News in Brief

New security measures for MIP; Banff TV Foundation takes on news and arts; U.K. programs give good numbers
March 20, 2003

Organizers of MIPDOC and MIPTV (March 22 to 28, 2003) say they expect a strong turnout of attendees, despite traveler uncertainty over the launch of the war in Iraq. Reed Midem noted that security measures have been stepped up at the Palais des Festivals (hand baggage and luggage must be stored in a separate locker area, for instance). It also disclosed that U.S. representatives have reserved 108 stands, with 12 American companies attending the event for the first time. U.K. and French attendees are out in force as well, with 88 hailing from Britain and 64 from France.

The Banff Television Foundation has expanded its operations. BTVF announced on March 20 that it had taken over News World, the independent forum of the international news industry, from London, U.K.-based Media Ventures. It also announced it is launching the World Congress of Arts Producers and Performance, a spin-off of its science and history events. In disclosing the deals, the foundation noted it plans to expand the nine-year News World ‘franchise’ and that BTVF executive VP Jim Byrd will be its producer (the next News World conference will take place in Dublin, Ireland from October 21 to 23, 2003). The inaugural arts congress will take place in Ottawa, Canada, from November 5 to 8, 2003; it will be produced by director of production Kerry Stauffer. The Canmore, Canada-based organization now runs eight international television events.

The British Television Distributors Association says revenues from U.K. program exports in 2002 hit US$666 million, up more than six percent from $634 million in 2001. Documentaries in particular did well, as did unscripted formats. Income from formats climbed about 12% to $40 million, ‘although this increase is way short of the 50% hike seen last year [2001] when massive hit formats such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and The Weakest Link were at their peak,’ the BTDA noted. The association also disclosed that sales to the U.S. market for all program genres reached $232 million, up about 16% from 2001. Additionally, coproductions of all kinds were strong – revenues from copros increased by almost 30% in 2002 compared to an increase of just five percent in 2001. Sales of finished programs, however, fell approximately eight percent.

The U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading revealed that the BBC failed to meet a government-set quota for independent productions last year. In the report for the year ending March 31, 2002, which focuses on the pubcaster’s analog channels (BBC1 and BBC2), the OFT pegs the Beeb’s indie content as totaling approximately 22%, about three percent below the 25% minimum goal. Moreover, the total represents a drop from the year-earlier period, when indies made close to 24% of the Beeb’s content. The most recent numbers are also the lowest since the OFT first began monitoring the programs in 1995. According to the figures, independents in 2002 made 21.5% of current affairs programs, 28.5% of documentaries, and 14.6% of arts shows. The full report can be accessed at

Organizers of the Israel Forum for International Documentary Co-productions say most delegates of the Fifth Annual Tel Aviv Forum (April 2 and 3, 2003) have so far stuck to their commitments to attend, despite the U.S.-led war in the region. As late as March 17, organizers said the invited commissioning editors planning to attend include Mark Atkin from Australia’s SBS Television and Philippe van Meerbeeck, from Belgium’s VRT.

In light of hostilities in the Middle East, Japanese pubcaster NHK is suspending a simultaneous, live high-definition transmission from both Poles. The April 5 transmission was to offer viewers a first-ever look at solar aurora from two angles (known as northern and southern lights they are, in fact, the same celestial event). The transmission is part of the one-year-long Project Antarctic 2003, an initiative marking NHK’s 50th anniversary. It will now take place in September.

BBC1 has lined up a £270 million (Us423 million) program slate for the spring and summer, and has pledged to air programs of a ‘greater breadth and depth…including science and arts.’ Highlights of the rollout include Human Senses, presented by zoologist Nigel Marven and billed by the Beeb as a ‘landmark’ program, Innovation Nation, an audience-vote driven invention show, and documentaries such as In Search of the Brontës.

In other BBC news, BBC2 has secured ‘unprecedented behind-the-scenes access’ to the U.K.’s men and women invading Iraq. Into War, an observational doc, will be based on footage that captures every rung of the British fighting machine, from Secretary of State for Defense Geoff Hoon down to the lowliest front-line trooper. The BBC’s Neil Grant (Defence of the Realm) is leading the production, which features seven camera crews.

Gacaca, Living Together Again in Rwanda?, a documentary by Anne Aghion, is being distributed in the troubled central-African country with financial support from the British Department for International Development. The film looks at the citizen-based justice system established in 2000 to help reconcile the issues that led to the 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 people. Aghion is currently at work on a follow-up.

New York, U.S.-based distributor Wellspring has acquired the international rights to two feature documentaries, Raw Deal, which is directed by Billy Corben and examines a sexual assault at a U.S. university, and Horns and Halos, director Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky’s look at a troubled biographer of U.S. President George W. Bush. Wellsping will be shopping them at MIPTV.

Knoxville, U.S.-based Scripps Network (Home & Garden Television, Food Network) has secured a deal with Hong Kong-based distributor Star Perfect to carry its DIY-Do It Yourself Network programs on Jade Channel, a Chinese station. Programs such as Radio Control Hobbies and DIY Digital Photography first aired last month.

J. Michael Brinkman, the VP of strategic business development at Secaucus, U.S.-based Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems, died March 16 in Santa Clarita, U.S. A 16-year employee of the company who had a background in documentary films, Brinkman sat on the board of several other organizations, including the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Brinkman was reportedly 54, and died suddenly at his home.

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