Britain’s Channel 4 falters. Britain’s Channel 4 is a bit like our SBS, a state-owned TV channel allowed to screen advertising. But there is one big difference: Channel 4 is falling on hard times and fears are rising that it could run out of money, despite attempts to cut costs by cutting staff in recent months. Now talk of a forced merger between the channel and the successful BBC arm, BBC Worldwide, seem to have moved from being rumour to almost fact, as this report in the London Times suggests. ITV, the main commercial channel, is being forced to cut hundreds more staff on top of the 1000 already slated to go because of a sharp fall in ad revenues caused by the UK recession. So will it want some sort of government help, like Channel 4 wants?

If this deal was to get up, the UK Government would have to offer a big carrot to the BBC, which is already cutting staff, costs and facilities (and trying some sneaky expansions of its online web sites and news broadcasts). The BBC had hoped to sell a big stake in its London HQ to raise cash, but had been forced to admit that that will be impossible in the current economic and credit climate. That could mean steeper cuts will be needed, or it can deal with the Government to save Channel 4 and get some sort of increase in the amount of money it gets from the licence fee. A decision is needed by midway through January so a recommendation can be made by media regulators to the government, and then to the public for discussion.

It could see the biggest switch in British media policy for decades: any bailout of Channel 4 would be an admission that the hybrid state/commercial mix it represents doesn’t work in the current climate and has no future in the coming years of high government debt and sluggish business activity. SBS, along with the ABC, are due to find out in May of next year if their requests for new three-year funding arrangements have been successful. So far SBS’s “ad island” in-program TV advertising seems to be working, generating upwards of an extra $12 to $15 million a year, which is going into local production. — Glenn Dyer

Egypt says no to use of GPS on iPhone. Apple’s iPhone 3G has proved a sensation since it went on sale this summer, rapidly becoming the most popular mobile phone in the US, and selling almost 5m handsets worldwide. But as the Californian firm prepares to sell the award-winning gadget in Egypt, users there will have to go without a star feature: satellite navigation. Egypt has banned the import of all GPS-enabled devices, claiming it is a military-grade technology that can be used to help pinpoint government buildings or be used by terrorists. — The Guardian

Google Earth accused of aiding terrorists. An Indian Court has been called to ban Google Earth amid suggestions the online satellite imaging was used to help plan the terror attacks that killed more than 170 people in Mumbai last month. A petition entered at the Bombay High Court alleges that the Google Earth service, “aids terrorists in plotting attacks”. Advocate Amit Karkhanis has urged the court to direct Google to blur images of sensitive areas in the country until the case is decided. There are indications that the gunmen who stormed Mumbai on November 26, and the people trained them, were technically literate. The group appears to have used complex GPS systems to navigate their way to Mumbai by sea. They communicated by satellite phone, used mobile phones with several different SIM cards, and may have monitored events as the siege unfolded via handheld Blackberry web browsers. — Times Online

Jerry Yang announces Yahoo layoffs. Jerry Yang, Yahoo’s current CEO has sent a short but expected note announcing the start of Yahoo’s layoffs. Employees targeted will be told this morning whether they will be on of about 1500 (10%) of Yahoo’s workforce to leave the company. The layoffs are not from one particular part of Yahoo — but are expected to be from all areas of the company. Most employees apparently do not know if they will be let go which is likely to make this one of the most anxious days of the companies existence. — The Next Web

Curated subscription samples best indie mags. As magazines struggle to reinvent themselves for the new media landscape, alternative business models being experimented with include digital, personalized and mix-and-match subscription formats. Now, focusing on independent magazines, a new service offers a curated subscription that delivers a sampling of the best indie magazine issues throughout the year. Just launched last week, UK-based Stack aims to bring together the best independent English-language magazines from around the world and deliver them direct to readers. — Springwise

Les Moonves: CSI will crush Leno at 10pm. CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves challenged Jay Leno to a ratings duel when the late-night talk show host moves his NBC show to a prime-time slot of 10pm next fall. “I will bet anybody who would like to bet that CSI: Miami on Monday night at 10 o’clock will beat Jay by a lot. Remember that. By a lot,” Moonves said Wednesday at an investor conference hosted by UBS. Moonves said CBS was winning the ratings war in four of the five weeknights in the 10pm time slot with its shows such as Without a Trace and CSI: NY . — Huffington Post

Obscene losses. DVD sales are in free fall. Audiences are flocking to p-rnographic knockoffs of YouTube, especially a secretive site called YouP-rn. And the amateurs are taking over. What’s happening to the adult-entertainment industry is exactly what’s happening to its Hollywood counterpart — only worse. — Portfolio

Google magazine search at Google books. The word “magazine” is derived from the Arabic word “makhazin,” meaning storehouse. Since Daniel Defoe published the world’s first English magazine back in 1704, millions of magazines catering to nearly every imaginable taste have been created and consumed, passed from person to person in cafes, barber shops, libraries, and homes around the world. If you’re wondering what cars people drove in the eighties or what was in fashion thirty years ago, there’s a good chance that you’ll find that answer in a magazine. Yet few magazine archives are currently available online. Today, we’re announcing an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York Magazine , Popular Mechanics , and Ebony . — Google Blog

Wi-Fight — What’s happening in America could be a lesson for Australia. If John Muleta gets his way, the Internet will be as ubiquitous and accessible as any other public service in America. Muleta is the CEO of M2Z Networks, a Silicon Valley startup whose entire purpose is to build a wi-fi network for the entire country … without the help of the big telecoms … within 10 years … for free. Yes, Muleta’s a dreamer. But he’s not the only one. Muleta has two important allies in Washington to help turn his vision into a reality. Barack Obama is in favor of finding a way to deliver broadband to every American. And on Monday, word leaked that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was going to push for a national wi-fi network. But just because Obama and Martin want free wi-fi to happen doesn’t mean M2Z will be the one to implement it. And if a host of other things go wrong — namely Big Telecom playing dirty — it may not happen at all. — Big Money

Peter Fray

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