News in Brief

Jackson's legal team goes after Granada; The Emmy Awards expands factual category; the BBC aids launch of doc channel by Al Jazeera
February 27, 2003

London, U.K.-based Granada Television has been approached by lawyers representing singer Michael Jackson in connection to its controversial 90-minute documentary Living With Michael Jackson. Granada spokesman Mike Large told RealScreen Plus, ‘Michael Jackson’s London lawyers told us that they have issued proceedings against Granada. They relate to attempts by Michael to claim copyright in our footage. We shall be resisting such claims vigorously.’ Jackson contends Granada agreed to hand over unused film of his children, and that the production company has refused. Living was presented by U.K. journalist Martin Bashir and was first broadcast by the U.K.’s ITV1 on February 3 (a few days later it premiered in North American on Fox). The case is expected to go before a London judge February 28.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has renamed several Emmy categories and created two new awards in response to the rising popularity of reality programming. The two new categories, outstanding nonfiction writing and outstanding nonfiction direction, were voted into the Academy’s rules on February 19. The four factual categories are now nonfiction series (traditional), nonfiction special (traditional), nonfiction program (alternative/unscripted): and reality/competition programs.

Al Jazeera is launching an Arabic-language doc channel, and has purchased 1,000 hours of BBC factual programs to help get the station off the ground. In unveiling the program sale February 26, BBC Worldwide noted that the channel would start broadcasting later this year. It will be available throughout the Middle East and Arab territories via Arabsat and Nilesat. Mohamed Al-Fadhala will manage the channel. Shamil Sarsam, Al Jazeera’s manager of programming and international relations, helped close the deal. Al Jazeera already carries docs on its primary news channel.

With that news in mind, it comes as no surprise that when 1,000 people around the world were asked to pick the top U.K. export, the British Broadcasting Corporation ranked as number one. The poll by Parcelforce Worldwide placed the Beeb ahead of the Royal Family (sorry, Charlie) and Manchester United, the soccer club that has attained pop-star status. The remaining top ten, in order: the telephone (inventor Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland and died in Canada); The Beatles; fish and chips, James Bond, Greenwich Mean Time and the Austin Mini.

And lastly, BBC Worldwide is coming to the rescue of geographically-challenged school children in Texas. A series of world geography videos produced by the Children’s Learning unit of the Beeb has been approved by the State of Texas to be a core part of the curriculum for 10th graders (15 and 16 year olds).

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is looking for doc development submissions in connection to two Aussie-centric factual series it is planning. For Untold History, a projected 4 or 6 X 1-hour history program that will air in primetime in 2004, it wants pitches that ‘explore largely unknown aspects of our past’ with ‘the elements of a good drama.’ For Family, a 6 X 30-minute program to be transmitted in late 2003 or early 2004, the Aussie pubcaster wants stories of ‘relationships [told] from an intensely personal point of view.’ In particular, it is seeking human-interest themes like the refugee experience and race relationships in the country. For further information go to

Cardiff, U.K.-based prodco/distributor S4C International has inked a new coproduction deal with The History Channel U.K. Encompassing 10-hours of programming a year, it includes two three-part doc series already in production: The Mapmakers, which is also coproduced by The History Channel U.S., and The Normans, which is also coproduced by Australia’s SBS. S4C will distribute the docs internationally.

Washington, D.C.-based National Geographic Television & Film has expanded the distribution of its DVD and VCD products to Turkey in an agreement nailed down with Istanbul, Turkey-based A.E. The multi-year hitch expands on a 1999 pact with A.E., and has the goal of expanding Nat Geo’s reach through increased retail distribution, direct mail campaigns, and a push on corporate sales. A further 24 Nat Geo titles were released in Turkey immediately. National Geographic International’s home video and DVD distribution network now hits 66 countries and 24 languages.

The Other Final, a three-country doc copro, has locked in a theatrical distribution deal for Japan. Screening at the Cine Quinto in Tokyo through March, it will then travel throughout the country. Produced by Amsterdam, Netherlands-based KesselsKramer, Tokyo, Japan-based Robot Communications and Milan Italy-based Mercurio Cinematografica, the film about the 2002 World Cup of soccer is distributed by Amsterdam’s Off the Fence.

In related news, Bonhoeffer, a feature-length doc by Alexandria, U.S.-based Journey Films, has secured a U.S. theatrical deal with New York-based First Run Films. The religious-themed 90-minute film will be rolled out nationwide in late spring, after exhibitions at Washington, D.C.-area churches in March and April.

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.