Media: November 2002

Friday, November 29, 2002

Where Are The Women? There seem to be more high-profile women in the movies these days. But that doesn’t mean there are more women in movies. In a recent study, women accounted for 25 percent of all characters in the top 250 films released in 2001. “That is about five percentage points higher than when researchers first tallied roles – in 1952. (On prime-time network television, women account for about 38 percent of the roles, a number rising more quickly than in film.)” It’s even worse for women over 40 – they get only 8 percent of female roles. “The percentage of working directors among the top films dropping from 11 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2001, and from 14 percent to 10 percent for female screenwriters.” San Francisco Chronicle 11/29/02

Where Are The Minorities? “There are substantially more African American, Latino and Asian American faces onscreen than just three years ago, when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People denounced the industry for the lack of cultural diversity in prime time. Indeed, on the big four broadcast networks, as well as UPN and the WB, there are actors of color in 26 of the 33 shows premiering this season.” But the gains are almost all in supporting roles, with little progress in starring roles. San Francisco Chronicle 11/29/02

To Every Season Wonder why certain kinds of movies are released at certain times of the year? Big-deal movies in December, action/fluff in summer, art films in January… “Today, the majority of a film’s box-office receipts are reaped in the first fortnight of release, and a week’s delay can make or break a film, so movie schedules are more finely tuned and globally calculated than ever before.” The Guardian (UK) 11/29/02

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Cry For Independence As the British government opens up ownership of broacasters to foreign companies, a new report says independent producers need some protection. “Under quotas, terrestrial channels have to offer 25% of their programming to independent companies. But the actual average was only 15% because channels were unwilling to offer news or large outdoor events to independent production.” BBC 11/25/02

Conduct Unbecoming “The U.S. Naval Academy has confiscated the computers of about 100 midshipmen who allegedly have pirated music and movies on their hard drives. The Annapolis students could face punishment up to a court-martial if they are found to have the copyrighted material illegally.” Wired 11/25/02

Monday, November 25, 2002

Lockout Time was when aspiring movie biz hopefuls would hang out on the studio lots and watch. The storyu goes that “Steven Spielberg’s professional movie career began the day he decided to jump off a tour bus at Universal Studios Hollywood and wander around the back lots. While exploring the buildings, he found an abandoned janitors’ closet and turned it into his office. He would go to work there everyday, wearing a business suit and tie, walking past the security officers. After some time, the security guards had seen him so often they would wave him through the gates, no questions asked.” But now, studio security locks down the lots to outsiders. Backstage 11/24/02

Battle of the TV Music Networks Is MTV in trouble in the UK? “After enjoying 15 years as a near monopoly, the network is in the biggest competitive fight of its life. In less than 18 months Emap – the magazine and radio group formerly known as East Midland and Allied Press – has been able to launch and grow six rival channels which, together, are now watched by almost as many people as MTV’s.” And there are more competitors coming… The Guardian (UK) 11/25/02

Finally – Watch What You Want “After years of failed promises, unripe business plans and half-baked technology, the cable industry is finally beginning to deliver reliable and economical video-on-demand services. Despite the omnipotence that the label implies, video on demand does not allow users to watch any program or movie under the sun. No database is yet infinite. But in New York City, for instance, Time Warner Cable plans to have 1,300 hours of programming available at any one time — the equivalent of almost two months of TV watching.” The New York Times 11/25/02

Sunday, November 24, 2002

The Movies Made Us This Way? Why are Americans so cocky about going to war? Why are they so confident everything will turn out in their favor? “The source of our unworried attitude, our sureness that Iraq will be no more than a blip on our glorious march toward the future, is, I very much fear, that we have been brainwashed by history and, more to the point, by the movies into thinking we cannot lose.” Los Angeles Times 11/24/02

The Artless Censor If a film gets an “NC-17” rating in America, it will have difficulty being distributed. So filmmakers often censor themselves before the ratings board does, taming the content to fit an “R”. “Why do we accept similar censorious interruption when it’s sex rather than violence at issue? And why is the art-house audience, supposedly the one that takes film most seriously, so willing to look the other way?” Denver Post 11/24/02

High-Tech Teen Pact A dying teenager makes a pact with friend that when the first of them dies, the others will put a small digital camera attached to the internet inside the coffin. “When one of the teenagers dies, the survivors must decide whether to fulfill their high-tech pledge and if so, how. One stipulation moves the story into the gothic realm of Edgar Allan Poe. The coffin is to contain a heating element that will speed or reduce the body’s rate of decomposition. The temperature will then be controlled by online visitors, who can adjust an interactive thermostat on the tell-tale Web site.” The New York Times 11/25/02

Friday, November 22, 2002

Communications Bill Introduced The British government has revealed its communication bill, which will reform the way broadcast media do business in the UK. “The bill aims to promote universal access to media and communications services, and self-regulation for companies in the media industry.” BBC 11/22/02

Playing Games With Race Judging by a lot of today’s movies, “you’d think race was easy. No biggie whatsoever. Not only that, it’s fun and entertaining.” But Hollywood has a long history of distorting race relations. “If anything, Hollywood is — and nearly forever has been — in the problem-dodging business, and if these movies are only becoming more strident in their insistence that race on-screen isn’t an issue, it’s because off-screen it so clearly, obviously and unsettlingly is.” Toronto Star 11/22/02

Remaking Public TV Since taking over as CEO of PBS in 2000, Pat Mitchell “has been herding cats, struggling to bring unity and stability to the nation’s loose affiliation of 349 noncommercial television stations. With varying success, she has shifted some of the network’s ‘icon’ series from their hallowed time slots in an effort to bring a new thematic consistency to the weekly offerings. None of these changes, even ones that seem superficial, have been easy.” Washington Post 11/22/02

  • Native Talent Native Americans have played virtually no role in Hollywood movies. “Today, say native American artists, that is slowly beginning to change.” Christian Science Monitor 11/22/02

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Acting Out (On The Outs) Radio dramas were once a staple of the dial. But TV changed all that, and though there are still die-hards plugging away producing shows, the outlets have shrunk. Fans hope new technologies like satellite radio or the internet might revive the genre. But will it? Baltimore Sun 11/21/02

Save the Canadian Drama! The head of Telefilm Canada is urging the government to spend more on Canadian drama for domestic consumption. Canada already spends $1.4 billion every year to produce original television programs and films, and yet studies have shown that not a single Canadian program ranks in the top ten list of most popular programs. Is it that the American production juggernaut is just too powerful, or are Canadian-made dramas just generally not up to snuff? The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/21/02

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Nazis Come To German TV For the first time in more than half a century, German television is showing a program about Nazis. And it’s a comedy. “Non-German directors in a long line that stretches from Charlie Chaplin to Roberto Benigni may have dug humour from beneath the horror-strewn surfaces of Nazism and fascism. But for Germans themselves, ‘the catastrophe’, as it is often called, has been too painful to be seen as anything but a tragedy.” The Guardian (UK) 11/19/02

Hurt Me Baby One More Time Forget sex and violence. What sells these days is humiliation. Some “reality,” eh? “Viewers have shown an insatiable appetite for the queasy thrill that comes from watching an ordinary person suffer searing public embarrassment in exchange for 15 minutes of fame.” The New York Times 11/20/02

  • The Next Big Movie Rental Model “Consumers love the Netflix rental model, which lets subscribers order DVDs online, receive them by mail, and keep them for as long as they want without late fees. likes it so much that it’s launching a nearly identical service early next year. ‘They’re printing packaging that is essentially identical to ours. Blockbuster is close behind’.” Wired 11/19/02

In Praise of Jesse Helms What’s that, you ask? Praise the anti-arts, anti-NEA, anti-progressive, anti-anything-that-hints-of-compassion obstructionist US Senator? “While his actions may very well be motivated by the interests of small conservative Christian Internet broadcasters, his support for the Small Webcasters Settlement Act (SWSA) has compelled some noncommercial station backers to feel for him what they never imagined they could – gratitude.” Salon 11/19/02

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Has Radio Quality Been Hurt by Derugulation? “The Future of Music Coalition (FMC) charges in a new report that the 1996 Telecom Act, which allowed companies to own more stations, ‘has not benefited the public. It has led to less competition, fewer viewpoints and less diversity in programming.’ Nonsense, says the National Association of Broadcasters. “Studies repeatedly show 75% of Americans express high satisfaction with radio. This report has all the credibility of Miss Cleo.” New York Daily News 11/19/02

The Scholarly Buffy A Melbourne University professor puts out a call for scholarly papers on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is flooded with proposals. “Scholarly Buffyphiles prefer the Online International Journal of Buffy Studies (, a website governed by an editorial board with academic contributors examining notions such as Buffy as ‘transgressive woman warrior’, or Buffy ‘and the pedagogy of fear’. Intellectuals around the globe are deconstructing, dissecting and extrapolating from Buffy, across disciplines, in journals and at conferences too.” The Age (Melbourne) 11/19/02

The New Home Movies As prices for digital video cameras drop and computers with sophisticated editing capabilities are more and more available, “home movies” are looking more professional, and budding movie “auteurs” are born. Newsweek 11/25/02

Monday, November 18, 2002

Little Evidence Violent Games Harm Adults: Governments around the world have been considering legislation regulating sale of violent and pornographic computer games. Australia recently banned two controversial games. But social scientists say “more careful research before we can reach a definitive conclusion, (but) I know of no scientific evidence that the interactive nature of computer games makes them more harmful than other popular media.” The Age (Melbourne) 11/17/02

How Will Radio Evolve? Does webcasting help promote recordings in the expectation that listeners will go out and buy? Or is it just theft of free music? Should webcasters have to pay substantial royalties for the privilege of using recordings? Have big corporations consolidated the life out of traditional radio stations? These are questions confronting those trying to determine the future of music-casting. BBC 11/17/02

Sunday, November 17, 2002

How Canada is Stealing Hollywood: From 1999 to 2002, money spent on making films in Canada has doubled, as production crews look to save money by exploiting the weak Canadian dollar. By a remarkable coincidence, the number of U.S. cities that give a darn about the Northern migration of moviemaking has also recently doubled, from one (Los Angeles) to two (L.A. and New York.) What made the Big Apple sit up and notice? Well, you don’t really expect New Yorkers to sit still while a TV movie about the life of former mayor Rudy Giuliani is filmed in Toronto, do you? Boston Globe 11/16/02

Anti-Tobacco Forces Target Hollywood: Product placement has been a staple of big-budget Hollywood films ever since E.T. followed a trail of name-brand candy into Elliot’s bedroom. But a coalition of activist groups and health organizations is demanding that the film industry draw the line at in-film cigarette advertising. “The groups want the industry to encourage the Motion Picture Association of America to impose an R rating on films that include smoking, except those that ‘clearly and unambiguously’ reflect tobacco’s dangers.” Edmonton Journal (AP) 11/16/02

Egoyan’s New Role: Atom Egoyan knew his film Ararat, which tells some hard truths about the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians in Turkey, would be controversial. He wasn’t prepared for just how controversial. Since Ararat debuted several months ago, Egoyan has been called a liar, a propagandist, and had his life threatened via e-mail. It’s enough to make a director long for the days when he was only being called an anti-Semite by a Toronto critic… The New York Times 11/17/02

Friday, November 8, 2002

Australia Film Industry Booming: Australia’s film and TV production industry grew by 8 percent in the past year. “But while budgets boomed, there was also concern about the drop in locally made television drama, with not one adult television mini-series made here for the first time in more than 20 years.” The Age (Melbourne) 11/08/02

  • Previously: THE DIGITAL TV MESS: Arizona Senator John McCain has quite a brouhaha to look forward to as he takes over the committee in charge of the transition to digital TV broadcasts. The government wants the transition to move fast, so it can sell the analog spectrum to wireless providers. The industry doesn’t want to commit to digital anything until a system is in place to prevent consumers from making personal copies of copyrighted material. And consumers want their old TVs to work with the new system, and the right to make personal copies of copyrighted material. Good luck, Senator! Wired 11/08/02

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Sotheby’s Trust Problem How will the public regain trust in auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s? Fines are not enough. Confidence in the auction houses won’t come until everyone who had any hand in the price-fixing scandal has departed. One problem. Former Sotheby’s chairman Alfred Taubman, currently serving a prison term in remote Minnesota, is still the company’s biggest shareholder. And he’s not likely to sell anytime soon. The Times (UK)

  • Previously:
    • STONE BOX LINKED TO JESUS IS DAMAGED: A 2000-year-old stone box believed to be the oldest physical evidence of Jesus Christ, has been damaged in transit on its way to the Royal Ontario Museum. Existence of the box was revealed two weeks ago. Museum officials declined to reveal details of the damage. Discovery 11/04/02
    • CHANSONS – OF THEE I SING: “While French artists of today glory in the richest musical heritage in Europe, they are also frustrated by the insularity of their traditions. At a time when the music business is becoming increasingly globalised, it is hard for a Francophone artist to break out of the home market. Language is a huge barrier; there are very few French songs that become international hits.” The Guardian (UK) 11/04/02

National Gallery Makeover London’s National Gallery has unveiled a £21 million makeover project to improve access to the museum. “Gallery officials and architects believe the refurbishments will turn the area into the capital’s cultural focal point.” BBC

  • Previously: An Expensive Door: “The east entrance to the National Gallery is about to become the most expensive front door in Britain: opening the towering glossy black door to the public, after 170 years, will cost £21 million.” The Guardian (UK) 11/06/02

Sunday, November 3, 2002

Spiderman Sets Record On its first day in stores, the movie Spiderman sells a record 7 million DVDs and videotapes. Last spring Spidey shattered box office records with a $114.8 million opening weekend in movie theatres. Houston Chronicle (AP) 11/03/02

  • Previously: FIGHTING IN PUBLIC: A public and rancorous debate is being carried out in public among two of England’s better known public intellectuals. “The debate is particularly English because its protagonists — the novelist Martin Amis and the Washington-based writer Christopher Hitchens — are so rooted in late 20th-century London. Both graduated from Oxford University and have carried out their quarrel in learned texts freckled with Latin. Both won renown while working at the leftist New Statesman in the 1970’s. Each had no cross word — in public at least — for the other. Until last month.” The New York Times 10/14/02

Saturday, November 2, 2002

State of Shock: Shock jocks on American radio get away with the most outrageous stunts and foul language. But while pop culture that finds an audience on one side of the Atlantic usually finds success on the other, the shock jock phenomenon hasn’t. The Guardian (UK) 11/02/02

Friday, November 1, 2002

Wait – the gov’t is against monopolies now? The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit to block the merger of the two largest satellite television companies, saying that the merged company would eliminate competition in the industry, particularly in rural areas not served by cable television. The suit was not entirely unexpected, but it raises questions about what the government’s plans may be for the proposed merger of cable TV giants AT&T and Comcast. Wired 11/01/02

  • Turf War? What Turf War? National Public Radio has opened a huge new West Coast operations base in Los Angeles despite facing a cash crunch so severe that the network has been laying off veteran correspondents, and the expansion has nothing whatsoever to do with rival Minnesota Public Radio’s incursion into the same territory last year. (MPR is closely allied with Minneapolis-based Public Radio International, NPR’s main competitor in the distribution of programs to public radio stations nationwide.) The ‘NPR West’ mission seems a bit vague, but the important thing, according to network execs, is that there is no turf war, there has never been a turf war, and they are shocked – shocked! – that anyone would assign them such scurrilous motives. Los Angeles Times 11/01/02