News in Brief

Canada's NFB and France 2 call for docs; The BBC's NHU is in the money; VH1 dumps Liza Minnelli while MTV readies for more Osbournes
October 31, 2002

The National Film Board of Canada and French TV broadcaster France 2 have signed an agreement to coproduce two 90-minute feature documentaries, and are calling for submissions. The two docs, to be broadcast in primetime, will have English and French versions. The NFB will distribute the films internationally. Submissions are open to companies based in either Canada or France. The deadline is December 12. For further information go to

The BBC’s Natural History Unit has secured ‘a major, long-term investment plan,’ brokered by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the U.K. pubcaster. The investment translates into almost 100 hours of new programming, both ‘landmark series’ and content for strands such as ‘Wildlife On One’ and ‘Natural World’. The exact terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed, but the Beeb noted in a prepared statement that it ‘takes us into 2005 and beyond.’

Deciding enough is enough, U.S. entertainment network VH1 has aborted its bid in the niche of celeb-based reality shows by stopping production on a program centered on Liza Minnelli. According to Reuters, producers pulled the plug because Minnelli’s husband, David Gest, was too difficult to work with (diva-like behavior apparently included insisting TV crews don surgical booties before setting foot in their apartment). In related news, MTV has announced that season two of The Osbournes will begin in the U.S. November 26, and Los Angeles, U.S.-based E! Network has ordered a second season of The Anna Nicole Show.

Cincinnati, U.S.-based media company E.W. Scripps (Food Network, Home & Garden Television) has launched an entire network that incorporates advertising in the programming. According to The New York Times, Scripps launched Fine Living, an upscale lifestyle channel, in March in the U.S. and expanded it to the lucrative New York market this fall. Its programs feature content that incorporates marketing messages from the likes of BMW and Prudential Financial. The Times reports the goal is to incorporate advertising in such a way as to beat personal video recorders that allow users to chop out traditional commercials.

French media giant Vivendi Universal has reopened discussions of a possible sale of its key Canal + unit, Reuters reported October 29, citing the French newspaper Le Monde. ‘According to our information, contacts have been held in recent days between Vivendi Universal’s directors and an alliance of investors,’ the newspaper states. The story did not specify which parts of Canal + Group were for sale, Reuters added. It noted that Canal + could also lose its soccer broadcasting rights, an event that would have serious financial consequences for VU. A decision on the rights comes down in November.

The U.K. government has decided that the BBC will be as accountable as commercial broadcasters. According to BBC News, the pubcaster could be slapped with fines of up to £250,000 (US$391,000) for serious breaches of program guidelines (governing decency and subtitling). BBC management is opposed to the change, and argues that self-regulation is sufficient. The change is part of an overhaul of broadcasting rules in the country.

Washington, D.C.-based National Geographic Channels International reports that the September premiere of its Egypt: Secret Chambers Revealed garnered the highest ratings of any single program in the network’s five-year history. Overall, an international audience of 24.1 million saw the two-hour documentary.

Australia’s Southern Star Sales has signed a five-year output deal with French broadcaster and producer AB Droits for factual programming and drama. On the factual front, it guarantees Southern Star 50 hours of programming.

A group of cable companies in Israel has backed down from plans to dump CNN. According to The Atlanta Journal -Constitution, the cable companies had said earlier in the year that they were going to walk away from a contract renewal on October 31 with Turner Broadcasting System, the owner of CNN, citing financial reasons. But the contract has now been renewed for an undisclosed amount, the newspaper says. Some Israelis had complained that CNN was taking a pro-Palestinian stance with its news coverage.

The Pentagon has offered to provide journalists with a one-week basic training course in military culture and combat operations. According to the Associated Press, the training would include military customs and hierarchy, ‘rules of engagement’ (a check list of when a soldier is authorized to use deadly force), basic first aid and how to don chemical-and-biological weapons suits. The Pentagon noted in the story that no decision to invade Iraq had been made.

Noted U.S. underwater doc-maker Al Giddings (Titanic: Treasure of the Deep) has selected Los Angeles, U.S.-based FootageBank to represent his high-definition collection for stock footage licensing. Giddings is in the process of up-converting approximately 150,000 scenes to HD, FootageBank noted.

Perhaps in a bid to recreate his moment of greatness, Richard Hatch, the first US$1-million winner of U.S. reality hit Survivor, has purchased property on Cape Breton Island, on Canada’s East Coast. According to CBC News, Hatch paid CDN$13,800 (US$9,000) for the 17 lots on the island known for its Celtic music and defunct coal mines.

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