News in Brief

Cameraman killed making West Bank doc; HBO cuts positions in sales overhaul; The History Channel rolls out theme nights
May 8, 2003

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders is calling on Israel to investigate the killing of James Miller, a freelance cameraman shot while working on a documentary for HBO in the Gaza Strip. According to RWB, Miller, 34, was hit by Israeli army gunfire May 2 in Rafah while filming an army unit demolishing a building. The Paris, France-based group cited Israeli officials who said Miller died of a neck wound before he could be evacuated by helicopter. New York-based HBO acknowledged Miller was working with doc-maker Saira Shah (Beneath the Veil) on an unspecified project. ‘We are deeply grieved by the loss of James Miller,’ an HBO spokesperson told RealScreen Plus. He had also worked on docs for the BBC.

In other news, HBO has cut approximately 20 people, or one percent of the pay-TV channel’s workforce, in a shakeup of its sales and marketing operations. ‘We have restructured our organization to reflect the ongoing changes in the industry,’ Eric Kessler, president, sales & marketing, told RealScreen Plus. ‘Specifically, we reoriented sales from a regional to an account-based focus. This enables us to service our affiliates more effectively and operate more efficiently,’ he explains.

Finally, HBO has acquired the rights to the filmmaker Jamie Johnson’s documentary Born Rich. The doc offers a look inside the tight-lipped and bursting-wallet culture of America’s wealthiest families, led by Johnson, the 23-year-old heir to the Johnson & Johnson health-care product empire. The film includes interviews with offspring of billionaires Donald Trump and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The History Channel, a unit of New York, U.S.-based A&E Television Network, is overhauling its weekly programming schedule in favor of theme nights for the 2003/2004 season. Starting with Monday, the theme titles are History Matters; Tech Tuesday; Modern Marvels; Time Machine; Heavy Metal Friday; History’s Mysteries; and History Sunday, a showcase of two-hour premieres and specials. Additionally, the channel is launching several new series, including Extreme History with Roger Daltry, Tactical to Practical, and History Now. New specials include Failure Is Not An Option; The Alamo and Barbarians. The History Channel hits 85 million homes in the U.S.; 95% of its content is original programming.

Los Angeles, U.S.-based E! Entertainment Television has unveiled its slate for 2003/2004 as well. New series include Celebrities Uncensored, a candid look at the everyday lives of Hollywood stars; Reality Magazine Project (w/t), an unscripted tag-along looks at what it’s like being an editor and writer at entertainment publications (alas, not RealScreen); and Your 15 Minutes Are Up, a show that probes life after fame for the former stars of reality series.

Fine Living, an up-scale lifestyle channel that specializes in advertising-supported programming, has also unveiled its new series and specials. As befitting its tag-line – ‘live like you mean it’ – the new titles include The Wine Show, gadget-and-gear show iDESIGN, and Born American, a show about stand-out made-in-the-USA products (Coca-Cola, NASCAR race cars and Monopoly). Fine Living is a unit of Knoxville, U.S.-based Scripps Networks.

FX Networks, the Los Angeles, U.S.-based division of Fox, has dropped doc-maker R.J. Cutler’s high profile reality series American Candidate (See RealScreen Plus September 26, 2002). Network executives had decided the program’s production budget was unmanageable. The premise revolves around viewers selecting a non-affiliated or ‘grass roots’ candidate for the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Cutler’s Culver City-based Actual Reality Productions is now shopping the idea to other broadcasters. ‘I’m certain the show will be on the air in 2004,’ Cutler told RealScreen Plus, adding he expects to announce a new network partner within weeks.

After three years of groundwork, ARKive, the U.K.-based wildlife conservation project will open a dedicated museum and resource library later this month. Noted natural history filmmaker Sir David Attenborough will help open the £3 million (US$4.8 million) initiative’s Bristol home on May 20. A key element of ARKive is its online databank of images and clips of endangered plants and animals It is supported by organizations like Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, Discovery Communications, Granada Wild, Oxford Scientific Films and NHNZ. Opening ceremonies will include a memorial tribute to Christopher Parsons, one of the main ARKive architects, former head of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, and founder of the Wildscreen Trust, who died last fall (See RealScreen Plus November 14, 2002).

TVE America, the North American commercial arm of Madrid, Spain-based pubcaster TVE, has secured carriage of three channels on the Comcast cable system in the U.S. The Spanish-language channels are the entertainment HTV Musica, Utilisima, a women-oriented information station, and TVE Internacional, a broad-mandate network which includes documentary and current affair slots.

Union Square 2003, a documentary by New York, U.S.-based Alliance International Pictures, has secured a screening at the Cannes Market, the industry component of the Cannes Film Festival (May 14 to 25). The doc by director Stephen J. Szklarski explores the existence of young, homeless heroin addicts living today in New York City. The 90-minute feature will be screened May 15.

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.