News in Brief

BBC to cut lifestyle shows and launch two arts and doc strands; Channel 4 reports a profit for 2002; Sundance Channel picks up Aftermath: The Remnants Of War
May 1, 2003

The BBC is beefing up arts and current affairs documentaries and cutting back on lifestyle programming. In its ‘Statements of Program Policy’ for 2003/2004 issued April 29, the U.K. pubcaster says, ‘BBC 2 will broaden its range of genres in peak time, including more arts, politics and current affairs, which will mean less reliance on lifestyle’ shows. It promises to broadcast ‘more high-impact, memorable programs’; to that end it will launch two new regular arts and documentary strands on BBC 1 (Further details weren’t available at press time). The Beeb is also planning to better schedule BBC1 and 2, to avoid running the same genre of programs head-to-head.

Things are looking up for Channel 4. The U.K. broadcaster reported a profit of £10.2 million (US$16.4 million) in the fiscal year ending December 31, 2002, compared to a loss of £27 million ($33 million) a year earlier. It spent £19.7 million ($31.7 million) on 286 hours of documentaries in 2002, compared to £20 million ($32.2 million) on 322 hours of docs in 2001 [It also reported spending £14.8 million ($23.8 million) on 250 hours of current affairs in 2002 versus £14.6 million ($23.5 million) on 261 hours in 2001; and £23.4 million ($37.7 million) on 414 hours of 'other factual' in 2002, down from £26.9 million ($43.3 million) on 509 hours in 2001]. C4 also spent a total of £227 million ($365.4 million) on 3,786 hours of independently produced programs last year, of all genres, up from £201.7 million ($324.7 million) on 3,636 hours the year earlier.

In other C4 news, the channel has come under fire for one of its documentaries. In a prepared statement, Weston, Canada-based pharmaceutical company Apotex claims Dying for Drugs, produced by True Vision, ‘misrepresented many elements’ in the development of Ferriprox, Apotex’s possible treatment of thalassemia, a potentially fatal condition caused by too much iron in the body. The crux of the drug-maker’s criticism revolves around interviews with Dr. Nancy Olivieri, a Canadian researcher whose relationship with Apotex ended acrimoniously. C4 stands by the program transmitted April 28, says company spokesman Gavin Dawson. ‘It is the big pharma companies like these that have a credibility problem, not Channel 4′s journalism. All the companies featured [in the doc] were given ample time to put their points across and Channel 4 fairly and accurately represented their position in the film,’ he told RealScreen Plus.

The New York, U.S.-based Sundance Channel has acquired the U.S. television rights to Aftermath: The Remnants Of War, a documentary by Toronto, Canada-based Storyline Entertainment. Based on the book of the same name by Donovan Webster, the doc examines the implications of unexploded bombs and discarded munitions around the world. It is a coproduction with the National Film Board of Canada. It will be transmitted by Sundance in October, 2003.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has temporarily suspended part of the digital requirements governing Public Broadcasting Service stations. In the decision handed down April 28, the Washington, D.C. U.S.-based FCC pushed to November 1 the May 1 deadline that 50% of PBS’s analog transmissions must be available via digital signals. In a statement, the FCC admitted that ‘noncommercial educational licensees’ such as PBS were finding it difficult to both upgrade their transmission operations to digital equipment by May 1 – a deadline that remains unchanged – and meet the 50% goal at the same time. By April 2005 they must transmit 100% of their content digitally.

Oxon, U.K.-based archive house Oxford Scientific Films, a subsidiary of Aussie media company Southern Star, has appointed a new stock footage agent for the U.S. The deal with Corbis unveiled April 29 means its extensive catalogue is now available via the CorbisMotion offices in New York and L.A. Additionally, OSF signed a footage-licensing deal with Toronto, Canada-based stock agency First Light on April 22.

A web site has been launched that offers royalty-free digital-video stock footage. Called, it is billed as containing thousands of affordably priced and uncompressed clips of a variety of subjects in PAL and NTSC formats. Clip prices start as low as US$50. The site is an offshoot of Burbank, U.S.-based footage library Wish You Were Here Film and Video.

The History Channel is going to Thailand in a deal between its New York, U.S.-based parent A&E Television Networks and Bangkok-based United Broadcasting Corporation. Set to launch May 1, 2003, the channel will air as a 24-hour network on UBC’s satellite and cable platforms, reaching 430,000 subscribers in the country. This follows on an expansion of The History Channel into several south-Asian countries last winter (See RealScreen Plus February 20).

Imax is expanding its foothold in India. The Toronto, Canada-based company will open three of its specialty theaters through a pact with Aerens Developers & Engineers, a commercial real-estate developer. With the addition of this deal it will have six locations in India by 2006. The theaters will screen traditional Imax films (the latest being James Cameron’s doc Ghosts of the Abyss) as well as re-formatted Hollywood and Bollywood films.

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