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Discovery CEO vows fight to keep $3B Polish media investment – 570 News

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A top Discovery Inc. executive said Friday that the U.S.-owned company will fight hard to keep control of a television network it owns in Poland, a $3 billion investment that is threatened by a new media bill that passed in parliament this week.

If the bill passes into law, no entity from outside Europe would be allowed to own more than 49% of any media company. The right-wing government says it’s a way to defend national sovereignty and security. But critics see an authoritarian attempt to silence the most important source of independent TV news in the European Union member.

The bill in practice would only affect the ownership of TVN, a network first bought by another U.S. company, Scripps Networks Interactive, for $2 billion and later sold to Discovery — in the largest ever American investment in Poland.

Jean-Briac Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery International, told The Associated Press on Friday that TVN is now valued at around $3 billion and that the company has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to defend its interests.

“We have no intent to sell or leave,” Perrette, who is based in London, said in an interview.

He urged the United States, the EU and European nations to intervene, saying media independence and the survival of democracy are at a “tipping point” in a strategic region of central Europe.

“We’re seeing great support from the U.S. government and great support from the EU,” he said. “The problem is, I fear, this (Polish) government is so ideologically dead set.”

“So far, all the great support and the words clearly have not been sufficient to fend this off,” he said.

Before the passing of the media bill on Wednesday, Poland’s broadcasting regulator had also refused to renew a license for the network’s all-news station, TVN24, which expires next month.

On Thursday, the company announced it was initiating legal action at an international arbitration court over “arbitrary and discriminatory” treatment that it sees as part of a broader crackdown on free media. Discovery accused Poland of violating a U.S.-Polish investment treaty, and Perrette said he believes the company will have a strong case if the matter ends up in court.

Perrette said Discovery also has alternative plans to save its investment in Poland, but couldn’t divulge those details at this time.

There has been so far no Polish government response to the lawsuit.

To become law, the bill goes next to the opposition-controlled Senate, which has a month to examine it and can suggest changes but is too weak to block it. It then would return to the lower house for final passage, and then to the president for signing.

“This is turning in a very bad direction,” Perrette said. “And now in the next 30 to 45 days, it gets decided.”

Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press

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In the Elizabeth Holmes criminal case, the media is also on trial – CNN

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(CNN Business)For a time, Elizabeth Holmes was a media darling. The college dropout who started her blood-testing company Theranos at 19 graced the cover of magazines such as Forbes, Fortune, and Inc. in her signature black turtleneck to help cultivate her image as “the next Steve Jobs.” She was upheld as a rare female founder who’d raised significant sums of capital to drive her startup towards an eye-popping $9 billion valuation.

Seemingly everyone was fascinated by the young entrepreneur seeking to revolutionize blood testing and who managed to attract a who’s who of powerful men to buy into her lofty mission.
Now, Holmes’ criminal case is underway in a San Jose federal court where her relationship with the media is also on trial.
Holmes, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a dozen counts of federal fraud and conspiracy charges, and up to 20 years in prison over allegations that she knowingly misled doctors, patients and investors in order to take their money. Part of the alleged scheme? That she and her ex-boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani — who served as Theranos’ chief operating officer — leveraged the media in their efforts to defraud investors. (Balwani faces the same charges, has pleaded not guilty and is set to be tried after Holmes’ case concludes.)
In the government’s opening statements, lead prosecutor Robert Leach called attention to Holmes’ role in using the media and positive press coverage to propel her company and attract investors. “The defendant’s fraudulent scheme made her a billionaire. The scheme brought her fame, it brought her honor, and it brought her adoration,” Leach said.
The government alleged that Holmes even approved a 2013 piece by a Wall Street Journal opinion writer prior to its publication that offered a glowing look at Holmes and Theranos, but also contained misleading claims of the company’s capabilities at the time. The article corresponded with a broader unveiling of the startup after years of operating in stealth and was leveraged by Holmes as external validation of the company.
In a statement to CNN Business, Journal spokesperson Steve Severinghaus said, “editors make publishing decisions based on their independent judgment.”
The statement continued, “Our writer asked Elizabeth Holmes to confirm complicated facts on a technical subject, not to approve publication. Our writer visited Theranos, spoke with numerous sources in and outside the company about its technology, and had his blood tested on a Theranos machine that appeared to offer credible results. If that was all a deception, then the responsibility lies with Ms. Holmes and Theranos.”
In his testimony Wednesday, retired four star general and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who served as a board member and invested $85,000 into the startup, shed light on the level of control Holmes asserted over what was revealed to reporters. Mattis testified that he asked what he was at liberty to share before speaking to the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, who profiled Holmes in December 2014. Holmes responded to Mattis in an email, shown in the courtroom, with a list of three topics she said the company didn’t talk about on the record, including “How our technology works (ie that there is a single device that does all tests).”
“I thought we had been kind of out front that there’s a single device and why would we want to hide that,” Mattis testified Wednesday, while also noting that it “didn’t bother me because I didn’t consider myself a technological expert, and I wasn’t going to talk about something I wasn’t an expert in anyway.” (Mattis is not directly mentioned in the New Yorker article.)
It was Auletta’s article that ultimately led then-Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou to start digging. Carreyrou’s investigative reporting would uncover significant flaws in the company’s technology and capabilities that contradicted claims made by Holmes and Theranos. His work prompted broader scrutiny into the company leading to its eventual demise. Carreyrou also wrote a critically-acclaimed book “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” based on his reporting.
In the course of his own reporting, Auletta pressed Holmes on her claims — particularly that Theranos was sharing data with the Food and Drug Administration. Holmes grew frustrated, according to audio recording of Auletta’s interview of Holmes that aired on the latest episode of Carreyrou’s podcast covering the trial. “You’re getting into an area that’s privileged,” she told Auletta.

“For the media to become part of the story, that’s less common”

The media both helped build up Holmes and Theranos and then played an important role in revealing what was really happening at the company, Margaret O’Mara, a historian of the tech industry and professor at University of Washington, told CNN Business in an interview this month. Holmes arrived on the scene as a rare female founder claiming to be “doing big things, changing the world … at a time when Silicon Valley is starting to get heat — rightly so — for not having many women at the top.” O’Mara said it was a storyline that Holmes leaned into.
According to Miriam Baer, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School, corporate fraud cases can often involve a charismatic actor who tells a compelling narrative. “It is not unheard of or infrequent for the media to discover fraud,” she told CNN Business. “But for the media to become part of the fraud — or part of the story, if you will — that’s less common.”
Holmes’ interactions with reporters may be put front-and-center if journalist Roger Parloff, a possible government witness, takes the stand. Parloff wrote the Fortune Magazine cover story on Holmes and Theranos in June 2014 — the first of many favorable profiles. In Parloff’s own words, the feature “helped raise to prominence” Holmes, as he later detailed in a column more than a year later titled “How Theranos Misled Me.
“Roger was first [to the story] and felt a tremendous amount of guilt,” said Alex Gibney in 2019; Gibney is the prolific documentary filmmaker whose HBO film, “The Inventor,” chronicled the rise and fall of Theranos. Gibney, who has said his work began with interviewing journalists who felt duped, has called Parloff the “beating heart” of his film. (CNN and HBO share a parent company.)
While Parloff has turned over audio recordings and notes from his interviews with Holmes and Balwani as part of a grand jury subpoena order, he’s objected to a trial subpoena order by Holmes’ defense team, citing reporter’s privilege among other considerations.
According to a recent court filing, Holmes’ defense team is seeking to compel Parloff to comply with the order, asking that he be required to turn over notes and recordings from interviews he conducted with others for his story. This evidence, Holmes’ team believes, will serve to refute the claims that Holmes misled Parloff, and through him, investors. Holmes’ team has called for a hearing on the matter on or around October 6. (According to Baer, “a trial subpoena contains more hurdles to collecting information than there are under a grand jury subpoena,” adding that the outcome of the hearing “may well result in a much narrower field of documents that the reporter has to produce.”)
There’s also a chance Carreyrou will take the stand — with Holmes listing him among her potential witnesses. Carreyrou, in a tweet, said his name appearing on her possible witness list — along with three prosecutors and officials from the FDA and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — indicate to him, “They’re going to argue to the jury that this was a witch hunt.”
In an interview ahead of the trial, Carreyrou said he’d “make a great witness for the prosecution and a terrible one for the defense,” noting that he’s “a bit concerned” about whether it would interfere with his ability to cover the trial through his podcast. He’s yet to be subpoenaed.

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Reviewing Pick-Me-Ups, a Toronto pop-up that uses social media as currency – Varsity

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Reviewing Pick-Me-Ups, a Toronto pop-up that uses social media as currency  Varsity



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Social Media Buzz: Meng Back in China, U.K. Gas Shortage, Huobi – Bloomberg

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What’s buzzing on social media this morning: 

Chinese social media users gave a hero’s welcome to Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., as she returned to the country three years after her arrest in Canada.

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