News in Brief

Aussie government stymies ABC funding; ARTE sets up three departments to support theme programming; CBC and U.K. prodco Mentorn agree to make some docs
May 15, 2003

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s funding has been undermined by the Aussie government’s federal budget. In the budget handed down May 13, Prime Minister John Howard’s Liberals denied the pubcaster’s requested financial boost. It has pledged AUS$489 million (US$315 million) in 2003-04, AUS$501 million ($323 million) in 2004-05 and, AUS$513 million ($331 million) in 2005-06. The ABC had requested an additional AUS$250 million ($161 million) over the three years. In a prepared statement, ABC managing director Russell Balding asserts, ‘Hard decisions must be made so that we can maintain core services and continue to be relevant to the Australian public. Decisions about programming will be made within the next few weeks.’

ARTE G.E.I.E., the French-German broadcaster, has re-organized its theme nights and the factual departments that manage them. The three new ‘Thema’ departments are titled Europe, headed by Sylvie Jezequel; Natural History and Science, led by Hélène Coldefy; and Culture and Arts, helmed by Dana Hastier. Europe will be a 120-minute segment on Tuesdays, Culture and Arts will air in a 120-minute slot Fridays and Nat History and Science will be transmitted Sundays for 240 minutes. The goal is ‘to be more creative and innovative and to adapt our needs to the national and international market,’ ARTE France commissioning editor Christoph Jorg told RealScreen Plus.

Public broadcaster Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has entered into a four-year production and distribution deal with London, U.K.-based Television Corporation. The agreement sees the CBC’s Documentary Production Unit and Television Corp.’s Mentorn prodco working together on four major documentary series. The international sales units of CBC and Television Corp. will split the distribution rights. The first project out of the gate is the two-part Disasters That Changed The World. Two others are already in development; one on the quest for the North West passage and one on the Victorian-era explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

Culver City, U.S.-based Actual Reality Pictures and New York-based Showtime Networks are Going to College. The 10 x 30 minute reality series by doc-maker R.J. Cutler (American High) will follow a dozen freshmen of both sexes and different ethnic backgrounds to the University of Texas in Austin, U.S. The series is slated to air on the cable channel starting in September, 2003. The announcement of the Showtime deal comes just days after Actual Reality parted ways with Los Angeles-based FX Networks over American Candidate (See RealScreen Plus, May 8).

The Independent Television Commission, the London, U.K.-based broadcast regulator, has issued its estimated audience-share ratings report. Broken down by channel, the big winner in the 12 months ending March 31 is the BBC: its family of channels netted 38.7% of viewers (In particular, BBC1 26.7%, BBC2 11.3% and BBC4 0.1%). Rounding out the top five are Channel 4 (9.6%), Five (6.4%), Central, a unit of the Carlton-owned ITV network (3.7%), and Granada Television (3.1%). It was the ITC’s 25 regular report.

BBC Vecta is the name of the U.K.-pubcaster’s latest commercial initiative. A part of BBC Ventures Group, the Beeb’s business-to-business division, its goal is to bring to market products initiated by the BBC’s department of research and development. Its first mission is the rollout of ‘radio digital cameras’.

Germany is going to the dogs – and lions and sharks and canaries – as Cologne-based broadcaster RTL 2 has locked in a two-hour Animal Planet slot in a deal with Silver Spring, U.S.-based Discovery Communications. Launched May 11, the Sunday afternoon block will feature AP’s The Crocodile Hunter and The Jeff Corwin Experience series.

New York, U.S.-based A&E Television Networks has secured an agreement to launch The History Channel in Italy. In this deal with Fox International Channels, The History Channel will be transmitted as a 24-hour Italian-language offering on Sky Italia, a satellite channel that reaches 2.6 million homes (Fox International and Sky Italia are both part of the Sydney, Australia-based News Corporation media empire). The launch is set for July.

In related news, A&E has secured a weekly History Channel programming block on Johannesburg-based pubcaster South African Broadcasting Corporation. The Sunday night doc slot on SABC2 launched May 11. SABC2, whose Sunday line-up consists of environmental and current affairs slots, reaches 8.6 million viewers.

Los Angeles, U.S.-based E! Entertainment Network has announced the 2003 slate of original programming for its Style channel, including eight formatted series. Among them are the one-hour Style Court, in which friends will be playfully judged for crimes against the laws of fashion; the one-hour Clean House, sees host Niecy Nash lead a team of pros in a mission to organize and de-clutter people’s homes; and Modern Girl’s Guide to Life in which host Jane Buckingham will help the busy career woman set and meet her domestic-life agenda.

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