MEDIA - Film/Radio/TV/Web - April 2002

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Tuesday April 30

ANIMATED ENTHUSIASMS: Last year's biggest-grossing movie was an animated feature. More recent top ten movie grosses show three animated films on the list. Animation is hot. Sydney Morning Herald 04/30/02

TV PROGRAMMING - JUST PICK ONE: Four out of five TV series fail. And fail fast - sometimes in just a few episodes. Yet shows are the result of research, focus groups, testing, formulas and lots and lots of money. But for all the planning "TV programming is just another lottery. Pick one, and say your prayers. The networks call this 'churn,' probably because it describes the queasy feeling they get when specialty cable shows draw three times their numbers." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/30/02

RADIO TO GO SILENT: Hundreds of internet radio stations intend to shut off the music Wednesday to protest new royalty fees thbey will soon have to pay for playing music. "The fee sounds tiny - 14/100ths of a cent - but it's per song and per listener, and Net radio operators, most of whom serve niche audiences, say the fees quickly multiply." USAToday 04/29/02

Monday April 29

REINVENTING CBC (BUT NO ONE'S READY): Managers of Canada's CBC Radio are attempting to reinvent the network's schedule. "Network management figures the makeover is necessary if the CBC is to better reflect Canada, attract younger listeners and widen its appeal among minority groups." But sources inside the corporation say the network is totally unprepared to make the kinds of changes that are being proposed. "They have nobody in place to produce the entire morning show. No execs and no production team. No one will touch it. It's very difficult to have somebody in place for radio programs when no one knows what they are." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/29/02

CLEAN SWEEP: A new US video store chain is proving successful by offering "sanitized" versions of movies. "The parent company's in-house editors remove much of the sex, violence, and nudity from films, which is proving popular with a lot of families disenchanted with Hollywood. Some 65 'Cleanflicks' stores have opened across the country in just the past 18 months." Nando Times (AP) 04/28/02

Sunday April 28

CANAL PLUS CHILL: France is mourning the sudden sacking of the head of TV channel Canal Plus. The channel, "which has been broadcasting since 1984, was a generous gift of the late President Mitterrand to his supporters in the cultural world. While exploiting a monopoly of the burgeoning market of pay television, the new channel was also given the role of subsidising French cinema. By last year it was spending $140 million, around 12 per cent of its revenues, on French film projects, and it had become the most important patron of the French film industry." The Telegraph (UK) 04/27/02

WHAT'S A DEFINITION OF CANADIAN? The Canadian government tries to encourage Canadian TV and movie projects with tax breaks and exposure in Canada. But trying to determine what is Canadian and why is a much stickier process than mere labeling. Toronto Star 04/27/02

Friday April 26

MEMORABLE TV: Almost half of all British television viewers cannot remember anything interesting from the previous night's programmes, a survey suggests. "But 59% single out TV as their best source in the media for trustworthy information and 'curiosity satisfaction'." BBC 04/26/02

AUSSIE SHUTOUT: Australia has been producing well-regarded movies in the past few years. So why do no Aussie feature films show up on this year's Cannes lineup? "Cannes favours either big-budget American films, 'cinematically challenging work from the Third World' or auteur directors. That has left Australian film-makers, who are generally making more accessible films that succeed at home, out in the cold." Sydney Morning Herald 04/26/02

MOVIES GO BIG: Superscreen IMAX movies aren't just for the local science center anymore. "Mainstream Hollywood films meant to entertain, not educate, are being altered to fit the IMAX format. And super-sized screens – some as much as eight stories high – are popping up in some unlikely places. New venues such as theme parks, malls, and even a Natick, Mass., furniture store are changing the image of big- screen viewing." Christian Science Monitor 04/26/02

Thursday April 25

CANNES LINEUP: Twenty-two movies have been chosen for this year's Cannes Film Festival. "Organisers of 2002's event on Wednesday revealed that they had chosen three US films, three UK movies and one from Canada to vie for the coveted top prize of the Palme d'Or." BBC 04/24/02

  • ATOM HAS HIS REASONS: When Atom Egoyan announced that he would not allow his new film, Ararat, to be submitted for judging at Cannes, it only added fuel to the controversy surrounding the film, which concerns the slaughter of as many as 1.3 million Armenians by the Turkish government in 1915. Says Egoyan, "Given the fact that it is dealing with history that hasn't really been presented on film before and there are so many judgments that have already been imposed on it, the idea of subjecting it to an actual jury didn't sit well." Toronto Star 04/25/02

Wednesday April 24

SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR DISNEY? An ex-reporter for the New York Post sues the Post and Disney for $10 million after the Post fired her after stories critical of Disney. The case gives an inside look at  how big-time entertainment coverage is conducted. Village Voice 04/23/02  

EGOYAN DOESN'T WANT A SCORE: "Toronto director Atom Egoyan has refused to enter his contentious new film, Ararat,in competition at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. His highly anticipated movie about the Armenian genocide will be screened at the celebrity-studded fête on May 20. But people close to the 41-year-old filmmaker said he would not allow it to be judged for one of the festival's prestigious prizes because of the deeply personal subject matter." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/24/02

Tuesday April 23

NPR CHANGES EXPLAINED: National Public Radio programmer Jay Kernis has been taking a beating in the media for his plans to restructure cultural programming at NPR. Why is he making changes to NPR's successful formula? "The public radio listener - yeah! - likes foreign films, a lot. Likes independent films. But the public radio listener goes to big blockbuster movies and rents big blockbuster DVDs. And all I've ever said is that when we cover popular culture, we should cover it with the same journalism filters that we use when we cover a news event, which is to say do the reporting - ask tough questions - tell a real story. I have never said more popular culture, more popular culture. But I have said: Don't be afraid to cover popular culture." On the Media (NPR) 04/21/02

ITALIAN RENAISSANCE: Italian film was hot in the 1950s, before going into a long period of decline. Now "anew generation of Italian directors is emerging that recalls the golden age of neo-realism 50 years ago, and some film makers who came to the fore then or soon after have staged remarkable comebacks." The Economist 04/18/02

Monday April 22

FOOD FIGHT: "Now get ready for a gunfight between the Blame Canada crowd in L.A. and the producers happily taking advantage of lower costs and friendlier working conditions on this side of the longest undefended. It's shaping up as the most bizarre scuffle you've ever heard of between people who make movies and the unions representing the actors who appear in them." Toronto Star 04/21/02

DIVERSITY - NOT JUST ABOUT NUMBERS: "It seems like you can't pick up a newspaper these days without reading about how TV, and Hollywood in general, needs to become more 'diverse.' As an African American actor, I suppose I should applaud these efforts to increase the presence of minorities on TV. But I've been in this business long enough to know that an issue like TV diversity is far more complex than it is often portrayed." Los Angeles Times 04/22/02

IS PUBLIC BROADCASTING GOING COMMERCIAL? Why are public radio and TV stations moving out of their traditional program areas lately and being more numbers-driven? "The problem is that consultants whose experience was in commercial radio pretty much set the agenda for public radio in the mid-1990s." OpinionJournal 04/19/02

WE WANT CREDIT: Studies show that TV viewers switch channels when credits roll at the end of a program. So some Disney owned channels are dropping the credits. But the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences objects. "People want to stand up for the right to be credited for the work that they do. That's been a historic right in Hollywood and the entertainment industry." Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 04/22/02

Friday April 19

CANCON TAKEN TO EXTREMES? "The most praised Canadian play in the Stratford Festival's 50-year history has been refused a Canadian TV production investment because its central character is Queen Elizabeth I, a non-Canadian, and the events do not take place in Canada. Hamstrung by a stringent rule affecting completely Canadian-content productions, the Canadian Television Fund... has refused an application from Toronto's Rhombus Media for a crucial 20 per cent investment to film Elizabeth Rex for CBC and Bravo. Toronto Star 04/19/02

Thursday April 18

BECAUSE PROPPING UP THEIR DOLLAR WOULD BE TOO COSTLY: The Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) has announced a new plan to enforce union contracts outside the boundaries of the U.S. The move is aimed squarely at curbing the tendency of Hollywood studios to trim costs by making movies in Canada, and SAG's Canadian counterpart is not thrilled. Nando Times (AP) 04/18/02

RATINGS PRESSURES KNOCKS ARTS PROGRAMMING: A study of TV programming in Britain shows that arts, current affairs and children's programming are falling off the program schedule because of ratings pressures. "An analysis  showed that arts and current affairs programmes have been the main casualties of the peak time battle, falling by 40% and 50% respectively." The Guardian (UK) 04/17/02

CANNES JURY ANNOUNCED: The Cannes Film Festival has announced the jury for this year's festival - five directors and three actresses, including American actress Sharon Stone. The Age (Melbourne) 04/18/02

  • ATOM-IC EXPLOSION AWAITED AT CANNES: "The possible premiere of Canadian director Atom Egoyan's new film Ararat at Cannes next month is hotly awaited by cinephiles around the world -- plus one very angry government. Since last December, the Turkish government has been threatening legal action against the film's producers if the film asserts that Turkey was guilty of genocide against the Armenian community in 1915." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/18/02

Wednesday April 17

WHAT, ME WORRY? Michael Powell (yes, Colin's kid) is chairman of America's Federal Communications Commission. He sees no problems with the rapid consolidation of media in the hands of a few mega-corporations. ''I mean, I can watch everything from a thoughtful piece on history on the History Channel to Fear Factor. I think we're in a period right now where we're seeing the very best that television has produced, and the very worst.'' Boston Globe 04/17/02

BREAKING DOWN THE RACE BARRIERS: "Three decades after Melvin Van Peebles made his groundbreaking Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and three decades after Shaft brought blaxploitation to the American movie scene, there is no question that African-American filmmakers have entered the Hollywood mainstream. Because of this, some members of the African-American community argue that the real issue facing their colleagues today is not so much one of race as one of economics - the battle almost any filmmaker faces in getting a quality film off the ground. 'It's less about black and white than green'." Backstage 04/17/02

FAMILY VALUES: G-rated family films are suddenly hot in Hollywood. "Studios have already decided that they're going to make more G, PG and PG-13 films, said a market researcher for the major studios who didn't want to be named. Often criticized in conservative political and cultural quarters for ignoring family values, studios are now vying for hard-to-find quality material with gentle themes and universal appeal." Toronto Star 04/16/02

Tuesday April 16

ALL ABOUT OZZY: Rocker Ozzy Osbourne has found a second career as a sitcom star. "The aging, addled satanic rocker is the perpetually mumbling centerpiece of The Osbournes, which has turned into the most popular series in MTV history." Weird as it sounds, though, the show is part of a long comfortable tradition of family sitcoms." Washington Post 04/16/02

NPR PROGRAM CHANGES EXPLAINED: National Public Radio's major reorganization of its programming has many worried about how NPR will cover culture. "People say NPR is going into pop culture. But we should cover popular culture in the same smart way as when we cover news events." San Francisco Chronicle 04/16/02

POOH RIGHT BACK AT YOU: A New York Post reporter says she was fired by the newspaper "at the behest of Disney, after writing stories about the Mouse House's long-running Winnie the Pooh litigation." Now she's filed a $10 million suit against the newspaper and Disney. Yahoo! (Variety) 04/15/02

Monday April 15

HOGGING CREDIT: It seems everyone in Hollywood is unhappy about the way credits for movies are allocated. "All you have to do is go to the movies and look at the proliferation of producer credits, and you can recognize that there's a problem. (There is) a trend, which I think we are in the process of reversing, toward the devaluing or undervaluing of the producer and his role, because if you can give that credit to anyone, the implication is that it doesn't mean anything." Backstage 04/14/02 

DIGITAL SCRAMBLE: The demand for digital projection in movie theatres is growing. And fast. Trouble is, the companies that make the $130,000 projectors can keep up with the orders. And with the next installment of the digitally produced Star Wars coming out soon, there's a scramble to get the best equipment. Wired 04/15/02

CRAPPY BUSINESS: The lords of TV and movies can rarely be called artists. Instead of art, business rules decisions about what gets produced and what doesn't. So how do the moguls do at business? Tod Gitlin's new book concludes that "generally, they don't have very good reasons for doing what they do. And then, of course, if something succeeds, there's a retroactive, backpatting and genius-anointing operation. But that's the culture of the television-entertainment industry. Sometimes they'll get lucky and strike Survivor for a while." Salon 04/14/02  

WE'RE SHOCKED - HOLLYWOOD EXAGERATES? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has protested to a leading talent agency for exagerating its clients' successes at the recent Academy Awards. "The Creative Artists Agency took out congratulatory trade paper ads March 22 - two days before the Academy Awards - saying 32 of its clients had received Oscar nominations. But half of the listed clients weren't nominated." Sydney Morning Herald (AP) 04/15/02

Friday April 12

NPR REORGANIZES ITS CULTURAL COVERAGE: National Public Radio restructures, cuts 47 jobs and refocuses its cultural programming and arts coverage. Officials said the new approach would "break down barriers between arts staffers and the news division - a barrier that cultural staffers acknowledge existed within the NPR offices on Massachusetts Avenue. The new approach will also be more eclectic." Washington Post 04/12/02

  • UNION MEMO ON THE CUTS: AFTRA, the broadcast union, details some of the cuts in a memo to NPR employees: "NPR informed affected employees of their status this morning in two separate meetings. The Cultural Programming Division has effectively been eliminated, and the Cultural Desk of the News Division has been drastically altered. NPR is also severing its relationship with American RadioWorks, resulting in the elimination of one unit position." MediaNews@Poynter 04/11/02

DOWNLOADING HOLLYWOOD: Movie piracy is becoming a very big deal in the digital age. "According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the industry already loses more than $3 billion annually to the sale of illegally copied videotapes. Now, with an estimated 350,000 digital movie files being downloaded daily for free, and with that number expected to climb to a million by year's end, digital film piracy is Hollywood's next nightmare." Christian Science Monitor 04/12/02

MOVIES PREFER PRAGUE: Prague is becomming the city of choice for shooting movies. "It is Prague's potent mix of unspoilt locations, highly skilled (often non-union) technicians and, above all, low prices that have lured more than 60 international productions here since 1989, earning the Czech capital the moniker Hollywood on the Vltava, after the river that runs through it. International film-makers spend $200m (£143m) a year in the city, and there are even hints that - with ever-improving facilities and the fact that costs of production are up to 50% lower than in London - Prague may be about to oust the UK capital from the number one slot." The Guardian (UK) 04/12/02

Thursday April 11

THOSE DAMN CRITICS... No, no no, Mike Figgis isn't bitter about critics. So they don't give his movies the respect they deserve. So others get lauded in print for accomplishments that were really his. "One of the rules of film conduct is not really negotiable: never whinge about a bad review or a particular critic." Still... The Guardian (UK) 04/10/02

THE MEANING OF DIGITAL: The digital movie revolution is racing along, with some predicting film will be obsolete by 2005. "The new technology will change the way movies are made and the way they look. The digital revolution will also alter programming at cinema complexes. As well as movies, complexes will be able to screen any event taking place around the world simultaneously - concerts in New York, the Olympic Games in Beijing or Oscar presentations." The Age (Melbourne) 04/11/02

BOND AND AUSTIN MAKE UP: Earlier this year the Motion Picture Association told producers of the new Austin Powers movie they couldn't call it Goldmember because it infringed on James Bond's Goldfinger (so much for parody). Now Bond and Austin have made up and Goldmember will be allowed. In return, ads for this summer's new Bond film will run with every showing of the latest Powers sequel. Sydney Morning Herald 04/11/02

Tuesday April 9

MIKE AND MEL'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE: The premier of Ontario and the mayor of Toronto take a field trip to Hollywood with pocketsful of goodies to lure film productions to Canada. The pair offered tax credits and breaks on locations. Did it work? The pair claim that one "major feature film and six other movies discussed on the pair's trip will now be shot in Ontario. But while Canadians were boasting about putting down roots for a film industry that caters to Americans in Canada, protesters were outside the consulate vowing to rip out those roots and nullify Canadian film subsidies with countervailing tariffs to keep film jobs in the United States." National Post (CP) (Canada) 04/09/02

Monday April 8

IN GOVERNMENT WE TRUST? Judging by the TV schedule full of shows about government, American bureaucracy is popular again. "Cynics might note that these are basically the same dramas that used to happen in hospitals, or law firms, simply transferred to government settings. Throw up some columns, roll out some marble, drape a few flags, and "The West Wing" is basically L.A. Law in D.C. But that underestimates the power of setting. The government is not incidental to these programs, it is essential." Washington Post 04/07/02

ET GO HOME: The movie ET was the biggest hit of its day, breaking all box office records. But the rerelease of the movie, with new and reworked scenes has been a disappointment at the gate. "One possibility is that re-releases need to be cult films. You need an in-built fan base. Just being a massive hit is not enough." BBC 04/05/02

HEARING ALONG WITH THE ACTION: America's TV networks introduce new technology that allows blind people to follow along with action on the screen. "The technology allows the user to turn on a secondary audio channel, on which a narrator describes the action during pauses in the dialogue. (All televisions made in the United States since the early 1990's have such a channel.)" The New York Times 04/08/02 

RIO STRIKES BACK: Tourism officials of Rio de Janeiro plan to sue producers of The Simpsons for portraying their city in a bad way. "In the episode the Simpson father, Homer, is kidnapped by a taxi driver, the family is assaulted by begging Brazilian children on a beach, and the family visits Rio slums infested by violent monkeys." Houston Chronicle (Knight Ridder) 04/07/02

Sunday April 7

MYTHOLOGY OF THE YOUTH DEMOGRAPHIC: The advertising gospel has long held that: "people age 18-34 watch less television than older adults but are the most desirable to reach because their brand loyalties have yet to be established. So networks with programs that successfully appeal to this audience will be able to charge higher rates for advertising, and advertisers will be able to establish brand loyalties that will continue for a lifetime." But is this conventional wisdom true anymore? Some are beginning to question it. Chicago Tribune 04/07/02

THE NEW MOVIE EXPERIENCE: The success of the DVD format "has far outstripped expectations, and as a result of the DVD's booming popularity since its introduction in 1997, the audience's relationship to movies has changed. The home video was merely a small-screen version of a movie. The DVD is interactive - so much so that to the studios' alarm, technically sophisticated film buffs with a little determination and access to the Internet can relate to a movie in ways that were impossible only a few years ago, including moving and removing scenes and characters from a movie. The implications are profound." Los Angeles Times 04/07/02

Friday April 5

GOT $5,000? "Thanks to inexpensive digital-video technology and Internet access, more would-be Spike Lees are writing scripts, then shooting and promoting their films directly to the public online or through networking." Christian Science Monitor 04//05/02

Thursday April 4

NO HOFFA JOKES, PLEASE: "The powerful Teamsters Union is attempting to take over the representation of 500 transportation workers on film and TV sets in Toronto, setting the stage for a potentially heated showdown and sparking industry fears of labour unrest in the city's $1 billion, U.S. dominated movie and TV industry." Toronto Star 04/04/02

MONEY-GRAB: Web radio-casters say that new royalty fees they will have to pay for music they play will put many of them out of business. And who will get the royalty money? The artists will, say recording industry spokespeople. But first there are all those fees and expenses and charges to be deducted. Who will really benefit from the new fees? Salon 04/03/02

ALL ABOUT THE DEMOGRAPHICS: Boston public television station WGBH produces fully 30% of the national programming aired on the PBS network. So a report this week that PBS is planning to 'reexamine' much of its programming with an eye towards attracting a younger audience is making waves in Beantown. "The research is part of a larger push by Pat Mitchell, who took over as PBS president and chief executive in 2000 with a plan to make programming more relevant to audiences in general and more appealing to younger viewers. Her mandate comes at a time of intense change in the television landscape, as more and more channels are emerging and many of them are broadcasting work similar to that of PBS." Boston Globe 04/04/02

Wednesday April 3

RETHINKING CANCON: Three decades ago, Canada created a set of rules requiring all radio and television broadcasters to air a certain amount of Canadian content, in an effort to stem the rising tide of American influence. The regulations, known as CanCon, have always been controversial, but the government has stuck by them consistently, until now. The Canadian heritage minister has announced that the federal government will "take a look" at the restrictions, and while such a declaration is a long way from a promise to loosen the rules, it is the first chink in CanCon's considerable armor. Toronto Star 04/03/02

PROGRESSIVE FIGHTING: America's Pacifica radio network is the country's largest alternative progressive politics network. But "since 1999 there has been a vitriolic battle over programming and personnel between the Pacifica Board and two of the network's stations in particular, first KPFA in Berkeley and then WBAI in New York." Is this a battle to professionalize and become more relevant or a sell-out to corporate interests? The Nation 04/15/02

Tuesday April 2

BUY AUSSIE: Many American movies are produced in Australia. But does that mean Australia has a film industry? "In order to say you have a film industry you must have an infrastructure which supports a home-grown industry, and I just don't think that's possible with the way American films have a stranglehold on the distribution systems," Sydney Morning Herald 04/02/02

AFGHANISTAN GOES BACK TO THE MOVIES: The Taliban banned movies in Afghanistan. Now the first Afghan-made films are being shown at home again. "The showing of these two films was quite an event. A make-shift screen was set up in a spartan auditorium at the university. There were cheers for the director and clapping to the music. Reactions at the end were mixed, but what everyone enjoyed was that the films reflected Afghan life." BBC 04/02/02 

MUST-SEE TV? With TV networks declaring a sitcom a hit and critics writing it off, where's the truth? "The difficulty of launching new hit comedies is an old story getting older. Still, there also appears to be a disconnect between what audiences are actually embracing and more daring or critically lauded programs networks are eager to brand as hits." Los Angeles Times 04/01/02

Monday April 1

THE END OF WEB RADIO? "The proposed royalties, which the copyright office has until May 21 to revise or approve, have radically dimmed the prospects for the legions of entrepreneurs and hobbyists whose radio stations — from to Radio Margaritaville — have for the last two years provided free access to a startlingly wide range of music. Last week, lawyers for the Webcasters and the recording industry submitted their final comments to the copyright office, with the record labels urging the agency to increase the rate and the Webcasters pleading for a lower alternative." The New York Times 04/01/02