News in Brief

DNI launches First Time Filmmakers in China, Hong Kong and Macau; digital 'refusniks' hold out in the U.K.; Kirch Group talks with creditors.
March 21, 2002

Discovery Networks International is bringing its First Time Filmmakers project to the People’s Republic of China and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, with the support of Beijing TV and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Six producers will ultimately win the chance to produce a single half-hour doc based on their proposals, which are due by April 20. Their programs will air on the Discovery Channel in the Asia-Pacific region. For more details, visit

The digital ‘refusniks’ in the U.K. are holding fast to their terrestrial sets, even with the temptation of cut-rate set-top boxes. According to a report in The Guardian, a recent survey found that few of the ‘refusniks’ – primarily the 55-and-up crowd – would be willing to purchase set-top boxes (produced by Pace Micro Technology) for £99.99 (US$145). On the upside, 24% of those polled said they would buy the moderately priced boxes (mostly 16 to 34-year-old men). The British government is hoping to begin phasing out analog TV in 2006.

HBO is tackling Live From Baghdad, a recreation of the CNN
experience in Iraq during the Gulf War. Look for Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter to star. No, really.

Germany’s Kirch Group sat down with creditors earlier this week, likely to discuss the Munich-based company’s debt burden of at least US$5.7 billion. Details of the talks have not yet been released.

Another U.K. reality format will be crossing the Atlantic. Pop Idol – a competition among would-be singers for a recording contract with BMG in which the audience has the final say – has been picked up in the U.S. by Fox. Former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller is the brains behind the format.

The U.K.’s Channel 4 is taking some heat for commissioning a ‘fake documentary’ that saw a 30-year-old producer masquerade as a 17-year-old student at a British community school, The Guardian reports. The film was intended to reveal what life is like for A-level students. The charade lasted for eight weeks, at which point the head teacher discovered the producer’s true identity and ordered the film crew to leave the school grounds. C4 has accepted full responsibility for the crew’s actions, noting that ‘it was always accepted that the completed program would not be broadcast without the school’s express consent.’

Scotland’s Edinburgh International Film Festival (August 14 to 25) has issued a call for entries for both features and shorts in the categories of fiction, documentary and animation. For more info, go to

Wildscreen (October 13 to 18) has thrown open its doors for submissions to the Panda awards. All entries must be received by April 30, and tapes must be in by May 15. For more information about submissions or the festival itself, visit

The keynote address at this year’s Banff Television Festival (June 9 to 14) will be handled by journalist, news anchor and author Robert MacNeil. MacNeil’s speech is titled: The Growing Importance of Public Broadcasting.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.