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Britain to sell Channel 4 in shake-up of broadcasting policy

Britain’s government set out plans to sell Channel 4, the publicly owned but commercially funded broadcaster established in the 1980s, in a shake-up of broadcasting policy published on Thursday.
Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ will also face tighter regulation, with new rules on offensive material, accuracy and privacy similar to those for traditional broadcasters, it said.

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Channel 4 was created by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government to deliver an edgy alternative to the BBC and ITV, with a focus on under-served audiences.
With no in-house production, it played a key role in establishing Britain’s independent program making sector.
The broadcaster’s management, lawmakers across parliament and television grandees oppose a sale, saying it would jeopardize Channel 4’s distinctive programming.
Britain’s Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure minister Julia Lopez said public service broadcasters such as Channel 4 delivered high-quality content, but the industry had changed beyond recognition with the rise of US streaming giants.
She said the government wanted to overhaul decades-old broadcasting regulations to put traditional broadcasters like the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 on an even playing field with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others.
“The sale of Channel 4 is just one part of that major piece of reform,” Lopez told lawmakers on Wednesday, adding that the
channel had “few options to grow, to invest and to compete” under public ownership.
“This government believes it’s time to unleash the broadcaster’s full potential and open Channel 4 up to private ownership and investment, while crucially protecting its public service broadcasting remit,” she said.
Channel 4 said it would respond after studying the policy paper, which is titled “Up next — the government’s vision for the broadcasting sector.”
“However, Channel 4 remains committed to upholding and maximizing its remit and public service purpose that has enabled
it to shape Britain’s creative culture and make a significant contribution to the creative industries, while also investing…
to create local and regional economic and social benefit,” a spokesperson said.
The new rules for streaming services will be drafted and enforced by regulator Ofcom, the government said, and breaches
could result in a maximum fine of 250,000 pounds ($311,725) or up to 5 percent of an organization’s turnover.
The remit for public service broadcasters will be changed to focus on making programs that reflect British culture, support
production in Britain and provide impartial news.
The government said it would also legislate to ensure public broadcaster content was always carried and easy to find for British audiences on connected devices and online platforms.
A spokesperson for ITV, Britain’s biggest free-to-air commercial broadcaster, said many of the proposals, notably reform to prominence and inclusion rules and a more flexible approach to remits, looked “very sensible.”
The BBC did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more: UK says BBC gets extra funding to ‘fight Russian disinformation’

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Dutch university gets cyber ransom money back with interest

A Dutch university that fell victim to a massive ransomware attack has partly received back its stolen money, which in the meantime more than doubled in value, a news report said on Saturday.

The southern Maastricht University in 2019 was hit by a large cyberattack in which criminals used ransomware, a type of malicious software that locks valuable data and can only be accessed once the victim pays a ransom amount.

“The criminals had encrypted hundreds of Windows servers and backup systems, preventing 25,000 students and employees from accessing scientific data, library and mail,” the daily De Volkskrant said.

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The hackers demanded 200,000 euros ($208,000) in bitcoins.

“After a week the university decide to accede to the criminal gang’s demand,” the paper said.

“This was partly because personal data was in danger of being lost and students were unable to take an exam or work on their theses,” it said.

Dutch police traced part of the ransom paid to an account belonging to a money launderer in Ukraine.

Prosecutors in 2020 seized this man’s account, which contained a number of different crypto currencies including part of the ransom money paid by Maastricht.

“When, now after more than two years, it was finally possible to get that money to the Netherlands, the value had increased from 40,000 euros to half-a-million euros,” the paper said.

Maastricht University will now get the 500,000 euros ($521,000) back.

“This money will not go to a general fund, but into a fund to help financially strapped students,” Maastricht University ICT director Michiel Borgers said.

The investigation into the hackers responsible for the attack on the university is still ongoing, De Volkskrant added.

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Singer R. Kelly sues Brooklyn jail for putting him on suicide watch

R. Kelly on Friday sued the Brooklyn jail that has housed him since his racketeering and sex crimes conviction, saying it wrongly put him on suicide watch after he received a 30-year prison sentence despite knowing he was not suicidal.

In a complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court, the 55-year-old multiplatinum R&B singer said officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center ordered the watch after his June 29 sentencing “solely for punitive purposes” and because he was a “high-profile” inmate.

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Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean quoted a prosecutor as saying the jail’s legal counsel had told her that “per the psychology department, is on a psych alert for various reasons, such as age, crime, publicity and sentencing.” No timetable was provided.

Bonjean wasn’t satisfied with the explanation. “Simply put, MDC Brooklyn is run like a gulag,” she wrote.

Kelly said the “harsh conditions” he faced led to “severe mental distress,” and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment that violated the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.

He is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, though the docket suggests Kelly is seeking $100 million.

The jail did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Known for the 1996 Grammy-winning hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” Kelly was convicted last September on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which bars transporting people across state lines for prostitution.

Prosecutors said Kelly exploited his stardom and wealth over two decades to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex, with the help of his entourage.

Kelly said he was also put on suicide watch after his conviction.

Ghislaine Maxwell, another inmate at the Brooklyn jail, was placed on suicide watch on June 24, four days before being sentenced to 20 years in prison for aiding financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls.

Maxwell’s lawyer said the British socialite had been given a “suicide smock” and deprived of clothing, toothpaste and soap though she too was not suicidal.

Friday’s filings did not say what specific conditions Kelly faced.

Kelly still faces an August trial in Chicago federal court on child pornography and obstruction charges, and various state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

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Sharjah Museums Authority launches activities to mark International Museum Day

Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) is marking the International Museum Day with a number of events held for three days between July 1 and July 3, 2022, at Al Zahia City Centre Mall.

During this year’s celebration under the theme ‘The Power of Museums,’ SMA’s lineup of activities will reflect the importance of museums as significant cultural and educational destinations.

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Members of the public will enjoy replicas of museum’s collections such as one-of-five astrolabes preserved by international museums, pearl sieves that were used to categorize pearl sizes, the ‘Burqa’ which is a traditional face wear that adorned Emirati women’s faces, and a statue of a camel that was uncovered in Muweilah area of Sharjah.

Activities between 10 am and 12 midnight at the mall’s main hall and theatre will also include guidd tours, live performances, and calligraphy workshops.

More events will focus on old Emirati professions and their tools with an aim to better connect community members with the rich history and heritage of the UAE.

“From promoting an understanding of differences, to addressing key social issues, museums are more important today than they have ever been,” said Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority.

Being educational centers and social spaces, Ataya said museums have the power to influence both change and development because they broaden knowledge, stimulate new ideas, encourage creative thinking, and help build social cohesion in their respective communities.

“Museums provide visitors with new perspectives and nurtures their curiosity to learn about other cultures, thereby building cultural bridges and supporting diversity in multicultural societies, in particular, as seen in the UAE,” she added.
The list of events also include a number of interactive programs and workshops about Islamic architecture, marine turtles, and pottery making that aim to engage children and adults alike.

Sixteen doors that represent SMA’s themed museums will introduce participants to the diverse offerings of the authority's distinguished cultural and educational centers.

International Museum Day is celebrated annually on May 18 to raise awareness about the importance of museums as means of cultural exchange and as centers of learning that educate people about the history of humankind.

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