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Telefonica seeks to merge Britain's O2 and Virgin Media – sources – Financial Post

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Spain’s Telefonica SA is in talks with billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc to explore a merger of its British mobile operator O2 with cable network company Virgin Media, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Telefonica has been weighing options for the mobile business since 2016 when a previous 10.3 billion pound deal takeover of O2 by Three UK, controlled by CK Hutchison Holdings, was blocked by European antitrust regulators, banking sources said.

A combination of O2 and Virgin Media is expected to reshape Britain’s telecoms industry, leaving Hutchison and Vodafone stranded as mobile-only operators.

If successful, the deal would end uncertainty around the fate of Britain’s second-biggest mobile operator after it was repeatedly touted as a possible candidate for an initial public offering (IPO) in recent years.

It would also offer Telefonica a way to partially cash out from O2 while retaining a presence in Britain which the company sees as one of its “core markets” along with Spain, Germany and Brazil.

Shares in Liberty were up 8.75% at $21.12 on the news which was first reported by Bloomberg.

Telefonica has been active in Britain since 2006 when it took control of O2 and helped boost its customer base securing 25.8 million contracts and pre-paid mobile subscribers at the end of 2019.

Telefonica’s UK business, which includes O2, generated 7.11 billion euros in revenue in 2019, around 14.7% of the group’s total and had 34.5 mobile connections on its network.

Faced with dwindling profits, the company announced in November a turnaround plan to bring in 2 billion euros a year in extra revenue by hiving off part of its Latin American business and focusing on its core markets including Britain.

At the time, Chief Executive Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete said the company was open to reviewing possible merger options.

Liberty Global, which has controlled Virgin Media since 2013, sold its cable networks in Germany and central Europe to Vodafone in a $22 billion deal which was finalized last year, reigniting talk among analysts of a deeper tie up in Britain.

The firm, led by tycoon John Malone, is expected to plow the cash from the Vodafone sale into the O2 deal, one of the sources said, cautioning no final agreement had been reached.

Virgin Media competes with UK pay-TV market leader Sky, owned by Comcast, in pay-TV, and with BT, Sky, TalkTalk and others in broadband.

It had 6 million cable customers and 3.3 million mobile customers as of the end of 2019.

But despite its sizeable mobile business Virgin Media has never owned its own wireless network.

It instead pioneered the MVNO model, whereby an operator piggybacks on an existing network, 20 years ago with a partnership with the forerunner of BT’s EE. (Reporting by Belen Carreno in Madrid and Pamela Barbaglia in London; additional reporting by Paul Sandle, Nathan Allen and Bhargav Acharya; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Jane Merriman and Jonathan Oatis)

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Tyler Babiy fosters connections and community through social media – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Depending on your outlook, connecting through social media can be as interactive or isolated as each user prefers.

For Tyler Babiy, that choice is easy. Interacting with local creators and other like-minded people is the focus of his business, Social Made Local.

It originally started out as a T-shirt brand — an offshoot of his other business, T Squared Social. Since then, it has also fostered a community of like-minded, local creatives looking to connect, collaborate and share their creativity.

“With this T-shirt company I could just try to instil a sense of social responsibility in terms of taking ownership of the things you create,” Babiy says.

“It’s really cool to offer (creators) a space to have a voice and be heard — but to also plant that seed of consciousness in people that the things that we do on social media are not private and they can deeply affect the people around us in ways we don’t even know … so it’s just planting that idea that you’re not just throwing things into the wind.”

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Facebook places state media labels on Russian, Chinese broadcasters – Reuters Canada

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc will start labeling Russian, Chinese and other state-controlled media organizations, and later this summer will block any ads from such outlets that target U.S. users, it said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The world’s biggest social network will apply the label to Russia’s Sputnik, Iran’s Press TV and China’s Xinhua News, according to a partial list Facebook provided. The company will apply the label to about 200 pages at the outset.

Facebook will not label any U.S.-based news organizations, as it determined that even U.S. government-run outlets have editorial independence, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in an interview.

Facebook, which has acknowledged its failure to stop Russian use of its platforms to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has since stepped up its defenses and imposed greater transparency requirements for pages and ads on its platforms.

The company announced plans last year to create a state media label, but is introducing the tool amid a deep crisis over its hands-off treatment of misleading and racially charged posts by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The new measure comes just months ahead of the November U.S. presidential election.

Under the measure, Facebook will not use the label for media outlets affiliated with individual political figures or parties, which Gleicher said could push “boundaries that are very, very slippery.”

“What we want to do here is start with the most critical case,” he said.

Facebook is not the first company to take such action.

YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, in 2018 started identifying video channels that predominantly carry news items and are funded by governments. But critics charge YouTube has failed to label some state news outlets, allowing them to earn ad revenue from videos with misinformation and propaganda.

In a blog post, Facebook said its label will appear on pages globally, as well as on News Feed posts within the United States.

Facebook also said it will ban U.S.-targeted ads from state-controlled entities “out of an abundance of caution” ahead of the November presidential election. Elsewhere, the ads will receive a label.

Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Leslie Adler

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Facebook starts labeling ‘state-controlled media’ pages – The Verge

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Facebook has begun labeling media outlets that are “wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government,” following an announcement of the policy in 2019. It will start labeling ads from these outlets later this year, as well as banning state-controlled media from advertising inside the US.

The company is labeling these pages because “they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government.”

Facebook labels “state-controlled media” outlets based on a variety of factors, including information about their ownership and funding, the level of transparency around their sources, and the existence of accountability systems like a corrections policy. Outlets can appeal with evidence that they operate independently, including laws that protect editorial freedom and a credible assessment from an outside source. Otherwise, Facebook will add a notice to the outlets’ pages worldwide, and labels will appear on News Feed posts in the US.

You can already see labels on the pages and posts of some outlets that have been blamed for spreading propaganda in the US, including Sputnik and RT. They’re both now defined as state-controlled media, along with other outlets like China Daily. Facebook isn’t the first to do something like this; YouTube experimented with labeling state-funded news channels in 2018, although enforcement has been inconsistent.

Facebook says state-controlled outlets “rarely” advertise in the US. But it’s blocking those ads “out of an abundance of caution to provide an extra layer of protection against various types of foreign influence in the public debate ahead of the November 2020 election in the US.” This supplements Facebook’s existing removal of “inauthentic” pages that spread propaganda or disinformation.

This labeling feature is part of a larger effort to protect the 2020 election’s integrity. However, Facebook has still faced criticism for choosing not to fact-check politicians — including President Donald Trump — on its platform.

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