News in Brief

Docstar shines no more; Channel 5 'Revealed' a new doc strand; the Documentary Credits Coalition investigates E.W. Scripps
August 29, 2002

The breakup of Paris-based media giant Vivendi Universal has resulted in the shuttering of factual distrib Docstar. The entire staff has been let go, says Noelle Devis, a Studio Canal administrator who has the task of wrapping up loose ends while the operation is liquidated. Further details of the shutdown weren’t available at press time.

The U.K.’s Channel 5 is launching a new doc strand as part of a rebranding and refocusing of its operations. Called ‘Revealed,’ the strand launches this fall with Who Killed Tutankhamen?, a look at the demise of Ancient Egypt’s most famous ruler. Also, in what the channel calls its first makeover since going on the air in 1997, C5 will now be called, simply, Five.

The Documentary Credits Coalition is taking aim at the E.W. Scripps company for a new policy that the DCC says threatens the rights of prodcos to be recognized for their work. The coalition recently convinced Discovery Networks to repeal a policy of removing end-credits from programs. The DCC believes Scripps, owner of HGTV, the Food Network, Do It Yourself and Fine Living, is now pursuing a similar policy.

Carlton Productions has set up a new production bureau in Princeton, U.S., in the Washington-New York corridor. John Lindsay has been appointed executive vice president. He moves into the position from Oregon Public Broadcasting, where he was senior VP in charge of PBS productions. Lindsay joins Gillian Rose, who was recently appointed director of program development of the East Coast operation. The U.K. company maintains its Los Angeles-based Carlton America unit, and keeps its partnership with New York-based Newsweek Productions.

Channel 4 chief executive Mark Thompson told a group of British television executives and producers attending The Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival that their product is ‘dull, mechanical and samey,’ and second rate compared to U.S. fare. According to The Guardian, Thompson told fest-goers on August 23 that U.K. broadcasters are ‘risk-averse’ and unimaginative. He also warned that the media shake up underway in the British Isles could leave his channel in need of a government bailout. C4′s director of programming Tim Gardam, who spoke on August 27 at the festival, then slammed the BBC for its aggressively commercial behavior, the newspaper reports.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival award winners have been announced. Sky High, by director/producer Anna Jonesis, picked up the Saltire Society Grierson Award for best short documentary. Director Dominic Savage and producer Ruth Caleb of BBC Films won The Michael Powell Award for best new British feature for their doc, Out of Control.

The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, ORF, has signed a copro and distribution deal with Washington, D.C.-based Devillier Donegan Enterprises. Under the pact, the two companies will develop at least four hours of natural history and science content for ORF’s ‘Universum’ strand each year. DDE will distribute the programs in all territories, except German-speaking countries, the U.K. and Ireland. The deal is for an initial two-year term.

David Attenborough, one of the BBC‘s longest serving and most famous presenters, is urging the corporation to get back to ‘serious broadcasting.’ According to The Guardian, Attenborough, who has worked for the Beeb for 50 years, thinks it needs more arts and music programming.

Vulcan Productions is the new name for Seattle, U.S.-based prodco Clear Blue Sky (Me & Isaac Newton). Vulcan is co-producing The Blues, a seven-part doc series executive produced by filmmaker Martin Scorsese. Also on board are German prodco Road Movies Group and WGBH Boston. The Blues will air on PBS’s ‘Evolution’ strand in the new year.

Film Movement, a new film distribution company in New York, U.S., is offering consumers access to ‘premiere, theatrical-quality, first-run films’ by a subscription service, the company announced in a prepared statement. The service, which includes docs, will be launched in December and includes a monthly selection of DVD and VHS mail outs, and ‘access’ to ‘theatrical….and private events’ as well as screenings at film festivals. The business is the brainchild of Shooting Gallery founder Larry Meistrich.

Bethesda, U.S.-based Discovery Networks has disclosed that its entire family of channels will go commercial free on the day marking the attacks on the U.S. ‘Out of respect for our viewers, affiliates and advertisers, we have decided not to accept advertising in any of our programming related to the anniversary of September 11,’ said Billy Campbell, president of Discovery Networks, in a prepared statement. The move also affects BBC America, which is controlled by Discovery.

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