News in Brief

U.S. courts clear way for media mega-mergers; Olympic doc goes HD; Austrian pubcaster ORF faces competition from commercial terrestrial Austria TV.
February 21, 2002

A recent U.S. federal appeals court ruling has cleared the way for mega-mergers among U.S. media companies. According to a report in The New York Times, the decision makes it permissible for cable operators (such as AOL Time Warner) to merge with broadcast networks that own TV stations (such as CBS and Fox). The court also called for a re-evaluation of the rule that prohibits a network from owning stations that reach more than 35% of U.S. television households.

The first TV Forum Europe comes to a close today, having brought together program buyers and sellers from outlets including France’s ARTE, ZDF Enterprises in Germany, Italy’s RAISat and AVRO in the Netherlands at yet another international market. The Barcelona event ran for four days, beginning Feb. 18.

As a sign of the times, the official doc of the 2002 Olympic Games is being filmed in high-resolution HD video for the first time. Bud Greenspan of New York-based Cappy Productions received the commission from the International Olympic Committee; it is his 50th year of Olympic coverage. The doc is scheduled to air on Showtime in the U.S. in the fall.

Bruce Johansen, NATPE‘s president and CEO, has scheduled a meeting with several top syndication execs to discuss the future of the event. The pow wow will take place on February 28 in Los Angeles.

BBC4, the British Broadcasting Corp’s soon-to-debut digital arts channel, has revealed key elements in its lineup, including docs Goya: Crazy Like A Genius, helmed by critic and broadcaster Robert Hughes; Britart, about the U.K.’s rise within the international art world; and Africa Now: Music of a Continent, about the two-day pan-African festival. BBC4 will launch on March 2, transmitting daily from 7p.m. until 1a.m.

For the first time, Austrian pubcaster ORF is facing a challenge from a commercial terrestrial network based within its territory. Austria TV, which includes Tele Munchen and pan-European company SBS among its shareholders, debuted as a terrestrial earlier this month. Austria TV previously operated as a cable programmer.

Discovery Networks Europe has signed a deal with cable operator Essent Kabelcom in the Netherlands for carriage of Animal Planet. Essent also agreed to continue carrying the Discovery Channel.

California-based company Media Bakery has launched an aggregate website for royalty-free content media, including photography, footage, music, fonts, 3D elements, software, and plug-ins. Most content is available for immediate download from the company’s website at

The Vivendi Universal and Canal+ Group has made a deal with News Corp to acquire Stream, an Italian digital TV platform, pending approval by Italy’s regulatory authorities.

Turner Broadcasting System Europe has expanded its Nordic presence by opening an office in Copenhagen, staffed by sales, marketing and research execs. Turner’s CNN is distributed to 2.7 million homes in the Nordic region.

Films vying for Best Documentary Feature at the 2002 Academy Awards are: Children Underground (Edet Belzberg), Lalee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (Albert Maysles, Susan Froemke, Deborah Dickson), Promises (B.Z. Goldberg, Justine Shapiro), Murder on a Sunday Morning (Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, Denis Poncet) and War Photographer (Christian Frei). Short doc contenders are: Sing! (Freida Lee Mock, Jessica Sanders), Thoth (Sarah Kernochan, Lynn Appelle) and Artists and Orphans: A True Drama (Lianne Klapper McNally).

Actor Robert de Niro has been named host of the CBS ’9/11′ doc, which will include footage from inside the World Trade Center captured by French filmmakers Gedeon and Jules Naudet.

Martin Scorsese has signed on to direct a one-hour doc about the blues for PBS. The film is part of a six-part series. Other directors on board are Marc Levin, Richard Pearce and Charles Burnett.

The International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA) is accepting entries for this year’s event (Nov. 20 to Dec. 1). Docs made between Sept. 1, 2001, and April 1, 2002, must be submitted to IDFA before May 1; docs completed after April 1 must be submitted before Sept. 1. For more info, go to

The Toronto-based Hot Docs festival (April 26 to May 5) has issued a call for entries for its Cyber Pitch, an event that gives three pre-selected indie producers the chance to pitch interactive or convergent media projects. The winner takes home a CDN$5,000 (US$3,100) prize. Applications must be in to Hot Docs by March 15. For more info, visit

The Sheffield International Documentary Festival (October 21 to 27) is now accepting entries. The deadline is June 1. Visit for more details.

Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, a non-profit organization set up by Steven Spielberg in 1994, has launched a new website. At, visitors can access video vignettes of survivor and witness testimonies, as well as info about the foundation’s work.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.