Who Shot Mr. Burns ?

Journal Entry. Winnipeg.
December 16th, 2007.

I once interviewed Harry Shearer, the voice of Mr. Burns.

Moments before the interview - with his Great Dane restlessly sniffing that place where teeth (canine or otherwise) should never go, Harry-as-Burns said ... and I swear to God this is true ... "I think it's time to release the hound."


The other Mr. Burns was here in Canada's Bravest City last week. Michael Burns, former head of the Documentary Channel was in town to meet local film makers. And while he was circumspect about the specifics of his dismissal following the CBC take-over, the phrase -:

echoed across the frozen prairie on more than one occasion.

Although Michael is on a high due to the success of the Guy Maddin "My Winnipeg" documentary which will open the Berlin Film Festival, his message didn't exactly fill the troops with hope.

Want a career as a Canadian doc maker ?

Find a story and make a film. How ? Get an A-list director. Then pitch, pitch, pitch.

The news that CTV's Bruce Cowley was taking over his old job was met with ... as they say a certain sangfroid.

"Thank God they put somebody - anybody...in the job
" was Burnsie's official line.

What's next for the man who greenlit "Stupidity" ?

In the short term he's going to run a new Cinema Documentary fund in conjunction with Hot Docs and Global. He says he's got 9-million bucks to spend. 4 million for development and finishing. 5 million for equity.

After that ? I wouldn't be surprised to see him back before the CRTC fronting a group looking for their own documentary channel licence.

Despite Corus devouring 2 out of every 3 dollars in management fees and in-house facilities charges (how much DID they bill for that tech to run master control ?) the channel was still turning an annual profit of almost a million bucks, according to the man who ran it.

The original licence is set to expire next year and MB thinks the commission won't like the CBC's news mag approach.

A doc channel smack-down could be in the making.



Anonymous said...

Doc Channel was running annual profit of almost a million? That's an interesting figure, and I'd love to see the source, since the CRTC figures speak of annual losses from the day Doc Channel started.


Since I was pretty peeved about the sale, I'd love to know if there really was some foul play going on.

The Book of Don said...

I don't think it was a matter of "foul play" but rather one of "creative accounting". How much DID Corus charge in Management fees ? How much did the network kick-up to Corus to use their facilites... such as master control, use of transmission lines, tech staff, advertising sales staff, desks, chairs, coffee machines etc etc etc.

My understanding is that each year almost 1.7 million went up the food chain to the various owners ... and don't forget that the Doc Channel's REAL asset base lies in their distribution rights attached to the various docs they helped finance. There's a great article to be written about the rise-and-fall of the world's very first all Documentary Channel.

The Book of Don said...

one more thing -- if you're wondering WHY Corus would sell the channel if it WAS making a profit consider the relationship between the CBC and Corus over the affiliate stations in Kingston and Peterborough. The CBC initially said it wouldn't renew the deal...leaving Corus to run these two little orphan stations at a huge loss...but as soon as the Doc Channel changed hands...flip flopped.