Media Insider: Ozy Media shuts down, BBC staff vote to strike, CNN debuts Middle East hub

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s roundup of media news stories from the week.

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Ozy Media Shuts Down Following Federal Fraud Indictment of Founder Carlos Watson
The Wrap | Josh Dickey

Ozy Media is suspending operations days after founder Carlos Watson was indicted on charges of securities and wire fraud. The company announced in a tweet that it was shutting down after a determination by its board of directors. “In light of its current operational and legal challenges, the OZY board has determined that it’s in the best interests of its stakeholders to suspend operations immediately,” the company said. The federal indictment against Watson reveals how the media mogul and his partners forged documents, faked financials, and impersonated media executives to enrich themselves while keeping the struggling company afloat. Watson faces a minimum sentence of two years and a maximum of 37 years in prison if convicted.

ICYMI: Remezcla, a digital culture magazine that serves 15 million U.S. Latinos, mostly Gen Z, has received a large investment from multicultural media company My Code.

Google Blocks News Results in Some Canadian Searches
Wall Street Journal | Vipal Monga

Google is blocking news content on its search function in Canada for some of its users as it tests ways to respond to proposed legislation that would force online platforms to pay media organizations for links to their stories. Google’s move comes as the bill, known as C-18, goes before the Canadian senate for debate. The bill was approved by the lower house of parliament late last year. Google’s test affects less than 4% of randomly chosen users in Canada, according to the company, and will run for roughly five weeks. “We’ve been fully transparent about our concern that C-18 is overly broad and, if unchanged, could impact products Canadians use and rely on every day. We remain committed to supporting a sustainable future for news in Canada and offering solutions that fix Bill C-18,” said a Google representative in an emailed statement. A spokeswoman for Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said, “All we’re asking the tech giants to do is compensate journalists when they use their work.”

Over at Twitter, the company laid off another 10% of its staff last weekend, bringing the company’s headcount down to under 2,000 staffers.

German publisher Axel Springer says journalists could be replaced by AI
The Guardian | Jonathan Yerushalmy

In an internal letter to employees, Mathias Doepfner, CEO of German media group Axel Springer, said journalists are at risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT. “Artificial intelligence has the potential to make independent journalism better than it ever was – or simply replace it,” said Doepfner. The announcement was made as the publisher sought to boost revenue at German newspapers Bild and Die Welt and transition to becoming a “purely digital media company.” The company said job cuts lay ahead because automation and AI are increasingly making many of the jobs that support the production of their journalism redundant. It did not specify how many of its staff could be cut, but promised that no cuts would be made to the number of reporters, authors, or specialist editors.

Speaking of artificial intelligence, Meta is revamping its AI unit to get generative tech into its products.

BBC Staff Vote To Stage Biggest Strike In 13 Years
Deadline | Jake Kanter

BBC employees have voted to stage their biggest strike in 13 years in protest over the corporation’s changes to local content in England. Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have warned that they could target King Charles III’s Coronation in May. Some 83% voted in favor of strike in a postal ballot, with the remaining 17% not supporting a walkout. The turnout was 69%, which was higher than some were expecting. The staff will stage their first 24-hour strike on March 15, which has been timed to coincide with the UK’s government’s budget day. The NUJ has confirmed that Eurovision is also a target.

Also from Deadline: Vice France is shutting down by the end of the month.

CNN Debuts High-Tech Middle East Hub in Abu Dhabi
Variety | Nick Vivarelli

CNN on Monday went live from a new state-of-the-art broadcasting facility in Abu Dhabi being touted as a new chapter in the network’s commitment to the Middle East. The new bureau has a 10-million-pixel video wall, a suite of fully robotic HD cameras, and four editing suites. It is located on Abu Dhabi’s artificial Yas Island in the new Yas Creative Hub established to lure media industries to Abu Dhabi. The new hub increases the scale and scope of CNN’s UAE operation, boosting Abu Dhabi’s role as “one of the network’s key international production hubs, alongside Atlanta, New York, London, and Hong Kong,” CNN said in a statement.

Politico is also increasing its overseas investment. The company nearly doubled the size of its London bureau, with plans to triple it in the next 18 months. 

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Maria Perez is director of web operations at Cision. In her spare time, she enjoys gaming, watching too much TV, and chasing squirrels with her dog Cece.

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