Facebook makes reality TV its new weapon for web supremacy

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Facebook makes reality TV its new weapon for web supremacy

  • The company’s head of video Paresh Rajwat said Facebook Watch was now available across the world
  • MTV boss Chris McCarthy predicted that Facebook Watch was going to “create a whole a new genre of shared reality TV”

CANNES: Facebook said Wednesday it was reviving the pioneering MTV reality show “The Real World” as its secret weapon to lure viewers away from YouTube.
The social media giant said it was also trying to harness the formidable online power of the “cute kitten” factor with a new show called “World’s Most Amazing Dog” on its new Facebook Watch platform.
Users who think their pooch is cute enough to be a contender can enter audition videos from their phones, it told TV executives at MIPCOM in Cannes, the world’s top entertainment showcase.
The company’s head of video Paresh Rajwat said Facebook Watch — which began to be rolled out in the US last year — was now available across the world, with “the time people spend on it increasing by 14 times since.”
“The Real World” was one of the first “social experiment” TV reality shows when it aired in 1992, spawning others like “Big Brother.”
It turns on the moment when “seven strangers put together stop being polite and start being real,” said Facebook’s content and strategy chief Matthew Henick.
Three versions of the new Facebook variant of the show will be launched simultaneously in the US, Mexico and Thailand.
Users will be able to “co-watch with their friends and interact with the contestants,” stealing a march on its Internet rivals, Henick told the gathering in the French Riviera resort.
Rajwat said Facebook Watch was “completely open” and was already being used by broadcasters, with new contestants on Germany’s “X Factor” recently being introduced to fans on the platform before they made their TV debuts.
He said its interactivity means “watching videos doesn’t have to be a passive experience... with friends able to co-watch together in real time.”
A new service called “Watch Party” allowing “people to watch and comment all at the same time” has already been used on celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s “Veggie Challenge,” he added.
A Facebook Watch show called “Sorry For Your Loss” about a “young widow struggling to put her life back together has led to long meaningful conversations about dealing with grief,” Rajwat said, with many users “offering help to people who lost their beloveds. This is where Facebook is different,” he said.
MTV boss Chris McCarthy predicted that Facebook Watch was going to “create a whole a new genre of shared reality TV,” and help shows lift off when it was “harder and harder to break through with more and more content” out there.


Iran state TV’s English channel says anchorwoman held in US

Updated 16 January 2019
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Iran state TV’s English channel says anchorwoman held in US

  • The reported detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties

TEHRAN: A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television’s English-language service has been arrested after flying into the US, the broadcaster reported Wednesday. US law enforcement agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The reported detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin of New Orleans, comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties, previously used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers.
Iran’s state broadcaster held a news conference and launched a hashtag campaign for Hashemi, using the same techniques families with loved ones held in the Islamic Republic use to highlight their cases.
“We will not spare any legal action” to help her, said Paiman Jebeli, deputy chief of Iran’s state IRIB broadcaster.
Press TV said Hashemi, who has worked at the state broadcaster service for 25 years, had been arrested after arriving at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Sunday. Jebeli alleged that her son, Reza Hashemi, had been arrested as well.
Jeff Lea, a spokesman for St. Louis Lambert International Airport, didn’t immediately return phone or email messages from The Associated Press. Rebecca Wu, St. Louis’ FBI spokeswoman, directed questions to the press office at FBI headquarters.
A call to FBI headquarters rang unanswered early Wednesday morning. The bureau also did not immediately respond to a written request for comment. Several local jails around Washington that house federal inmates also said they did not have her in custody.
Last week, Iran confirmed it is holding US Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state TV that Hashemi’s arrest indicates the “apartheid and racist policy” of the Trump administration.
“We hope that the innocent person will be released without any condition,” Ghasemi said.
There are four other known American citizens being held in Iran, including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father Baquer, both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 year in prison.
Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a US permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for Internet freedom and has done work for the US government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance. Tehran now says it has no information about him.