BBC, Geldof to create 'Human Planet'

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CANNES -- The BBC is teaming with Live Aid founder Bob Geldof to create what they claim will be "the biggest sociological and anthropological project in the history of the world," a combined television and Internet content repository that aims to record the history of every human society on the planet.

The BBC will make an eight-part high-definition series "The Human Planet" to accompany the "Dictionary of Man" project that will be co-produced by BBC Worldwide and the BBC's natural history unit, creators of such project as "Planet Earth," "Life on Earth" and "Blue Planet."

In addition, Geldof's "Dictionary of Man" partnership with filmmaker John Maguire and Geldof's own production company, Ten Alps, will make 900 half-hour broadcast quality films for television or broadband viewing on the separate groups and tribes that ethnologists and anthropologists identify as the basic building blocks of human civilization.

"The Human Planet" is not expected to be on air until 2010, but the Web site and digital archive are already under construction.

Geldof was candid about the potential cost of such an ambitious and open-ended project, and was in Cannes alongside BBC Worldwide director of content and production Wayne Garvie to announce the project and tout for partners and sponsors for the venture.

"The budget going to be fucking huge, but getting money is a piece of piss compared to building it and making it -- that is going to be the real challenge," he said. "We'll have grants coming out of our arses for a project like this," he said, but pointed out that costs for the initial Web architecture would be relatively low.

Garvie said the BBC could not disclose the project budgets or how much would be funded by license fee payers at this time.

Promising a "time slice" of a humanity whose cultures are being homogenized, Geldof said he had been inspired to begin the project some 20 years ago on a trip to Northern Niger during the Ethiopian famine that he lad launched Live Aid to combat.

"I was there with the regional governor looking out at something that looked like the surface of the moon with the regional governor who told how 300 different languages that had once existed in the region and had disappeared forever in just two years during the famine," he said.

"Even though I had never heard those voices or those languages I felt a sense of loss, I already missed them," he said.

BBC Vision director Jana Bennett said the project is an example of the BBC's new approach to landmark multiplatform commissions.

"In joining forces with Bob Geldof, we have one of the world's foremost humanitarians as an ally as we create a legacy for both current and future generations," Bennett said. "More importantly, this is not just about television, it's about 360-degree media on a scale we've never seen before. Public service televsion is why the BBC exists."

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