Sat-ND, 11.6.96

Sat-ND 96-06-11 - Satellite and Media News

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This issue is sponsored by TELE-satellite, Europe's Satellite Magazine 
Have a look at their homepage! >> http://www.TELE-satellit.com/ <<

Ariane flight 87 delayed
The launch of an Ariane 4 rocket and its payload, INTELSAT 709, has been
rescheduled following the explosion of the Ariane 5 launcher a week ago.
The flight is now due to take place next Saturday between 0841 and 1041

More satellites, more pay TV for Brazil
Brazilian telecommunications company Embratel has two BRASILSAT Bs in
orbit (B1 at 70W, B2 at 65W.) Transponder capacity on B3, due to be
launched by the end of 1997, has already been sold out completely.
Embratel now has announced a fourth satellite that should be operational
by the end of 1998.
TVA of the Abril group, one of the two big players in Brazilian TV, has
meanwhile launched a digital TV package on GALAXY IIIR (95W.) 
Subscribers will not only have to pay R$50 (US$56) per month but also buy
reception equipment for R$900 (US$1000.) TVA's main competitor Globo, the
largest TV network outside the US, is expected to launch its package by
August this year. Their reception equipment will be priced at R$800
(US$880.) There's more to come: the Brazilian Ministry of Communications
will issue more licences for satellite TV. While TVA and Globo got their
concessions for free, the new ones will probably be auctioned.

How independent is NTV?
Igor Malashenko, President of Russian news channel NTV, today announced
that gas giant Gazprom has acquired a 30 percent stake in the station. The
official version of the unlikely partnership is simple: NTV needs money to
set up a satellite delivered five-channel package. However, the deal may
also have a different background. In March, NTV's Malashenko became an
advisor to President Boris Yeltsin's re-election campaign team. Since
then, the formerly independent channel has been accused of a strong
pro-government bias. Actually, NTV does not mean something like "News TV"
but translates to "Independent Television." This is no longer true. Even
Malashenko admits that NTV's output is far from balanced, but puts the
blame on the staff: "They know they will not be able to be journalists any
longer if Zyuganov comes to power."
The question might as well be whether NTV's journalists can stay
independent under state influence. Gazprom is 40 percent state-owned and
already holds large shares of state-controlled Russian public TV as well
as the popular daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. What's more, Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was Gazprom's director until 1992. Last but
not least, the government still has a strong influence on the satellite
business. Observers saw the launch of the latest GORIZONT satellite in
direct connection with Yeltsin's re-election campaign.

Common sense v/s common interface
Yet another U-turn in the history of European digital TV: The so-called
common interface seems to be dead just a few days after EU commissioner
Bangemann announced it. Today, French pay TV group Canal + denied that
major European media companies had come to an agreement that would make
the interface part of integrated receiver/decoders (IRDs.) Other major
players like BSkyB and FilmNet oppose the use of a common interface as
well, Canal + said.

DF1: No news, but a few surprises
German media mogul Leo Kirch has officially announced details of his
digital TV package due to start on 28 July. Not much news, though. The
package, dubbed DF1, will consist of up to 30 channels by the end of the
year, offering the expected mixture of movies, sports and children's
Customers will have to buy a set-top box for DM1,100 to 1,300 before they
can start paying subscription fees. The basic tier, consisting of 14 TV
channels, will be available for DM20 per month. The complete 30 channel
package will be initially be available via satellite only, although DF1
hopes for nation-wide cable distribution by the end of 1997.
Included with the package are some channels that are freely available up
to now, as our Munich correspondent Alexander Wiese reports. MTV and VH-1,
available unscrambled in many German cable networks, will be part of DF1
as well as NBC and its spring-off CNBC. The heaviest blow, however, hits
subscribers of pay radio DMX. It will come along with the DF1 basic tier
that costs just as much as the DMX stand-alone subscription costs now.
Special events and premier movies will be offered pay-per-view at prices
from DM5 to 8. However, the integrated receiver/decoder has a built-in
modem that has to be hooked up to a phone line should the customer want to
order those services. Alexander points out that DF1 officials couldn't
tell whether customers would also have to pay the phone calls their IRD
makes when ordering pay-per-view programming.
Details on the DF1 package will be available in the next issue of
TELE-satellite, due to be out in two week's time. We're told that there
will also be a world-wide list of satellite channels as well as a
comprehensive section with satellite footprints. For the first time, there
will be also a 16-page news section completely in English. For further
information, just point your web browser at the URL mentioned above.
But what is that digital TV anyway? Germans have no idea. Just 38 percent
know what pay TV is. How are they supposed to know? There's just a single
pay TV channel available, and it's far too expensive to attract the
masses. Pay per view? Just 14 percent knew that expression, and 13 percent
had a correct explanation for video on demand. What's more interesting in
this representative survey carried out on behalf of the magazine "Stern":
Two thirds of German TV viewers generally don't want to spend money on pay
TV. The remaining third might well be sufficient to finance pay TV, but it
also means that free-to-air TV will survive in this country.

At this point I'll hand over to our contributor Jitse Groen who definitely
has deserved an own mailing list (don't you think so?)

EU Commissioner Karel van Miert is probably no going to allow Sport7 to
begin under their conditions. Van Miert argues that a seven year contract
is too long and would make a deal with another party (after those seven
years) virtually impossible. The Commissioner wants a five year contract,
but it is still unclear what he is going to do about it. Feyenoord by the
way, have sold their radio rights some time ago. According to the KNVB
this is illegal since those rights belong to Sport7, who might start a
radio station (rumors are that this may be with ex-VNR). This of course,
is a bit strange. Sport7 announced several months ago that the rights were
'out of the deal'. Feyenoord did not want to say to whom they sold the

RTL (nieuws) 5 might be encoded, as a result of the various demands of the
European Commission. Those demands are by the way not made public yet, but
it is already clear that RTL 5 may not raise more money from commercials
than at present.

The Commissariaat voor de Media has received a license-request from a new
Dutch television station that calls itself Christelijke Televisie
Nederland (Christian Television Netherlands). CTN wants to broadcast four
hours a day.

The Nederlandse Vereniging van Commerciele Radio (Dutch Union of
Commercial Radio) has asked minister Jorritsma to determine how many
so-called FM rest frequencies are left. Jorritsma has always said that
there were practically none. This however, is not exactly true. In various
parts of the country there are a lot of frequencies unused. Radio 1
strangely enough was given an 'event-frequency'. It's not clear what an
event-frequency actually is, but Jorritsma has never talked about the
existance of this frequency. It simply shouldn't be there. The frequency
covers for instance Utrecht *and* Amsterdam. Interesting detail is that
this is also the area with reception problems for the regular Radio 1
service, caused by the loss of the Lelystad and Utrecht transmitters to
Radio 538 and Sky Radio. The NVCR knows of at least 14 more frequencies
available to large parts of the country.

RTL 4, RTL 5, and Veronica will now officially stop their analogue
transmissions in late-August. RTL 5 and Veronica were on transponders that
were rented until March this year. The HMG managed to extend the lease
until August, but not further. In August the CLT will take over all three
transponders, and are likely to sell them (this is getting to be a real
bore) ...BSkyB. Dutch viewers will be able to get a FREE smartcard for the
HMG stations. This will probably be done by address, meaning that there is
hope for viewers abroad. People with cable might want to sell their
smartcard (I hope I'm not giving people bad ideas here:)).

Thanks to our contributors --
Jitse Groen: jgl@dds.nl
Alexander Wiese: awiese@TELE-satellit.com

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

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