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Friday, October 31, 2003

Washington Public Radio Station Fires Director The embattled head of Washington public radio station WAMU has been fired. Susan Clampitt, who had directed the station since June 2000, had come under fire from current and former staff members, donors and volunteers. They questioned her financial management of the station and her managerial style, which had led to widespread staff disgruntlement." WAMU ran through more than $4 million in cash reserves in the process in the past three years as spending jumped 110 percent from 2000 to 2002. Washington Post 10/31/03

Thursday, October 30, 2003

A Record Year At The Movie Box Office Movie fans spent $20.4 billion on movie tickets last year - a record amount. "The average ticket in the UK cost $6.45 (£4.29) in 2002, compared with $5.81 in the US. Film fans in Russia have had to stomach a 138% rise over the past two years, rising to $1.72 in 2002. But the cheapest cinema tickets were in Romania (39 cents) and India, where each ticket cost 21 cents." BBC 10/30/03

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Satellite Radio On The Rise After a decidedly slow start, the satellite radio industry seems to be gaining some long-awaited traction. This week, XM Satellite Radio, the larger of the two currently operating networks, will announce that it has passed the key benchmark of a million subscribers. Sirius, XM's only competitor, has approximately 250,000 subscribers. The significance of the million-listener mark is likely to be felt on Wall Street, where investors are expected to begin taking the industry seriously for the first time. New York Daily News 10/29/03

Getting Around the DMCA "Busting open a digital lock to get hold of copyright works normally is forbidden, but the Librarian of Congress ruled Tuesday that there are exceptions. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, prohibits, among other things, bypassing any technology that controls access to copyright material. This provision is criticized frequently by digital-rights groups because they say it stifles many legitimate activities in the process, including academic research, competition and innovation. But the controversial law also recognizes that there are certain cases when circumvention should be permitted... Basically, those who have a non-infringing, fair-use reason to circumvent copy protections should be allowed to do so." Wired 10/29/03

Online Music: Where's The Variety? Even before illegal services like Napster took off, the world of online music used to be "a place for artists to control and directly profit from their music. But in most online services today that dream has been lost, with the services functioning as online arms of the record companies while the artists receive pennies (or fractions of pennies) for each download." Even more disappointing, there is a stunning lack of originality and forward thinking in the development of new download services, most of which are just mimicking the format and interface of Apple's iTunes. The New York Times 10/29/03

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

File-Sharing That's Legal? "Two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a system for sharing music within their campus community that they say can avoid the copyright battles that have pitted the music industry against many customers." The New York Times 10/28/03

Valenti: We Will Fight Them On The Beaches! (And Then Compromise) Jack Valenti explains why the Motion Picture Academy proposed not sending copies of movies to Academy Award voters this year. And why he finally compromised on the issue. "The digital world with its zeroes and ones and perfect copies of originals has changed the movie landscape forever, which is why the movie world's priorities have been permanently altered. The industry wants to use the Internet to dispatch films to consumers. But as we do, we must also challenge piracy and defeat it with every weapon we can summon--and we will succeed, I am convinced--or one day we will sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the decline and fall of America's greatest artistic triumph and an awesome engine of job and economic growth." OpinionJournal.com 10/29/03

Disposable DVDs Ready For The Landfill? Call it ecological consciousness, consumer disinterest, or lousy marketing: whatever the reason, the "disposable DVD" phenomenon is withering on the vine. The discs, which can be rented and viewed like a normal DVD for two days before they become unusable, are billed as an item of convenience for the movie renting public. But apparently, even American couch potatoes aren't quite that lazy, because almost no one is renting the self-destructing discs. Wired 10/28/03

Excepting The Oscars Isn't Enough "Britain's top film awards could be heading for catastrophe next year if Hollywood does not resolve a row over voting, says organiser Bafta. No preview DVDs of new films can be sent to voters of any awards except the Oscars, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has ruled. They say there is too much chance that the advance copies could be pirated. But others say it will harm the award chances of small independent films, and Bafta wants the ban overturned." BBC 10/28/03

Monday, October 27, 2003

Taking Back Fair Use New rules allowing media companies to restrict the recording of TV shows are needed to protect the industry. But consumer advocates say the rules overly restrict fair use. Wired 10/27/03

Sunday, October 26, 2003

The Scariest Film Scene Of All What's the scariest scene in all of movies? According to a new British poll, it's Jack Nicholson's "Here's Johny!" in "The Shining. "The scene in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining topped a poll for a Channel 4 special on The 100 Scariest Moments on TV and film. It beat classic terror scenes such as the head-spinning scene in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist and the moment a severed head tumbles from a hole in a boat in Steven Spielberg's Jaws."
BBC 10/26/03

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Director's Cut To Profits There's an epidemic of "director's cut" dvd's being issued. "It's hard not to detect a whiff of marketing ploy in all these bulked-up reissues. Far from rectifying the wrongs done to their work the first time round, it tends to look as if the directors just can't leave well enough alone. Forman's Amadeus feels 20 minutes longer without feeling noticeably different at all; Cameron's revamped Abyss adds lots more of what doesn't work in the film anyway and hardly any of what does; and the new stuff in Apocalypse Now Redux is at best a curiosity box, with the lengthy plantation sequence the obvious low point of the movie as it now stands." The Telegraph (UK) 10/25/03

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Ultraviolence & The MPAA A slew of unbelievably violent and bloody new movies is hitting American multiplexes this fall, and absolutely no one seems concerned about it. Not only that, the Motion Picture Association of America appears not even to have considered assigning such gorefests as Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill its strictest rating of NC-17, which is generally given to films with graphic nudity and/or particularly harsh language. Should we care that movies are becoming bloodier by the day? Or, as the MPAA claims, is it all just good fun so long as the violence remains "cartoonish," whatever that is? Chicago Tribune (NYTNS) 10/23/03

  • What Is Wrong With Us, Anyway? "We are so numb it no longer hurts when people call us demented. Once-unspeakable violence has moved from the unbalanced fringe into the middle of our surround-sound home theater systems. We've gone from 'Impeach Bill' to Kill Bill, from Animal House to House of the Dead, from the post-Sept. 11 death of irony to the postmodern death of revulsion." Denver Post 10/23/03

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

British Government Puts Culture Online The British government is launching an online culture site. "The venture, designed to for both adults and children, will sponsor 20 to 30 projects and will go live next year. One of the first projects is called Webplay and allows school children to direct a play online. Others include Scoop for would-be journalists and a virtual collection of plants curated by Kew Gardens." BBC 10/22/03

Gross: I Can't Believe O'Reilly Is So Thin-Skinned Fresh Air host Terry Gross responds to NPR's ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin's criticisms of her interview with Bill O'Reilly: "I think some of his criticisms play into the hands of O'Reilly. O'Reilly has the attitude, I believe, that if you criticize him, or ask him anything critical, then you are therefore a part of the, quote, liberal media and therefore you are part of the, quote, cultural jihad against O'Reilly." Buffalo News 10/22/03

  • Previously: NPR Ombud Chides Terry Gross NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin says that interviewer Terry Gross was unfair to Bill O'Reilly last week. O'Reilly walked out of the interview part way through, objecting to Gross's questions. "I believe listeners were not well served by this interview. It may have illustrated the 'cultural wars,' [but it] only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR's liberal bias." By the time the interview was halfway through, it felt as though Gross was indeed 'carrying Al Franken's water.' ... It was not about O'Reilly's ideas or attitudes or even his book. It was about O'Reilly as media phenomenon. That's a legitimate subject, but in this case it was unfair to O'Reilly." New York Daily News 10/21/03

Court To Webcasters: Pay Up "Radio stations must pay royalties to recording companies and performers, as they do to composers and songwriters, when musical broadcasts are streamed over the Internet, a federal appeals court has affirmed... Traditional radio broadcasts haven't been subject to royalties to recording companies and performers because they have served to promote sales of recordings. But Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, which required such royalties from webcasters." Wired (AP) 10/21/03

Copy-Protecting Your TV "U.S. regulators in coming weeks will adopt strict limits on sending digital television programs over the Internet to avoid the problems now plaguing the music industry, U.S. officials said on Tuesday. The Federal Communications Commission will likely adopt rules that will allow programmers to attach a code to digital broadcasts that will in most cases bar consumers from sending copies of popular shows around the world." Few law-abiding sorts would have reason to object, it would seem, but consumer advocates are warning that the new digital 'flags' would require most consumers to replace their DVD players at their own cost, at a time when everyone will be forced to replace their TVs just to receive the digital signal. Wired (Reuters) 10/21/03

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Oscar Voters, Academy Near Compromise In Movie Dispute A compromise is being worked out between critics and the Motion Picture Academy to send Oscar voters tapes of films nominated for Oscars. "The plan would call for the studios to send out only videotapes of the films, not DVDs, and each tape would be coded with the recipient's name for tracking purposes. If a tape is illegally copied, or "pirated," for resale on black markets or digitized for Internet downloading, the tape's recipient would be sanctioned, and punishment could include dismissal from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, the U.S. film industry's top honors." Backstage 10/21/03

Afghan Film Wins Festival "Afghan director Siddiq Barmak's "Osama" has won the top prize at the International Festival of New Film and Media in Montreal. "Osama," a joint production of Afghanistan, Japan and Ireland, was one of the first features produced in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban almost two years ago." Backstage 10/21/03

Tivo Nation Tivo pioneered digital video recorders. But cable companies are getting into the act. "So far, 2.5 million to 2.8 million of the nation's roughly 110 million homes have digital video recorders. But DVR's inspire fierce loyalty from those who have them, terrify advertisers (because they can be used to skip commercials) and are seen by many media experts as the future of television. The Yankee Group estimates that in four years, almost 25 million homes will have digital video recorders and that about two-thirds of those will be DVR's that have been integrated into satellite or cable set-top decoders." The New York Times 10/21/03

Tiny Radio Stations Take On FCC "Across the country, low-power FM radio stations are banding together to denounce a mounting crackdown by the FCC. Supporters claim that FCC Chairman Michael Powell, whose recent efforts to further deregulate the radio industry have met with resistance in the courts and in Congress and have been something of a PR disaster, is retaliating by 'having his people go out and pick on the little guys'." San Francisco Chronicle 10/21/03

NPR Ombud Chides Terry Gross NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin says that interviewer Terry Gross was unfair to Bill O'Reilly last week. O'Reilly walked out of the interview part way through, objecting to Gross's questions. "I believe listeners were not well served by this interview. It may have illustrated the 'cultural wars,' [but it] only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR's liberal bias." By the time the interview was halfway through, it felt as though Gross was indeed 'carrying Al Franken's water.' ... It was not about O'Reilly's ideas or attitudes or even his book. It was about O'Reilly as media phenomenon. That's a legitimate subject, but in this case it was unfair to O'Reilly." New York Daily News 10/21/03

Film Critics Cancel Awards Over DVD Ban The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has voted to cancel its annual movie awards this year in protest of the Motion Picture Association's decision not to send DVDs of nominated movies to critics this year. "The ban has prompted widespread criticism in the United States movie community, including protests by many independent producers who feel that screeners are the most effective way of getting critics to see their films, which are often released commercially in only a few smaller movie theaters." The New York Times 10/21/03

Killing For An "R" Rating Even if a movie is ultra-violent, it can't afford to get an NC-17 rating. "An R rating means a child cannot be admitted to a movie without an adult or guardian. An NC-17 rating means no children are admitted. With such a rating, most mainstream newspapers will not run ads. But more important, video stores like Blockbuster will not offer the DVD's on store shelves. And mass-market retail chains like Walmart, where studios can earn as much as 50 percent of a movie's revenue, will not sell them, either." The New York Times 10/21/03

Monday, October 20, 2003

Will Gov. Schwarzenegger Help Movie Biz? Will California Governor-elect Schwarzenegger create some incentives for movie producers to film in California? "Tax breaks, labor credits and other sweeteners are considered by many to be crucial if California is to compete more aggressively with lower-cost foreign locations such as Canada, Australia, Britain and Eastern Europe, as well as states offering incentives such as Illinois, Louisiana and New Mexico." Los Angeles Times 10/20/03

The De-Musicfication Of TV Shows On DVD TV studios are releasing TV shows on DVD, and they're a hit with consumers. But music found in the original TV series is often being replaced. "It all comes down to a matter of money. (Studios are) saying, 'We couldn't afford to license the music we used in the show. It's happening more and more, actually.' Indeed, studio executives acknowledge that the price of obtaining those rights is prohibitive." Wired 10/19/03

The VIP Movie Ticket A New York movie theatre chain begins adding a surchare for its best seats. "It appears that Loews' already has isolated the best middle sections in three theaters at its 34th Street megaplex near Ninth Avenue. For a mere 50 percent markup from the customary $10, moviegoers can stop worrying that they'll be sitting too close to the screen or too far from the screen or that they'll miss the previews and look stupid trolling the aisles in the dark-and still be forced to sit separately from their friends." Newsday 10/19/03

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Now That We've Scared The Pants Off You... The recording industry, pleased with the drop in file sharing activity since it began suing file-swappers this past summer, has announced that it will now begin warning offenders that they are about to be sued, and offering them an opportunity to settle out of court if they respond within ten days. The move is seen as an effort to quiet consumer advocates who decried the industry's heavy-handed tactics after it was revealed that the targets of the lawsuit campaign included a 12-year-old girl and a 71-year-old grandfather. Wired (Reuters) 10/17/03

Friday, October 17, 2003

We Want Our Free DVDs! "Rarely in recent Hollywood history has there been an uprising of this magnitude over such an apparently trivial matter. But ever since the Motion Picture Association of America announced two weeks ago that studios had to stop sending out free DVDs of their movies to voters during the coming awards season, the mob has been storming the castle gates. The ban on so-called 'screeners' was intended to stop unauthorized duplication of the films, a problem that concerns many in the industry. But to read the daily headlines in the industry trade papers, nothing less than the future of creativity in the movies is at stake." Washington Post 10/17/03

Progress, Slow But Steady Racial diversity is slowly coming to American TV, according to a new report from a media watchdog group. Hispanics have made the greatest gains in recent years, with Hispanic characters being introduced in many mainstream shows, but Asian-Americans are still grossly underrepresented on U.S. screens. The coalition that issued the report singled out CBS's new drama, Joan of Arcadia as being absurdly devoid of Asian-Americans, since it takes place in the heavily Asian town of Arcadia, California. Still, the coalition is no longer calling for the network boycotts it threatened a few years ago, and acknowledges that real progress is being made. Philadephia Inquirer (AP) 10/17/03

iTunes: Not Just For Toy Computers Anymore! When Apple launched its music downloading service, iTunes, last spring, it marked a seismic shift in the computing and music industries towards an eventual embrace of the new technologies which have caused so many headaches for copyright holders. Now, Apple has (finally) launched a version of iTunes that runs on PCs, thereby greatly expanding the company's reach and share of the legal downloading market. Cross-promotions with Pepsi and AOL will follow soon, and just like that, Apple CEO Steve Jobs hopes to do what the music industry has been insisting isn't possible: convince consumers to pay for music they can still find for free on other services. Wired 10/16/03

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Strange And Wonderful Documentary Explosion "If the unprecedented box office success of documentary films in 2003 were itself the subject of a documentary, critics would find the plot wildly implausible and the explanations maddeningly inconclusive. A nearly wordless cinematic love poem to the flapping of birds, Winged Migration, has earned nearly twice as much money this year as that teetering blockbuster with Ben and J.Lo... Why this is happening to the much-maligned documentary category is much harder to pinpoint than box-office numbers. The most obvious answer: Good movies sell tickets." Denver Post 10/16/03

Universal Slashes Workforce "Universal Music, the world's largest record company, is to slash 1,350 jobs - or 11% of its workforce - in order to cope with a protracted slump in sales. Global music sales have been in decline for more than three years, with the industry laying the blame on illegal song swapping over the internet and home CD burning. Universal says the cuts will save it $200 million a year and leave the firm in a good position to take advantage of any turnaround." BBC 10/16/03

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Sony Pictures To Lay Off 300 Sony Pictures plans to lay off 300 workers in the next year and a half. "The layoffs will follow the elimination of 1,000 jobs in the entertainment and electronics giant's struggling music group earlier this year. The new cuts are expected to hit across the board at Sony Pictures' key business units, including its Culver City-based Columbia Pictures movie studio, domestic and international television operations and Sony Pictures Digital. Sources estimate that the cuts could save the company as much as $75 million a year." Los Angeles Times 10/15/03

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

NZ Film Awards Postponed After failing to find sponsorships, this year's New Zealand National Film Awards have been postponed. "New Zealand cinema has been receiving world acclaim, with Whale Rider producing its biggest box office hit since Once Were Warriors in 1994." BBC 10/13/03

Hollywood Heavyweights Protest DVD Ban Hollywood filmmakers protest the decision by the Academy of Motion Pictures not to send out DVD copies of movies to Oscar voters. "More than 130 filmmakers led by director Robert Altman signed an open letter, published as full-page ads in industry trade papers Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, calling the ban an "unwarranted obstacle" that will keep independent, cutting-edge films from gaining needed exposure." Toronto Star (Reuters) 10/14/03

Monday, October 13, 2003

Magazine Publishers Try Tivo Tactic To Undermine TV A magazine trade group gives away Tivos to consumers as a way of making a point about advterising. "The point was to underscore the magazine publishers' argument that an ad's appearing on television does not mean the consumer actually sees it. By contrast, according to an ad for the contest, '90 percent of all consumers pay full and complete attention to magazines when reading'." The New York Times 10/13/03

Hollywood To Studios: Tone Down Oscar Lobbying (Really?) The past few years (just the past few?)have ubleashed an ever-growing barrage of studio lobbying for Oscars. So the Academy wants to tone it down a bit, and has developed a new set of promotion guidelines. "Academy members are urged to limit parties to true friends, and to prevent studios from paying for the food or drink at those occasions. Studios are asked to refrain from spending excessively on Oscar campaigns and to keep print and television advertisements for films free of endorsements from academy members. Even gossip and innuendo are now considered official no-nos for academy members." The New York Times 10/13/03

Sunday, October 12, 2003

New Mexico, American Movie Capital? "A growing number of states offer tax credits as a way to lure Hollywood dollars. But New Mexico actually is investing in movies - the state has established a fund of $85 million for the purpose. The money comes in the form of no-interest loans, repayable in two to five years. The state will invest as much as $7.5 million in any movie that passes muster with the New Mexico State Investment Council, as long as filmmakers agree to spend most of their shooting schedule in the state and hire a crew made up of at least 60 percent New Mexico residents. On top of that, New Mexico offers any film, whether financed by the state or not, a 15 percent tax rebate for every dollar spent locally." Miami Herald (LAT) 10/12/03

The Coming Movie House Revolution A new report presdicts that movie houses will be revolutionized by digital equipment. "Screenings of things other than normal films will account for one third of cinemas' profits by 2008, it said. Rock concerts, Broadway musicals, football and wrestling are among the events that have already been screened. Content rights owners are only just starting to grasp the potential that this represents. The digital changes would turn cinemas into 'entertainment complexes' - not just movie houses - the report said." BBC 10/12/03

Pixar: All Hits, All The Time Pixar, the digital animation studio, once again has another hit on its hands. Finding Nemo has grossed more than #335 million so far this year. "Pixar have the enviable reputation of having a hit with every film they have made - Toy Story, A Bug's Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc (2001) and Finding Nemo. It is a situation few other Hollywood studios can ever have related to," and one that has changed the business of animation. BBC 10/12/03

Making Movies, Co-op Style A group of some of the best and brightest film stars in Canada have come together to form a movie co-op production company. "In lieu of their (on average) $250,000-to-$1-million-per-picture salaries, these Canadian actors are going to work free of charge on the upcoming comedy, Mozart Loves Me, written and directed by George Bloomfield. And in exchange, they and the other stakeholders in the Movie Co-op will own a share of the production and any potential payout. Why, you may ask, would these successful people stick their necks out in a decidedly high-risk venture? Because they say they believe feature filmmaking - at least in English Canada - is broken and urgently in need of fixing." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/11/03

Friday, October 10, 2003

High Canadian Dollar Threatens Movie Biz Is Governor Schwarzenegger going to try to stop Hollywood films from fleeing to Canada to shoot? Maybe. Maybe not. But "the biggest issue impacting runaway production is the high Canadian dollar. Five years ago, I could count on an increase in my budget of 30-per-cent shooting in Canada. Now, because of the dollar, you may get 10 per cent to 15 per cent, if you're lucky. The gap is narrowing and the payoff for us coming up there is getting increasingly slim." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/10/03

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Berlin's Digital Dare While American TV has made little progress in converting to digital, the city of Berlin accomplished the digital transition in one fell swoop. "The lessons for American policymakers: The paralysis that grips the digital TV transition in the United States can be overcome, and taking away analog TV is not political suicide." Slate 10/08/03

Canada Not So Keen On Governor Arnold "The election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as California's governor has sent a shiver through the Canadian film industry, which is worried the superstar and former body builder could flex his new political muscles to try to keep movie production in his home state," possibly through a series of tax incentives. "Most [Canadian] provinces have tax credit systems that give incentives to produce films, so it would be hypocritical to condemn any U.S. states from considering similar incentives... But it would still be very damaging to the Canadian industry if California moved in this direction." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/09/03

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

The Rich Get Richer Last year, media giant Vivendi Universal nearly collapsed under the weight of its own acquisitions, and came dangerously close to bankruptcy. Now, Vivendi is selling its entertainment arm to NBC, a move which will make the U.S. network one of the premier power players in an increasingly consolidated industry. BBC 10/08/03

Big Media vs. Big Media The Recording Industry Association of America is demanding that major internet service providers release a list of their customers to the RIAA, to aid in the industry's prosecution of individuals engaged in illegal online file-sharing. But many of the ISPs, perhaps sensing something to be gained in taking "the people's side" in the increasingly divisive debate over file-swapping, are refusing to release the lists and challenging the RIAA in court. The latest to sue is Charter Communications, citing its customers' right to privacy as taking precedent over the requirements laid out in the infamous Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Wired 10/08/03

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Indian Cinemas Shutting Down More than 1000 movie theatres in western India are threatening to close later this month in a dispute over taxes... BBC 10/07/03

No DVD Movies To Oscar Voters - Bad Idea! What? Oscar voters aren't going to get DVD copies of nominated movies this year because of fears of piracy? Critics "claim that a blanket ban on screeners will suffocate independent films, and they're absolutely right. When the crunch comes for end-of-the-year screenings, there'll be no time--and nowhere near enough screening rooms--for Academy voters to see "American Splendor," "Winged Migration" or "Whale Rider," to name but three of the many superb films that lack the budgets to promote themselves. And so the elephantiasis that afflicts the movie business will proceed apace, as the most heavily marketed films--though often the least interesting ones--lumber toward Oscar glory." OpinionJournal.com 10/08/03

The (Bad) Language Of TV "Bad" language is on the increase on American broadcast networks. "It's not hard to understand why these increases have occurred on the networks during prime time. First, there is the competition from cable. Popular programs such as 'The Sopranos' and 'Sex and the City' use vulgar and explicit language that makes network shows seem prim by comparison. Then there is pressure on entertainment programs to keep up with their own network news divisions." Chicago Tribune 10/07/03

Monday, October 6, 2003

The BBC, (Partly) Online Recently the BBC announced it would put all of its archives online, available free over the internet. The initiative, "if successful, could enable viewers to download some of the 1.5 million TV programmes and 750,000 radio shows hitherto buried in the BBC archive. To enable viewers to download their favourite programmes, both archive and current, the BBC is developing a new internet media player or IMP." But, predictably, there are numerous issues to be worked out. And the likelihood of getting all the BBC's shows online isn't likely... The Guardian (UK) 10/06/03

How To Kill A News Network For decades, the voice of news in Quebec was Radio Canada. But "since the network relaunched its flagship news programs on Sept. 1, viewers have abandoned Radio-Canada in droves and discussions of its botched effort to inject a 'convivial' tone into its broadcasts have become water-cooler common in Quebec." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/06/03

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Cutting Off Hollywood's Nose To Spite Its Face Hollywood's attempt to crack down on movie piracy by banning the age-old practice of sending advance copies of Oscar-nominated films to Academy voters is misguided and laughable, writes Peter Howell. "[Fpr Your Consideration] screeners are more than just an ego stroke. They allow critics and awards voters to see many more movies than might otherwise be possible, especially the small gems that get swamped by the blockbusters during the brief window when a large number of films are opening at theatres. The practice contributes to greater awareness on the part of voters, and isn't that a good thing?" Toronto Star 10/05/03

The Evolution Of The TV Theme TV shows are as identifiable by their theme songs as by their content, and as the TV age has evolved, so has the character of the jingles which call us to the screen. "Older TV themes shun subtlety in favor of eager exposition... [But today,] viewers are greeted with savvier, less overtly cheesy intros, from pitch-perfect indie rock matches ('Crank Yankers' and Fountains of Wayne; 'Malcolm In the Middle' and They Might Be Giants) to savvy instrumentals (the sweeping Irish-tinged cellos of 'Angel'; the sassy cha-cha of 'Sex and the City.')" The New York Times 10/05/03

Fighting The American Cultural Juggernaut A new free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Australia threatens to devastate Australia's cultural and film industries, according to union activists there. At issue is whether Australia will be able to maintain its own cultural identity if a flood of American films, television shows, and other items of mass culture are allowed to hit the open market unrestricted by local content restrictions. The Age (Melbourne) 10/06/03

Friday, October 3, 2003

DVDs Are So 2002, Anyway "Now that DVDs have become fully accepted by the masses, and even progressive-scan players can be found for under $70, what's a videophile got to do to stay ahead of the pack? Or perhaps the better question is: Now that DVDs are almost 7 years old, which is an eternity in the consumer electronics world, what comes next?" The answer seems to be better DVDs, which would have enough storage space to take full advantage of the high quality and multiple features available to owners of high-definition TVs. But with the biggest DVD manufacturers squabbling over the format standard, it may be a while before the next generation of DVDs gets off the ground. Wired 10/03/03

Schools Putting The Kibosh On File-Swapping College students may be the largest single demographic of concern in the recording industry's fight to stem the tide of illegal file-swapping of copyrighted music and movies. But "the University of Florida has developed a tool to help extricate the school from the morass of peer-to-peer file trading, and early results show that it's succeeding." Still, there are concerns that Icarus, the program that stifles the swapping, is restricting student use of other, more legitimate internet functions. Wired 10/03/03

Movie Westerns - R.I.P.? The movie western is 100 years old. But it's not in good shape. "There hasn’t been a mainstream Western in eight years and no successful Western since Clint Eastwood’s revisionist epic Unforgiven appeared in 1992. For anyone who as a child was enthralled by Gary Cooper in High Noon or John Wayne in one of a dozen great movies (Red River, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers) this has been a sad, even mournful, state of affairs." The Scotsman 10/02/03

Thursday, October 2, 2003

NY Film Festival - A Dumping Ground? "Do not believe overpaid actors who cry poor mouth. Overstuffed programs in Venice, Montreal and Toronto have recently proved there is no such thing as a faltering economy in the movie business. Hundreds of new films are upon us like carrion birds, but why do the ones nobody will ever see again (or want to) reliably turn up in the New York Film Festival, and why are they always so lousy?" New York Observer 10/02/03

Moscow Film Fest Canceled - Is Censorship On The Rise? A film festival in Moscow showing movies "highlighting massacres allegedly committed by Russian troops in Chechnya" is canceled just before it was to start, as cinema organizers say that films that were to be shown are too political. The cancelation feeds fears that censorship is on the rise in Russia. "With [former president Boris] Yeltsin, we didn't have this. There was corruption and social disorder, the same as now, but at least nobody was afraid to tell the truth." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/02/03

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