News in Brief

TV2 goes private; The History Channel in the U.K. went dark for a day; HBO and CNN International strike a deal for 9/11 doc
June 6, 2002

Popular pubcaster TV2 Denmark will go private, the Danish government announced on Monday. The process will play out over a three to four-year period, commencing with a review of how to maintain program quality after the transition. Documentaries currently hold a prominent place in TV2 Denmark’s lineup. Mette Hoffmann Meyer is the commissioning editor and head of sales and coproduction, docs and factual programming, for TV2 Denmark.

The History Channel in the U.K. has returned to Telewest cable networks after going off the air for one day last week, The Guardian reports. Telewest dropped The History Channel from its pay-TV service after the two companies failed to reach agreement on a new carriage deal. However, an outcry from Telewest subscribers prompted renewed talks, which ultimately led to a new contract for The History Channel. The service is also carried in the U.K. by NTL and Sky Digital.

HBO and CNN International have agreed to an arrangement that gives CNN International the exclusive first international broadcast rights to HBO’s documentary In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01. From mid-June to the end of the month, CNN International’s English-language services in Africa, Asia Pacific, South Asia, Europe, The Middle East and Latin America will air the doc without commercials. As reported in last week’s Plus, In Memoriam has been made available as a permanent resource at the Museum of the City of New York, thanks to a grant from the AOL Time Warner Foundation.

Doc-maker and on-air host Bill Kurtis has decided to stick with A&E. Kurtis has committed to a ‘multi-year agreement’ with the New York-based cablecaster, where he will continue as both host and exec producer of Investigative Reports and Cold Case Files, and as host of American Justice.

The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) announced it will expand its membership structure to include ‘professional’ and ‘educational’ memberships. Professional memberships encompass TV industry personnel, including buyers, producers, distributors and marketing execs. Educational memberships invite college and university educators to utilize NATPE’s services and resources.

The TV for Afghanistan initiative – an international pledge to raise money for the Afghan television industry – will make its debut at the 10th DISCOP Program Showcase in Budapest, Hungary (June 27 to 29). An overview of the initiative, including an explanation of the technical and programming means required, will be presented to delegates at DISCOP’s inaugural party . The initiative seeks to raise US$10 million for the beleaguered AFGHAN TV.

The U.S. pay-TV rights to Natalia Almada‘s 19-minute doc short All Water Has a Perfect Memory have been acquired by the Sundance Channel, which will premiere the film on August 11 at 8 P.M. The doc screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and won the best documentary short award at the TriBeCa Film Festival in May.

The Walt Disney Co. has agreed to handle theatrical distribution in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. for Ghosts of the Abyss, a 3-D large format documentary from director James Cameron. The film, produced by Cameron and his prodco Earthship Productions, documents the underwater exploration of the Titanic wreck. New York-based Walden Media holds worldwide rights to the project, which is being sold internationally by Summit Entertainment in Santa Monica, U.S. Gaga has the Japanese rights and Telepool holds the German rights.

Barbara Kopple‘s documentary The Hamptons attracted more than seven million viewers each of the two nights (last Sunday and Monday) that it aired on ABC, The New York Times reports. While those numbers are pretty decent in the doc world, they’re not so hot in the realm of U.S. network TV. The Hamptons‘ direct competition on Sunday was a National Basketball Association playoff match on NBC, which attracted 24 million people.

ABC Family has picked up The Last Resort, a reality series that will begin airing in August. The show, from L.A.-based Buena Vista Productions, will follow four unhappy couples to a resort in Hawaii, where they will work with a life coach to try to sort out their differences. By the end of the series, the couples must decide if they will stay together or split.

Canada’s National Film Board is working under a new, five-year strategic plan that focuses on promoting diversity, innovation and emerging directors. The documentaries in the NFB’s new season of films include: Is the Crown at War with Us? (w/t) by Alanis Obomsawin, Asahi Baseball from director Jari Osborne, Offstage, Onstage: Inside the Stratford Festival by John N. Smith, and Moira Simpson‘s Kosovo Dreams (w/t).

The deadline for entries to the third annual Woodstock Film Festival (September 19 to 22) is July 1. Entry forms are available online at The festival presents awards for Best Documentary, Best Short Documentary, Best Student Film, The Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography, and The Elmer Bernstein Award for Best Musical Score, among others.

The 2002 Hollywood Film Festival (October 2 to 8) has joined forces with the European Union Commission in Washington to promote European film during the festival. The sixth annual festival in Hollywood, California, will include the European Film Showcase and the Hollywood European Film Award to be given out at the Hollywood Movie Awards Gala Ceremony.

According to a report in The New York Times, News Corp is pursuing Italian satellite television company Telepiu, which is owned by Vivendi Universal. The money from the sale – an estimated US$1 billion – could help Vivendi Universal pay down its $30 billion debt. The two companies are reportedly in talks, though only at an early stage.

The Draft Communications Bill in the U.K. has both cleared the way and created an obstacle to a merger between ITV rivals Carlton and Granada. Because the bill allows for foreign ownership of ITV, it’s possible that companies like Disney or RTL will try to broker a deal with either Carlton or Granada. According to The Guardian, Granada chief Steve Morrison made his preference known last week when he said, ‘It makes more sense for ITV to be unified under U.K. broadcasters.’

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