News in Brief

Discovery and E! Networks cut back on staff; Nat Geo Film Library launches newsreel; A&E chief exec says news becomes history in 15 days.
November 15, 2001

Discovery Communications has joined the ranks of broadcasters that have lately laid off staff. David Leavy, a company spokesman, confirmed that Discovery has cut 47 positions (about 1% of the company’s workforce). About half of the layoffs are from the consumer products division and half from corporate operations. He adds that Discovery also plans to scale back on trade shows, and will combine the video archive and photo services staffs into a content management group.

E! Networks, parent to cable channels E! Entertainment Television and Style, has also reduced and reorganized. The company has cut 75 staff positions (a nine percent reduction), with cuts spanning all divisions company-wide.

National Geographic Film Library has launched the National Geographic Newsreel through a partnership with digital content manager and distributor Pathfire. Local broadcast stations can now access one hour of news footage from Nat Geo per week by subscription and a wider range of images on a per use basis. Nat Geo will draw on footage from its own library as well the World Bank and its news partners.

The National Geographic Explorer reporter who was hit in the leg by shrapnel while on assignment in Afghanistan last Sunday is on the mend, says Nat Geo spokeswoman Ellen Stanley. Gary Scurka was pursuing a story about distribution of relief aid in Northern Afghanistan for Explorer when he was injured. Stanley could not confirm who was responsible for the hit but said that Scurka has made a full recovery and was released from hospital.

In the U.S., the National Geographic Channel is predicting that it will top the 20 million subscriber mark by the end of the year.

In response to the high costs of covering the war in Afghanistan, CBS News has reduced the number of producers involved with 60 Minutes. The cut is minor – about six producers from a staff of 100 will be shuffled into other areas of the news department – but could indicate a weakening of the program’s status. The ratings for 60 Minutes recently dipped by about seven percent, a surprising stat given the strong climate for current affairs shows. The newsmagazine is the longest running primetime program in the history of television.

According to Nickolas Davatzes, president and chief executive officer of A&E Television Networks, current affairs becomes history after 15 days. Davatzes was quoted in The New York Times earlier this week, discussing The History Channel‘s airing of several programs related to the events of September 11.

German prodco H5B5 Media has abandoned a major coproduction deal with Fox Television after citing ‘unexpected difficulties’. The fate of the US$12 million, 5 x 60-minute series The Biggest Step has yet to be decided. The series had been presold to RTL.

U.S. network broadcaster ABC has pulled America 01 from its schedule after only two weeks on air. The program, which covered the changing scene in the U.S. following the September 11 terrorist attacks, was originally intended to fill the Friday night timeslot vacated by the low-rating The Mole 2: The Next Betrayal for the remainder of the season. America’s Funniest Home Videos will now air instead.

Hollywood met with the White House last weekend to discuss ways the film and television industries can support the U.S.-led war effort. Although both sides stressed producers would be left to their own devices when fulfilling that mandate, both parties suggested support could come in the form of documentaries and public service pieces as well as feature films.

In the wake of Monday’s American Airlines crash, CNN was again the television news provider of choice. The Cable News Network pulled in an average of 1.8 million households on the day of the tragedy, several hundred thousand above competitor Fox News.

The International Documentary Association will award Robert Guenette, a veteran filmmaker and former IDA president, with the Pioneer Award on December 7 at the 17th Annual IDA Awards Gala Benefit in Los Angeles. The Pioneer Award recognizes distinguished lifetime service to the doc community.

Sound and Fury – directed by Josh Aronson for Palisades, U.S.-based Public Policy Productions, in association with Next Wave Films in Santa Monica, U.S. – has won the US$5,000 Grand Prix in NHK‘s 28th Japan Prize Contest.

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