News in Brief

Castaway accuses Granada in Survivor format row; doc-maker dies in Chechen gun battle;
Pepsi pursues reality space show
October 3, 2002

Castaway Productions, the London, U.K.-based company that holds the worldwide rights to Survivor, has launched a lawsuit in the U.K. against the makers of I’m a Celebrity…Get me out of Here! According to the Associated Press, Castaway is seeking damages and an injunction for infringement of copyright against Granada and London Weekend Television. The proceedings began September 26. ‘It is regrettable that CBS [Survivor's U.S. broadcaster] and Castaway are intending to take action against us,’ a Granada spokesperson told RealScreen. ‘Their claim that our format infringes their rights in Survivor is entirely unfounded and we will strongly defend any proceedings that may be issued.’

A freelance documentary filmmaker from the U.K. was killed while filming a gun battle between Chechen forces and Russian troops September 26, reports The Guardian. Roderick Scott was taping for Frontline News when a bullet apparently struck the eyepiece of his camera, the newspaper said. His body has not been identified yet from dozens of bodies recovered where the battle took place, but his passport was found among the dead. Scott’s death, and the killing of newspaper reporter Savio Brandão in Brazil on September 30, highlights the hazards of newsgathering and adds to the debate that news organizations should take steps to protect journalists.

Pepsi-Cola is in the market for a reality program in which contestants vie for a chance to go into space, reports The New York Post. The idea comes after singer Lance Bass, of boy band ‘NSync, failed to raise enough money from sponsors to take part in a Russian shuttle mission. The newspaper says Pepsi will put as much as US$35 million into the show, with half going directly to the Russian space program.

U.S. pubcaster PBS has disclosed that the re-airing of The Civil War by Ken Burns has attracted 27 million viewers over its five-night broadcast (which started September 22), averaging about 150% more viewers that PBS’s other primetime programs.

ORT, a family channel in Russia, has commissioned Endemol to make Big Brother and a Russian version of Operación Triunfo, an Idols format that has been a hit in Spain. The Dutch formats powerhouse says broadcast of Operación Triunfo starts October 13. Big Brother will air starting in January. (George Orwell must be rolling in his grave.)

London, U.K.-based FremantleMedia has commissioned a version of its highly successful Idols format for the Netherlands. The 19-episode series will be made by 19TV in the U.K. for Holland Media Group, a sister company to FremantleMedia (through the RTL Group). Holland Media will air it on Dutch terrestrial channel RTL4. It will be staged Hilversum, the Netherlands.

E! Networks in the U.S. has rolled out its E! International Network in the Netherlands and Indonesia. The 24-hour, English-language entertainment channel will be carried by pay-TV company Kabelvision in Indonesia and by Essent Kabelcom in the Netherlands.

NHNZ, the Kiwi prodco formerly known as Natural History New Zealand, has expanded its re-versioning agreement with Japanese pubcaster NHK. The deal sees NHK Enterprise 21, an affiliate of NHK, appointing NHNZ to re-version its long-running Global Family high-definition wildlife series for the international market. The series will be available starting in April 2003.

Oxford, U.K.-based OSF Film Library has formed a strategic alliance with leading German online footage library, FramePOOL. The pact enables OSF’s stock footage to be viewed online at In a September 30 statement, OSF revealed its footage will be digitized and archived on the site. In a reciprocal arrangement, OSF will represent FramePOOL’s collection in the U.K. and Ireland while FramePOOL will represent OSF in Germany and Italy. OSF is a unit of Australia’s Southern Star.

National Geographic has entered into a deal that sees Target Stores in the U.S. retail National Geographic brand educational materials and toys. The line of products will be marketed at ages 6 to 12, and includes videos.

Extreme Sports Channel has announced it is rollout in Eastern Europe. The channel for fans of extreme sports will be carried by Intercable in the Czech Republic and by NTV+ in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

U.S. cablecaster Court TV has chosen Stanford, U.S.-based distrib CABLEready to sell its Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice (6 X 60) series internationally.

News Corporation has relaunched its strategy to gain a competitive foothold in the European pay-TV market by buying Vivendi-Universal‘s Italian pay-TV company, Telepiu. According to The Guardian, News Corp., headed by Rupert Murdoch, is purchasing Telepiu for £565 million (US$887 million). News Corp. will hold 80% of the company, while Telecom Italia will hold 20% (the two companies are already joint-owners of Telepiu’s rival, Stream). Telepiu, which has about 2.2 million subscribers, will be renamed Sky Italia. Vivendi is selling the unit to help pay down its US$11.8 billion debt.

The U.K.’s Independent Television Commission has launched a review of how independent TV producers are treated by broadcasters. The investigation was ordered by culture secretary Tessa Jowell and launched October 1 in response to complaints by production companies. The review is being conducted in part by a five-member panel; the panelists include Richard Eyre, former ITV network chief.

The Gulf News, a newspaper based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, reports that Dubai TV is taking steps to move into the global market. Channel 33, Dubai TV’s English-language station, began tests on October 1 of satellite transmissions. The goal is to reach the 20-million members of the Arab community (who speak English) that live outside the Middle East. The newspaper says the move in part is to beat Al-Jazeera, the well known Arab-language satellite channel, which is reportedly planning a similar expansion into the English-speaking market. Full-scale broadcasts, which will run the gamut from news and documentaries to movies and dramas, are set to begin December 2.

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