Fourth Estate Not Forthcoming

Sky’s picked up the Rupert Murdoch-inspired media empire drama series Succession but isn’t interested in The Fourth Estate, a new Showtime documentary series about the New York Times.

Like Circus, a Showtime documentary series about US politics, The Fourth Estate falls through the cracks of the content Sky seeks for its channels.

It could play on SoHo, a premium channel that also screens docos, but these are sourced from HBO as part of Sky’s deal with the US cable giant and generally are used to plug holes in SoHo’s schedule.

So any other docos would be surplus to SoHo’s needs.

The Fourth Estate could have been a fit for Sky’s independently-minded Documentary Channel before it was sold off and dumbed down to BBC Knowledge.

Otherwise, it falls outside the purview of Sky’s other channels, save for perhaps Rialto or the Arts Channel (both of which have rejected it).

This shows up the need for Sky to launch an HD service for subscribers seeking a broader-appeal programming alternative to SoHo, Arts or Rialto — the equivalent of the mainstream free-to-air channel that TV One used to be 25 years ago (and which UKTV falls well short of).

It could be a smorgasbord of the comedy, drama and documentary series that FTA channels bypass, more of which are winding up on a streaming service like Lightbox (such as The Hollow Crown and season two of Mum) and cable series not deemed worthy enough for SoHo (such as the Washington spies drama Turn).

Hopefully, Lightbox will consider The Fourth Estate, given it already streams Showtime product and the reviews the series has earned.

The Los Angeles Times thought it “an engrossing, behind-the-scenes look at a journalistic renaissance driven by the upheaval in Washington” and The Washington Post, “refreshingly human in scope, stopping more than once to observe the emotional toll on these journalists who are working themselves to the bone”.

Ironically, the New York Time was less effusive, headlining its review: “Competent but Incomplete Peek Inside The Times”:

The Fourth Estate looks a lot like the start of a process — one that involves grappling with the public’s desire to know how its news is gathered and molded, and contending deeply with some of the ways in which traditional models of journalism have let us down. It’s an uneven, occasionally fascinating beginning, and it should by no means be the end.

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