Apple CEO Tim Cook can expect a tough grilling about his company’s tax practices tomorrow when he appears before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on “Offshore Profit Shifting and the U.S. Tax Code.” An 18-month bipartisan investigation — whose findings were summarized in a memo released today – charges that Apple’s offshore subsidiary, Apple Operations International, reported net income of $30B from 2009 to 2012 but “declined to declare any tax residence, filed no corporate income tax return, and paid no corporate income taxes to any national government for five years.” In addition, Ireland-based Apple Sales International generated $74B in sales income over four years but allegedly “paid taxes on only a tiny fraction of that income” after the company negotiated a deal with the government that enabled Apple to pay a tax rate of less than 2% vs the statutory rate of 12%. READ MORE »
Let’s establish one fact before we look at the wheels that Sen. John McCain just set in motion with his new bill to end cable channel bundling (read it here). It won’t pass. This isn’t Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. And two things have changed since 2006, the last time the Arizona Republican tried — and failed — to promote a la carte cable pricing. He’s no longer on the Commerce Committee which likely would have to move the legislation forward. What’s more, his new Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 has a provision that would strip licenses from broadcasters who move programming to pay TV as Fox, CBS, and Univision have threatened if they lose their court challenge to streaming service Aereo. The provision ensures that the broadcast lobby will join cable to do everything in their power to defeat McCain’s bill. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has already weighed in. Consumers “enjoy more choice than ever before,” it says adding: “In the face of such innovation and expansion, attempting to force retail models on private providers is unnecessary and counterproductive.” Regardless of what you think about the argument, McCain and his supporters can’t match the lobby groups’ muscle.
John McCain Introduces Cable A La Carte Legislation To Stop Bundling & Broadcasters Moving To Pay TV
John McCain wants to unbundle cable and to stop broadcasters like CBS and Fox from moving their stations to pay TV. The Arizona senator right now on the Senate floor is introducing The TV Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 (read it here). The legislation is intended to “allow the consumer, the television viewer who subscribes to cable, to have à la carte capability. In other words, not required to buy a whole bunch of channels that that consumer may not want wish to subscribe to,” McCain said moments ago. The former GOP Presidential candidate also went after broadcasters like CBS and Fox who have said that they could move to cable if they lose in the courts against Barry Diller’s Aereo streaming service. “We’ll also establish consequences if broadcasters choose to downgrade their over-the-air service,” McCain told the Senate. His legislation would also eliminate the sports blackout rule “in events that are held in publicly financed stadiums.”
The proposal is expected to meet heavy resistance among the cable companies. ”Only Dish and Cablevision have been for a la carte and smaller bundles because we think it’s consumer-friendly”, Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen said during his company’s conference call today. “Having said that, there are five big groups that probably have enough clout in Congress to stop that legislation today. He added that “the marketplace is going to determine” if the price is too high. “There’s an awful lot of people who don’t consume (200 channels)”, he said, “and most of us would like to look for creative solutions”.
It looks like the U.S. Senate, a body used to politics of every stripe, is now injecting itself into Hollywood’s Oscar politics by taking visible public stands on two major Oscar contenders, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty. Disney/Fox/Dreamworks’ Oscar contender Lincoln was the beneficiary of an almost unheard of bi-partisan screening for the U.S. Senate tonight. But that was almost overshadowed earlier today when Deadline broke news of a bi-partisan letter from three key U.S. Senators, Republican John McCain and Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, to Sony Pictures. It complained about certain aspects of the depiction of torture in the hunt for Osama bin Laden as characterized in the studio’s major Oscar contender Zero Dark Thirty. (It opened today in limited release and goes wide on January 11th, the day after Oscar nominations are announced). The scenes in question were roundly denounced by the trio: “We write to express our deep disappointment with the movie Zero Dark Thirty. We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Osama bin Laden.” They said they have reviewed CIA records and know the film’s “implications” are incorrect.
Whether this kind of ringing denouncement of the admittedly “fictional” film about the hunt for bin Laden is true or not, this is not the kind of publicity the studio wants for its Oscar campaign even though controversy is usually great for box office. With Oscar voting just starting this week any suggestion that the film’s credibility is lacking (particularly from the likes of such high ranking members of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence) is not generally on any Oscar strategist’s wish list. But Zero Dark Thirty has been enveloped in controversy right from the beginning, and today Sony strongly suggested that the pic is being misunderstood in certain quarters. The Senators are asking the studio to put a disclaimer on the film regarding events depicted as “facts” in the movie. Whether that has any ultimate effect on the film’s awards prospects, particularly at the Oscars, remains to be seen. So far it has cleaned up with critics groups’ year-end honors and fared very well with Golden Globe and Critics Choice Movie Awards nominations. It was also named one of the AFI’s top 10 movies of the year.
Controversies like this have made their mark in past Oscar races with mixed results. Attacks on the credibility of the 1999 biopic, The Hurricane, in which Denzel Washington played boxer