it will not be the businesses who are members of these associations that benefit, but the megacorporations that are doing the acquiring. It will not The New York Times Company or Gannett or McClatchy left standing, but Comcast, Koch Industries, Sinclair, and a handful of others that own what you read or view.

Recode, Edmund Lee:

Comcast wants to buy Fox’s international biz, but it’ll have to wait for AT&T-Time Warner approval first

Comcast is interested in parts of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire that includes major content franchises like “Avatar” and the film studios behind them, like 20th Century Fox. CNBC and The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the news.

But in addition to the film studios, according to sources, Comcast is actually much more interested in Fox’s international assets like Sky, a $17 billion satellite broadcasting company that operates in Europe and the U.K., and Star, a media behemoth in India. Comcast would not go for Fox’s broadcast TV business or Fox News.

Media moguls have been in selling mode lately, but the head-scratcher there has been: If everyone’s selling, who would want to be on the other side of that deal?

Turns out even bigger media companies.

The Guardian, Edward Helmore:

The Koch brothers have reportedly put up $550m to buy Time Inc – why?

The Koch brothers’ involvement in a new Meredith effort to acquire Time Inc, immediately raised questions about whether their intentions were in part political. The brothers, owners of Koch Industries, a Wichita, Kansas-based conglomerate with businesses from oil to ranching and farming, have spent decades acquiring influence over conservative causes.

Over the 2016 election, they spent more than $720m to back conservative candidates or back conservative-leaning ballot box agendas; the acquisition of a major, if diminished, publisher could expand their political range of influence relatively inexpensively.

“From afar, it just seems like an investment move,” says media columnist Michael Wolff. “ Meredith has always indicated that they want Time Inc but not Time and Fortune. But possibly that’s how the Kochs get them. But a rightwing Time? Doesn’t really pass business smell test.”

Business Insider, Becky Peterson:

Mashable, the pioneering tech blog, is selling itself to the publisher of PC Magazine for $50 million — a quarter of its past valuation

Mashable has agreed to sell itself to the old school magazine publisher Ziff Davis for $50 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s considerably less than Mashable’s most recent valuation of $250 million in 2016, according to the WSJ (although Pitchbook pegs Mashable’s valuation at the time at $200 million).

Mashable gained popularity as an early example of profitable digital media shortly after its founding in 2005… But as the company aged, it faced the same sluggish returns as many other digital media companies. Mashable laid off 30 employees last year as it made a pivot to video content, which often brings in high premiums from advertisers.

The Washington Post: Sinclair’s TV deal would be good for Trump. And his new FCC is clearing the way.
Bloomberg: FCC Plans December Vote to Kill Net Neutrality Rules
Digiday: AT&T near deal to buy Otter Media, its under-the-radar streaming video play
Variety: Univision Seeking to Sell Minority Stake in Fusion Media Group

They are calling it tax reform, and many in the media are going along with it. But nothing is being reformed, it is being corrupted.

The list of losers in this deal is growing, and among them is higher education in the US.

The New York Times, Erin Rousseau:

The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students

I’m a graduate student at M.I.T., where I study the neurological basis of mental health disorders. My peers and I work between 40 and 80 hours a week as classroom teachers and laboratory researchers, and in return, our universities provide us with a tuition waiver for school. For M.I.T. students, this waiver keeps us from having to pay a bill of about $50,000 every year — a staggering amount, but one that is similar to the fees at many other colleges and universities. No money from the tuition waivers actually ends up in our pockets, so under Section 117(d)(5), it isn’t counted as taxable income.

But under the House’s tax bill, our waivers will be taxed. This means that M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. That’s an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually.

It would make meeting living expenses nearly impossible, barring all but the wealthiest students from pursuing a Ph.D.

The Hill: Senate bill includes tax break on private jets
Politico: The IRS Is Building a Safe to Hold Trump’s Tax Returns

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