The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VII No. 10 (December 2010)

De-convergence and re-convergence

By Amanda Johnson, Editor

Discussion concerning convergent media tends to focus on the benefits of convergence, often overlooking "de-convergence." But Canada has not only seen a reversal of some early convergence efforts, it has seen some new combinations – re-convergence – as Marc Edge of Sam Houston State University explains in continuing to look at the successes and failures of convergence in Canada.

Augie Grant of the University of South Carolina, meanwhile, looks at the unmistakable presence of convergence in media and education as one theme of the 10th annual Convergence and Society Conference.

In the new year we again hope to have these topics issues: Newsrooms –February, International – April and October, Convergence and Communities – June, and Convergence in the Classroom – August. In other months we publish various submissions. But we cannot do it without your articles.

We bridge academic research and professional practice and are especially interested in research in its early stages and in descriptions of professional practice. We welcome work by graduate students and relevant book reviews. Please see the end of the newsletter for submission guidelines.

Please e-mail articles or suggestions to us at convedit@mailbox.sc.edu. You can comment on all articles at The Convergence Newsletter blog. View past newsletters at http://sc.edu/cmcis/news/convergence/index.html.

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Featured Article

De-convergence and re-convergence in Canadian media

2010 Convergence and Society conference recap

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Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

March 4-5: AEJMC Midwinter Academic Meeting, Norman, Okla.

March 17-19: AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, Columbia, S.C. (paper deadline Dec. 13)

March 18-19: Media & Civil Rights History Symposium, Columbia, S.C.

June 6-10: Newsplex Summer Seminar: Teaching and Research in Convergent Journalism, Columbia. S.C.

June 13-17: Newsplex Summer Seminar: Convergence Software Boot Camp, Columbia, S.C.

June 15: Papers due for October Convergence and Society Conference, Columbia, S.C.

August 10-13: AEJMC Convention, St. Louis (paper deadline April 1)

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Featured Article

De-convergence and re-convergence in Canadian media

By Marc Edge, Sam Houston State University

Convergence in Canada has now come full circle in the space of a decade. First came newspaper-television convergence in 2000. It proved so disastrous as a business strategy that two of the country's three major multimedia players have now de-converged, and one went through bankruptcy to do it. The other separated its newspaper and television holdings voluntarily in September. In the process, the country's largest private TV network re-converged with its original, and perhaps more appropriate, telecommunications partner.

Canada saw three major multimedia transactions following the January 2000 merger of AOL and Time Warner, which galvanized corporate enthusiasm for convergence and multimedia ownership worldwide. By the end of that year, both of the country's major private television networks had partnered with newspaper companies, as did the largest French-language TV network in the province of Quebec [1]. This level of corporate convergence was enabled by a lack of restrictions on cross-media ownership, as a short-lived prohibition on newspaper owners also holding television licenses was allowed to lapse in the mid-1980s [2]. Ownership of media in Canada, which was already among the most highly concentrated in the world, became even more so by just a few large corporations [3].

Two federal inquiries into convergence in the mid-2000s urged restrictions on how much of the country's media one owner could hold, but the ruling Conservative government instead declared newspaper-television convergence a valid business strategy and declined to restrict it [4]. Subsequent "media diversity" hearings by the broadcasting regulator Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) did, however, prohibit cross-ownership of all three major media - radio, television, and newspapers - in any one market [5].

But few synergies could be found, and multimedia advertising sales did not benefit from common ownership. With advertising revenues dropping during the 2008-09 economic downturn, the country's largest media owner, Canwest Global Communications, was unable to continue servicing its $4 billion in debt from its newspaper and foreign media acquisitions and was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2009 [6].

De-convergence in Canadian media began in spring 2010 with the sell-off of Canwest assets. Its Global Television network was bought by Shaw Communications, one of Canada's largest cable companies. Its newspaper division, the former Southam newspaper chain, was bought by a group of equity investors with plans to float an initial public offering share sale.

Then CTV underwent a sudden separation from the Globe and Mail national newspaper and was reacquired by telecommunications giant Bell Canada Enterprises. CTV had first been taken over by BCE in 2000 and became part of a company first known as Bell Globemedia after its partnering with the Globe and Mail later in 2000. After BCE reduced its ownership from 70 percent to 15 percent in 2005, the company changed its name to CTVglobemedia.

The unexpected announcement in September that BCE was buying the remaining 85 percent of CTVglobemedia brought another sharp turn in Canadian convergence, one arguably akin to a switchback. It brought de-convergence, returning control of the Globe and Mail to the Thomsons, who had been one of CTVglobemedia’s major shareholders, although BCE will retain 15 percent ownership. It also brought re-convergence, again partnering CTV with the country’s largest telephone company, this time to utilize the network’s content as a selling feature for its Bell Mobility cellular phone service.

The move signified that two of the most popular early convergence applications - corporate convergence and newspaper-television convergence - had proved misguided. A more workable version might be "device" convergence between personal computers, television, and mobile devices or "service" convergence between telephone and television services [7].

Re-convergence can also be seen in Shaw's Global Television network purchase and the 2007 purchase of the five-station City-TV network by Rogers Communications, the country's largest cable company. Rogers also offers cellular telephone service, as does Quebecor Media, which owns TVA, the largest television network in the French-speaking province of Quebec. That two of its largest competitors in mobile communications had also become owners of television content was a stated factor behind BCE's reacquisition of CTV [8].

Parties to the $1.3-billion transaction acknowledged that incompatibility between the newspaper and television partners in CTVglobemedia had been behind the de-convergence and that the increasing attractiveness of broadcasting video content on mobile devices was motivation for the re-convergence.

"Over the last years we'd suffered from an atmosphere of mistrust, and there has been a separation of states," David Thomson, chairman of the family's Woodbridge holding company, told its newly reacquired Globe and Mail. For its part, BCE became attracted to the opportunities provided by mobile video during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, CEO George Cope told the newspaper [9]

Stuck in traffic and surrounded by his sleeping children, the Chief Executive Officer of BCE Inc. watched the entire women's gold-medal hockey game from his cell phone. Mr. Cope recalls thinking: "The world has changed." . . . In the long lineups at the Olympic game, he saw crowds of spectators sharing cell phones to download television broadcasts, scan Internet news and dispatch text messages to keep up with sports news [10].

Not everyone was excited about the renewed expectations for convergence in Canada, however. "We have made no secret of our skepticism for content-conduit 'convergence' so we are not going to be bullish on the prospect for any revenue synergies from this deal," a telecommunications analyst with National Bank Financial wrote in a note to investors [11].

One of the country's leading Internet scholars characterized the purchase as "perhaps the last stab at a walled garden strategy" and doubted it would succeed. "That may sound like a winning strategy, yet it runs counter to everything we have experienced over the past 20 years," Michael Geist wrote in a Toronto Star column. "Consumers around the world have consistently rejected services that restrict access, finding suitable alternatives on open platforms like the Internet" [12].

Critics of media consolidation also saw the move as a turn for the worse. "Canada was the most converged country in the world even before Shaw bought Canwest and Bell picked up CTV," Stephen Waddell, national executive director of Canadian actors union ACTRA, told Variety. "There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that has the distribution system in control of all of the content" [13].

De-convergence has been seen over the past five years as a reaction to the well documented business failures of convergence. Time-Warner, Viacom, Disney, Vivendi, AT&T, and Belo have all either divided their multimedia assets into separate companies for ease of management or sold off divisions [14]. Perhaps in the latest convergence plays in Canada can also be seen a trend toward re-convergence of television and telecommunications.

[1] Pitts, G. (2002). Kings of convergence: The fight for control of Canada's media. Toronto: Doubleday.

[2] Bartley, A. (1988). The regulation of cross-media ownership: The life and short times of PCO 2294. Canadian Journal of Communication, 13 (2), 45-59. Available online http://www.cjc-online.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/449/355

[3] Winseck, D. (2002). Netscapes of power: Convergence, consolidation and power in the Canadian mediascape. Media, Culture & Society, 24 (6), 795-819. Available online http://mcs.sagepub.com/content/24/6/795.abstract

[4] Zerbisias, A. (2006, Dec. 2). Minister brushes off warnings on media: Oda downplays Senate report on ownership. Toronto Star, A17. Available online http://www.friends.ca/news-item/6552

[5] Edge, M. (2008, Jan. 16). CRTC Ruling No Threat to Big Media. The Tyee. http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2008/01/16/CRTCRuling/

[6] Edge, M. (2010, April). Convergence blamed for media mess in Canada. The Convergence Newsletter. http://sc.edu/cmcis/news/convergence/v7no3.html#co

[7] Gordon, R. (2003). The meanings and implications of convergence. In K. Kawamoto, Ed. Digital Journalism: Emerging Media and the Changing Horizons of Journalism. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield), 2003. Available online http://www.ojr.org/ojr/business/1068686368.php

[8] Olive, D. (2010, Sept. 11). BCE takes another kick at the convergence can. Toronto Star, B1. Available online http://www.thestar.com/business/article/859421--olive-there-s-less-than-meets-the-eye-in-the-bell-ctv-deal

[9, 10] McNish, J. and Waldie, P. (2010, Sep. 11). An Olympic moment turned key player into champion for mobile media. Globe and Mail, A1. Available online http://www.globeadvisor.com/servlet/ArticleNews/story/gam/20100911/RBBCETICKTOCKMCNISHATL

[11] Austen, I. (2010, Sept. 11). Bell Canada to Retake Control of Canadian TV Network. New York Times, B3. Available online http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/technology/11bell.html

[12] Geist M. (2010, Sept. 20). Media mergers pin hopes on exclusive content. Toronto Star, B2. Available online http://www.thestar.com/news/sciencetech/technology/lawbytes/article/862291-geist-media-mergers-the-latest-stab-at-walled-garden-strategy

[13] "Bell rings up content," Variety, September 26, 2010, 16.

[14]Jin, D. (2009-05-20) "Deconvergence: A Shifting Business Trend in the Digital Media Industries" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott, Chicago, IL Online . 2010-11-11 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/9/7/8/6/p297869_index.html forthcoming in Media, Culture & Society

Edge is an associate professor at Sam Houston State University and can be reached at mwe003@shsu.edu..

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2010 Convergence and Society conference recap

By Augie Grant, University of South Carolina

The broad theme that emerged from the 2010 "Convergence and Society" conference was the increasing importance of social media. The formal theme was "Science, Health, and New Dimensions of Communication," providing a rich set of research projects on media campaigns and other areas related to science and health communication to complement the studies of convergent journalism and converging media.

The number of submissions in all areas that dealt with social media was not surprising given the incredible growth rates of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. Taken as a group, these studies provide a number of interesting observations regarding social media and its role in the evolving media landscape.

As with much of the convergent journalism research a decade ago, these studies provided rich descriptions of the use of this new set of media. These descriptions demonstrate a vast range in how social media are being used, with some organizations using it only to push content to users while others are taking advantage of the opportunity to engage and interact. Looking across these studies, it is clear much more research is needed to provide media and other organizations with the foundation for a “Best Practices” guidebook that can help practitioners make the most effective use of social media.

The second theme was the integration of science and health communication with convergent journalism. In proposing a "Convergence Conference" with a science-health sub-theme, there was the risk submissions would fall into either journalism or science and health communication, but we were pleasantly surprised to receive enough for two complete sessions that integrated the two areas of research and practice.

The final theme that resonated for was the acceptance of convergence as a fact of life in both the media and journalism programs. When this conference series began in 2002, convergence was a relatively novel concept for research, with many questioning whether it could be best characterized as a future, a fad, or a failure. Although convergent journalism has not evolved in the U.S. in the fashion that some predicted (with many print-broadcast convergence efforts not surviving the decade), almost every newsroom is today producing content for multiple media, including traditional print or broadcast, online, social media, text messaging, etc.

The next Convergence and Society conference will be in October with the sub theme of "Sustainability, Journalism, and Media Regeneration." We hope this conference will yield research that integrates sustainability and related environmental issues with convergent journalism as well as provide a forum for studies in each area.

For more information about the 2011 Convergence and Society conference, email Augie Grant at augie@sc.edu.

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Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

AEJMC Southeast Colloquium Papers Due

December 13

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AEJMC Mid-Winter Academic Meeting

University of Oklahoma, Norman

March 4-5

http://www.ou.edu/gaylord/home/main/outreach/aejmc_mid_winter.html

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AEJMC Southeast Colloquium

Columbia, S.C.

March 17-19

http://www.jour.sc.edu/sec2011/index.html

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Media and Civil Rights History Symposium

Columbia, S.C.

March 18-19

http://www.jour.sc.edu/mcrhs/index.html

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AEJMC Papers Due

April 1, 2011

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Newsplex Summer Seminars

Teaching and Research in Convergent Journalism: June 6-10

Convergence Software Boot Camp: June 13-17

Columbia. S.C.

http://newsplex.sc.edu/

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Papers due for October's Convergence and Society Conference, Columbia, S.C.

June 15, 2011

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AEJMC Convention

August 10-13, 2011

St. Louis

http://www.aejmc.org/_events/convention/futureconventions/index.php

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Publisher and Editorial Staff

The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina.

Executive Editor: Doug Fisher

dfisher@sc.edu

Editor: Amanda Johnson

convedit@mailbox.sc.edu

Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at http://convergencenl.blogspot.com, where you can comment on recent articles and keep up with the latest in convergence news.

There is also an RSS feed option for those who want alternative access.

View past and current issues of The Convergence Newsletter at http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/.

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Licensing and Redistribution

The Convergence Newsletter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

This newsletter may be redistributed in any form - print or electronic - without edits or deletion of any content.

Creative Commons License

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Submission Guidelines

The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence in all forms including technological, organizational, operational, psychological, and sociological. We welcome articles of all sorts and encourage those addressing the subject in new ways and with new perspectives. We also accept news briefs, book reviews, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academic and professional; the publication style is AP for copy and APA for citations. Feature articles should be 750 to 1,200 words. Other articles and reviews should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be no more than 200 words. Please send all articles to The Convergence Newsletter editor at convedit@mailbox.sc.edu along with your name, affiliation and contact information.

If you would like to post a position announcement, include a brief description of the position and a link to the complete information. All announcements should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter editor at convedit@mailbox.sc.edu.

The Convergence Newsletter is published monthly except January and July. Articles should be submitted by the 15th of the month to be considered for the next month's issue. Any questions should be sent to convedit@mailbox.sc.edu.

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Subscribe/Information

To subscribe or edit your information, please send a message to convedit@mailbox.sc.edu or write to The Convergence Newsletter c/o School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208.

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