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Banned in India, Peace TV Net Buys Berth on TWC in N.Y.

Plus: #NoFoodWasted at NBCU; BYUtv's 'Granite Flats' 4/20/2015 8:00 AM Eastern
TakeAway

Through the Wire, from the April 20 issue of 'Multichannel News'

A small, controversial religious network is about to test the true value of the leased-access programming rules when it joins Time Warner Cable’s Starter TV tier in New York.

 

Peace TV, a Dubai-based channel dedicated to promoting the Islamic faith (tagline: “The solution for Humanity”), is slated to launch on channel 1534 on TWC’s Manhattan system beginning on May 15.

 

Peace TV, according to some reports, reaches more than 100 million viewers worldwide. In the U.S., its availability (as reported on its website) has been limited to low-power TV stations and direct-to-home satellite. It appears that Time Warner Cable is the first cable operator it has obtained carriage with.

 

TWC said in a statement that it “will be carrying Peace TV pursuant to the leased access requirements of federal law.” The cable operator disclosed the imminent launch on April 1.

 

Peace TV has had its share of international controversy. The channel’s president and chief “speaker,” Mumbaibased Dr. Zakir Naik, was banned from entering the United Kingdom in 2010 after he labeled Jews as enemies of Islam and proclaimed that all Muslims should be terrorists. Comments that ex-Muslims should be executed breached British regulator Ofcom’s broadcasting codes in 2013, and the channel was banned in India after it allegedly aired antigovernment programs.

 

While The Wire’s calls to the network were not returned, Peace TV has said in the past that its interpretations of the Quran have been taken out of context.

 

Leased-access rules can make it hard for a distributor to refuse to carry a channel: Regulations say that can only happen if the content is obscene or is offensive according to community standards. But pricing has been used to separate the wheat from the chaff, experts say.

 

Regulations allow distributors to set rates based on the number of subscribers to a tier and the revenue generated by that tier, minus programming costs. Apparently, here, pricing wasn’t an issue.

 

Peace TV is backed by the Islamic Research Foundation International, a registered non-profit charity that, according to documents filed with the U.K. government, raised about $1.7 million in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2014, and spent about $1.56 million to support Peace TV.

 

According to one former distribution executive, based on the FCC formula, TWC could charge as much as $350,000 per month for carriage in Manhattan. The executive said Peace TV probably is paying more like $200,000 per month.

 

That’s a nice chunk of change for the distributor — $2.4 million annually — but with its $67 billion merger with Comcast winding through the regulatory process and opponents to the merger looking for any angle to raise, it might prove a headache Time Warner Cable could do without.

— Mike Farrell

 

NBCU ‘Green’ Week Serves Up Some Food for Thought

Not to make others ecologically green with envy, but for those hungry for exclusive info, The Wire has discovered that NBCUniversal will announce Monday (April 20) that its ongoing “Green is Universal” initiative has made the elimination of food waste the theme of this year’s Earth Week campaign.

 

That can be an issue at theme parks and on studio sets, which is why the #NoFoodWasted campaign begins at home.

 

According to food-knowledgeable NBCU sources, last year NBCUniversal Film & TV Production donated 28,000 meals worth of recovered food, which is more than 35,000 pounds of whatever its stars eat between and around starring in things.

 

Universal Studios Orlando also says last year it diverted 594 tons of organic food material from the resort that had been headed for landfills. The Wire guesses there was not a lot of left-over butter beer from that park, which is pretty tasty and even reasonably priced for park food. But we digress.

 

The food waste problem is a national, and a global, one. NBCU says that “according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the average American family spends more than $2,000 on groceries a year that are wasted” and that by cutting that waste by just 15%, that could feed 25 million hungry people.

 

NBCU will seek to drive home that point through television programming, digital and social media, and with custom green food trucks that will “dish information and complimentary waste-free meals” in New York; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Miami, Fla.; and Chicago.

 

The goal is to help consumers shop better, make food last longer, and find creative ways to spruce up leftovers.

 

Brussels sprouts brownies anyone?

— John Eggerton

 

‘Granite Flats’ Launch On Netflix Could Aid BYUtv’s HD Dreams

Another network with a strong religious foundation — BYUtv, owned by the Mormon church-backed Brigham Young University — has a different kind of launch coming soon it hopes will help with its cable, telco and satellite- TV distributors.

 

Even though the launch in question is on over-the-top powerhouse Netflix.

 

Granite Flats, the channel’s first scripted drama, launches its third season on Netflix on May 15. That’s about five months before that third season will premiere on BYUtv. Netflix also acquired rights to the show’s first two eight-episode seasons.

 

“I’m not aware, and we’ve looked, of any other traditional network that has taken an existing series and launched a new season of that existing series on a platform like Netflix before releasing it on their linear channel,” Derek Marquis, the network’s managing director, told The Wire.

 

“You can ask me, how’s that going to work for us? Don’t know, but we’re certainly willing to try. The audience out there is huge with Netflix, with over 60 million members.”

 

Granite Flats is a Cold War-era drama of intrigue filmed in (you guessed it) Utah. It involves a Western town where a Soviet satellite has crashed, teenage sleuths are uncovering secrets, and the CIA is conducting mind-control experiments (the historically accurate Mkultra program that inspired the show’s creators, including executive producer Scott Swofford).

 

As The New York Times noted last October, the show has complicated characters and has won critical praise. It also avoids nudity, profanity and extreme violence, and drops into dialogue references to “Solomon’s wisdom or a Pauline epistle.”

 

BYUtv’s tagline is “See the good in the world.” Marquis said TV has many dark dramas. “We want to create some light, and I think Granite Flats does that.”

 

BYUtv is on both of the big satellite-TV players, and is in some 55 million homes overall. But other than on AT&T’s U-verse TV and in some Comcast systems, it’s mostly carried in standard definition. Netflix provides a big, HDstreaming platform, and Marquis hopes a higher profile for Granite Flats will nudge other distributors to carry it in HD. “We’re not high on their radar” at the moment, he said. A nonprofit, BYUtv doesn’t carry ads.

 

Season three also sees Waiting for Guffman’s Parker Posey and George Newbern (the groom in the Steve Martin Father of the Bride movies) join a cast that already included Christopher Lloyd.

— Kent Gibbons

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