U.S. Programming Invades Canada
A Canadian crowd booed during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" before an Islanders/Canadiens hockey game last week. Some suggested that it was a war protest, but we think we have the real answer. While many in the U.S. complain about the flight of productions, particularly dramas, to Canada, a group of Canadian unions last week complained that the drop-off in English-language Canadian-produced TV dramas is at a "crisis point," according to UK-based media newsletter TV International Daily. Among the unions' grievances is a 15% increase in U.S. imports in the two years since the Canadian Radio-Television and Communications Commission dropped local-programming quotas.—J.E.
Bigger, Longer South Park
Always looking to do something a little more outrageous, Comedy Central executives are planning to air the South Park
movie the way its subtitle implies: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, complete with the colorful language laced throughout the theatrical film. Yes, that would include the song "Uncle F——" and even Saddam Hussein waving a sexual aid at his gay lover, Satan. The flick is currently tied up in a Paramount package licensed by TNN (both units of Comedy's 50%-owner, Viacom). If Comedy finalizes a deal, the movie is slated to run July 4 at midnight ET, presumably to steer clear of children and hope that family-TV activists go to sleep early. Since Comedy Central has traditionally had looser standards and practices than pretty much any other basic cable network, "our audience expects us to do this," said one exec.
The big problems: DirecTV and EchoStar. The DBS services carry only Comedy Central's East Coast feed, so even a midnight airing would show up at 9 p.m. in homes on the West Coast. The network plans to run ample alerts about the language and content.—J.M.H.
'Entertain Your Brain'
One of Discovery Channel's problems is that viewers see it as science class when everything else on TV is about recess. Well, network executives are looking to correct that with a rebranding campaign set to be unveiled at Tuesday's upfront presentation to ad buyers. A central goal is to convince viewers—and, more important, non-viewers turned off by Discovery's "school library" image—that you can have fun and still be smart. Hence, one new slogan: "Entertain Your Brain." The current tagline is "Explore Your World."
The image shift is the reason Discovery Communications President Judith McHale replaced network President Jonathan Rodgers, whose background was TV news and producing on a tight budget, with Billy Campbell, who developed conventional TV series and dramas in Hollywood.—J.M.H.
In USA Network's upcoming biopic on former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, viewers will witness many of the harsh images that Giuliani saw on and after 9/11. After some internal debate, however, USA decided to cut out an image of a body falling from the World Trade Center's North Tower.
"The potential distress that could be caused by one particular shot ... outweighs its place in the accounting of the life of Rudy Giuliani," USA said. Still in the movie are images of the World Trade Center towers after the terrorist attacks and of someone waving out the window of one of the burning towers. Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story, starring James Woods, debuts March 30.—A.R.
Are We Having Funds Yet?
There appeared to be a run on irony last week. First, there was Freedom of Speech Award winner Justice Antonin Scalia's barring C-SPAN cameras from the presentation of that award. Then came the news that, due to a lack of station funds, the Association of Public Television Stations is ending a program it created to help stations attract funds. The Community Partnership Program, which APTS launched to explore new funding opportunities, is calling it a day at the end of the month, citing "a recent reduction in participation by financially strapped stations."—J.E.