News in Brief

Canadian producers 'alarmed' at funding shortfalls; Mark Burnett hooks NBC on The Apprentice; MIPTV attendance strong despite war fears
April 3, 2003

The Canadian Film and Television Production Association is ‘alarmed’ at the rate of applications rejected by the Canadian Television Fund, an industry support mechanism that recently suffered budget cuts (See RealScreen March 2003). In a statement released March 28, the Ottawa-based CFTPA warned the fund’s rejections mean ‘uncertainty not only for production companies, but also for broadcasters’ since Canadian broadcasters are required to carry a certain number of Canadian-made programs. Earlier that day, the CTF disclosed it had received 788 applications from Canadian TV producers looking for CDN$341 million (US$231 million) this spring, roughly 49% more than the CDN$172 million ($185 million) available (the money is disbursed through two programs each spring and fall). Doc projects accounted for 186 of the 345 submissions to the Equity program, equating to CDN$22.5 million ($24 million) of the CDN$163 million ($175 million) requested.

Santa Monica, U.S.-based Mark Burnett Productions, producer of reality hit Survivor in North America, has landed a deal that will see The Apprentice carried on U.S. network NBC. The 13-episode reality series will follow wannabe business tycoons as they fight for a job working with Donald Trump and his New York company, The Trump Organization. NBC says the show will feature about 20 candidates, from MBA grads to street ‘entrepreneurs’, who will try to out-deal, out-bid and out-scheme one another.

The 40th anniversary of MIPTV drew a total of 9,104 attendees and 2,336 buyers to Cannes, France, from March 24 to 28. Organizer Reed Midem calculates that a total of 2,705 companies from 89 countries ignored fears of war and visited the south of France. It said exhibitor numbers increased by roughly 3.5% to 1,247. Still, attendance was down compared to the 2002 edition, when 10,217 delegates showed up, of which 2,603 were registered program buyers.

Nielsen ratings for the Public Broadcasting System’s overall primetime average have risen six percent to reach 1.8, reports the Alexandria, U.S.-based pubcaster. Moreover, the figures for its primetime ‘common-carriage schedule’ – programs aired nationally at a fixed time by all PBS stations – have grown to 2.0 since September 2002, an 11% increase in viewership compared to the same time last year. PBS says its top rated programs include ‘Scientific American Frontiers’, ‘American Experience’, ‘Nova’ and ‘Nature’.

The DVD Uncle Saddam, a factual profile of Iraq’s leader, was caught by war fever and cracked the top 15 best sellers’ list at at the end of March. Produced by French filmmaker Joel Soler, the documentary features rare footage of Saddam interacting with his family and close associates. It is distributed by Los Angeles, U.S.-based Xenon Pictures.

China Entertainment Television Broadcast, a Hong Kong-based unit of media giant AOL Time Warner, has been granted permission to broadcast throughout China. The license issued by China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television sees CETV distributed nation-wide via the Sinosat satellite. Previously, the entertainment and information station was available in the southern part of the country only. Separately, CETV recently locked in a deal that expands its cable carriage in the provinces of Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The State of New York has pledged US$100,000 to the construction of a new Media Arts Center in Manhattan first proposed at the beginning of the year (See RealScreen Plus, January 9, 2003). The center, backed by the Independent Film Project/New York and the Film and Video Association, will have facilities for both public and professional use.

Four Directions Entertainment, a prodco based on the Oneida Indian Nation, has landed its documentary The World of American Indian Dance on U.S. network television. The one-hour special, touted as ‘the first ever American Indian-produced documentary to air on a major television network,’ will be transmitted nationally on NBC on April 19 in an afternoon timeslot. The doc is based primarily on footage shot at a large traditional dance ceremony in the state of Montana and illuminates the centuries-old art form. The Oneida nation is in New York State.

The New York, U.S.-based Sci Fi Channel has jumped on the unscripted bandwagon and unveiled a programming slate that emphasizes its own stranger-than-fiction factual shows. Programs in production include Mad Mad House, which features a Big Brother-like accommodation inhabited by a witch, a voodoo priest, and a yoga master; Life on Mars, where 12 survivors attempt to deal with existance on a make-believe red planet; and ‘Sci Fi Declassified’ specials, two-hour commissioned docs in the vein of The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence, a program which garnered the channel’s highest ratings for a special.

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