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Weekly Digest: Attacks and Acquisitions

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.

In early January, an investigation by EU Observer’s Andrew Rettman revealed audio recordings that suggest potential Belarusian involvement in the murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet. Born in Belarus, Sheremet worked in Russia and then in Ukraine for the last years of his life, before being murdered in a car explosion in Kyiv in 2016. 

The audio seems to indicate that officers of the Belarusian KGB security service discussed killing Sheremet back in 2012 because of the journalist’s criticism of the country’s government headed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Ukrainian police have opened an investigation on the recordings.  

More from The Fix: Help needed: what can be done to support Belarusian media 

Wednesday’s storming of the US Capitol has been a crisis not only for the American democracy but also for the media.

On the immediate level, journalists trying to cover the event, themselves became a target of pro-Trump crowds. The New York Times reports that the mob specifically attacked journalists as “violent protesters smashed equipment and punched a photographer”. In a symbolic reaffirmation of their intentions, the protesters carved the words “Murder the media” on a door inside the Capitol.

On an indirect level, many tech and media organisations were faced with difficult choices trying to balance the coverage of the unrest. According to The New York Times, even before, “Trump’s push to undo election results divided his media allies”, including inside Fox News. They will hardly have an easier time in the wake of the riots. 

In turn, social media platforms took unprecedented steps of locking Trump’s accounts citing the current President’s incitement of violence. At the time of writing, the most aggressive response came from Facebook whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Trump’s accounts would be suspended indefinitely on Facebook and Instagram.

More from The Fix: After Trump and record elections: what’s next for the news media? 

The UK government has decided to appoint Richard Sharp as the next chairman of the BBC. Sharp is a former banker, a major Conservative Party donor, former adviser to Boris Johnson and current adviser to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Sharp was considered a frontrunner for the position after Charles Moore, an outspoken critic of the BBC in the past, ruled himself out; with Sharp’s appointment being much less controversial than Moore’s would have been. He will assume office in February.

More from The Fix: BBC Annual Report Shows “Strong Year”, Need for More Reforms / “The BBC is having a good pandemic” 

In an article on news media models in 2021, we cited concerns of podcasting’s struggle for independence as big platforms are moving in the field. Although we are yet to see how it will impact independence, the last two weeks highlighted the platforms’ growing interest in podcasting with two important acquisitions announced.

Last week, Amazon announced it would buy Wondery, one of the biggest independent podcasting companies. According to reporting by The New York Times, the price is roughly $300 million. As CNBC points out, “Amazon has a foothold in audio content beyond Amazon Music” – and the company is looking to expand its advantage as it competes with Spotify, Apple and other audio platforms.

This week, Twitter announced acquiring Breaker, a social podcasting app that was founded in 2016 and helped advance the infrastructure of podcasting listening interface. This case looks like “acqui-hiring” – Breaker itself will shut down, while its team will focus on developing Twitter Spaces, the platform’s audio project.

More from The Fix: Models for news media in 2021 

Bonus — Seven more news stories you might want to check out:

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