News in Brief

Canal+ files a suit against NDS; Disney, Viacom and AOL Time Warner circle ProSiebenSAT.1; and CBS's 9/11 doc attracts 39 million.
March 14, 2002

Vivendi Universal’s Canal+ Group has launched a lawsuit against News Corp’s NDS, alleging that NDS actively sought to crack the code on Canal+’s digital TV smart card and then provided the code to a website frequented by counterfeiters. Canal+ is claiming damages in excess of US$1 billion. NDS has stated that the lawsuit is ‘outrageous and baseless’. Canal+ filed the claim in the U.S. District Court of California.

According to a report in The Guardian, U.S. conglomerates Walt Disney, Viacom and AOL Time Warner are circling German broadcaster ProSiebenSAT.1, which is primarily owned by the Kirch Group (52%). Interest in ProSieben has arisen amid speculation that Kirch will be forced to sell off part of its holdings to bring down its debt burden, which is between £4 billion (US$5.7 billion) and £8 billion (US$11.4 billion).

CBS documentary 9/11, which aired last Sunday from 9p.m. to 11p.m., topped all of its competition for the night, pulling in around 39 million viewers (33 audience share average) and a 23.9 rating.

In other CBS news, late-night talkshow host David Letterman has announced plans to stick with the broadcaster, instead of jumping ship to ABC. His decision removes some of the threat hanging over Nightline, which likely would have been bumped from its slot had Letterman accepted ABC’s offer. But, Nightline host Ted Koppel is still smarting, and reportedly said the bid has damaged his show.

New York-based Broadcast News Networks (BNN) is drawing on its experience in conflict zones to offer consultation services to other filmmakers. One of BNN’s first clients is Linda Ellerbee of Lucky Duck Productions, who hired BNN to help with a shoot in Afghanistan. Lucky Duck is making a program for Nickelodeon about children in the war-torn country.

Discovery Networks International has formed a distribution alliance with Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India. The six channels involved are Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, SET India, SET MAX, AXN and CNBC. The base for the joint venture is Mumbai, India.

After 17 years of searching, National Geographic has tracked down the subject of its most recognized magazine cover, Sharbut Gula. Photographer Steve McCurry shot the 1985 photo of the Afghan girl with haunting green eyes, but he never knew her identity. The quest to find her is detailed in the upcoming doc Search for the Afghan Girl, which will air on National Geographic Channel on March 23 and on History Television in Canada on March 25.

The cover of the McClelland & Stewart book that is the companion to the CBC series Canada: A People’s History caused a stir this week when an amateur historian discovered that the person featured in the cover was not a Canadian soldier, but an Australian. Canada’s search for a national identity continues…

The fourth installment of the CineVegas International Film Festival (June 8 to 15) will be assisted by Sundance programmer Trevor Groth, who has accepted the post of director of programming. The annual festival features a wide selection of films, including docs. For more info, go to

U.S. network ABC has folded The Chair, a recent reality show effort, due to poor ratings. The Chair contestants were required to wear a heart monitoring device while they answered a series of questions. If their heart rates rose above a certain level they lost money they had previously won. Former tennis star John McEnroe was the host.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.