Foxtel Arts launches to crowd of “friends of the arts”

Foxtel has a cultural connection with Australia, says Foxtel boss at Arts channel launch. Sally Rawsthorne reports.

By Sally Rawsthorne

The perennially popular Museum of Contemporary Art has certainly been getting a media people work out this week, with Tuesday’s Netflix launch followed by Thursday morning’s launch of the Foxtel Art channel. Hosted by Foxtel favourite Deborah Hutton (pictured), the launch attracted what she deemed “friends of the arts” including Foxtel’s Margaret Pomeranz, Ben Buckley, Fraser Stark, Graham Burrells, Richard Freudenstein, Brian Walsh and Jamie Campbell, Leo Schofield, The Devil’s Playground’s Simon Burke, Wentworth’s Pamela Rabe and A Place to Call Home’s Marta Dusseldorp.

Hutton introduced the hi-def, 24-hour channel that kicks off its run tomorrow morning at 10.00 as a place to indulge in “things that soothe your soul”.  She then introduced Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein, who called himself “the least artistic person in the room, but the most excited about the channel’s launch”.

He noted that the lack of commercial viability of arts coverage meant that FTA networks were unable to get behind the arts, and suggested that the investment in drama and telling Australian stories was also significantly decreasing. Freudenstein then made a dig at new market entrant Netflix, saying that the SVOD service has “absolutely no cultural connection to Australia”. He accused Netflix of having entered the market solely to make money, noting their dearth of Australian content and Australian employees, and alleged refusal to pay tax in Australia.

The establishment of Foxtel Arts, he continued, shows the subscription television provider is committed to investing considerable money in Australian content, including both dramas and documentary. “It takes it to a whole new level. It has the world’s best arts programming, with a broad range from the high minded to the bawdy and fun,” Freudenstein continued.

Hutton then introduced Leo Schofield, who noted the changing nature of the media landscape meant that Foxtel Arts was especially important. Crowd pleasers Pomeranz and Burrell then took to the stage to introduce their new show, Screen, which will premiere on Thursday April 2 at 8.00. Burrell called himself Margaret’s second TV husband, noting that their partnership has been much more fun than either of his marriages! The series will be of a wider scope than Pomeranz’s previous format At The Movies, with a range of Foxtel and FTA TV series looked at. The pair will also interview guests, with the lineup so far including Chas Licciardello, Sam Neill and Wentworth’s Danielle Cormack.

Hutton then noted she would also host a program [yet to be titled] that would act as a what’s on guide to Australian cultural events.
The soon-to-launch channel will cover the full range of arts, including opera, ballet, classical music, rock and pop, literature, drama, visual art and dance. The channel will be available to Foxtel subscribers with the documentary package. Foxtel Arts begins its run on channel 132 at 10am on Saturday, 28 March.

Photo: Deborah Hutton with Leo Schofield

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