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  • ACM Awards hits record low ratings, join the ceremony slump
    The Canadian Press

    ACM Awards hits record low ratings, join the ceremony slump

    LOS ANGELES — The Academy of County Music honours drew a record-low audience, joining other awards shows also finding dwindling viewer interest. Ceremony ratings generally have slid in recent years and the trend has continued during the pandemic, with the recent Grammys and Golden Globes among those nosediving. Next up to be tested: the Academy Awards, airing Sunday on ABC (8 p.m. EDT). The ACM Awards drew just under 6.3 million viewers last Sunday, compared to the 6.6 million that watched in 2020, according to Nielsen figures released Tuesday. Luke Bryan was crowned entertainer of the year during the event hosted by Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton. An episode of “60 Minutes,” with a segment on the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, was the week's most-watched TV program. Members of the group are being investigated in connection with the U.S. Capitol insurrection, with one having pled guilty to federal charges. The news magazine and the ACM Awards — which ranked among last week's top five programs despite the ceremony's slump — were both on CBS and helped lead the network to a weekly ratings victory. CBS averaged 4.45 million viewers, followed by ABC with 3.6 million. NBC had 3.1 million, Fox had 2 million, Univision had 1.4 million, Telemundo had 1.07 million, ION had 1.05 million and the CW had 710,000. Fox News Channel led the cable networks, averaging 2.23 million viewers in prime time. MSNBC had 1.48 million, HGTV had 1.36 million, CNN had 1.05 million and TBS had 947,000. ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening news ratings contest, averaging 8.3 million viewers last week. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 6.9 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.2 million. For the week of April 12-18, the 20 most-watched programs, their networks and viewerships: 1. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 8.48 million. 2. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 7.46 million. 3. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 6.83 million. 4. ACM Awards, CBS, 6.28 million. 5. “The Voice,” NBC, 5.83 million. 6. “Magnum P.I.,” CBS, 5.58 million. 7. “NCIS,” CBS, 5.56 million. 8. "United States of Al," CBS, 5.45 million. 9. "American Idol" (Sunday), ABC, 5.44 million. 10. “American Idol" (Monday), ABC, 5.39 million. 11. “Mom,” CBS, 5.35 million. 12. “The Masked Singer,” Fox, 5.17 million. 13. “Bull,” CBS, 5.12 million. 14. “Station 19,” ABC, 5.1 million. 15. “Grey's Anatomy,” ABC, 4.98 million. 16. “The Neighborhood,” CBS, 4.95 million. 17. “This Is Us,” NBC, 4.81 million. 18. “Bob Hearts Abishola,” CBS, 4.74 million. 19. “Law & Order: SVU,” NBC, 4.73 million. 20. “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” NBC, 4.41 million. Lynn Elber, The Associated Press

  • Rogers offers customers credit after massive outage, will be applied to bills in May
    The Canadian Press

    Rogers offers customers credit after massive outage, will be applied to bills in May

    Rogers Communications Inc. is offering wireless customers a credit following a massive nationwide outage. The company said in an email on Tuesday that a credit equivalent to Monday's wireless service fee will be be applied automatically to May bills, with no action required by customers. Rogers chief technology officer Jorge Fernandes said in a statement the root cause of the outage was a recent software update by the company's network partner Ericsson. "Our team at Rogers worked tirelessly with Ericsson to restore wireless voice calls, SMS, and data services and bring all customers back online as quickly as possible," he said. "On behalf of all of us at Rogers, we sincerely apologize." The company said it's undertaking an in-depth review to prevent similar issues from happening again. The nearly daylong wireless interruption had deep economic implications, experts said. The issue impacted business sales and services such as food delivery and curbside pickup, as well as the ability for some Rogers customers to book or check in for medical appointments. Many users expressed frustration with the outage that left them without service, noting that they rely on the wireless service to work from home under ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. "Everything we do now is connected digitally and many people no longer have a home phone," said David Soberman, a marketing professor in the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. "This creates a really big problem, especially during the pandemic when people are doing a lot of things on their phones including making bookings for vaccinations." The extensive outage could stoke concerns about telecommunications consolidation and costs in Canada, according to experts. Calgary-based Shaw Communications Inc., owner of Freedom Mobile and Canada's fourth-largest carrier, agreed to be purchased by Rogers for $26 billion pending regulatory approval. MPs grilled executives of Shaw and Rogers during a federal committee hearing into the deal last month. Executives argued that a larger, combined company would lead to an increase in spending on a new generation of networks, but MPs expressed concern that the deal could undo attempts to improve prices and services in Canada’s telecommunications market through greater competition. While increasing consolidation and high wireless costs may be a concern, blocking the Rogers-Shaw deal is not the solution, said Will Mitchell, the Anthony S. Fell Chair in New Technologies and Commercialization at the Rotman School of Management. "On one hand, the fewer companies we have, the more people any one outage will affect," he said. "On the other hand, the more companies we have, the smaller on average any one of them is going to be and the less money and technical resources they will have to invest in state-of-the-art technology." In other words, if Canada had more telecom firms, the ability for each company to invest in sophisticated technology would be lower, Mitchell said. Still, the CRTC could require large telecommunications companies to build in redundancies, such as robust backup systems or agreements with competitors to offer wireless service in the case of an outage, he said. "I would demand that redundancy because it's just way too important," Mitchell added. Rogers, one of Canada's big three wireless carriers along with Bell and Telus, owns a national wireless network that does business under the Rogers, Fido and Chatr brands. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:RCI.B) Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

  • Trafigura Bets on Green-Nickel Squeeze in Defiance of China Cure

    Trafigura Bets on Green-Nickel Squeeze in Defiance of China Cure

    (Bloomberg) -- Just weeks after a novel production method upended the nickel market, two big names in the battery supply chain made a play that suggests the world’s worries about sourcing cheap, clean supplies are far from over.Commodity trader Trafigura Group and Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. signed a deal in late March to enter the Goro nickel mine in New Caledonia, part of a group that took over operations from Vale SA. The transaction wasn’t a surprise, with Vale in talks to offload the under-performing mine for months. But the timing was telling.The transaction closed with nickel in a state of flux. China’s Tsingshan Group had just triggered the biggest two-day rout in a decade with its plans to make battery-grade metal from materials previously reserved only for stainless steel, potentially flooding the market. Wall Street banks lowered their nickel forecasts after futures plunged from about $19,000 a ton to $16,000.The Goro deal shows Trafigura and Tesla don’t see Tsingshan’s new processing method as a panacea for meeting surging demand for nickel used in the batteries needed to help wean the world off fossil fuels. Carmarkers’ preference for cleaner sources of aluminum and cobalt suggest they’ll follow a similar line on nickel, said Socrates Economou, head of nickel and cobalt trading at Trafigura.“You need higher prices of $19,000 per ton imminently to incentivize the correct nickel output that the market needs,” Economou said in an interview. While there are various routes to produce battery-grade nickel, “you need higher prices in order to support these missions. And there’s no other solution around today.”Trafigura, the biggest metals trader after Glencore Plc, is getting a 19% equity stake at Goro as well as an offtake arrangement. Tesla will also have the right to some of the metal as Musk looks to scale up battery-cell production.The mine was bought online late and over-budget in 2010 and never reached more than 70% of capacity, showing the difficulties producing nickel from laterite deposits using high pressure acid leach process. Still, Vale didn’t sever its ties altogether, retaining a right to some of the metal.The new owners will make the asset work as the electro-mobility transformation gains momentum, Economou said. “All the pieces have come together now.”Trafigura’s wager on high-purity nickel is also underscored by a recent offtake deal that allowed Panoramic Resources Ltd. to restart operations in Western Australia. BloombergNEF analysts expect demand for battery-grade nickel will be 16 times higher by 2030. Sales of passenger EVs surged 43% last year, and BNEF forecasts a record 4.4 million units will sell this year.Nickel is already one of the most carbon-intensive metals to produce. Now Tsingshan has come up with a way of using a type of low-grade ferronickel called nickel pig iron in its plants in Indonesia to produce metal suitable for batteries, offsetting the carbon intensity with renewable energy. Some analysts and investors, including Trafigura, have questioned whether the process will be accepted by increasingly eco-conscious automakers.“The technology is definitely real, but does not meet ESG standards,” said Jon Lamb, portfolio manager at metals and mining investment firm Orion Resource Partners. “As consumers are focused on the lifecycle carbon intensity of their supply chains it is difficult to see how this production would earn a spot in these supply chains.”But for Matt Fifield, managing partner at Pacific Road Capital, Tsingshan’s announcement means more players in the game.“The game itself is actually how do we put nickel units into a growing nickel market,” he said. “There will be more Tsingshans, there’ll be more people with breakthrough technology that will be able to create battery-grade nickel feed.”According to mining magnate Robert Friedland, there are a lot of “fantasies” about where battery-grade nickel is going to come from.“The automobile industry is not going to nuke hundreds of thousands of acres of tropical jungle in Indonesia and dump the tailings in the ocean and try to convert ferronickel into batteries,” he said during an industry event last week. “That’s disinformation or whistling in the dark.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

  • 2 Italian managers indicted in Fiat Chrysler emissions probe
    The Canadian Press

    2 Italian managers indicted in Fiat Chrysler emissions probe

    DETROIT — Two Italian managers in Fiat Chrysler's diesel engine program have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit in a widening case alleging a scheme to cheat on U.S. emissions tests. The indictments unsealed Tuesday detail allegations of a plot to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency by rigging more than 100,000 diesel Ram pickup trucks and Jeep SUVs to cheat on EPA tests and exceed pollution limits on real roads. Sergio Pasini, 43, of Ferrera, Italy, and Gianluca Sabbioni, 55, of Sala Bolognese, Italy, each face nine charges including violating the Clean Air Act, wire fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said neither man is in custody and would not comment when asked if they will be extradited to the U.S. Both were described by authorities as senior diesel managers with the company. They join Emanuele Palma, 42, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, as defendants in the case. He was charged in 2019 but now faces a new 10-count indictment alleging conspiracy, Clean Air Act violations, and that he made false statements to the FBI and the EPA. In a statement, the Justice Department said the three men had “co-conspirators” in the scheme, indicating that more charges are possible. All three are accused of purposely calibrating emissions-control software on 3-litre diesel engines so they met nitrogen oxide emissions requirements during EPA test cycles, yet emitted higher pollution while on the road. They referred to the manipulation as “cycle beating,” the statement said. Messages were left Tuesday seeking comment from Palma’s attorneys. It wasn’t clear if Pasini or Sabbioni have lawyers. In a statement, Fiat Chrysler, now known as Stellantis after merging with France's PSA Peugeot, said it's co-operating in the investigation and referred to previous statements denying that it took part in a deliberate scheme to program the engines to cheat on tests. Palma, Pasini and Sabbioni also are accused of causing others “to make false and misleading representations to FCA's regulators about the emissions control functions of the subject vehicles in order to ensure that FCA obtained regulatory approval to sell the subject vehicles in the United States," the Justice Department statement said. The cheating helped FCA attain best-in-class fuel economy, making the vehicles more attractive to buyers, prosecutors alleged. In 2019, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars, including a $300 million fine to the U.S. government, to settle emissions cheating allegations. Under the deal with the Justice Department and the EPA, the automaker must recall and repair the more than 104,000 out-of-compliance SUVs and pickups. The vehicles were made from 2014 through 2016. Separately, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay $280 million to settle lawsuits brought by vehicle owners — leading to payouts of about $2,800 per owner — and will pay $19 million to California to settle similar state regulatory allegations. Fiat Chrysler has maintained that it didn’t deliberately scheme to cheat emissions tests, and the company didn’t admit wrongdoing. Tom Krisher, The Associated Press