Weekly International News Wrap: Rupert Murdoch, Osama Bin Laden, Silvio Berlusconi and The Sex Pistols
It was a good week for international moguls, European broadcasters and legendary British punk band The Sex Pistols but Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama Bin Laden film faced protests in India and French far right politico Jean Marie Le Pen took it on the chin. Here’s The Hollywood Reporter’s look back at the media stories making headlines around the world this week.
Promising a new era of “trust and decency,” News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch launched his company’s first Sunday edition of U.K. tabloid The Sun, replacing The News of the World, the 168-year-old newspaper Murdoch shuttered last year at the height of the phone hacking scandal.
Murdoch tweeted that the paper’s first edition sold 3.26 million copies, beating News of the World’s circulation, which was around 2.7 million.
Murdoch clearly hopes to turn the page on the phone hacking mess – his son, News Corp. COO James Murdoch, this week resigned as head of News International, putting some official distance between himself and the conglomerate’s U.K. publishing unit that was the focus of the scandal.
But Murdoch’s “new era” looked a lot like the old one when, on Thursday, London Metropolitan police arrested Virginia Wheeler, The Sun’s defense editor – on suspicion of making corrupt payments to public officials. Wheeler is the 11th Sun journalist to be arrested since last November.
Murdoch’s one-time business partner, fellow media tycoon and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi dodged another bullet last Saturday when judges ruled to dismiss a bribery case against him.
Berlusconi had been accused of paying a $600,000 bribe to British lawyer David Mills in return for Mills’ lying on Berlusconi’s behalf in court as part of another investigation into alleged kickbacks linked to Berlusconi’s media empire. But the court ruled the charges were too old and should be tossed out.
Berlusconi, who had his political immunity from prosecution revoked after he resigned as Prime Minister last year, is still on trial in three other cases on charges ranging from corruption to abuse of power to paying an underage girl for sex.
HINDU OUTRAGE AT BIN LADEN SHOOT
Hindu radicals on Friday protested against Kathryn Bigelow’s film on the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The small crowd, from the radical Vishva Hindu Parishad group, objected to the Oscar-winning director changing street signs and license plates in the Indian city of Chandigarh to make it look like the Pakistani city of Lahore.
Bigelow was denied permission to shoot her film in Pakistan. Hindu-majority India has fought three wars with Muslim Pakistan and the radical Hindu group was outraged to see Pakistani flags flying in their country.
HARVEY VS. LE PEN
It was a war of words this week between producer Harvey Weinstein and far-right French politico Jean Marie Le Pen. Weinstein attacked Le Pen for apparently racist comments the politician made on French TV criticizing The Untouchables.
The French dramedy, which the Weinsteins will release in the U.S. this May, is the true story of an unlikely friendship between a rich white paraplegic and the poor black ex-con who cares for him. The French press, in celebratory mood after Weinstein's successful Oscar campaign for French Best Picture winner The Artist, threw their support behind him.
SCOTLAND THE BRAVE
Things were more harmonious up North with Disney announcing a wide-ranging marketing campaign pact with Scotland’s tourist office to accompany the roll out the Disney/Pixar Scots-themed movie Brave internationally. Set in the Scottish Highlands, the movie features a who’s who of Scottish stars, including Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson. The deal with Scotland marks the first time Disney has teamed up on this scale with a country’s tourism organization for the launch of one of its titles.
MARYILN IN CANNES
And everyone could agree on the Cannes Film Festival’s choice of iconic actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe to be the face of this year’s offical festival poster. Cannes unveiled its Monroe poster this week, a tribute to the actress on the 50th anniversary of her death.
Europe might still be teetering on the edge of economic disaster, but that didn’t show up in the balance sheets of the continent’s biggest broadcasters, who announced their 2011 results this week.
Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 booked another record year, with revenue jumping 6 percent to $3.7 billion and profits soaring to $921 million. Profits at Britain’s ITV were up 14 per cent to $536 million and total revenue hit $3.4 billion, a 4 per cent hike. Europe’s largest commercial broadcaster, RTL Group, is expected to post similar strong figures when it reports its 2011 numbers next week.
More good news came from Berlin’s European Film Market, which announced that attendance at the February event hit an all time high. Nearly 8,000 film execs (an 15 per cent year-on-year bump) made the trip to the chilly German capital for the year’s first major film market market's Martin-Gropius-Bau and Marriott Hotel locations.
The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which wrapped on Thursday, also hit a new high-water mark, with more than 67,000 visitors attending, an 11 per cent increase on 2010.
And in the punk is not dead category: The Sex Pistols this week signed a record deal with Universal to release an extended and repackaged edition of Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols to tie in with the 35th anniversary of the album and to kick off the band’s comeback tour.
… AND BUST
Thing’s weren’t as rosy at Pinewood Shepperton, Britain’s largest studio facilities group, which reported a slight dip in film revenues last year –$28.2 million compared to $28.8 million in 2010.
But that didn’t compare to CTC Media, Russia’s leading independent media company, which reported a 64 per cent drop in net income last year as growth in Russia’s TV ad market turned sluggish.
And the lights were shut off at U.K. Television group Target Entertainment, whose properties include Scottish detective series Taggart. Parent company Metrodome, which paid $1.3 million for Target two years ago, put the loss-making firm into administration.
LAWLESS LUCY, THE BRAZILIAN JACK AND THE SWEDISH LEGEND
Actress Lucy Lawless, star of Battlestar Galactica and Xena: Warrior Princess, was arrested in her native New Zealand on Monday in a protest against Artic oil drilling.
Jack Nicholson got some unlikely publicity this week after a Brazilian man was arrested for trying to open a bank account using a fake ID featuring the photo of the three-time Oscar winner.
And Sweden said goodbye to one of its acting legends. Erland Josephson, the star of several films by director Ingmar Bergman, including Scenes from a Marriage and Fanny and Alexander, died in Stockholm, aged 88.