News in Brief

HBO pulls Oliver Stone's Castro doc; European broadcasters offer free programming to their neighbors in the Balkans and Baltic; U.S. net TNN turns Spike for men
April 17, 2003

New York, U.S.-based pay-TV channel HBO has withdrawn Oliver Stone’s Fidel Castro documentary Comandante from its transmission schedule, citing political developments in Cuba. ‘It’s not going to be airing in May…We have asked Oliver Stone to return to Cuba and ask Fidel Castro about the recent events,’ an HBO spokesperson told RealScreen Plus. ‘We felt the film needed to be more current,’ she explained. She was unable to provide further details, noting Stone is currently abroad. On April 10 the U.S. State Department released a statement claiming, ‘the Cuban government has undertaken the most significant act of political repression in decades’ in which ‘nearly 80′ people ‘have been arrested, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in summary, secret trials.’

The Amsterdam, Netherlands-based broadcaster group Nordvision is offering more than 300 hours of programming to their counterparts in the Baltic region and the Balkans free of charge. In the deal coordinated by the Geneva, Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union, nine recipients – including Lithuania’s LRT, Latvia’s LTV, and Kosovo’s RTK – can pick from a host of programs, including documentaries ‘which might otherwise be out of their financial reach’ the EBU says in a statement. The donor broadcasters are Finland’s YLE, Sweden’s SVT, Denmark’s pubcaster DR, Norway’s NRK and Iceland’s RUV.

Say good-bye to The National Network and hello to Spike TV. That is the name of the re-branded U.S. cablecaster TNN, which is undergoing a corporate makeover to focus on men’s lifestyle programming (See RealScreen Plus January 16). Programs in development include Men’s Health Minutes, interstitials sprung from content of the U.S.-based magazine, the sports-reality series Top 10 Things Every Guy Should Experience (w/t); and specials such as 100 Most Irresistible Women. The on-air change takes effect June 16.

The New Zealand Television Broadcasters’ Council has released a comparison of government support for television productions in five countries, revealing that Kiwi prodcos receive the least per capita funding of them all. According to the council’s calculations, the New Zealand government is putting the equivalent of US$14.50 per New Zealander into TV productions in 2003, up from $10.60 in 2002. That compares to Canada’s $18.40 in 2003, down from $20 in 2002, Australia’s $25.70 in both 2003 and 2002 and Ireland’s $43.50 in 2003 versus 2002′s $32.70. The U.K. ranked the highest at $68 versus $71.35 last year.

The government of the U.K. has unveiled plans to launch an independent education channel – and is seeking program proposals. Called Teachers TV, the 18-hour programming day will consist of three types of shows: ‘classroom resources’, ‘training and development materials’ and news for educators. At least 50% of the content is expected to be original programming. It will be carried on cable and satellite. For further information visit

Look out Simon Schama, Bristol, U.K.-based doc prodco Icon Films has partnered with the University of Bristol to establish a work-placement program for wanna-be historians. The deal allows masters degree students in the university’s department of historical studies to work at Icon for course credit: the students get to learn tricks of the trade, such as proposal-writing and pitching, while Icon gets a first-look at the next possible celebrity-historians. Icon is presently working on several doc projects, including the sports-anthropology title A Different Ball Game for Washington, D.C. U.S.-based National Geographic and Holy Cow, a history of cattle herding, with New York PBS affiliate Thirteen/WNET.

Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Television Fund have instituted changes to their accounting and reporting requirements. The changes affect all Telefilm and CTF funds and programs for which a final cost report is required, and involve the rules governing ‘related party transactions.’ The changes apply to all contracts signed starting in the 2003/2004 fiscal year. Tell your accountants to visit or for further information.

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