Sat-ND, 30.7.96

Sat-ND 96-07-30 - Satellite and Media News

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*** Sat-ND summer break: August 1 to August 15 ***

Nigeria's world-wide TV plans revisited
Nigeria is widely condemned for human rights abuses and lack of democracy.
This is very likely the reason for the country's military regime issuing
two licenses for satellite TV channels which are supposed to "operate
world-wide satellite television signals originating from Nigeria,"
according to Nigeria's broadcasting commission.
However, it took the first licensee, Daar Communications Limited, quite a
while to just buy some equipment. The company so far only runs a radio
station with the odd name of "Ray Power Radio" in Lagos.
Today, Daar signed a syndicated loan agreement with six banks, four from
Nigeria. The 350 million Naira (US$16 million) loan will be used for
setting up the satellite channel that now even has a name: "Africa
Independent Television (AIT)."
Daar Communications chairman and chief executive Raymond Dokpesi said it
would go on air soon globally (nobody knows where, though) and that it
would seek to integrate world culture (whatever that means.) "More
importantly, it shall bridge the yawning gap in the world information order
which perpetually places the black world at the mercy of the perspectives,
opinions and nuances of other civilisations," he added.
It is yet unknown if the Nigerian military ruler General Sani Abacha and
the country's establishment regard human rights as universal.

Singapore, Thailand choose Arianespace for ST-1 launch
Matra Marconi Space, Singapore Telecom and Chunghwa Telecom of Taiwan have
selected Arianespace to put the two countries' first telecommunications
satellite into orbit. The launch contract was signed today.
Matra Marconi Space won the prime contracting job for ST-1 in April 1996.
The EUROSTAR class satellite and its payload will be manufactured by the
European firm. Weighing over 3,000 kg (6,600 lb.), the satellite will have
a total power of greater than 6.5 kW and a design life in orbit of over 12
years. ST-1 is equipped with 16 high-power Ku-band and 14 C-band
transponders. Its coverage zone extends from the Middle East to the Far
East. The satellite is being built and launched for Singapore Telecom and
Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. of Taiwan. The launch of ST-1 is scheduled for
early 1998 from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Following this 15th contract signature this year, Arianespace has now 43
satellites on order to be launched.

Two more channels for DF1
Hollywood major MCA Inc has signed two record-breaking contracts with two
German television companies. RTL Television, Germany's most successful
free-to-air channel, will have access to the complete MCA output and the
company's vast archive until 2006. The deal is worth US$1.5 billion (DM2.25
In a separate deal, Kirch group pays US$1 billion (DM1.5 billion) for a
Pay-TV output and channel carriage agreement. The contract also calls for
two MCA channels to be distributed via Kirch's digital TV package DF1.
Kirch has clinched similar deals with Columbia-Tristar, 
Viacom/Paramount and Warner Bros.

Canal Plus increases subscriber base
French Pay-TV operator Canal Plus announced a 13 percent increase in
subscribers world-wide, bringing the total number to 7.5 million at the end
of June. However, their digital package launched in France last spring, so
far has attracted just 80,000 subscribers. Nonetheless the company expects
the number to grow to 200,000 by the end of the year.
1.2 million viewers have subscribed to premiere in Germany and Austria,
where Canal Plus holds a 37.5 percent share. Although premiere will also be
carried digitally on Leo Kirch's DF1 platform, Canal Plus said it had no
further plans to expand digital activities in Germany. The statement is
rather ambiguous, however, since Canal Plus is already engaged in the
digital package multiThèmatiques (mTh) which has been testing on ASTRA for
a few months.

MPEG - An opinion
On July 28, I wrote that "the analogue PAL system offers a far superior
picture quality that any digital system with lossy compression." Hanno
Basse, who (if I remember it correctly -- pardon me if not) is a
professional in this area, sent me an interesting comment:
"It IS true.
Of course, if you have an analogue PAL feed, the compressed picture cannot
any better than the source. But - if digital playout from a digital source
provided - even a signal compressed with a lossy algorithm looks much
than PAL, which is always impaired to some extent by noise. Once again - if
full signal path is digital and the source is of good quality and the data
is reasonably high enough - MPEG-2 quality can be amazing.
Do you have a chance to watch the service currently being broadcast over
digital ZDF channel on txp 88 on Astra 1F? AFAIK, this is being recorded at
Olympics in Atlanta in HDTV, downsampled to D1, compressed and then being
broadcast to Europe - using a lossless compression at 34 Mbit/s (my guess).
SES in
Luxemburg receives this, compresses this in MPEG-2 and takes it up to Astra
The result is quite good with a pretty resolution.
All I can say is - it depends on various factors whether MPEG-2 is worse or
There is no general answer."
Should anybody else have an opinion (or technical information) on this
interesting subject, please email me. I will, however, not include any
follow-ups in Sat-ND. If there's some feedback,  I will set up a dedicated
page for that on the Sat-ND web site when I'm back from my summer break.
I'd really like to see my mailbox bursting with comments when I get back.
-- Ed.

Web Watch
By Grandpa Zheng

More Internet via satellite
Bill Gates' recently announced setting up a Japanese online service
distributed via satellite with local partners. But they're not alone. 
The Japanese Satellite Consortium plans to set up a high-speed information
network, dubbed "Information Highway Asian Edition", which will cover all
of Asia by the end of the century. First tests are reported to have been
performed this month in Indonesia, Thailand, China and other Asian regions
on JCSAT3 (128E). The consortium, which owns the JCSAT satellites, will
provide satellite-based Internet services in Japan starting this autumn.

Why Internet on TV won't work
Many companies involved in electronic media still are looking for something
to replace TV sets and VCRs, now that virtually everybody's got them.
Digital TV is a different story: It will earn its providers quite a lot of
money although reaching just a small portion of TV viewers. Not too much
business here for hardware manufacturers.
Japan's Mitsubishi Electric Corp has announced it will launch a television
set in the domestic market later this year that can also be used to surf
the Internet. Forget about the set's 32-bit processor, the built-in World
Wide Web browser and the modem -- instead of using a mouse, the TV remote
control will be used to navigate through the web. Any experience collected
so far when interactive applications on TV show that this is exactly what
viewers do not want. It's not only that they have to use a completely
inadequate device -- just imagine typing an email message with your TV
remote control:-)) The situation of a TV viewer is completely different
from that of a person who sits closely in front of his/her monitor, surfing
the web with the help of a personal computer.
I don't know about Japanese viewing habits. But because the country's
companies tend to test new equipment at home before rolling it out
world-wide, they may think of selling this globally. In that case: just
forget it.

Why NCs won't work
It's true, the Internet still is pretty much a domain of universities,
companies, and freelance professionals. While there seems to be no time
slot left on workdays that allows for speedy access even when using ISDN,
transmission rates on the weekend are still amazingly high.
Instead of using an Internet enabled TV set, many companies think that a
low-priced device called Network computer (NC) will do the trick. In
effect, it's much the same as it is designed to be connected to a TV set.
Yes, it is cheaper than a personal computer, but only at first look.
Normally, those NCs will have to download their software over a telephone
line, which may turn out to be a costly process. And, hey, there's gonna be
some pay-web, too.
A company named NetChannel Inc. announced the formation "of a suite of
consumer services" to be deployed across all devices compatible to Oracle's
NC standard. "NetChannel is bringing the Internet home," said Hermann
Hauser, NetChannel's Chairmanm, although it is very unclear whether homes
would want this. "NetChannel will enable everyone to have easy and
affordable access to the Internet with personalised information and a
wealth of new experiences -- all from a remote control or wireless keyboard
in the comfort of their very own easy chair," although this is definitely
not the usual situation to access the Internet. 
But just read the company's press release. "Simply plug it into a
television set, a phone line and a power source, insert the NetChannel
'Personal Access Card' and you're on your way to faster, more convenient
access to Internet sites and services."
Yes, the NetChannel 'Personal Access Card.' Guess whether they will you
send you one for free. In that case: just forget it.

NDR collects domain names
North German regional pubcaster NDR, launching five of its channels in
ASTRA digital radio format on August 1, will at the same time start up
several Internet web sites. Two of its channels, NDR2 and N-Joy radio, will
have their own sites while general information will be presented on the
third site. NDR1, NDR3, NDR4 as well as the regional TV channel N3 will
eventually also have their own home pages. Don't try these URLs before
Thursday as they are password-protected yet:
http://www.ndr.de/	(General information)

Patently (adv) unmistakably; obviously*
Again, the US Communications Decency Act was declared unconstitutional by a
judicial panel yesterday. Three federal judges unanimously found that the
law, which makes it illegal to distribute "patently offensive" material on
the Internet, is "an overbroad prohibition on constitutionally protected
indecent speech between adults." They also stated that it was impossible
for Internet service providers to comply with the law as written, as it
made them potentially liable for anything their customers send.
Enforcement of the law was already barred in June by a similar ruling of a
three-judge panel in Philadelphia. The US Justice Department has said it
would appeal to the Supreme Court.
* Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English, 4th Edition,

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

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