News in Brief

C4 lowers the boom on 200 employees; Carlton and Granada agree to new merger; BBC goes forward with UK History and UK Homestyle
October 17, 2002

British broadcaster Channel 4 confirmed October 17 that it is cutting 200 employees in a bid to control costs. According to The Guardian, the shake-up includes the voluntary resignation of director of finance and business affairs Janet Walker; her duties were taken over by David Scott, who was promoted from managing director to deputy chief executive officer. Current program director Tim Gardam is being promoted to director of television as part of the changes. The overhaul is part of a plan to cut the company’s expenses by a third, which amounts to £36 million (US$56 million) a year. The cuts come two days after C4 disclosed its program budget for 2003 will top £430 million, ($669 million), according to BBC News.

Carlton and Granada, two of the biggest television companies in the U.K. and the partners behind broadcaster ITV, have agreed to merge. The Guardian reports that the renewed deal – a proposed £2.6 billion (US$4 billion) agreement – must get regulatory approval; details of the plan include setting up an independent Carlton sales unit. Several major advertisers, however, such as Proctor & Gamble, have warned that they are not fond of the idea due to the concentration of ownership, the newspaper says.

In related news, ITV is boosting its program budget to a record £836 million (US$1.3 billion) in 2003, up from £775 million ($1.2 billion) in 2002. The 2002 figures included broadcast of the 2002 World Cup (held every four years), so the increase actually reflects a £100 million ($156 million) investment in original programming. ITV1 will undergo a major re-branding, the company stated. The company also said it is adding a further 20 hours of programming to ITV2‘s weekly transmission total. The change is effective November 4.

The British government has given a final all-clear to the launch of the BBC‘s two new digital TV channels. Doubts had been raised about the legalities of the new offerings after the U.S.-based History Channel, co-owner of The History Channel U.K, lodged a complaint that the launch contravened a clause of a 1997 agreement authorizing the plan. According to The Guardian, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said on October 14 no conflict exists, and UK History and UK Homestyle can be shown on Freeview (the successor to ITV Digital). Freeview is a joint-venture with Crown Castle.

Los Angeles, U.S.-based E! International Networks has reached a deal that sees its channel carried by broadcaster BSkyB in the U.K. The long-term channel carriage agreement sees the entertainment network added to BSkyB’s basic-tier subscription service. The full launch takes place in January. In a separate deal, Sky One, a unit of BSkyB, has acquired E!’s reality sitcom The Anna Nicole Show.

London, U.K.-based Extreme International has secured a supply pact that sees 200 hours of its ‘action and extreme’ sports programming carried by Rome, Italy-based network Stream. The deal takes effect this month.

The U.S. premiere of Michael Moore‘s documentary Bowling for Columbine grossed US$209,148 in eight theaters the weekend of October 12 and 13, according to Nielsen figures. The IMAX doc Space Station 3-D, which played in 61 theaters, added $285,413 in ticket sales, pushing its total to just over $25 million. Miramax‘s theatrical doc Comedian, which profiles Jerry Seinfeld, took in $15,056 and was screened in four theaters.

The Australian Film Commission (AFC) has announced that it will provide full funding for The Fall of the House, a documentary on British composer/conductor Sir Eugene Goosens and ‘his fall from grace in the arms of the Kings Cross witch Rosaleen Norton‘. The doc will be written and directed by Geoff Burton, whose previous credits include The Sum of Us, Sirens, and the documentary Flight Over the Equator. The AFC provides funding of AUS$250,000 (US$137,000) each year to a documentary filmmaker for a specific project, a scheme that was first introduced two years ago.

U.K. natural history producers received a big boost of recognition October 15 by taking home 10 of the 17 Panda Awards given out at this year’s Wildscreen Festival (October 13 to 18). U.S.-based producers received the second most awards, three, and prodcos from China, Japan, Canada and Norway got one each. The Wildscreen Trust Award for Outstanding Achievement went to U.K. doc-maker Hugh Miles (Flight of the Condor). David Attenborough, of the BBC, was presented with a special award marking his 50 years in wildlife filmmaking.

The Sheffield International Documentary Festival (October 21 to 27) has announced that keynote speakers will include filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker (Down From the Mountain) and Chris Hegedus ( Also taking place will be an analysis of Lars von Trier’s (Dancer in the Dark) Dogumentary Code of bare-bones filmmaking. A special master class will be held to discuss the contributions of Kevin Sim (Four Hours in My Lai).

This year’s Berlin International Film Festival will be held from February 6 to 16, 2003. The program is divided into several sections, including children’s film, European film and short films. The deadline for all submission is November 5, 2002. For details, visit the website at //

Oscar-award-winning doc-maker Charles Guggenheim, whose career spanned almost 50 years and work included feature films and commercials, died October 9 at the age of 78, reports The New York Times. His documentaries include Robert Kennedy Remembered (1968), The Johnstown Flood (1989) and A Time for Justice (1994).

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