Stars at the Time Warner Building (source: PENTAX Image, Creative Commons)

Stars at the NYC Time Warner Building (source: PENTAX Image, Creative Commons)

AT&T is the latest telecommunications giant to try for a merger with the media and entertainment industry as the ink dries on an $85 billion deal with Time Warner Inc. In merging with Time Warner, AT&T would create the largest entertainment company in the nation, surpassing the Walt Disney Co., which acquired ABC in 1995, and Comcast Corporation, who already owns NBCUniversal and Telemundo, and recently picked up DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion. Consolidation has been a popular strategy to compete with the growing number of competitors who provide streaming content like Apple and Netflix, but the merger will no doubt draw its fair share of critics. Of particular note is the 2014 deal between Time Warner Cable (a separate company from Time Warner Inc.) and Comcast that cost the two companies $5.5 million before Comcast pulled it off the table in the face of likely opposition from the Department of Justice. The failure of Time Warner’s merger with AOL in 2000 and a slew of other examples further demonstrate how combining telecom and media can be problematic. Given the resistance that the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal inspired from federal regulators for limiting consumer choice, it’s hard to see an easy road ahead for the current merger, and the move is unlikely to cheer advocates for net neutrality given AT&T’s record on the issue.

Video Game Actors Seek Equal Pay. On October 16, representatives from SAG-AFTRA voted unanimously to strike after months of stalemate with key stakeholders in the rapidly growing video game industry. The labor union, which represents an increasing number of voiceover and motion-capture actors providing voices, vocal effects (like grunts and moans), and realistic body images for games, is calling for pay on par with that of motion picture and television actors. Unable to reach an agreement before SAG-AFTRA’s ultimatum, work stopped October 21 on projects put into production within the past eight months. The primary sticking point is residual pay; currently, video game actors received a flat fee while movie actors, for example, get bonus payments based on streaming, downloads and DVD sales. New union boss Gabrielle Carteris, best known for her role as West Beverly High’s academic all-star Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills 90210, has been a surprisingly vocal leader and staunch supporter of the strike, joining the picket lines with SAG-AFTRA’s 160,000 video game actors. Effects of the strike remain to be seen, as gaming companies estimate that only 25% of the total actors working in the industry belong to the union.

The Battle of Bollywood. The seven-decade-long conflict between India and Pakistan has now extended to the small screen. Pakistan removed Indian shows from television and radio in response to a decision from the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) to cease screening films with Pakistani casts; in addition, the popular Indian film director Karan Johar said he would no longer use Pakistani actors in his films. The moves come at a time of spiking tension between the two countries after a brutal attack on an Indian Army base in Kashmir that killed nearly 20 soldiers (for which Pakistan is blamed). Despite Bollywood’s immense popularity in Pakistan, a 1965 government restriction against Indian films was lifted less than 10 years ago in an effort to increase interest in Pakistani films across the border. While the IMPPA states that its ban is temporary, the organization’s leader has called for a permanent ban and the deportation of Pakistani actors and technicians working the the film industry in India.

Affordable Studio Space for London Artists. With real estate pressures putting a squeeze on artists in hub cities all over the world, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made good on his promise to do something about it in the UK’s capital. Khan announced the formation of the Creative Land Trust, a pool of public and private funds providing loans to London artmakers who rent studio space and are looking to buy their buildings, among other activities. The move comes two years after the Artists’ Workspace Study, which predicted the loss of artist spaces and, consequently, an exodus of artists out of the country. With the Mayor’s support, the study prompted the formation of Studiomakers, a group of influential entrepreneurs that works with developers and landowners to preserve and create spaces for Londoners to conduct creative practices.

Chaos in the U.S. Copyright Office? Just a few weeks into her new post as Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden removed Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante from the U.S. Copyright Office, assigning her to a new position as special advisor to the Library of Congress on digital strategy. Pallante declined the job and instead filed her letter of resignation. The shift is bringing a wave of concern to creatives, particularly in the music and film industries, who perceived Pallante as a champion for independent artists. Suspicions abound about the circumstances leading to Hayden’s decision to demote Pallante, including evidence that the Motion Picture Association of America aggressively lobbied the Copyright Office to protect its interests.

MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS

  • Billionaire financier David Rubenstein steps into the chairman position at the Smithsonian, adding to his roster of influential positions in Washington arts and culture.
  • Croatia’s new Minister of Culture Nina Obuljen Koržinek is pressed to create a cultural sector highlighting inclusivity and diversity with the “Kulturnjaci 2016″ initiative.
  • WolfBrown is looking for a full-time Audience Research Program Manager for its San Francisco office.

NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE

  • The Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment (HULA) project has developed a new methodology for researching the humanities.
  • University of Texas at Dallas’ Professor Stan Liebowitz disputes the findings of a much-cited 2007 article in the Journal of Political Economy that claimed piracy doesn’t impact music sales, bringing specific attention to methodological and data analysis problems.
  • New research out of Germany suggests that music training can reduce aggressive behavior in youth. Despite this positive news, a recent Norwegian study claims that musicians are twice as likely to use psychotropic medications, and three times more likely to experience negative mental health symptoms and seek psychotherapy compared to the general population. The effects of music training on the brain are thought to be different than that of dancing, according to a review in NeuroImage.
  • Research inspired by Immanuel Kant suggests that while art imitates life, it is perceived differently from representations of reality in the brain.
  • A study commissioned by Art Gallery of New South Wales supports the body of evidence recently detailed by Createquity that suggests art alleviates symptoms of dementia by reducing anxiety and increasing “in the moment pleasure.” Good news in light of news that individuals are never too old to experience the benefits of dance.
  • Discounted music and theater tickets for disadvantaged children may aid academic performance and self-confidence according to a study by Emer Smyth, research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). Smyth bases this claim on work by ESRI and The Arts Council of Ireland linking artistic engagement with academic self-image.
  • Scotland’s a good place for art according to the Scotland Household Survey, which reported an all-time high of 92% of adults engaging with cultural activities in 2015. However, figures are significantly lower in low-income areas of the country.
  • A recent study revealed that despite the diversity of the country, arts audiences in United Arab Emirates (UAE) are self-segregating. UAE is not the only country facing challenges expanding audience diversity. In the UK, a survey conducted by ArtsProfessional indicated that perceptions organizations make about their audiences can influence the diversity of the art they produce, further limiting the possibility of attracting diverse audiences.
  • An extensive review of the literature on the creative process identified 14 components of creativity. Happiness wasn’t one of them, perhaps indicating that efforts to lead a happier life will not necessarily bolster creative output.
  • The English Touring Opera recently conducted research investigating the the role of video content in marketing art. Results indicate that audiences use video content to support their ticket purchases after the fact, rather than motivating them to buy.
  • A new report from the UK suggests that cinema broadcasts of plays and musicals could have a positive effect on live performances.