Documentaries are number one in terms of programme volume at Arte, if you include all kinds of documentary, though the formatting of docs is also gaining ground here.
Arte 2007 is also Europe 2007- i.e. fifty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome and the anniversary is reflected in the programming of a European channel- as is the French presidential election, the future of Kosovo and many other important issues for us Europeans. The history and future of the European Union are investigated in depth. Arte bombards its viewers with information on these matters.
In terms of German and French viewers, Arte’s 1-5% share definitely makes it a niche channel compared to its public counterparts grouped under France Télévisions and Germany’s ARD and ZDF. Yet it is a channel of utmost importance to the documentary genre in Europe. Every documentary festival programme in Europe has at least one film supported by Arte. A pitching event “must” have a representative from Arte. The channel is indeed ubiquitous and plays an important role for the independent production sector, not only in France and Germany but in the rest of Europe as well.
Today, Arte is a modern broadcaster with a website providing general programme information, links to sites relevant for themes dealt with in programmes, a forum for debates and links to all sorts of cultural events. There’s also a VOD service and Arte Boutique selling DVDs with documentary classics by the likes of Johan van der Keuken or Raymond Depardon, or newer names such as Avi Mograbi.
Innovation and Creation?
Many consider that Arte struggles with an image of being “elitist” or “bourgeois” but admit also that the quality of the programming is always high. Arte France’s President Jerome Clément talks about the fight against ‘la banalisation’ of images and about ‘creation and innovation’ in his 2007 New Year’s welcoming speech (see http://www.arte.tv/fr/tout-sur-ARTE/38566.html), and he is right when he says that you can find these ambitions realised on Arte.
But not that often, if you look at Arte from a documentary perspective. The innovation lies in other programme formats like “The Night”, “Tracks” and the classic cultural magazine “Métropolis” which is now broadcast primetime on Saturday evening, because the typical, Arte-formatted documentary is rather traditional with wall-to-wall narration and interviews, always relating to a theme. Traditional in a way that could characterize Arte as an old-fashioned public broadcaster in the best meaning of the term, living up to classical virtues of the documentary genre: documentaries bring us to places where we’ve never been before or will never be able to go by giving us an experience, bringing us knowledge about art, culture, history, science and technology, and letting us meet other human beings with whom we can identify, laugh or cry.
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