Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.
The crackdown on free press in Hong Kong furthered this week as Apple Daily, the city’s largest pro-democracy newspaper, announced its closure.
The news comes in the wake of Chinese government’s intensifying pressure on the outlet, including the arrest of Apple Daily’s leaders last week and the imprisonment of its founder Jimmy Lai in 2020.
As BBC notes, “the tabloid has long been a beacon of media freedom in the Chinese-speaking world, and is widely supported by political dissidents in Hong Kong.” Its closure is emblematic of the deteriorating press freedom in the city.
Although Hong Kong is still notably freer than mainland China, including the absence of internet controls imposed elsewhere in the country, its ranking in the Press Freedom Index has dropped markedly over the last decade.
The UK’s government confirmed this week that it’s considering privatisation of Channel 4, a publicly owned TV station created under Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1982.
Critics fear part of the reason for potential privatisation is political. As The Economist puts it, “Boris Johnson’s government is even more peeved than previous Conservative administrations about left-wing bias in the broadcast media,” and “Channel 4 News leans liberal.” However, the changing economic landscape of the TV industry plays a big role as well.
The prospects of the privatisation are unclear, however. To make the channel attractive for private buyers, the government will likely need to relax some of the legal requirements imposed on Channel 4 – the changes that would have to be confirmed by the parliament.
And, as Reuters notes, privatisation will face the opposition from the independent TV production sector helped by Channel 4 – the reason previous governments considering privatisation didn’t follow through.
Finally, this week brought two tech updates noteworthy for the news media.
First, Google announced it would delay its plans to phase out support for third-party cookies. Instead of early 2022, as previously planned, the new deadline will be late 2023. The news will give more time to the digital advertising ecosystem to adjust to the changes.
According to Digiday, “Google’s decision to extend its deadline seems largely driven by government pressure” in Europe. The company will also end its current trial of FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), its controversial alternative to cookies.
Second, Microsoft unveiled its upcoming Windows 11. Among other updates, the new operating system will feature a possibility to support local content creators.
As The Verge summarises it, “In an expansion on the weather and news taskbar widget [Microsoft] recently added to Windows 10, it not only highlights sources in your areas, but it has a payment feature built right in… you can support people with straight cash donations or Microsoft points.”