News in Brief

Channel 4 plans major overhaul; report shows docs about development waning in the U.K.; France 2 and NFB unit call for copro submissions
July 11, 2002

The U.K.’s Channel 4 is bracing for a big shakeup, including 100 job cuts, but the forecast for factual producers remains relatively good. According to a report in The Guardian, chief exec Mark Thompson admitted that C4 will soon undergo ‘radical changes’, such as a reduction in commissioning departments from 13 to eight. However, the emphasis will be on factual programming, he added. Film production arm FilmFour and digichannel E4 will both be scaled back.

The international documentary is ‘virtually dead’ in the U.K. and, as a result, Britons are learning little about developing countries, says a report from the Third World and Environment Broadcasting Trust. The study, which examined one year’s worth of programming from September 2000 to September 2001, uncovered a paradox: the number of programs based in international locations was on the rise (shows featuring British people cavorting in beautiful places), but most were so-called reality shows that generally failed to illustrate the realities of life in impoverished countries. Only four programs that delve into the politics of developing countries were broadcast during the year; three airing on one channel – BBC2. ITV1 and Channel 5 carried no such programming. The Trust is calling on regulators to mandate minimum requirements for programs that examine international issues.

French pubcaster France 2 and the International Coproduction Unit (ICU) of the National Film Board of Canada have issued a joint call for proposals from Canadian and French directors interested in producing a feature-length documentary. The two parties intend to coproduce two films suitable for primetime broadcast. Proposals should be submitted by November 1, 2002. Selection criteria for the proposals is outlined at

Fremantle-owned U.K. prodco Talkback is spreading the love in a new 3 x 50-minute series for BBC2. Tentatively titled A Survivor’s Guide to Love, the show is due to air in 2003, with its launch on St. Valentine’s Day (appropriately enough). It will feature famous people reading famous poems intercut with testimonials from the public discussing heartfelt moments, both sweet (weddings, childbirth, laughs with friends) and bitter (divorce, affairs). Talkback has already landed the likes of heart-throb Ralph Fiennes and actress Amelia Fox.

In other BBC news, the pubcaster has come up with a new format called Restoration in which viewers vote (a la Pop Idol) to determine which British historic buildings to save. Produced by format giant Edemol, the series will feature a range of buildings – from castles to railway stations – from various periods. The show will delve into the history of the contestant buildings, as well as speak with the owners and neighboring residents to gauge each building’s significance (if any) to its community. The winner will be restored using prize money raised by the program, which is to air next summer.

In a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction turn of events, former British secret agents are releasing a video exposing their own activities in Northern Ireland. According to Reuters, Agents – No More Lies, is the result of the frustration the spies felt after the British Ministry of Defence refused to meet their requests for relocations, changes of identities and military pensions. It also comes at a time of increased examination of London’s policy toward secessionists in Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has launched a probe into allegations made in the BBC documentary A Licence to Murder that undercover soldiers helped Protestant (and pro-British) paramilitary groups kill Catholic (and anti-British) guerrillas and sympathizers.

Programming from Alliance Atlantis Communications is reaching new heights, thanks to an agreement recently inked with Air Canada. The deal has AAC providing programming from its analog and digital specialty channels to Air Canada flights of 90-minutes or longer. Beginning next month, travelers will have access to full-length programs from HGTV Canada, Food Network Canada, Life Network, History Television, National Geographic Channel, and the Independent Film Channel (IFC). A half-hour, magazine-style program featuring fully branded content will also be produced. The partnership builds on a 1997 contract that saw History Television vignettes become part of the airline’s in-flight entertainment.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. plans to roll out a new circuit in August that it claims will push the high definition movement forward. The Osaka, Japan-based chipmaker (which operates under the Panasonic banner) says the MN2WS0010 chip will incorporate 35 million transistors, including a 32-bit microprocessor (AM34), a transport decoder and an HD-AV decoder. Currently, digital receivers for satellite broadcasts require many chips and separate components, which take up a lot of space; the new chip will occupy only half the space. Samples of the design will be available for 20,000 yen (US$171.00)

Discovery Networks International, Granada, The New York Times and Discovery property TLC are producing another installment of World Birth Day, a follow-up to a two-hour special that premiered New Year’s Day. Spanning 18 time zones, the program will cover the experience of childbirth in Afghanistan, Russia, South Africa, Japan, Argentina, India, Northern Ireland (the U.K.) and the U.S. The focus is to present a global take on the cultural and economic influences that shape pregnancy, birth, and the first few days of life. The show will air in 2003 on Discovery in Latin America, Europe, India and Asia and on TLC in North America.

The BBC has announced that its BBC4 Storyville documentary strand will sponsor this year’s Documentdocumentary section at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (August 14 to 25). BBC4 commissions and acquires films for Storyville.

Nigerian filmmaker Onyekachi Wanbu’s Hopes on the Horizon took the Golden Dhow award in the documentary category at the Zanzibar Festival of the Dhow Countries. The fifth annual festival, which looks at countries that have influenced the island over the years, opened June 28 in Zanzibar, Tanzania and runs to July 13.

The deadline for all film submissions to the Telluride Film Festival (August 30 to September 2) in Telluride, U.S. is July 15. For information and entry forms, go to

July 15 is also the deadline for features for the Montreal World Film Festival. The festival accepts docs for television in the Films for Television section and also accepts Canadian docs in the Panorama Canada section. Entry forms can be found online at, and for up-to-date information, call 514-848-3883.

The deadline for all films (feature, doc and short) to the Hollywood Film Festival (October 1-8) is July 31. Visit for entry info.

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.