Media Beat
Media Beat

Media Beat: August 24, 2020

Media’s participatory role in the assault on democracy

… Under the constant assault of cultural demands to conform to the dictates of screen culture, the media too has largely abandoned its traditional role as the Fourth Estate or has taken up that duty only as an afterthought. The responsibility of holding government to account is no longer the central driving force of media. Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV have become an amorphous hybrid of news and entertainment that gives what amounts to never-ending reviews of the performances of government leaders. Too often, the media no longer sees its duty as telling its audience what happened, when, why, how and by whom. Its drive has become to amass an online following by appealing to the preconceptions of particular audiences. The mission is no longer to broaden people’s knowledge and understanding but to present them with a narrow vision of the world that panders to their prejudices. – Excerpted from Restoring Democracy in an Age of Populists and Pestilence by Jonathan Manthorpe

RIP: Allan Fotheringham

His nickname may have been Dr. Foth, for his astute diagnoses of Canada’s body politic, but Allan Fotheringham lustily ignored the Hippocratic Oath’s imperative to “first do no harm”: He revelled in his ability to draw blood, for sport as much as for therapeutic purposes. He took down mayors and monarchists, prime ministers and PR men, other journalists and the justice system, bureaucrats and the bourgeoisie with whimsical wordplay that was no less cutting for its folksiness. He built them up, too, taking credit for sparking the political careers of Brian Mulroney, Paul Martin, and Stockwell Day. – Simon Houpt, The Globe & Mail

The epic battle over Apple’s app store policy

Normally, when your company becomes the most valuable firm in history, it is an occasion for unalloyed joy. Last week Apple Inc. passed the 2 trillion-dollar barrier, something no American company has done before. The only other 2 trillion company in the world has been Aramco—and Apple zipped past it, proving that silicon really is the new oil. But I suspect that Apple CEO Tim Cook’s socially distanced celebration might have been more fun if the company had not been simultaneously engaged in a high-wire confrontation with the game company Epic.

Being a double trillionaire is not an advantage in this flap.

First, let’s recap the situation. Apple takes 30 percent of the revenue generated by companies that use its App Store to distribute their software. Epic, which makes the mega-hit game Fortnite, thinks that is too high a tariff. So Epic began selling in-game currency at a discount to players if they used “Epic direct payment,” which bypassed the App Store and avoided Apple’s fees. Apple claimed this practice violated its rules, and banished Fortnite from the App Store. (Epic pulled the same trick with Google, which also charges 30 percent and also yanked Fortnite from its Play store—but in the case of Android, users can still install Fortnite directly from Epic, an option not available to iPhone users.)

Epic’s move seemed intentionally positioned to call out Apple’s huge market power. In fact, Epic had correctly anticipated the ban from the App store and had a lawsuit charging Apple with monopolistic malpractice ready to go. It also readied a video that echoed the famous Apple 1984 commercial introducing the Macintosh. The original ad portrayed Apple as a feisty underdog, freeing users from the evil giant IBM. Now Apple is the one depicted as the evil giant.

Does Epic have a point? Is Apple justified in taking almost a third of all the money that developers make from the iPhone and iPad? – Steven Levy, Wired

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