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

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Friday August 30

RIGHT TO EDIT: A video store chain that edits profanity, violence and sex from films asked a judge Thursday to rule the practice is legal, despite protests by such directors as Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg. Nando Times (AP) 08/30/02

  • Previously: WE WANT OUR SEX AND VIOLENCE! Hollywood directors are looking into the possibility of legal action against a handful of Utah companies which specialize in distributing video tapes and DVDs of popular movies with all the bad language, sex, and graphic violence stripped out for family consumption. The directors say that such edits amount to censorship and leave the films devoid of meaning. Wired 08/28/02

NOT ABOUT QUALITY: Once upon a time (so legend has it), it was thought that if you made good movies - no, really great movies - more people would buy tickets and you'd make money. But "apparently, that highly desirable and once elusive quality - the `must-see' status that guarantees a film a huge opening weekend - can now be synthesized using a carefully researched combination of ultra-aggressive TV, print and partnership promotion, merchandising, `brand naming' and super-saturation release patterns. But the result is a host of movies that exist for no other reason than to make money and are often free of content and conviction." Boston Herald 08/30/02

WORLD PERSPECTIVE: The Montreal Film Festival is so international it's not even called the Montreal Film Festival - it's the Festival des Films du Monde - World Film Festival. "The program is the size of a Manhattan phone book, and the 'grille horaire' - Montreal's combined schedule, map, and prayer guide - is as densely figured as the Rosetta stone and nearly as multilingual. There are films in and out of competition, of course, but also filmmaker tributes, an international selection, and Latin American, Japanese, Canadian, and African groupings. Throw in more than a hundred experimental, television, and student works, and you have one long suicide-by-pleasure for aficionados of world cinema." Boston Globe 08/30/02

STAR TURNS: Accountants and financiers have such a strong grip on the British film industry that they dictate how movies get made. And how they want them made is with recognizable big stars. "If you're making your film for less than £2m, then you've bought yourself a degree of freedom in casting. Much over that, and the pressure from investors to use recognisable names becomes intense." The Guardian (UK) 08/30/02

Thursday August 29

THREAT TO WEB RADIO: So the US government has decided that webcasters will have to monitor and report any music they play over the internet, and pay a small fee. But if the ruling goes into effect, it will effectively push many small stations off the air. "While it sounds simple enough, the ruling would force low-budget operations to add expensive hardware and software to comply with the order. The stations that can afford the upgrades face the task of training their unpaid volunteers to monitor and run the systems." Wired 08/29/02

HOLLYWOOD'S WAY OF SEEING THE WORLD: Hollywood makes movies to appeal to demographic groups. Which groups? Simple. "The movie audience has been reduced, for marketing purposes, to four identifiable groups. They are: males under 25, males over 25, females under 25 and females over 25. That's it. You are a member of one of these groups, whether you like it or not. No one can escape the inevitability of being in one of these groups. Only death excludes you from being in one of four quadrants, but give the marketing geniuses in Hollywood a little time. They'll figure a way to make movies for dead people." Hartford Courant (OCR) 08/29/02

CBC KEY FOR NATIONAL IDENTITY: For years the Canadian government has been cutting the budget of the CBC, the country's public broadcaster. Now a new poll indicates that 81 percent of Canadians consider the CBC "important in maintaining and building Canadian identity and culture. A strong majority (88 per cent) said they would like to see the CBC strengthened in their part of Canada." Toronto Star 08/29/02

MONTREAL TO BUILD WORLD'S LARGEST MOVIE STUDIO: Montreal investors are set to announce they will build the "largest film studio in the world" in Quebec. The project "will create 300 direct and indirect jobs in the short term and 1,200 in the long term." Toronto Star 08/29/02

Wednesday August 28

NICE TIMING: PBS is forever being exhorted by critics to take more chances with its programming. Well, here's some risky behavior for you: the public broadcaster will air a new documentary whih portrays Taliban fighters in Afghanistan as sympathetic figures and the U.S. as an international bully only two days before the one-year anniversary of 9/11. The film may make some good points, but is unlikely to score many points with viewers as the nation gears up for what will certainly be an ultra-patriotic anniversary. New York Post 08/28/02

BYE BYE BETA: Who knows how these things happen? When VCRs first became all the rage in the '80s, the format fight began between Betamax, which offered high-quality pictures and superior sound, and VHS, which had, well lower-quality pictures and inferior sound. Naturally, VHS won the battle, and this week, it was announced that Betamax machines, which have remained popular in Japan and with a small worldwide cult following, will finally be phased out entirely. BBC 08/28/02

PLEASE DON'T TELL JESSE VENTURA: "Lawyer-turned-actor-turned-United States senator Fred Thompson is becoming an actor again before his term officially expires, with NBC confirming that the Tennessee Republican will join the cast of "Law & Order" this fall, playing the role of the New York district attorney. In a surprise, Thompson--who had previously announced that he would not seek reelection in November--is beginning production on the show this week, meaning he will be featured when the series opens its 13th season in October, while he's still in the Senate." Los Angeles Times 08/28/02

WE WANT OUR SEX AND VIOLENCE! Hollywood directors are looking into the possibility of legal action against a handful of Utah companies which specialize in distributing video tapes and DVDs of popular movies with all the bad language, sex, and graphic violence stripped out for family consumption. The directors say that such edits amount to censorship and leave the films devoid of meaning. Wired 08/28/02

Tuesday August 27

MOVIES - A MAN THING: Why is Hollywood so closed to women directors - 96 percent of commercial movies are directed by men. "At a time when film schools are graduating almost equal numbers of men and women, why is the movie business still such a closed shop? Many women from every stratum of the directing world - established Hollywood types and shoestring independents, celebrated art-house stars and creators of light teen comedies, film school deans and movie historians - tell remarkably similar stories of deep-rooted prejudices, baseless myths and sexual power struggles that litter the path to the director's chair with soul-wearing obstacles." Salon 08/27/02

TAKING ON HOLLYWOOD: Is a grassroots movement beginning to organize over the internet to fight old-line media's grab to control creative works? "The entertainment industry and its supporters are threatening free speech and innovation in their zeal to protect an outdated business model. A movement is beginning to stir in America, an overdue reaction to the predations of a cartel that is bidding to control how digital information may be created and used." San Jose Mercury-News 08/26/02

Monday August 26

OSCAR - PLEASE DON'T GO: New York officials asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to consider holding part of next year's Oscars in New York - splitting the telecast between LA and New York for one year only. But California State legislators are considering a resolution asking Oscar to stay put. "California, like New York and many other states, is suffering an economic downturn and cannot afford the loss of the Academy Awards to another location." Nando Times (AP) 08/23/02

MAKING THE CUT: Movie fans no longer have to sit through movies the way directors shot them. Fans are taking digital copies of movies they like and re-editing them to remove parts they didn't like or to change the story line. Fan edits of movies like AI have downloaded hundreds of thousands of time over the internet. And about the copyright... Toronto Star 08/25/02

LIKE, UPDATE THIS: "Why is there such a dearth of Britons adapting their own literary classics in anything other than period dress? Because if nobody gets to grips sharpish with our literary classics and adapts them for new times, the Americans, in a nice piece of reverse cultural colonialism, will cherry-pick the whole canon. It's not just Shakespeare who has been plundered by Hollywood..." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02

Sunday August 25

FREE RADIO THAT MAKES MONEY: What if your radio spewed out all the music you wanted, there was no talking and no commercials? And it was free? A service now delivered to satellite TV subscribers does this. And it even makes money. Do traditional radio station employees need to fear for their jobs? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/24/02

KPIG BACK ONLINE - FOR A PRICE: After webcasting radio stations were told they would have to start paying royalties for the music they play, many went off-stream this summe, including KPIG, one of the first and most popular webstreamers. Now the Northern California station is back online, after making a deal with RealNetworks to be part of a pay-to-listen service. But will anyone be willing to pay a subscription to listen in? Los Angeles Times 08/24/02

Friday August 23

NO SEX PLEASE - WE'RE THE SEATTLE TIMES: When Spanish director Julio Medem's art film Sex and Lucia played at the Seattle International Film Festival last spring it packed houses, "audiences voted Best Director and Best Screenplay prizes for the film, and judges bestowed 'Emerging Master' and a Golden Space Needle Award on Medem." But when it came time for a regular theatre run in Seattle last week, the prudish Seattle Times refused to carry an ad for the film. "A Times spokeswoman says simply that the movie 'did not fit [the Times'] guidelines for adult entertainment,' pointing to the fact that it is un-rated." The Stranger 08/22/02

WHAT RIGHT DO YOU HAVE? The digital revolution has created a demand for content. And Hollywood would love to cash in. But finding and clearing rights to many shows is a mind-numbingly difficult and mundane chore. "The hodgepodge of record-keeping systems makes it difficult to track even pedestrian deals with video chains and broadcast and cable networks. Newfangled electronic distribution deals with Internet outfits and cell phone makers will add another layer of complexity." Forbes 08/21/02

RENT FOR DISPLACING THE HOMELESS? Activists in Vancouver, Canada have sent film production companies a letter demanding that the companies compensate street people who the companies chase out while filming on location. "Sex trade workers must be compensated for displacement they experience at your hands in the same manner you would compensate a business if you were to use their locale during operating hours. The same must hold true for homeless people you push from beneath a bridge or doorway and drug users you move from a park." Nando Times (AP) 08/22/02

Thursday August 22

HOLLYWOOD GOES TO CHINA: Forget Canada, "foreign film-makers are discovering that China is a good place to make movies. And just as makers of everything from washing machines to wigs learned before them, lower costs are a big draw. Shooting a movie here can cost half, even a third, of what it might back home, industry executives say, with savings on everything from crew salaries and construction of sets to catering fees. Far Eastern Economic Review 08/29/02

MEXICAN MOVIE RECORD: The Catholic Church has strongly condemned the Mexican movie El Crimen del padre Amaro. But in its opening weekend, director Carlos Carrera's film broke Mexican box office records and "earned 31 million pesos ($5-million) and reached an audience of 863,000 people in 365 movie theatres throughout Mexico." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/22/02

SMOKIN' JOE (NOT ANYMORE): Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas's "latest work - published by the New York Times - is a savage polemic against tobacco, which has caused more sharp intakes of breath than anything he has done since Basic Instinct. Writing as a reformed smoker who is 'alive but maimed' after losing much of his larynx to throat cancer, he declares that tobacco 'should be as illegal as heroin'. With God at his side, he vows, he will end nicotine's long relationship with cinema." The Telegraph (UK) 08/22/02

Wednesday August 21

IS CITIZEN KANE BEST? A recent poll of film critics and directors named Citizen Kane as the top movie of all time. No movies of the past 20 years made the top ten. "Does this gap indicate a widespread belief that the cinema is in decline? To an extent. Certainly, the rapid ascent of films to the canon in the '50s and '60s reflects the feeling of many cinema lovers of the day that they were living through exciting times. A more convincing explanation for the aging of the canon is simply that film criticism has become institutionalized over the course of the last three decades." Slate 08/20/02

EUROPE'S MOVIE BOOM: Movie box office is up in Europe, just as it is in the US. "European film fans spent 5.6bn euros (£3.6bn) on more than one billion cinema tickets in 2001, according to a report. More than three-quarters of European cinema admissions were in just five countries - the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. But smaller countries saw the biggest growth." BBC 08/20/02

AFTER A BROADER NICHE: There's not as much news on the news channels anymore. Not as much history on the History Channel or trials on Court TV. As these niche cable channels mature, they're going after broader audiences, often by diluting their content. "It's really a debate over some hypothetical mass market versus a quality market." Los Angeles Times 08/21/02

Tuesday August 20

LEADING THE FOLLOWER: The BBC might be riding an updraft of popular success, but the director of the Broadcasting Standards Commission has lashed out at the public broadcaster for the quality of its programs. He charges that "the corporation lacked originality and was delivering a schedule filled with bland dramas in its drive to attract bigger audiences. 'One begins to wonder what really is the point of the BBC bringing this to us. Let’s have something a bit different. They have tended too much to try to find out what it is people want ... what it is people have enjoyed in the past, and give it to them'." The Scotsman 08/20/02

PUBLIC TV ICON STEPS ASIDE: Public television is changing quickly in the US. So maybe it's appropriate that Peter McGhee, one of public TV's icons, has decided to step aside. "McGhee has shaped the course of the medium over his 32-year tenure at WGBH, where he has risen from lowly producer to his current title, vice president of national programming. One by one, he has initiated or championed such nationally acclaimed series as Frontline, American Experience, and Antiques Roadshow, the most popular program on PBS." Boston Globe 08/18/02

THE DYING SOAPS: Soap operas have long been a staple of daytime TV. But the form is ailing. Ratings are falling away quickly. "The whole soap genre looks like a dinosaur, and it's dying like one. It keeps lumbering forward in a space- age, In ternet- savvy world, looking like an art form frozen in time, so stuffy in content, so staid in appearance, so establishment in form. There is a contingent of young people who get hooked on soaps in college, so there always is a chance for a new audience. But each year, the audience gets older and smaller. I have no doubt that soaps are an endangered species." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/20/02

Monday August 19

THE ART OF DIGITAL: "Without most moviegoers’ noticing, digital technologies have been slowly supplanting film-based processes that have been used since the 1920s." But most movies still use film, and superimposing heady new digital effects is a delicate balancing of color and tone. Technology Review 08/16/02

Friday August 16

AD-FREE 9/11? Many radio advertisers aren't running ads on September 11. "I think a lot of advertisers realize they have to be very careful that day. They want to do something patriotic, but they don't want to do something that comes across as crass.'' Boston Herald 08/16/02

ALIEN NATION: Some of Hollywood's best new films are being made by non-Americans. "The multinational nature of the industry's present talent pool might be a wonder to US critics; but that's just amnesia talking. Hollywood, after all, owes its very existence to the mass immigration of the early 20th century. It was only natural that this budding nation should seize on the infant medium of cinema, a potent lingua franca based around the great equalisers of melodrama and adventure, with a frequent bias toward heroic but misunderstood outsiders." The Guardian (UK) 08/15/02

WHY I DOWNLOAD: The film industry estimates that in May, 400,000-600,000 films were being downloaded by Internet users per day. Is it just rampant theft? "People who go through the trouble of downloading these movies are die-hard fans who would buy it on DVD anyway. . . . It's a way to sort through what I want to buy." San Francisco Chronicle 08/16/02

Thursday August 15

MOVIE STUDIO INVENTS FAKE FANS? First movie studios got caught inventing critics to promote their movies. Now the editor of a popular internet site devoted to movie reviews says a movie publicist has been inventing fake fans to post positive comments to a fan forum. He also claims that "whoever is behind the bogus postings collected the e-mail addresses of all the users of the message boards and sent ads for the film to them." Hartford Courant 08/15/02

FIGHTING THE FILE-TRADERS: Movie and music companies are stepping up plans to combat file-swapping. "The new plan appears to extend the target beyond companies with an apparent declaration of legal warfare against individuals who the industry believes are swapping illicit songs or movies through peer-to-peer networks. The outcome could include jail time for those convicted of wrongful file swapping. This move comes as copyright holders are striving to combat the continued popularity of peer-to-peer networks, which permit millions of people to link their PCs to a massive collection of files, some legal to distribute and some not." CNet 08/14/02

Wednesday August 14

HOME CENSORS: New software allows viewers the ability to "delete offensive language, violence, or adult situations from movies that are played back on home digital equipment." But the software goes beyond simple censorship. It can also change the look of a movie. "A consumer can actually choose to tone down the violence in a movie but leave the language intact or vice versa. In other words, parents can become movie directors." 08/14/02

WHITE BOYS AND MORE WHITE BOYS: "The American summer of 2002 will be known as the 'season of the white boy' at the nation's cineplexes. It opened with Spider-Man and The Sum of All Fears and has subsequently serviced every beloved boy genre save perhaps the Stand by Me coming-of-ager. Summer 2002 was for bigger boys, men who grew up playing cops and robbers and G.I. Joe in the backyard, men who had difficult fathers, men who went to sleep reading The Lone Ranger and action comics. Yes, folks, the Hollywood dream factory continues to produce more stories about white guys than anything else." Sydney Morning Herald 08/14/02

INFLATED FEELINGS OF INFLUENCE? Does Hollywood's glamorization of smoking on the big screen capture young minds and turn fans into smokers, as screenwriter Joe Eszterhas claimed last week? "Despite the claims of its creators and its detractors, Hollywood hardly wields such omnipotent powers to shape human behavior, whether for good or ill. People actively process what they consume and make decisions for themselves. Indeed, if people actually aped what they read, viewed, and listened to, then violent crime rates by kids, ostensibly the most impressionable audience segment, would have soared over the past 30 years - a period in which popular culture inarguably became more violent and graphic. But the rates are in fact lower than they were in 1973, when the federal government first started collecting such data." Reason 08/09/02

Tuesday August 13

TV GUIDE LOSES ITS WAY: For much of its career, TV Guide was a publishing powerhouse. In the 1970s, 40 million people read it every week. These days "circulation has plummeted to 9 million, the magazine is increasingly reporting on gossipy non-TV stories like Winona Ryder's legal troubles, and - in a clear sign of the changing zeitgeist - it's taken a backseat to new TV Guide properties that are online or delivered by cable and digital systems." San Francisco Chronicle 08/12/02

LAPD BECOMES BRAND-SENSITIVE: "The Los Angeles Police Department is seeking to censor films and television shows by threatening to sue any company that uses its name, badges or logos without getting approval for the script first. Behind the move is a desire to force the entertainment industry to abandon one of its favourite stock characters: the bad cop who either beats up suspects, takes money on the side or drinks too much." The Telegraph (UK) 08/12/02

CUT-RATES = MORE WORK: Hollywood musicians were losing more and more movie-score recording to musicians in other cities who would record it cheaper. So last year the musicians cut their rates by 50 percent. They got more work. "In theory, we could have lost money. What we really did was behave in a way that made us good stakeholders in the industry. There are now many more albums out there, so we have 25% of something instead of 50% of nothing." Andante (Variety) 08/12/02

Monday August 12

THE GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL: What does the recent British Film Institute list of all-time great movies say? "It has surprised, even shocked, some people that there are no recent pictures on the 2002 lists but even more striking is the absence of certain big names - Lang, Buñuel, Ford, Ophüls, Powell, Reed. But the lists aren't terrible, especially considering that in the critics' section 631 films were nominated (408 receiving one vote each), while the directors named 490 films (312 receiving one vote apiece). This is an encouraging tribute to the attractive diversity of world cinema." The Observer(UK) 08/11/02

  • Previously: TOP FILMS OF ALL TIME: Every ten years the British Film Institute asks leading international critics and directors to rank the best movies ever. Citizen Kane tops this year's list. "The most recently made film to reach the directors' top 10 was Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, released in 1980." Nando Times (AP) 08/10/02

WHAT, ME WORRY? Traditionally American broadcast networks have ignored cable television. But then HBO won all those awards. And the ratings were up. And... now there's some anxiety as "HBO and Tony Soprano are in their face, launching the new season of the hit cable series on the eve of the network fall schedule." Denver Post 08/11/02

Sunday August 11

OSCAR IN NEW YORK? "The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a group of New York leaders have been talking about moving part of next year's Academy Awards show to New York City to help the city recover from the Sept. 11 terror attacks." Nando Times (AP) 08/10/02

TOP FILMS OF ALL TIME: Every ten years the British Film Institute asks leading international critics and directors to rank the best movies ever. Citizen Kane tops this year's list. "The most recently made film to reach the directors' top 10 was Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, released in 1980." Nando Times (AP) 08/10/02

  • MOVIES - NO LONGER THE COMMON LANGUAGE: For much of the last half-century one common cultural reference point has been the movies. As much as "we loved the films, we treasured the thought that 'everyone' knew them. More or less in those decades, everyone did go to the movies. In America, in the 20s and 30s, say, 60-70% of the people went to the movies once a week. Today, it's no more than 15%." Movies aren't the cultural binder they once were. The Guardian (UK) 08/10/02

CENSOR FOR YESTERDAY: Britain's new chief fim censor is a solid upstanding civil servant. But he's hardly kept up with the movies he'll soon be judging. "His favourites are the films you'd expect a busy civil servant to remember from his student days at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, rather than a film buff who keeps up with the trends at Odeon and Empire, Leicester Square." How will he know what should play in today's movie houses? London Evening Standard 08/09/02

Friday August 9

FIGHTING THE CANADIANS: Runaway productions are killing Hollywood film production. "While film box-office receipts hit an all-time high of $14 billion last year, industry employment in Southern California was at a four-year low. Some 30,000 jobs evaporated just between 1999 and 2000. Add to that the impact on local businesses that serve the industry and its workers, and the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that the domestic economy is taking a $10 billion annual hit from runaway production." A group of technicians is trying to fight movie flight, but they're pissing off much of official Hollywood. LAWeekly 08/08/02

DIALING UP DIGITAL: The FCC decrees that within five years all televisions sold in the US must be equipped with digital tuners. "The tuners are necessary, the commission said, to ensure that all TVs can receive broadcast programming over the airwaves after the switch from analog to digital signals, expected within a few years." TV makers are protesting. Wired 08/09/02

WGBH BREAKS A BOYCOTT: Since April, Boston-area TV stations have been boycotting Nielsen's rating service. Nielsen had introduced its "people meter" system, which the stations say seriously undercounts broadcast station audiences. It has made life for the stations tougher, since they use the ratings to set advertising rates. So it's something of a surpirse that this week WGBH, Boston's public television station (which doesn't sell adds) has become the first station to break the boycott and resubscribe to Nielsen. The station says it was getting pressure from underwriters. Boston Globe 08/09/02

BAD YEAR FOR NEW YORK MOVIES: It's been a bad year for film and TV production in New York City. "Numbers released by the New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting (MOFTB) show an understandably dismal 2001: Film and TV expenditures declined by $149 million; the number of feature films in the city dropped from 201 to 174, and the number of shooting days shrunk more than 15 percent, falling to levels not seen since 1994." Village Voice 08/07/02

Thursday August 8

AT LEAST GIVE THEM A CHANCE NOT TO SUCK: America's television critics have been unusually merciless this season, seizing every opportunity to kick the big three networks (particularly the hapless ABC) while they're down. The most frequent complaint has been network execs' unwillingness to take risks with their programming. But last week, when CBS announced plans to air a miniseries on the rise of Adolf Hitler, the critics did a complete about-face, insisting that the show was too risky, and that CBS had crossed some invisible line of taste. Scott Feschuk wonders at the hypocrisy. National Post (Canada) 08/08/02

REALLY BIG HITS? Imax shows movies on giant screens 10 stories high. Now Imax is hoping to convince film companies to let it show up to six Hollywood films a year. "Imax has previously persuaded Walt Disney to convert two of its films, Fantasia 2000 and Beauty And The Beast, to its format. Both were successful when released on Imax screens across the world." BBC 08/07/02 

KILLER-B's: What's with all the B-movie plots for this summer's biggest blockbuster movies? Crop Circles? Radioactive spiders? Aliens? "The concept of B-movies was a product of cinema’s boom time in the 1950s. Smaller non-studio producers wanted to make a fast buck by tapping into the audience’s primal fears with sensationalist (but cheap) film-making." Now they've moved into the mainstream. The Times (UK) 08/08/02 

GIANT KILLER? Clear Channel might be America's biggest radio company, but there are signs the company might be in trouble. Its stock price has dived. Congress is making noises about reining in radio ownership. "Meanwhile, plaintiffs are filing lawsuits while critics raise questions about company finances and alleged payola schemes." Wired 08/07/02

BOW TO THE MACHINE: Machinima - a contraction of machine and cinema - is the newest and cheapest thing in film-making. "The new form was made possible by computer game manufacturers, which began releasing some of their codes to enable players to customise characters and backgrounds." Sydney Morning Herald 08/08/02

Wednesday August 7

STUMBLING GIANT? Clear Channel owns some 1200 radio stations in the US in 300 markets. It controls a good chunk of the country's concert business too. But lately the company has been doing so well. "Clear Channel - well known for its hardball tactics - has been hit with numerous antitrust lawsuits, petitions to the Federal Communications Commission and pending legislation on Capitol Hill." Salon 08/07/02

  • THE CORPORATE LOCAL: With giant corporations owning hundreds of radio stations across America, the voice on the radio who wakes you up every morning isn't exactly local. "The chances are pretty good that the man behind the voice lives in another time zone, appears on stations in four states, and picks up local color by reading newspapers online. He may even have taped his show last month then gone on vacation to some exotic locale he's never visited. Like, say, your town." Wired 08/07/02
  • IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM, BUY 'EM: Clear Channel radio has had many critics among radio insiders, but few as vitriolic as Inside Radio, a trade publication which in 2000 found itself on the business end of a defamation lawsuit from the corporate radio giant. Two years later, the publisher is out to pasture, the suit has been settled, and Inside Radio is published by (who else?) Clear Channel. New York Daily News [first item] 08/06/02
  • Previously: CLEAR (AND ONLY?) CHANNEL: "After a blizzard of purchases, sales and mergers, Clear Channel owns or operates 1,165 radio stations in the United States. It controls about 80 more through other means that occasionally raise eyebrows." Critics contend that Clear Channel is sucking the creativity out of American radio with standardized formats and market-driven programming. Wired 08/05/02

MIGHT WANT TO HOLD OFF ON BUYING THAT TiVo: With U.S. broadcasters on the verge of upgrading to fully digital signals, and cable companies already delivering video on demand and digital-quality pictures, the companies who manufacture video recording devices like TiVo and ReplayTV will soon see their machines become obsolete. The devices cannot handle digital signals, and while the next generation of product certainly will, Hollywood is threatening to withhold movies from broadcasters unless measures are put in place which would disallow such personal recording, making TiVos all but useless. Wired 08/07/02

Tuesday August 6

CLEAR (AND ONLY?) CHANNEL: "After a blizzard of purchases, sales and mergers, Clear Channel owns or operates 1,165 radio stations in the United States. It controls about 80 more through other means that occasionally raise eyebrows." Critics contend that Clear Channel is sucking the creativity out of American radio with standardized formats and market-driven programming. Wired 08/05/02

OUR DIGITAL MOVIE FUTURE: "Digital video is one of the most controversial issues in Hollywood. Film purists like critic Roger Ebert decry the muddy and streaky images that often afflict lower-end video features - while proponents like George Lucas hail high-end digital video (DV) as the wave of the future that will democratize filmmaking, allowing artistic freedom and permit even established directors to make risky films." New York Post 08/05/02

Monday August 5

DIGITAL DEBATE: "The F.C.C. is set to decide on Thursday on a regulation proposed in January 2001 that would require consumer electronics makers to include digital tuners in all new TV sets by 2006. The idea is that if enough sets are sold with the proper receivers, broadcasters will have more incentive to provide programs to watch on them — giving people more reason to buy the televisions. But the measure is opposed by the Consumer Electronics Association, which argues that the rule would add as much as $250 to the average price of a TV set." The New York Times 08/05/02

SLAVE TO STEREOTYPE? Here's the charge - Hollywood supports only "three types of black films: the slapstick comedy, the romantic comedy and the gangsta/'hood thriller. If a filmmaker attempts anything different, says Eriq La Salle, potential backers argue that they don't know how to market nontraditional black movies." New York Daily News 08/04/02

NARROW DEFINITION OF WOMEN: "We all know that women fall madly in love even when they're not raving beauties — or sweet young things. And that these days many are staying vigorously active, leading fulfilling professional lives, and having physical adventures and sexual escapades well into their senior years. Yet head to the mall to take in the latest Hollywood studio films, and you get a much narrower vision of womanhood." Seattle Times 08/04/02

LATE'S NOT GREAT: The Directors Guild of America is complaining that almost half of all scripts for prime-time series have been arriving late. This is "a level of tardiness, they say, that means inadequate time to prepare and thus undermines program quality." Los Angeles Times 08/05/02

RIDING THE RED CARPET: The red carpet walk - it's where the stars come out, the cameras go off, and people most feel the glamor of Hollywood. "Studios can spend millions of dollars for this one- night-only fanfare, an event that some consider an expensive exercise in celebrity worship that ultimately does little to boost box-office revenues. But others in the industry say the red carpet is as vital as the movie itself. It's Hollywood's security blanket, they say, a reassuring tradition for an industry consumed by anxiety." San Francisco Chronicle 08/02/02

GETTING THE MESSAGE UP FRONT: Few advertisers just want to buy 30-second spots on TV shows anymore. Product placement is big business, and some of America's most successful TV shows and movies have worked products into their storylines. "If someone's drinking a can of soda, it can be Coca-Cola. But downstream in syndication, if Pepsi wants to sponsor the show, it can (digitally) become a can of Pepsi." Dallas Morning News 08/05/02

Sunday August 4

KID-PROOFING THE BIG SCREEN: It may be hard to believe in this era of family-friendly blockbusters, but there was a time only a few years ago when a PG rating was considered box office death, and directors intentionally inserted words and scenes designed to garner the adults-only R rating into their movies. So what's changed? According to one industry analyst, ""If you've got excessive violence or nudity, you're taking out a huge portion of America, conservative moviegoers included, not to mention the most lucrative audience of all, and that's the under-16 crowd." Denver Post 08/04/02

Friday August 2

RIGHT TO OWN IS UNDER ATTACK: "The simple transfer of music, from home to car to portable device, could soon be ending. Content companies and consumer advocates are waging a vicious battle in Washington, with the future of consumer rights - and what you can do with products you have purchased - at stake. At the center of the fight: government regulations being written with the support of movie studios and record companies." Wired 08/02/02

PUTTING RARE CULTURE ONLINE: A project in Britain will digitize important artistic, historic, scientific and cultural records to make them available to all. The project includes, rare books, scientific records, old newsreels, photographs - many of the documents or records are currently inaccessible because of fear of damage, and it is hoped that digital records of them will help research. Wired 08/02/02

WRITING SMALL: Where's the real creative juice for a screenwriter these days? TV. Movie writing is too deeply compromised by the big money and power of the studios and stars. “The writer is the power in TV; in features, a star can say they don't like it and you're stuck.” The Economist 08/02/02

NOW FOR A SOMETHING THAT REALLY MATTERS... What are the greatest cartoon characters of all time? TV Guide has made a list. And no one's bound to be entirely satisfied. No. 1's bad enough, but "the most serious scandals are near the end of the list: Yogi Bear and Boo Boo (36) beating the more ingenious Wile E.Coyote and the Road Runner (38); the charming stammerer Porky Pig (47) out-talked by the incomprehensible Donald Duck (43); two ingratiating magpies, Heckle and Jeckle (25), flying higher than the definitive bird/cat combo Tweety and Sylvester (33)." Sydney Morning Herald 08/02/02

Thursday August 1

PBS AT THE GATE: PBS seems determined to make itself unloved and unwanted. "Like an underperforming child, you get angry at its failures because you so badly want it to succeed. But lately PBS hasn't even been responding to tough love. It does what it wants, for whom it wants, never takes criticism well and then can't understand why it gets hassled all the time." San Francisco Chronicle 07/31/02

  • PILING ON PBS: "This is all very nice and earnest, but PBS isn't getting sympathy and support from critics any more." So says a Canadian writer after observing PBS's various stumblings in recent months, and its sad, pathetic attempt to make generic, boring programs look exciting and new. With the Louis Rukeyser flap and the HIV-positive Muppet flap both thoroughly botched by network management, reruns of The Civil War simply aren't enough to cover up public broadcasting's glaring inadequacies anymore. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/01/02

LIMP OPINION: A new book condemns Australian film reviewers for being superficial and soft on homegrown movies. "Most mainstream reviews are shallow exercises in opinionated writing with little critical depth or knowledge of cinema history: We have a fetish for superficial dabbling, commodified thumbnail reviews or banal ratings games, as writers bask in the glamour of the entertainment industries rather than attempting to dissect them." Sydney Morning Herald 08/01/02

UK GETS A NEW CENSOR: "Senior civil servant Sir Quentin Thomas - who played a key part in securing peace in Northern Ireland - has been named as the new president of the British Board of Film Classification... Sir Quentin, 58, was one of the first UK officials to make contact with the Sinn Fein in the search for a peace deal [in Ireland] in the early 1990s, and was instrumental in securing the 1998 Good Friday agreement. A film fan, he will take charge of vetting all cinema and video releases in the UK." BBC 08/01/02