The Top European Media and Entertainment Industry Stories of 2012
5:38 PM PST 12/28/2012 by Georg Szalai
Britain's royals, Gerard Depardieu's citizenship, the Pussy Riot controversy, the Summer Olympics, as well as sex abuse and phone hacking scandals - those were some of the biggest industry stories of 2012 in Europe. But so were the economic crisis and European box office hits. Here is THR's look at news and trends that made headlines in the European film, TV, music and related sectors.
Jimmy Savile Sex Abuse Scandal and BBC Leadership Crisis
The BBC has faced one of its biggest image crises since a sexual abuse scandal surrounding late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile rocked the U.K. public broadcaster in September. The former host of BBC music chart show Top of the Pops is believed to have abused mostly young people, including on BBC premises. The BBC was further affected when it emerged that flagship news show Newsnight had dropped a probe into allegations against Savile in late 2011. And when Newsnight in early November also wrongly accused a former politician of abuse, George Entwistle had to resign as director general after only 54 days in the post. Incoming director general Tony Hall will look to repair the damage to the venerable broadcaster's reputation.
Photo by: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
Silvio Berlusconi - Political Plans and Legal Charges
Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has often been seen as the teflon media mogul - always facing legal and other charges, but never really facing consequences. In Oct. 2012 though, a court sentenced the head of media group Mediaset, whose stock has been dropping amid weak ad trends, to four years in prison in a tax evasion case - marking the first time he is facing time behind bars. And just before Christmas, prosecutors also called for a prison sentence of at least one year for Berlusconi on charges of publishing information about a political rival that was obtained illegally. The three-time prime minister, meanwhile, announced he would run for a fourth term in early 2013 after having left political office in late 2011.
Gerard Depardieu Citizenship and Tax Controversy
French movie star Gerard Depardieu has in the past made headlines with his conservative political views and his decision to pee on an airplane. Just in time for the holiday season, he caused a political and media firestorm by moving to a border town in Belgium to avoid higher taxes. In France, the top rate of income tax is scheduled to rise to 75 percent in 2013. Some celebrities have opposed the higher tax on the rich promoted by president Francois Hollande. In an open letter, the Oscar-nominated actor later responded to criticism and threatened to hand back his French passport in protest.
Photo by: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Summer Olympics in London - Global TV Event of the Year
The London 2012 Summer Olympics drew huge ratings for broadcasters around the world - from the BBC in the U.K. to NBC in the U.S. While many viewers tuned in live, delayed viewing on TV and digital platforms also drew a crowd. Plus, the Summer Games became the first-ever social media Olympics, with people in many countries turning to Twitter and Facebook to celebrate and comment on winners, losers and old favorites and new-found stars among Olympic athletes - from Usain Bolt to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. TV network groups that didn't air the Summer Games, meanwhile, reported a hit to ratings and advertising revenue.
Photo by: BBC America
Acquisition activity in Europe focused on TV businesses in 2012. U.K. TV giant ITV agreed to acquire Graham Norton's So Television, Norwegian firm Mediacircus and Finland's Tarinatalo before agreeing to buy a majority stake in U.S. producer Gurney just before Christmas. German TV networks group ProSiebenSat.1 acquired majority stakes in British indie Nerd and Israeli producer July August Productions, among others. And U.S. cable channel powerhouse Discovery Communications late in the year won the auction for the Scandinavian assets of ProSieben in a $1.7 billion deal, while finalizing a $240 million investment in France's TF1 in return for a 20 percent stake in the Eurosport and other networks.
News Corp. Phone Hacking Charges and Settlements
In 2011, one of the biggest international media industry stories was the phone hacking scandal at the News International U.K. newspaper unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The past year brought settlements with such celebrities as Hugh Grant and singer/actress Charlotte Church. But it also brought formal charges against former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and others on charges of hacking. Brooks and others are also accused of conspiring to "pervert the course of justice." Trials are expected to start in the fall of 2013. More fallout will come in the new year from the Leveson Inquiry report that proposed stricter regulation of the British press, which is currently being hotly debated.
Photo by: Getty Images
British Royals in the Headlines
Britain's royals drew media coverage for good and for worse in 2012. The diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II was a big media event in the U.K. and beyond. And Kate Middleton late in the year drew congratulations from every corner of the world with her pregnancy. But in between, photo scandals rocked Buckingham Palace. First, photos of a naked Prince Harry - from a party in Las Vegas - made their way onto TMZ, other web sites and even Rupert Murdoch's The Sun.
And then, the publication of topless pictures of Middleton in various European magazines and papers angered husband Prince William and the royal household, leading to a lawsuit against French magazine Closer.
Photo by: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Scandal and Controversy at Italian Film Festivals
When auteur filmmaker Ken Loach in November pulled out of the Turin Film festival in protest of a labor dispute at Turin’s National Film Museum, the festival’s parent organization, the affair made headlines. After all, he was supposed to receive one of lifetime achievement honors. The drama came after Italian media charged the Rome Film Festival with unfairly favoring films made with local support. Five of its awards this year went to Italian movies produced with support from the regional entity that supported artistic director Marco Mueller. His first year in charge also drew media criticism for dates that were pushed back to November, the festival's ticket price plan, the quality of films and the relative lack of big-name stars.
Photo by: YouTube
European Skydiver Draws Global Web, TV Audience
Arnold Schwarzenegger has long been the world's most widely recognized Austrian. But in 2012, fellow countryman Felix Baumgartner drew a global crowd across TV, the Internet and social media. The European, sponsored by Red Bull, set the world record for the highest, fastest and longest skydive and became an overnight sensation. YouTube said his stunt drew a record for live streams, with more than 8 million people worldwide tuning in to watch online.