Spike Lee wins Banff TV fest grand prize

HBO documentary 'Levees' takes top award

BANFF, Canada — Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” won grand prize at the 28th Banff World Television Awards, unveiled at a gala on Monday, the opening night of the Banff TV Festival.

Jury chair Slawko Klymkiw called the HBO documentary, which recalls the horrific events of Hurricane Katrina, a “genuinely seminal work that will leave a creative — and political — legacy for years to come.”

Pic, produced by 40 Acres and a Mule, also took the award for top social and political doc.

The continuing series prizewinner was NBC’s now-canceled skein “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which beat the pilot for “Dirt” and “Brothers & Sisters: Mistakes Were Made,” as well as the first episode of “The Street.”

“See No Evil: The Moors Murders” from British commercial broadcaster ITV won miniseries.

The inaugural reality format program award went to “The Prison Choir” from Spain’s TVE and 3Koma. “Death of a President,” from Borough Films for Blighty’s Channel 4, was tapped top made-for-TV movie, and soap “EastEnders” took the telenovela and drama prize for the BBC.

In other news at the TV fest, which wraps Thursday:

  • British TV exec Dawn Airey, keynote speaker at the fest, spoke publicly for the first time about her short-lived venture with one-stop talent, production and distribution outfit Iostar, which she termed “eight days in April.”

She joked that the company should be renamed “IOUstar.” “It was a bloody good idea,” she said, “but it wasn’t executed.”

Airey was recently appointed director of global content for ITV after jumping ship from satcaster BSkyB for Iostar.

With inimitable frankness, she also took on the challenges traditional content creators face in a multi-platform universe.

“Content companies will only have a rosy future in broadband-enabled world if they learn to relax their sphincter muscles,” she said, noting that it was neither the strongest nor the fittest who would survive, but, as Darwin would say, the most adaptable to change.

  • Canuck David Suzuki’s long contribution to environmental causes were recognized with a new award, the David Suzuki Science and Environmental Media Award, announced and given to him at lunch.

Suzuki participated in a panel entitled Code Green: Environmental Responsibility in the Media, with thesp Daryl Hannah and Australian scientist and writer Tim Flannery.

  • Canadian cable channel Movieola — the Short Film Channel inked a deal with Internet television service Joost, one of the higher-profile companies at the NextMedia conference, which ran for two days before the festival. Movieola also pacted with Azureus, whose site is Vuze.

  • Thunderbird Films & Program Partners announced it has licensed “Merv Griffin’s Crosswords” to stations owned by Rogers Television and Chum, the series’ first affiliates in Canada.

  • In his speech, Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission topper Konrad von Finckenstein explained how his four pillars of transparency, fairness, predictability and timeliness applied to recent decisions, including the approval of CTV’s takeover of Chum — provided CTV unloads five of Chum’s terrestrial channels.

“Some people are not very happy with it, it was a difficult decision,” he said, “and especially difficult because CTV is a good corporate citizen, an excellent broadcaster that has lived up to the objectives of the broadcasting act.”

He said the web was unable, however, to make a persuasive argument for making an exception to the rule that a broadcaster cannot have two stations in the same language in the same market.

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