Sat-ND, 25.6.96

Sat-ND 96-06-25 - Satellite and Media News

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"(c) Copyright 1996 by Sat-ND, http://www.sat-net.com/pck/"
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Peter C. Klanowski, Fax +49-451-5820055, pck@LyNet.De

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

Welcome to another edition of RupertWatch, our section solely dedicated to
the activities of the Australian-born media magnate, provided by Dr Sarmaz
from Tierra Abajo's Ministry of Truth.

You can't always get what you want
Rupert Murdoch does not have a monopoly on encryption systems in the UK.
But since no other system is in use there, wannabe theme channels have no
other choice but to use Videocrypt and almost automatically become a part
of BSkyB's Multichannels package -- Videocrypt was developed by Mr
Murdoch's News Datacom. Actually, Rupert Murdoch can be regarded the
gatekeeper of British pay TV.
Cable giant TCI does not have a monopoly on cable networks in the USA.
There are lots of other systems, but TCI's happens to be the largest of
them all, reaching 13 million of the country's 94 million TV households.
One in four US cable households is hooked to a TCI line. In order to get a
new channel to cable viewers soon, any TV company has no choice but to
arrange with TCI. Even Rupert Murdoch who wants his company Fox
Broadcasting to set up a new, conservative news channel (although he
called it "middle-of-the-road".)
He finally managed to have the channel supplied to 10 million TCI homes
right from the start next autumn. Within two years, some 2 million
households are to be added. For each subscriber, TCI will pay a standard
annual fee of about 20 cents to Fox.
But TCI has been given a range of most unusual options. The company may
take a non-voting stake of 20 percent in the channel, although not from
the start. In this way, TCI keeps way out of the loss-making start-up
Just like Murdoch in the UK, TCI has adopted a strategy of buying parts of
the cable channels it carries. So far, the company holds stakes of more
than two dozen channels including CNN which is available in about 65
million households. It has also set up a joint venture with Fox
Ironically, it was CNN's "liberal" style that led Murdoch to setting up a
channel of his own. "Our opportunity in news is that people don't like the
sort of news they're getting," the media czar proclaimed last February.
Should Murdoch's news channel not convince the people, TCI also has
another option. They may just cash in a one-time payment of US$10 for
every household it delivers Murdoch's news channel to, amounting to over
US$100 million. The same payment is available to any other cable system
that carries the new channel. In order to be profitable, a cable channel
should reach at least 30 million homes, meaning that Mr Murdoch finally
has to pay at least some US$300 million.
News Corp. and TCI already are involved in several alliances, including a
global sports programming venture. However, they're also competing on the
field of digital DBS services. While Murdoch teamed up with MCI to buy the
last available US license, TCI is involved in a deal with Canadian
satellite operator Telesat. TCU would sell two satellites to Canada while
at the same time leasing all of their capacity in order to offer its own
direct broadcast services in the US.
The only immanent rival to Murdoch's new news channel is MSNBC, a joint
venture of NBC and Microsoft. Slated to launch on July 15, MSNBC will have
an immediate distribution of nearly 20 million TV households  simply
because it will replace NBC's cable channel "America's Talking." ABC has
postponed the launch its own 24-hour news channel because it couldn't
compete with Murdoch's one-time payment offer. TCI said it would carry all
three news channels (CNN, MSNBC and the Murdoch channel) allowing viewers
to make a choice. (Dr. Sarmaz)

Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing here?
There are quite a few satellite based navigation systems available,
including the Global Positioning System (GPS). It is available all over
the world, and although the system's resolution still is artificially
reduced, it becomes increasingly popular as receivers get cheaper almost
every day. Nonetheless, some countries do not seem to be willing to rely
on GPS. Indonesia will set up a new satellite-based navigation system
called Aeronautic Navigation Satellite System (ANSS.) The partners in this
venture are Hughes Electronics of the United States and Daimler-Benz
Aerospace of Germany. The autonomous satellite-based system is due provide
navigation assistance for air, land and sea traffic management in
Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Zeroes and ones

Sympathy for the devil
Is Microsoft evil? Well, how am I supposed to know. Finally, the long
expected e-zine set up by Microsoft was launched on the World Wide Web.
It's called Slate (not Spade, Slade, Slake, Slide, Stack, Stim, Stem,
Spiv, Spin, Stiv, Stir, Split, Spim, Spit, Spume, Slit, Slime, Suck,
Stuck, Spam, Pam, Sperm, or even Pimple.) You get the idea, finally
Microsoft wants to create some content of their own. Although nobody knows
what the name stands for. "The name? It means nothing, or practically
nothing," writes former New Republic editor Michael Kinsley in his
introduction to the new pay service on the World Wide Web. Yes, it's a pay
service. You may read it for free until November 1 and then just as well
forget about it. Starting that day, Microsoft wants 20 bucks a year from
you unless you happen to be one of the lost souls on their Microsoft
What can you expect from Slate? No idea. Tonight, the service was de facto
unavailable except for the main page. On it, there was this question
whether Microsoft was evil, and probably zillions of net surfers are
trying to find out right now. I've been waiting for some 15 minutes, but
the server (Windows NT or what?!) just didn't react. Should you have
similar difficulties, you might as well drop in at Starbucks Coffee Co.
stores (!) and buy the whole thing printed out for US$3.
(But you might try the other ones as well using the http://www.*.com
scheme. Maybe you're in for a surprise. Maybe not.)

Always take the weather with you
The Weather Channel has revamped its Web Site. The US cable channel, also
involved in a number of similar European operations like "Wetter- und
Reise-TV" in Germany, finally introduced some international data on its
comprehensive weather related site.
However, while there are current weather conditions available for 1,000 US
cities, just 190 cities abroad are currently present. At least, there are
three-day forecasts for 238 international cities.

Revolution #9
Yet another revolutionary data transmission technology is to hit homes
real soon. Following a three-year effort, WavePhore, Inc. finally got the
approval to use digital data transmission within the video portion of TV
broadcasts. Yesterday, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
approved of the use of TVT 1/4, a technology allowing data transmission
rates of up to 384,000 bits per second, 40 times faster than conventional
modems. It works via satellite, on cable or terrestrially without
degrading the picture quality delivered.
How does it work? WavePhore explains it like this: "The North American
television signal (NTSC) consists of 525 lines divided in two fields, each
with 262 lines. The first 21 lines of each field are 'invisible' and carry
the name Vertical Blanking Interval or 'VBI.' The television needs lines 1
to 9 to tune each field, which leaves lines 10 to 21 to transmit
information. Line 21 is already being used by closed captioning services
for the hearing impaired. WavePhore's VBI products provide speeds of up to
150Kbps utilizing 10 lines of VBI."
Well, not really revolutionary. A few years ago, a German company set up a
similar service that was also using the VBI, although at lower
transmission rates. To cut a long story short: that service isn't
available anymore for a number of reasons. It was slow, there were
technical problems, and above all they even started to charge fees. 
The main problem with European channels is that the VBI already is used
either for test purposes, encryption information (especially on
satellite,) teletext services, or all at once. There's not much room for
other services, though WavePhore seems to target non-US markets as well.
Their decoder D1000 has already received a German VDE certification.
However, should you discover any real pricing information on their Web
site, please drop me an email.

The 21 mystery resolved
I'd like to give you the reason why Belgian broadcaster RTBF is so found
of the number 21.
It all began in the late 70s, when French-speaking RTBF radio network
launched a youth-oriented radio station in Brussels. It was broadcasting
on 93.2 FM, i.e. channel 21 of the FM dial. The station was therefore
named "Canal 21". The station was later relayed everywhere in
French-speaking Belgium known as "Radio 21". When RTBF thought about
re-vamping programming on its second TV channel (Tele 2), they decided to
create a synergy between the youth-oriented radio station and the second
TV channel, which was consequently renamed "Tele 21". Hence the later
proliferation of "21" declined channel names like Arte 21, Eurosport 21,
Arc-en-ciel 21.... (Philippe Vanhollebeke)

Thanks to our contributors --
Dr. Sarmaz: TAbajo@aol.com
Philippe Vanhollebeke: p.vanhollebeke@arcadis.be

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

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