Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention

Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention
The logo of the Times Square Disney store is seen in Times Square, New York City, US Dec. 5, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 February 2023

Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention

Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention

HONG KONG: An episode of “The Simpsons” that refers to “forced labor camps” in China is nowhere to be found on the Disney+ streaming service in Hong Kong amid growing censorship concerns in the city.
Hong Kong once boasted significant artistic and cultural freedoms compared to mainland China, but authorities have clamped down on dissent following democracy protests in 2019, including stepping up film censorship.
Episode 2 of the US animated hit’s 34th season included the line: “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labor camps where children make smartphones and romance.”
“One Angry Lisa,” which first aired last October, could not be accessed on Disney+ using a Hong Kong connection but is available elsewhere, AFP confirmed.
It is the second time in three years that the streaming service’s Hong Kong version has dropped a Simpsons episode that satirised China.
The previously affected episode showed the Simpsons visiting Beijing’s Tiananmen Square — the site of a deadly 1989 crackdown on democracy protesters — finding a sign there that read: “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”
The Hong Kong government and Disney did not immediately provide comment.
In 2021, Hong Kong passed censorship laws forbidding broadcasts that might breach a broad national security law that China imposed on the city.
Censors have since ordered directors to make cuts to their films and refused permission for others to be shown.
While those rules do not cover streaming services, authorities have warned that online platforms are still subject to the national security law, which criminalizes the broadly defined crimes of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
In recent years, Hollywood has been accused of bending to China’s censorship regime to tap into its vast consumer base and billion-dollar box office.
A recent United Nations report found allegations of torture and forced labor in the far-western Xinjiang region were credible, accusations Beijing denies.
Rights groups say more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are detained in what the US State Department and others have said amounts to genocide.
In 2020, Disney came under fire for filming the live-action Mulan remake in Xinjiang, with local government agencies thanked in the credits.

CNN preaches patience as ratings tank during turnaround

CNN preaches patience as ratings tank during turnaround
Updated 30 March 2023

CNN preaches patience as ratings tank during turnaround

CNN preaches patience as ratings tank during turnaround
  • CNN's dip is most dramatic — 61% in prime time in March, with Fox News Channel down 27% and MSNBC off by 12%
  • CNN is a year into new corporate management with Warner Bros

NEW YORK: CNN’s leadership is preaching patience even though thousands of viewers are abandoning the network during its attempted turnaround, with no indication yet whether it will be rewarded.
Cable news ratings are down across the board compared to 2022, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was fresh in the news. CNN’s dip is most dramatic — 61 percent in prime time in March, with Fox News Channel down 27 percent and MSNBC off by 12 percent, according to the Nielsen company.
Fox averaged 2.09 million viewers in prime time in March, with MSNBC at 1.14 million and CNN at 473,000, Nielsen said. In the key 25-54 age demographic for advertisers, CNN is seeing some of its lowest numbers in decades.
CNN is a year into new corporate management with Warner Bros. Discovery, which hired ex-CBS producer Chris Licht to run the network. The chief goal has been to rebuild trust as a non-partisan news brand after years of criticism by former President Donald Trump and his followers, at a time Fox and MSNBC have profited handsomely by appealing to specific points of view.
Licht’s biggest programming move to date, a revamp of “CNN This Morning,” hasn’t borne fruit in the ratings and has been beset by bad publicity, including co-host Don Lemon’s ham-fisted reference to a woman’s prime years.
Changes to CNN’s daytime look are imminent. Licht’s vision for prime time is months away, though, and only beginning to take shape.
His plans are to couple news coverage with hosts from different worlds, including entertainment, who can talk about the news without a specific partisan take. Licht is exploring several possibilities, and CNN is reportedly close to deals with CBS’ Gayle King and former NBA star turned sportscaster Charles Barkley for shows that will air once a week, although the network wouldn’t confirm that.
If Licht’s bet pays off, CNN will strengthen its reputation as a news brand while also attracting viewers who are now watching Netflix or HGTV — not just competing news networks.
As those plans develop, CNN’s prime-time lineup has largely been in flux after Anderson Cooper’s hour at 8 p.m. Eastern. The network has experimented with some interviews, events and subject-focused hours at 9 p.m. Eastern. They include talks with first lady Jill Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and town halls with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and one focused on the Ohio train derailment.
The news hours that follow, at least for now, are led by Alisyn Camerota and Laura Coates.
“Viewers are a bit confused with all of the changes, particularly in the prime-time lineup,” said Jennifer Thomas, a former CNN producer who now teaches journalism at Howard University. She said CNN needs more news that impacts viewers and less analysis.
CNN expresses pride in some of the efforts, while admitting some are duds. Last Friday, for example, only 295,000 people watched Jake Tapper’s interview with “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis. It was less than a quarter of the people who saw Alex Wagner’s MSNBC show at the same 9 p.m. Eastern time slot, Nielsen said.
David Zaslav, president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, delivered a pep talk to hundreds of CNN managers earlier this month to reinforce the message that he wanted to see a network focused on the news that didn’t lean any way politically.
CNN saw strong ratings under the leadership of Licht’s predecessor, Jeff Zucker, and Zaslav said he recognized that a more partisan approach could bring more viewers and money, but that “it’s not what I came here to do,” according to a transcript of Zaslav’s speech.
He said he hoped the network would be able to figure out what is working and what isn’t. He urged the managers to not worry about outside noise.
“Ratings be damned,” he said. “Let’s focus on who we are. This is our mission. This is our legacy. And this is our journey together.”
The question for Licht and his team, as it is often in similar situations, is “how much time do they really have?” said Mark Whitaker, a former executive at CNN and NBC News.
Strong ratings mean more revenue, and more money to spend on programming, Whitaker said.
Cable news viewership is often very habit-driven, with viewers drawn to personalities they know and trust, he said. For the first three days this week, CNN’s 9 p.m. Eastern hour had three different hosts — Erin Burnett, Pamela Brown and Kaitlan Collins.
CNN must wonder whether viewers will lose the habit of tuning in while waiting for the network’s true personality to emerge under Licht. A new prime-time schedule is not likely until the fall.
It doesn’t help that many CNN viewers have long considered the network a utility to be used primarily when there are big stories, and it’s a relatively quiet period now. An important test will be how many viewers will reflexively turn to CNN during big news events, where it has often dominated the ratings.
MSNBC, in touting its biggest audience advantage over CNN in nearly four years, said that its viewers watched the network an average of 381 minutes per week during the first three months of 2023, compared to 183 minutes for CNN.
“They’re fighting against the toughest foe they can fight,” said Rick Kaplan, a former CNN president. “They’re fighting against short attention spans. They’re fighting against the fact that we’re such a divided people, so angry at each other, that if you don’t reflect that anger, the people don’t have time for you.”
Continued poor ratings “eats away at the fabric of the network, if you’re doing great shows and nobody is watching,” he said.
Kaplan said he believes CNN has the right executive in Licht, who has a strong track record as a successful programmer.
“If there’s a right way, he’ll find it,” he said.

Newly gathered Ramadan data promises to ‘revolutionize’ ad strategies

Newly gathered Ramadan data promises to ‘revolutionize’ ad strategies
Updated 30 March 2023

Newly gathered Ramadan data promises to ‘revolutionize’ ad strategies

Newly gathered Ramadan data promises to ‘revolutionize’ ad strategies
  • Offers insights into viewer stats for all TV programs and drama series
  • The data-collection project installed digital meters in 2,360 Saudi homes

LONDON: The Media Rating Company announced the release of “cutting-edge data” for the month of Ramadan, a significant period for broadcast channels and advertisers.

This data is particularly crucial during the first five days of the holy month, as it offers insights into viewer percentages for all TV programs and drama series, said MRC in a press release on Thursday.

The information should allow advertisers to craft better-targeted campaigns focused on the most-watched programs.

“We are proud to issue accurate and real-time data from within the Kingdom, which supports and contributes to the development of the advertising sector,” said MRC chief Bandar Anwar Al-Mashhadi.

“We are proud of our role in transferring knowledge from a global company such as Nelson to national cadres,” he added.

The Television Audience Measurement project was announced in December 2021 and officially set in motion in February with the aim of revolutionizing television broadcasting service providers, digital publishers, media agencies, and various advertising entities by delivering invaluable public consumption data for the media.

Overseen by MRC, the TAM project has installed digital meters in 2,360 homes across 24 Saudi cities, encompassing a diverse array of population groups, including Saudis, Arab residents, and non-Arab residents.

A staggering 1,979 of these households met TAM’s quality control and validation standards within the Kingdom.

The results indicate that the 2,360 participating households serve as a representative sample of 4.5 million households, or 8,296 individuals, which translates to 20.3 million people in the Kingdom.

In its first year, the study cast a wide net, measuring 150 channels while simultaneously monitoring and tracking 50 channels. Data on live TV consumption was meticulously collected daily, over seven days.

“The Saudi TAM system has already proven to be a game-changer in achieving the media infrastructure goals outlined in the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030,” said Abdullatif Mohammed Al-Abdullatif, CEO of the Audiovisual Media Commission.

He continued: “Viewing data in Saudi Arabia has reached new heights of credibility and accuracy thanks to cutting-edge technologies.

“The system acts as a catalyst for investors both within and outside the Kingdom by offering a treasure trove of media consumption data across a myriad of formats. This paves the way for a meteoric rise in national digital entertainment and media production.”

This public-private partnership seeks to attract diverse global digital content companies.

Russia arrests Wall Street Journal reporter for espionage

Russia arrests Wall Street Journal reporter for espionage
Updated 30 March 2023

Russia arrests Wall Street Journal reporter for espionage

Russia arrests Wall Street Journal reporter for espionage
  • Evan Gershkovich was detained in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg while allegedly trying to obtain classified information

MOSCOW: Russia’s top security agency says a reporter for the Wall Street Journal has been arrested on espionage charges.
The Federal Security Service (FSB), the top domestic security and counterintelligence agency that is the top successor agency to the Soviet era KGB, said Thursday that Evan Gershkovich was detained in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg while allegedly trying to obtain classified information.
Gershkovich is the first reporter for an American news outlet to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War. His arrest comes amid the bitter tensions between Moscow and Washington over the fighting in Ukraine.
The security service alleged that Gershkovich “was acting on the US orders to collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.”
The FSB didn’t say when the arrest took place. Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage.
Gershkovich covers Russia and Ukraine as a correspondent in the Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau. The FSB noted that he had accreditation from the Russian Foreign Ministry to work as a journalist.
His last report from Moscow, published earlier this week, focused on the Russian economy’s slowdown amid Western sanctions imposed when Russian troops entered Ukraine last year.

Report: North Korean hackers impersonate journalists to gather nuclear intelligence

Report: North Korean hackers impersonate journalists to gather nuclear intelligence
Updated 30 March 2023

Report: North Korean hackers impersonate journalists to gather nuclear intelligence

Report: North Korean hackers impersonate journalists to gather nuclear intelligence
  • ‘Sophisticated’ group linked to Pyongyang known as APT43
  • Targeted US and South Korea organizations, academics, think tanks

LONDON: North Korean hackers are impersonating journalists to gather intelligence about nuclear security policy, according to a new report.

Research published on Tuesday by Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm and a subsidiary of Google, found that in recent months a prolific cyber-espionage group associated with Pyongyang, known as APT43, has attempted to collect sensitive information by posing as journalists.

“Mandiant tracks tons of activity throughout the year, but we don’t always have enough evidence to attribute it to a specific group,” the firm said in a blog post.

“However, as we continue to observe more activity over time and our knowledge of related threat clusters matures, we may graduate it to a named threat actor. Such is the case with APT43.”

The group used the fabricated personas to contact organizations, academics and think tanks mainly in the US and South Korea, to obtain information by enquiring about nuclear security policy and weapons proliferation.

In one instance, the group contacted experts by posing as Voice of America journalists.

One message that appeared to be from a Voice of America correspondent asked an unnamed individual whether they expected Japan to increase its defense budget amid North Korean nuclear tests.

“I would be very grateful if you could send me your answers within five days,” the writer said.

In a similar campaign revealed in March, Mandiant said suspected North Korean hackers also distributed a fake email attachment that appeared to be from a recruiter for the New York Times.

“Anybody could be a victim of this. They’re just incredibly innovative and a scrappy group,” said Sandra Joyce, vice president and head of global intelligence at Mandiant.

In the report, Mandiant said that the hackers used a variety of tactics that focused on “creating numerous spoofed and fraudulent, but convincing personas” and leveraged stolen personally identifiable information to create accounts and register domains meant to look like legitimate websites and boost the credibility of the hackers’ cyber-espionage work.

The hackers also offered to pay scholars hundreds of dollars in exchange for writing research papers.

They also used malicious apps to generate cryptocurrency, steal usernames and passwords and conduct espionage focused on international negotiations about nuclear policy.

Mandiant is confident the group works on behalf of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary intelligence service.

“Although the overall targeting reach is broad, the ultimate aim of campaigns is most likely centered around enabling North Korea’s weapons program.” This included collecting information about international negotiations, sanctions policy, and other countries’ foreign relations and domestic politics “as these may affect North Korea’s nuclear ambitions,” Mandiant stated in the report.

According to Mandiant, the group is well-funded and has a sophisticated understanding of cyber-espionage techniques, and expects APT43’s activities to continue and even escalate.

The firm warned that organizations should be aware of APT43’s tactics and take steps to protect themselves, including implementing strong security measures and educating employees about the dangers of phishing attacks.

Manga Productions signs partnership agreement with Tsubasa Co. 

Manga Productions signs partnership agreement with Tsubasa Co. 
Updated 29 March 2023

Manga Productions signs partnership agreement with Tsubasa Co. 

Manga Productions signs partnership agreement with Tsubasa Co. 

RIYADH: Saudi company Manga Productions recently announced a partnership with Tsubasa Co., which will see the two entities collaborate on production, the distribution of “Captain Tsubasa” and various other projects. 

Attending the signing ceremony was world-renowned mangaka and creator of “Captain Tsubasa,” Yoichi Takahashi. 

CEO of Manga Productions Essam Bukhary told Arab News: “Generations have been inspired by ‘Captain Tsubasa’ for more than 30 years. The partnership of Manga Productions with Tsubasa Co. aims to extend our vision of inspiring the heroes of tomorrow and enriching the creative content industry both locally and globally.”

“Captain Tsubasa,” known as “Captain Majid” in Arabic, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Takahashi in 1981 and beloved by the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia in the 90s. The series revolves around an 11-year-old student with a deep passion for football.

Known as Tsubasa Ozora in Japan, Captain Majid follows his dreams of one day winning the FIFA World Cup in Japan and takes viewers on a journey of rivalry, friendship and talent.

According to the “How Arabs View Japan survey” conducted by Arab News and YouGov, 75 percent of respondents ranked “Captain Majid” as their favorite anime of all time. 

“Captain Tsubasa” became one of the most memorable manga and anime series worldwide, most notably in Japan, due to how it popularized association football. Many real-life players have been reportedly inspired to become professionals after seeing the series.

CEO of Tsubasa Co. Yoshiro Iwamoto said: “I’m delighted to see the ever-growing popularity of ‘Captain Tsubasa’ internationally and especially in Saudi Arabia and (the Middle East and North Africa) region throughout different generations. We look forward to our partnership with Manga Productions, the regional pioneers in the creative content industry, and building future successes through ‘Captain Tsubasa’ and business opportunities.”

“Captain Tsubasa” was first released as a Japanese manga series, which then transitioned into an anime series that aired between 1983-1986. 

Saudi company Manga Productions announced, on March 28, a partnership with Tsubasa Co., including production collaboration and distribution of "Captain Tsubasa" and various other projects. (SUPPLIED)

The series was then dubbed into multiple languages, airing in Arabic in the Middle East in 1990 and gaining international popularity. 

By 2010, the manga had been translated into English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.

Since 2017, several volumes have been available in an official Arabic translation, and one-third of the first print run of these were donated to Syrian refugee children by the publisher, Kinokuniya.

“Captain Tsubasa” has sold over 82 million copies worldwide and is among the best-selling manga series in the world, with the anime series ranking 41 in a list of top 100 anime series.