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BCE profit drops 64% as media, wireless suffer in pandemic

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BCE Inc.’s profit sank 64 per cent in the second quarter as COVID-19 stung the giant telecommunications company, whose media division was particularly hard hit.

Net earnings in the three months ending June 30 was $294 million, compared to $817 million a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, BCE earned $0.63 per share — missing the average analyst estimate by six cents.

BCE’s bottom line was weighed down by $452 million in impairment charges on its radio and television assets. Revenue fell 31 per cent year-over-year at Bell Media, which owns BNN Bloomberg, amid what the company described a “material” drop in advertising proceeds as major league sports were suspended during the quarter and as other live events were cancelled. BCE said cost-management helped to partly offset the revenue erosion.

The company’s key wireless division also suffered as a result of the pandemic as revenue fell 11 per cent. Postpaid net new wireless subscriber additions totalled 21,632 in the quarter, down sharply from a year earlier when almost 103,000 customers were added. In a release, BCE blamed the downturn on store closures and reduced promotional activity.

BCE’s wireline business stood out for its stability, as revenue inched down just 1.0 per cent to $3.04 billion.

BCE opted not to present financial forecasts, after earlier suspending its outlook in May, as a result of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. However, it said it will be able to sustain its dividend “for the foreseeable future” thanks to its liquidity position.

“As economic activity continues to build, Bell will continue generating operating momentum while maintaining the financial flexibility to drive both our national investment strategy and the BCE common share dividend,” said president and CEO Mirko Bibic in a release.

Source:- BNN

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Some social media stars chafe at COVID restrictions, angering authorities – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Anthony Deutsch

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A handful of social media stars and influencers have publicly flouted rules aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic and even encouraged others to do so, and authorities from the Netherlands to the United States are not happy.

The online dissent comes as the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States passed 200,000 and many countries in Europe are grappling with a second wave of infections.

“I say ‘NO’ to all measures until the government can verifiably justify this policy,” a group of young Dutch entertainers wrote in a series of Instagram posts coordinated with organisers of protests against the restrictions.

The online celebrities have several million followers on Instagram between them.

They include 21-year-old singer and Instagram model Famke Louise, who took part in a Dutch government campaign promoting social distancing rules in the spring but has now switched sides.

“We can only get control of the government if we stick together,” she posted on Monday night. “I’m opting out.”

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, who is battling new infections that jumped at a rate of more than 60% in the Netherlands this week to pass 100,000, criticised that attitude.

“We have to ask questions and being critical is certainly allowed, but just saying ‘I am opting out’ isn’t an option,” he said. “It’s irresponsible because they have huge influence on young people. We need our youth, we need everyone to keep the virus under control.”

The debate in the Netherlands is playing out the world over between people frustrated about restrictions on their lives and those who support governments’ attempts to stop the virus, which has infected more than 31 million people.

Popular TikTok “influencers” Bryce Hall and Blake Gray were charged in the United States for throwing parties in Los Angeles at which hundreds of revellers were pictured ignoring social distancing rules.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said that with a combined 19 million followers on TikTok, the stars should be “modelling good behaviour – not brazenly violating the law and posting videos about it.”

In Britain, Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher has voiced doubts about the effectiveness of wearing masks, while Van Morrison is releasing three songs to protest against “the way the government has taken away personal freedoms,” his website said.

He is donating profits from the tracks to musicians who have suffered financial hardship because of the coronavirus, according to the BBC.

But flouting government rules faces a backlash of its own, and social media campaigns including the #WearADamnMask hashtag have attracted support from major stars.

U.S. actors Bryan Cranston and Tom Hanks, both of whom contracted the virus and recovered, have also made public appeals for people to wear masks as a courtesy to others.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Advertisers agree deal with social media on steps to curb harmful content – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Martinne Geller

LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have agreed with big advertisers on first steps to curb harmful content online, following boycotts of social media platforms that advertisers had accused of tolerating hate speech.

The agreement comes three months after Facebook was hit by a boycott from major advertisers in the wake of anti-racism demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd, an American Black man, in police custody.

Advertisers have complained for years that big social media companies do too little to prevent ads from appearing alongside hate speech, fake news and other harmful content. Big tech companies, meanwhile, want to be seen as taking action on the issue to fend off calls for more regulation.

Under the deal, announced on Wednesday by the World Federation of Advertisers, common definitions would be adopted for forms of harmful content such as hate speech and bullying, and platforms would adopt harmonised reporting standards.

The platforms agreed to have some practices reviewed by external auditors, and to give advertisers more control of what content is displayed alongside their ads. The deal comes less than six weeks before a polarising U.S. presidential election.

“This is a significant milestone in the journey to rebuild trust online,” said Luis Di Como, executive vice president of global media at Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers. “…Whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”

Carolyn Everson, Vice President for Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, said the agreement “has aligned the industry on the brand safety floor and suitability framework, giving us all a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”

SCEPTICAL

Campaigners who want more regulation of social media companies have been sceptical of voluntary measures such as those announced on Wednesday.

“Any progress in reducing harmful online content is to be welcomed. However, up to now voluntary action from social media companies has rarely lived up to its initial promises. So time will tell how much of a difference this latest industry-led initiative will make,” David Babbs of UK-based group Clean Up the Internet told Reuters by email.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign behind the Facebook boycott is backed by the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP, two of the oldest and biggest anti-racism campaign groups in the United States. The campaign did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In a statement last week, it said: “Facebook’s failures lead to real-life violence and sow division, and we’re calling on the company to improve its policies. We need to urge people to vote and demand Facebook stop undermining our democracy. Enough is enough.”

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Advertisers agree deal with social media on steps to curb harmful content – Reuters Canada

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LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have agreed with big advertisers on first steps to curb harmful content online, following boycotts of social media platforms that advertisers had accused of tolerating hate speech.

FILE PHOTO: Dozens of cardboard cut-outs of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sit outside of the U.S. Capitol Building as part of an Avaaz.org protest in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

The agreement comes three months after Facebook was hit by a boycott from major advertisers in the wake of anti-racism demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd, an American Black man, in police custody.

Advertisers have complained for years that big social media companies do too little to prevent ads from appearing alongside hate speech, fake news and other harmful content. Big tech companies, meanwhile, want to be seen as taking action on the issue to fend off calls for more regulation.

Under the deal, announced on Wednesday by the World Federation of Advertisers, common definitions would be adopted for forms of harmful content such as hate speech and bullying, and platforms would adopt harmonised reporting standards.

The platforms agreed to have some practices reviewed by external auditors, and to give advertisers more control of what content is displayed alongside their ads. The deal comes less than six weeks before a polarising U.S. presidential election.

“This is a significant milestone in the journey to rebuild trust online,” said Luis Di Como, executive vice president of global media at Unilever, one of the world’s biggest advertisers. “…Whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”

Carolyn Everson, Vice President for Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, said the agreement “has aligned the industry on the brand safety floor and suitability framework, giving us all a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”

SCEPTICAL

Campaigners who want more regulation of social media companies have been sceptical of voluntary measures such as those announced on Wednesday.

“Any progress in reducing harmful online content is to be welcomed. However, up to now voluntary action from social media companies has rarely lived up to its initial promises. So time will tell how much of a difference this latest industry-led initiative will make,” David Babbs of UK-based group Clean Up the Internet told Reuters by email.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign behind the Facebook boycott is backed by the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP, two of the oldest and biggest anti-racism campaign groups in the United States. The campaign did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In a statement last week, it said: “Facebook’s failures lead to real-life violence and sow division, and we’re calling on the company to improve its policies. We need to urge people to vote and demand Facebook stop undermining our democracy. Enough is enough.”

Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Peter Graff

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