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Polish media tax `unacceptable', says coalition partner – Financial Post

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WARSAW — A proposed tax on media advertising in Poland is unacceptable in its current form, a junior partner in the government said on Friday, raising doubt over whether parliament could pass a bill critics say threatens media independence.

The objections of Accord, a centrist partner in the conservative United Right coalition, are the latest sign of tension in a government that has become increasingly fractious in recent months, with conflicts breaking out over issues ranging from animal rights to the European Union budget.

“For me, it is unacceptable in this form, and most of the lawmakers I have talked to are of that opinion,” Accord spokeswoman Magdalena Sroka told private broadcaster Radio Zet on Friday morning.

“Accord … does not see the possibility of supporting the bill in its proposed form,” the party said in a statement published on Twitter in the evening, adding that the proposed tax can negatively impact Polish business, media and citizens.

Several private TV and radio stations and web portals in Poland took themselves off the air on Wednesday in an unprecedented protest against a law they say would weaken independent media that are critical of the government.

Critics say Poland is following the example of central European ally Hungary in trying to increase government control over the media. That issue came into sharp focus in December when state-controlled oil refiner PKN Orlen said it was buying German-owned newspaper publisher Polska Press.

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The government says the tax will help raise funds for healthcare and culture, both hit by the coronavirus pandemic. It has long argued that foreign media groups have too much influence in Poland.

Finance Minister Tadeusz Koscinski said it was important to get feedback on the bill. “There is not the slightest intention to knock anybody out with tax,” he said.

The Polish prime minister’s top aide, Michal Dworczyk, said the bill was still in a consultation phase and denied it was intended to limit media freedom.

“We are dealing with a serious manipulation, or a lie,” he told public broadcaster Polskie Radio Program III. “An attempt to tax big companies is presented as an attempt to limit the freedom of the media.” (Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Agnieszka Barteczko and Alicja Ptak; editing by Larry King, William Maclean)

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Snap to cut emissions, achieves carbon neutrality in new climate strategy

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Snap Inc on Monday announced a climate strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, purchase 100% renewable energy and remain carbon neutral after offsetting emissions dating back to its launch.

The plan, which the owner of photo messaging app Snapchat detailed in its annual “CitizenSnap” report on social and environmental initiatives, comes as climate change debates include tech companies and the energy-intensive process of running powerful computer data servers has become better known.

By making the company more energy efficient, Snap could not only reduce costs in the long run, but also appeal to its mostly young user base, which is passionate about addressing climate change, said Dom Perella, Snap’s deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer.

“They’re going to be living with the brunt of these impacts for many generations,” he said. “Because it impacts our stakeholders… we want to make a difference.”

By 2025, Snap plans to reduce emissions generated from its business operations by 25%, in part by making its buildings more energy efficient and purchasing renewable energy, Perella said.

The company also aims to reduce emissions from business travel and from purchased goods and services by 35% “per unit of value” by shifting to climate-friendly travel options and pushing vendors to reduce their emissions.

Snap said it determined the reduction levels by working with the Science Based Targets initiative, a coalition that advises companies on reducing emissions to meet goals outlined by the Paris Agreement international treaty on climate change.

The Santa Monica, California-based company said it is now carbon neutral, helped by investing in forestry projects across the world to offset its emissions.

It also calculated its emissions dating back to Snapchat’s launch in 2011 and offset its emissions to become retroactively carbon neutral.

Other tech companies have also moved to offset emissions retroactively. Alphabet Inc’s Google said last year it had eliminated its carbon emissions history before 2007, when the company said it became carbon neutral.

 

(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Britney Spears calls recent documentaries about her ‘hypocritical’

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pop singer Britney Spears spoke out on Tuesday about recent documentaries about her life and career, calling them “hypocritical” because they rehash her personal problems while criticizing the media for reporting them the first time.

Walt Disney Co’s FX network and The New York Times released “Framing Britney Spears” in February. The documentary examined the singer’s meteoric rise to fame as a teenager, the ensuing media scrutiny and her widely publicized breakdown.And this month, the BBC released “The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship” in Britain. It will debut in the United States and Canada starting May 11 via the BBC Select streaming service.

In an Instagram post, Spears did not name either documentary but said “so many documentaries about me this year with other people’s takes on my life.”

“These documentaries are so hypocritical … they criticize the media and then do the same thing,” she added.

In March, Spears said she cried for two weeks after watching part of “Framing Britney Spears”.

The BBC said in a statement on Tuesday that its documentary “explores the complexities surrounding conservatorship with care and sensitivity.”

“It does not take sides and features a wide range of contributors,” the statement added.

A New York Times spokesperson declined to comment.

Spears, who shot to fame in 1998 with the hit “Baby One More Time,” is in a court battle seeking to replace her father as her conservator. He was appointed to the role in 2008 after she was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.

Her fans have shown their support on social media under the hashtags #We’reSorryBritney and #FreeBritney. Spears is scheduled to speak to a Los Angeles court in June.

In her Instagram post, which included a video of herself dancing, Spears said that “although I’ve had some pretty tough times in my life … I’ve had waaaayyyy more amazing times in my life and unfortunately my friends … I think the world is more interested in the negative.”

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Grammy organizers change rules after allegations of corruption

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The organizers of music’s Grammy Awards on Friday announced an end to the so-called “secret” committees that have led to allegations that the highest honors in the industry are open to rigging.

The Recording Academy said that nominations for the next Grammy Awards in January 2022 will be selected by all of its more than 11,000 voting members, instead of by committees of 15-30 industry experts whose names were not revealed.

The Academy was slammed last year when Canadian artist The Weeknd got zero Grammy nominations, even though his critically acclaimed album “After Hours” was one of the biggest sellers of 2020.

The Weeknd, in a Twitter post last November, said “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”

The Recording Academy said in a statement on Friday that the changes were significant and were made “to ensure that the Grammy Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable.”

Allegations that the Grammy nominations process is tainted were made in a legal complaint filed in early 2019 by the former chief executive of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan.

At the time, the Academy dismissed as “categorically false, misleading and wrong” Dugan’s claims that its members pushed artists they have relationships with. Dugan was later fired.

American pop star Halsey, also shut out of the 2021 Grammys, last year called the nominations process “elusive” and said she was “hoping for more transparency or reform.”

Former One Direction singer Zayn Malik called in March for an end to “secret committees.”

“I’m keeping the pressure on & fighting for transparency & inclusion. We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating ‘creative excellence’ of ALL,” Malik tweeted hours ahead of the 2021 Grammy Awards ceremony.

The Recording Academy on Friday also said it was adding two new Grammy categories – for best global music performance, and best Latin urban music album – bringing to 86 the total number of Grammy Awards each year.

 

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by David Gregorio)

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