Sat-ND, 5./6.6.96

Sat-ND 96-06-05/06 - Satellite and Media News

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Should I stay or should I go?
Is he in, or is he out? Some of Rupert Murdoch's partners in a so-called
strategic alliance to introduce digital pay TV in Germany yesterday said
he's out  Besides, they left no doubt that they were quite happy with the
development. Surprise, surprise: Today, a Canal + spokeswoman said they
didn't really mean it.
A few months ago, Murdoch entered the scene by joining Germany's
Bertelsmann group and their long-time partners Canal + from France. In the
first place, Murdoch had negotiated with Luxembourg's CLT about a digital
TV alliance, but then jumped onto the  Bertelsmann train. Lacking other
partners, CLT finally agreed to a merger with Bertelsmann's affiliate Ufa
which still is negotiated. However, in France things developed slightly
different. Canal + has started its Canalsatellite package that possibly
has to compete with a CLT package.
Right now, everybody in this alliance is fighting everyone, but at least a
German and a French camp seem to emerge, the latter one interested in the
Ufa/CLT merger not taking place. This may explain the letter that
Australian-American media mogul Murdoch sent to Bertelsmann chairman
Michael Dornemann. According to Canal +, Murdoch's letter "says in the
third and last paragraph that 'this can't go on any longer'. At Canal + we
see this as a severe warning, but whether this will lead to a split,
nobody is able to say so at the moment."
Murdoch's business practice has since been described as rude by the other
members of the alliance. From one of his press releases, they had to learn
that the global media tycoon would take over an equity stake of 25 percent
in Germany's only pay TV channel premiere. Reportedly, other shareholders
of the channel including Canal + and Ufa weren't even informed of their
new partner's wish to participate. 

Philips supplies Germany digital alliance with IRDs
Nonetheless, the introduction of digital TV in Germany this autumn does
not seem to be endangered by the quarrels within the "alliance" that also
is a major part of the MMGB. This company was set up to distribute digital
TV under a common technical standard. It comprises the channels of the
"alliance" as well as Deutsche Telekom, other telecommunications
providers, and pubcasters ARD and ZDF. The set-top boxes used by MMBG will
mainly be provided by Dutch electronics company Philips.  They can't be
bought in the shops  actually, they can only be leased. And they probably
won't be able to render anything else but MMGB programming. Not only do
they lack a slot for conditional access modules as called for by the DVEB
standards, they will furthermore be "adapted for the German market," a
Philips statement said.
The rival group, led by Germany's media tycoon Leo Kirch, will instead use
the d-box developed by Nokia. It can be leased or bought, it has a slot
for conditional access modules (and it will in fact be able to receive at
least some of the competing MMBG programming.) 

No disaster, just an incident
A computer glitch caused the spectacular launch failure of the first
Ariane 5 rocket, officials from French space agency CNES told reporters.
According to launch operations director Daniel Mugnier, "at approximately
37 seconds the onboard computer received information on the attitude of
the launch vehicle that was incorrect. The flight programme commanded
swivelling of the nozzles to control a movement that did not exist." Under
the heavy pressure resulting from the change of direction, the upper part
of the launcher broke off. On-board security systems as well as ground
controllers finally commanded self-destruction.
"This is not a disaster, but rather an incident. It will not delay the
second mission for a long time," added CNES head of strategy Yves Le Gall.
"We could have feared an incident on the propulsion system, it does not
appear to be the case," Le Gall added.

Small is beautiful
Arianespace will use Russian rockets to launch small satellites, French
minister François Fillon announced today speaking on an interview with
radio station RFO. The joint venture called "Starsem" will include
Arianespace (15 percent) and Aérospatiale (35 percent,) with Russian
partners holding the other 50 percent of shares. The agreement that also
calls for common development of future small-weight launchers is due to be
signed in Moscow next week.

PALAPA to be launched from Indonesia
Indonesia will might soon launch their PALAPA satellites from their own
territory. PT Satelit Palapa Indonesia has bought an Atlas II AS launcher
from Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services. The Export-Import Bank of
the United States has authorised 136 million dollars to finance the deal
that is worth US$92 million plus US$59.5 million launch insurance.

New satellites
Some recently launched satellites have meanwhile found their place on the
geostationary ring around the Earth. AMOS 1 (Israel) was seen on 4.0E by
NASA recently. Further testing on AMOS continued the last few days,
reports Henk Cornelis Room from Cairo. Tests focused mainly on transponder
5a (11.556 GHz v) and 5b (11.592 GHz v.). Sometimes the transponder halves
were tested separately, at other times the full bandwidth was used.
No recent elements were available for GALAXY IX, whereas GORIZONT 32 was
observed on 52.6E, slightly drifting westward. It might replace GORIZONT
27 on the same position. PALAPA C2 appeared at 124.1E this week.

MultiChoice goes Middle East
On July 1, MultiChoice Middle East will launch its digital package on
PAS-4, 68.5E. It will be available in three subsets dubbed A, B and C,
where C stands for the SHOWTIME package. A and B consist of local channels
including the ART digital package, LBC and Future TV from Lebanon. Prices
for decoder and subscription have not been disclosed yet.
Direct subscriptions to the SHOWTIME Network in Dubai, UAE are not
possible for the time being, as importing the decoder is restricted, or at
least very highly taxed. (Henk Cornelis Room)

ASTRA 1D goes radio
ASTRA 1D (19.2E) does not seem to be the success its operators hoped it
would be. Quite a few transponders are still unused, but maybe the bird
will finally turn into a kind of radio satellite. Today, digital signals
in digital ADR format could be found all over transponder 59, 10.861 GHz
h. Of course, a TV signal is not needed to supply ASTRA Digital Radio 
instead, a transponder may carry up to 24 stereo channels. So far, I noted
the following channels:
Star*Sat Radio (double mono) on 0.72, 1.44, 6.84, 7.20, and 8.46 MHz;
Test tones on 0.54, 1.62, and 8.46 MHz. Sometimes, a station ID consisting
of random letters was also present. In addition, an analogue test tone was
present on 7.38 MHz. 

Zeroes and Ones

* From time to time, Bill Gates becomes a philosopher. "The word online
service is not as black and white as it used to be," the software
billionaire said yesterday, commenting on a strange deal with CompuServe.
"The online services are doing more content, and we are only doing this
with people who have major content," added the Microsoft boss. He was
referring to CompuServe, once a rival to Microsoft's own online service
MSN, now a major customer of his company. CompuServe has recently
announced to move its content to the World Wide Web, and it will actually
use a new Microsoft product dubbed Normandy to do so. It will be broadly
available to Internet service providers by the end of the year. ``This is
to cut our time to market and slash our costs,'' said CompuServe boss
The deal also includes one of those (in)famous bundling agreements.
CompuServe icons will be contained in an online services folder on the
main screen of the next Windows 95 update. Last year, CompuServe along
with some other online services protested loudly against a Windows 95 icon
offering users access to Microsoft's own online service MSN. CompuServe
also plans to offer Microsoft's Internet Explorer as one of the key Web
browsers in the next version of its Information Manager version, which is
due to be out this summer.

* South Korea's state radio has announced strict measures against anybody
trying to access North Korean sites on the World Wide Web. National
Security Law  bars all unauthorised contacts with the communist North,
including receiving its radio programmes. By the way: there are no North
Korean Web sites at all. 

* Vietnam has banned its people from freely using the Internet. The
country had established  some limited access to the Net but now has barred
individuals from accessing it directly. They may only do so via companies
abiding by the government's censorship directions. In addition, the
government reserves the right to monitor subscribers.

Thanks to our contributor --
Henk Cornelis Room: hcroom@intouch.com

Copyright 1996 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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