Sony, Apollo discuss joint bid for Paramount, says source

The private equity firm Apollo previously made a $26 billion offer to buy Paramount Global, whose enterprise value at the end of 2023 was about $22.5 billion. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 April 2024
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Sony, Apollo discuss joint bid for Paramount, says source

  • Paramount is already in an exclusive deal with Skydance Media over possible merger

LONDON: Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Global Management are discussing making a joint bid for Paramount Global, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The companies have yet to approach Paramount, which is in exclusive deal talks with Skydance Media, an independent studio led by David Ellison, though some investors have urged Paramount to explore other options.
The competing bid, which is still being structured, would offer cash for all outstanding Paramount shares and take the company private, the source said.
Sony would hold a majority stake in the joint venture and operate the media company, and its library of films, including such classics as “Star Trek,” “Mission:Impossible” and “Indiana Jones,” and television characters like SpongeBob SquarePants, according to the source.
Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Tony Vinciquerra, a veteran media executive with deep experience in film and television, would likely run the studio and take advantage of Sony’s marketing and distribution.
Apollo would likely assume control of the CBS broadcast network and its local television stations, because of restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcast stations, the source said. Sony’s parent corporation is headquartered in Tokyo.
The New York Times first reported the Sony-Apollo discussions. Paramount and Sony declined comment. Apollo could not be reached for comment.
The private equity firm previously made a $26 billion offer to buy Paramount Global, whose enterprise value at the end of 2023 was about $22.5 billion.
A special committee of Paramount’s board elected to continue with its advanced deal talks with Skydance, rather than chase a deal “that might not actually come to fruition,” said two people with knowledge of the board’s action.
The board committee is evaluating the possible acquisition of the smaller independent studio in a stock deal worth $4 billion to $5 billion.
Skydance is negotiating separately to acquire National Amusements, a company that holds the Redstone family’s controlling interest in Paramount, according to a person familiar with the deal terms. That transaction is contingent upon a Skydance-Paramount merger.


Arab News takes home 18 Society for News Design awards

Updated 36 sec ago
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Arab News takes home 18 Society for News Design awards

  • Honors continue newspaper’s winning streak

LONDON: Arab News secured 18 awards at the prestigious 45th edition of the Society for News Design’s competition, continuing its streak of recent accolades.

Saudi Arabia’s first English-language daily won awards of excellence in several categories, including page design for “Spotlight regional year-end collection” and “Events that shook the Arab world.”

The newspaper also received awards for infographics such as “The Kingdom vs. landmines” and the business year-in-review page design for “Beating the global financial turbulence.”

Other awards were received for: “Diriyah E-Prix: New teams, new brand” page design; “New era of Saudi football kicks off” page design; “Hajj 2023: The fast track to Makkah” page design; “Hajj 2023: The step-by-step guide to Hajj” infographics; “A defense industry trailblazer” Spotlight page design; “Egypt feels shark attack’s bite” Spotlight page design; “The ice menace” Spotlight page design; “Opinion Year-End Collection” Opinion page design; “Onions’ tears and inflation fears” Spotlight page design; “Douglas Okasaki” portfolio award; “Saudi Arabia Founding Day 2023” front page design; “King Charles III coronation” front page; “Accession to the British throne” page design; and “Saudi National Day: Why Riyadh?” cover wrap design.

The last two also received Awards of Excellence at the sixth Newspaper Design competition earlier this month.

Omar Nashashibi, head of design at Arab News, said: “Having had the privilege of serving as a judge at SND’s 44th Annual Creative Competition, I’ve seen the exceptional quality of entries firsthand.

“Winning 18 awards, doubling our tally from last year’s competition, is a remarkable achievement for Arab News and our design team, who should be very proud. These awards wouldn’t be possible without their talent and dedication, the world-class illustrators we collaborated with for our Opinion Year-End Collection, and Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas’ support and unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of our coverage.”

Founded in the US in 1979, SND annually recognizes the best examples of visual journalism worldwide across graphic design, illustration, web design, and infographics.

This year’s competition included entries from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, South China Morning Post, and Bloomberg.

The total number of accolades now won by Arab News has reached 143 under the leadership of Abbas.

Past recognition encompasses a range of special projects, including multiple international awards for “Saudi’s animal kingdom,” “The Kingdom vs. Captagon” deep dive, and the “FIFA Qatar World Cup 2022” special edition.

For more information about Arab News and its award-winning projects, visit https://www.arabnews.com/greatesthits.


Video of Israeli soldier burning Qur’an sparks outrage

Updated 9 min 50 sec ago
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Video of Israeli soldier burning Qur’an sparks outrage

  • Israeli authorities launch investigation into incident

LONDON: A video of an Israeli soldier burning a Qur’an has emerged on social media, sparking a wave of criticism.

The video, shared by Israeli Army Radio on Thursday, shows the soldier standing in the ruins of a mosque in East Rafah, Gaza, throwing the Qur’an with its pages open into a fire.

According to Israeli broadcaster Kan, the soldier posted the footage on his personal Instagram account a few days ago.

The incident was condemned by Israeli authorities, who announced the launch of an investigation.

“The soldier’s behavior is not in line with the IDF’s values,” the Israeli army said in a statement.

“The IDF respects all religions and condemns such behavior. An IDF investigation has been opened regarding the incident.”

Palestinian writer and activist Adham Abu Selmiya criticized the act on social media, warning that similar actions have often gone unpunished.

“This is not an isolated incident. The Israeli army has destroyed and bombed over 200 mosques in Gaza in the ongoing genocide, with countless videos of soldiers bragging about these acts,” he said on X.

“This is not limited to Gaza! Settlers in the West Bank have burned Qur’ans in Hebron, facing no repercussions from the Israeli government.”

Another user criticized the conduct, expressing frustration over the lack of condemnation from the international community and Israel’s allies.

“This is the conduct and the morals of Israeli warfare that’s backed by the democratic West,” the post read.

Since the launch of the war on Gaza, Israeli soldiers have posted videos documenting acts of looting, burning, and destruction of homes, assaulting detainees and writing hate graffiti on the walls of houses.

The Israeli army has not announced measures against these soldiers, only stating that their actions “contravene the army’s values.”

In a similar incident in March, an Israeli soldier appeared to have posted a video of himself tearing apart a copy of the Qur’an in a mosque in Gaza.

Some experts have said that the desecration of religious and private places in Gaza is part of a policy of humiliation carried out by Israeli soldiers.


Russian rights group says YouTube threatens to block its anti-war channel

Updated 23 May 2024
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Russian rights group says YouTube threatens to block its anti-war channel

  • OVD-Info said YouTube’s email followed a request by the Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor

LONDON: A leading Russian rights group says it has received a notice from YouTube threatening to block access in Russia to one of its video channels featuring news on the war in Ukraine.
OVD-Info, an independent protest monitoring network, said it had received an email from YouTube in early May saying that the Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor had found content on the channel that violated a law on information technology.
“If you do not remove the content, Google may be required to block it,” Alphabet Inc’s YouTube wrote, according to screenshots of an email shared with Reuters. The email did not specify which part of the law OVD-Info was accused of violating.
The channel, Kak Teper (What’s Going On), has 100,000 subscribers and features interviews with Russian opposition figures and political news segments that often touch on the war.
“We are consulting with YouTube and Google and trying to explain that the demand to block our channel is an act of political censorship,” said OVD-Info spokesperson Dmitrii Anisimov. He said the group’s other YouTube channel was not affected.
Contacted by Reuters two times about Youtube’s discussions with OVD-Info, a spokesperson for YouTube did not respond. The spokesperson answered separate questions about three other opposition channels which had videos blocked.
Like many Western technology companies, Google quit Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, pulling its staff and suspending all advertising sales, including on YouTube.
Russia has blocked the vast majority of foreign social media platforms, but has stopped short of blocking YouTube despite fining the video-hosting platform repeatedly for failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal.
YouTube has tens of millions of monthly users in Russia and blocking the entire platform could prove highly unpopular.
Russian independent media reported on Monday that YouTube had deleted videos from three other channels that provided information on how to evade Russian military service.
Two of the groups told Reuters their content had been reinstated within a day after the media reports.
When contacted by Reuters about the videos, the YouTube spokesperson replied by email: “The content in question has been reinstated to YouTube,” without elaborating.
OVD-Info’s Kak Teper would be the first Russian human rights channel to be banned on YouTube, as opposed to just a few videos, according to Natalia Krapiva, tech legal counsel at global digital rights non-profit Access Now.
“We will not have any YouTube to fight for anymore if all the civil society is blocked there,” Krapiva said in a phone interview.


Dutch prosecutors studying complaint against Booking.com’s Israeli settlement listings

Updated 23 May 2024
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Dutch prosecutors studying complaint against Booking.com’s Israeli settlement listings

AMSTERDAM: Dutch prosecutors are looking into a criminal complaint against Booking.com over its listing of rental properties in Israeli settlements, they said on Thursday.
Dutch non-profit organization SOMO said it had filed the complaint with the Dutch public prosecutor in November, together with three other human rights groups, but had not gone public with it before.
In their complaint the groups accuse Booking.com of “profiting from war crimes by facilitating the rental of vacation homes on land stolen from the indigenous Palestinian population.”
Prosecutors were studying the complaint, but could not give a timeline for a decision on possible further steps, spokesperson Brechje van de Moosdijk said.
Booking in a response said it disagreed with the allegations and that there are no laws prohibiting listings in Israeli settlements, while a range of US state laws would prohibit divesting from the region.
“Legal action has been taken against other companies that have tried to withdraw their activities, and we would expect the same to happen in our case,” a spokesperson for the company said.
SOMO said its research had shown that Booking’s platform offered up to 70 listings for properties in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank between 2021 and 2023.
It argued that revenues acquired from renting out those properties are “proceeds of criminal activities,” and that by booking these proceeds in the Netherlands the company is violating Dutch anti-money laundering rules.
The settlements built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war are deemed illegal by most countries, including the Netherlands. Their presence is one of the fundamental issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as their capital. Israeli settlers cite Jewish historic connections to the land.


News Corp. makes deal to let OpenAI use its content

Updated 23 May 2024
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News Corp. makes deal to let OpenAI use its content

  • ChatGPT’s creator is also in the process of signing content licensing agreements with media outlets

NEW YORK: News Corp. on Wednesday announced a deal to let ChatGPT-maker OpenAI use content from its publications in artificial intelligence products.
OpenAI will get access to current and archived content from News Corp. properties including The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, and The New York Post, according to a joint release.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal cited sources close to the company as saying it was valued at more than $250 million over five years and included credits for News Corp. using OpenAI technology.
Authors, artists, and news groups have been accusing OpenAI and its rivals in the generative artificial intelligence market of using copyrighted content for training models without asking permission or paying.
Generative AI models are trained on mountains of data in the effort to get software to think the way people do.
“This landmark accord is not an end, but the beginning of a beautiful friendship in which we are jointly committed to creating and delivering insight and integrity instantaneously,” News Corp. chief executive Robert Thomson said.
OpenAI gets permission to display News Corp. content in response to queries by users of its technology, according to terms of the deal.
“Our partnership with News Corp. is a proud moment for journalism and technology,” Open AI CEO Sam Altman said in the release.
“Together, we are setting the foundation for a future where AI deeply respects, enhances, and upholds the standards of world-class journalism.”
ChatGPT’s creator is also in the process of signing content licensing agreements with media outlets — including the Associated Press, Germany’s Axel Springer Group (publisher of tabloid Bild), French daily Le Monde and Spanish conglomerate Prisa Media — to enrich its models.
The announcement of the agreement with News Corp. comes on the heels of a new controversy, after actress Scarlett Johansson accused OpenAI of copying her voice for a new voice assistant without her permission.
Altman has apologized and announced the suspension of the voice, called “Sky.”