Sat-ND, 16.8.96

Sat-ND 96-08-16 - Satellite and Media News

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This issue is sponsored by TELE-satellite, Europe's Satellite Magazine 
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Uwaga, uwaga!
In this issue, I'm trying to catch up with some of the interesting
satellite and TV news of the last two weeks. This will (at least!) continue
over the weekend, and I'll try to do the same with Internet news. If all
this isn't news to you, please bear with me. Sat-ND will hopefully be back
to normal in a few days. Same applies to all the people who sent me email.
-- pck

British scientists recently observed a collision between a satellite and
space junk. The incident happened a few weeks ago in a low earth orbit when
parts of an Ariane rocket hit the French spy satellite CERISE. The debris
was left over from a satellite launch in 1986. Although the Ariane fragment
was very small, it knocked off a stabilisation boom of the satellite.
According to Prof. Martin Sweeting, managing director of Surrey Satellite
Technology, it was the first time such an incident has ever been proved.
Sweeting, whose company built the satellite, told news agency Xinhua that
he was "not very happy that it has happened to our spacecraft. But we may
be able to recover the entire mission with a bit of effort."

Russia launched the MOLNIYA ("Lightning") 1-89 communications satellite
from its Plesetsk Cosmodrome yesterday. The spacecraft will be used for
transcontinental telephone and telegraph communications, as well as
relaying television programmes to the Orbita network. Its period of
revolution around the Earth is 12 hours 17 minutes, and the orbit
inclination is 63 degrees.
A spokesman for the Russian Military Space Forces said it was the 200th
successful Molniya booster launch since 1970.

Hungarian satellite TV channel A3 will launch on September 1, probably on
ASTRA. The service will however swap satellites when EUTELSAT Hot Bird 2 is
operational. In a press release, the owner of A3, Hungarian Broadcasting
Corp. said it had received contracts from or signed letters of intent with
85 cable television operators in Hungary reaching 600,000 subscribers.

Time Warner Inc. and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. have signed a consent
order with the Federal Trade Commission staff to approve the US$7.5 billion
buyout of TBS. Both companies agree to implement some antitrust measures.
The merger was announced 11 months ago. 

DirecTV from the USA has been expected to enter the European digital TV
market for quite a while. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the company
may now have found an ally in NetHold. Sources close to the talks say both
may reach an agreement within the next few weeks.

Tee-Comm Electronics Inc, still a member of the digital TV consortium
ExpressVu, said its AlphaStar Canada Inc. unit filed an application with
the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to provide
a digital direct-to-home satellite television service. According to
Tee-Comm, the application is a "separate initiative".

There was quite a bit of a confusion when a Russian-made GALS satellite
suddenly started to move a few months ago. GALS 1 and later GALS 2 were
shifted from their position at 72°E to 36°E. Both were part of a strange
deal in which the Chinese Land Group bought the satellites from Russia –
just to lease the whole capacity to a consortium named Global DBS Co. Its
members, Loral Corp, General Instruments Co and TCFI Cable TV Co of the
United States and General Telecommunications Ltd/Asian TV network of
Britain, want to use the existing satellites as well as two more GALS for
high-power TV transmissions worldwide. Reportedly, the lease for one GALS
satellite is US$9 million a year.
The repositioning, however, raised some questions whether the Land Group
was still owning them. (I asked them via email, but my inquires were, of
course, cheerfully ignored.) But now we know: The Great Chairman of Land
Group, Chinese Tycoon Mou Qizhong, has announced to buy up to eight more
satellites until 1999. Unfortunately, he can't raise the money he needs in
mainland China, and anyway, the interest rates were too high. Thus, he will
move his satellite business to Hong Kong. What's more, the satellites will
even be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Hughes-Avicom International (HAI), a unit of Hughes Electronics
Corporation, introduced the reception of the DirecTV direct broadcast
satellite service onboard a Delta Air Lines' B767 aircraft. The service,
featuring news and entertainment delivered by DIRECTV, began August 9.
Programming initially includes CNN, Headline News, Discovery Channel and
Datron/Transco, a leading provider of satellite tracking systems, has
provided the low profile airborne antenna. The antenna is integrated with
other Hughes-Avicom developed avionics to produce the integrated airborne
satellite system. Hughes-Avicom and Delta Air Lines said they have embarked
on this project to validate the technical and market feasibility of the
airborne satellite broadcast television system for commercial and corporate

In a report by Libya's news agency Jana monitored in Cairo, the country's
government has announced it will launch a new TV channel for the Middle
East and Europe on September 1. Test broadcasts have been carried on
EUTELSAT II-F3 for quite a while. The new channel will be run by the
Information and Culture Secretariat. It will be funded through the national
budget, advertising, loans and donations.

US company VLSI Technology, Inc. has announced a universal digital
satellite receiver chip, VES1777, compliant with both the DVB (Digital
Video Broadcasting) and the DSS (Digital Satellite System) set-top box
standards. While this feature is interesting just for the US market,
there's another interesting claim in the company's press release. It says
that the completely digital design allows true variable-rate operation from
anywhere between 1 MHz and 60 MHz (500 Kbaud to 30 Mbaud) without the
limitations imposed by "the pseudo variable-rate feature of other products
on the market". This should sound good to buyers of European set-top boxes
that so far were tailored to national markets. The VES1777 chip is priced
at US$19.50 in 10,000 unit quantities – international pricing may vary.

The regional public broadcasters SWF and SDR in the south-west of Germany
will be replaced by a single institution serving Baden-Württemberg and
Rhineland-Palatinate with TV and radio. The transition will take place in
1998, reducing the member stations of the public TV network ARD to eleven.

Germany's biggest commercial TV station, RTL Television, faces a DM20
million suit. The media of Lower Saxony claims RTL violated regulations on
the maximum amount of commercial breaks.

Sky Two trailer is now available on Astra 11,303 H. Softscrambled in
The channel will start September 1. No teletext service has started yet.
(Richard Karlsson, http://members.tripod.com/~satellite/satindx2.html)

--- Dutch News Update
By Jitse Groen

RTL 5 will be a news channel from January 1st. It has plans for regional
news windows as well. And now the funny part: it will be encrypted and only
available on a subscription basis. Well, at least in the future, since
there are no cable-decoders at the moment, and no cablenetwork will be as
crazy to pay for a news station. Not in Holland, anyway.

The Wereldomroep (Dutch world service) now carries – as a world first
–commercials, both on Zomer TV as well as the regular radio service. It is
meant to boost up its incomings, since there might be cut-backs in the
money paid by the government.

Sport7 still has problems to gain access to Dutch cable, and is now
thinking of dropping the 2 Guilders fee, for a moment at least. Multichoice
will probably act as though they didn't notice and keep the subscription
fee for their digital package at the same price.

VNR's AM frequency has been taken over by the Manaus group, who put their
Jazz Radio on the air. This, however, is not what the license has been
given for, so Manaus will start a new radio station, called AM1395. The
station is expected to launch 1 September.

There has been a run on regional commercial tv licenses in the Netherlands.
The commissariaat voor de media now allows this type of television.
Newcomers are for instance Regionet (for West-Friesland - which is by the
way NOT in Friesland) and TV-8, with different versions for several
southern provinces.

Plans for a regional programme-window on Nederland 1 or 2 have been frozen,
because of refusals by the provinces of Noord- and Zuid-Holland. The plans
are subsidized by the NOS for 3 year, after that every inhabitant of the
Netherlands will have to pay an additional 10 Guilders extra per year. The
both Hollands are not willing to accept that.

Het Weerkanaal (The Weather Channel) will finally start on 1 September. The
signal will probably be uplinked via an Intelsat to the PTT Telecom
uplink-centre in Nederhorst den Berg, where it will be send to an Astra.
The reason for this is that the Weerkanaal will be made in London at first.
This has been done to cut expenses.

--- Zeroes and Ones
By Grandpa Zheng

The new German telecommunications law gives state authorities unlimited
access to user data collected by online services and Internet providers.
Every single user's online behaviour may be tracked this way without him or
her noticing it. And what's more, even the providers won't know it. They
have to provide an interface that allows for automatic retrieval of user
data by the state authorities. This regulation will save time and protect
users, officials said. Critics suggested the user data might as well be
published on the Internet. Creating a secret channel would offer hackers
and secret services a splendid opportunity to get into the providers'

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

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