Sat-ND, 30.8.96

Sat-ND 96-08-30 - Satellite and Media News

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MAGION 5 found
Czech specialists believe to have found the reason for the malfunctioning
of MAGION 5, a microsatellite launched yesterday together with two other
satellites on board a Russian Molniya-M carrier rocket (Sat-ND, 29.8.96.)
Meanwhile, very weak signals transmitted by the MAGION 5 were picked up. It
now is believed that at least one of the satellite's solar panels did not
unfold, resulting in an energy shortage. Flight controllers will now try
keep the remaining solar paddles directed to the sun.
According to news agency Itar-Tass, MAGION 4 had suffered similar problems
shortly after its launch in 1995. They were soon resolved, and MAGION 4 has
been fully operational since then. 

Brazil launches VLS
Brazil prepares for the first flight of an indigenous satellite carrier
rocket dubbed VLS. Within the next few weeks, a prototype of the launcher
will put the country's third Data Collection Satellite (SCD) into orbit.
Three more test flights are planned before VLS will take up regular
The rocket, consisting of four stages, will be able to lift satellites
ranging from 100 to 350 kg into heights of 200 to 1,000 kilometres. The
flights will take place from Alcantara, a launching centre in the
north-eastern part of the country.
The VLS launcher had been planned for some 15 years but never took off so
far owing to a lack of funds. In addition, an international ban on Brazil
concerning rocket equipment was lifted only last October. It was put on
Brazil by leading industrial nations following the country's nuclear
ambitions over a period from 1964 to 1985.

Japanese company becomes L-STAR partner
Slot-dealing becomes increasingly popular in Asia. Every nation, even
Tonga, has the right to reserve some parts of the geostationary orbit for
its own satellites. Some countries don't have satellites, however, and
they're not very likely to launch some. Instead, they more or less sell
their allocations to satellite operators.
Laos is such a country. Two slots assigned to the country were sold to Asia
Broadcasting & Communications Network (ABCN,) a company set up by the M.
Group Public Co. of Thailand. ABCN plans to launch two L-STAR high-power
satellites, broadcasting in the BSS band. The satellites will cover a wide
area of Asia, including India, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan and part of China.
Using digital data reduction, up to 150 TV channels can be delivered.
Today, Japan's Itochu Corp. said it will join the project that already
comprises "strategic partners" such as the satellite operators Telesat
(Canada,) Loral Space & Communications Inc. (USA,) and Echostar
Communications Corp. (USA.) Taking a stake of five percent, Itochu will
also contribute popular Japanese programming to customers in the rest of

NTW launches TV package
Russian commercial channel NTW is due to launch its first satellite-only
channel next Sunday. NTW plus, showing nothing but movies, will be the
first part of the NTW satellite package which might finally consist of some
15 channels. Four of them are slated to launch later this year on GALS 1
and 2 (36E,) offering foreign movies, sports, news, and music. 
The package will remain unscrambled until January 1996. Over the next three
or four years, ten more channels will be added. Quite obviously, this
coincides with the future plans for the GALS 3 and 4 satellites.
Subscribers will have to pay the equivalent of US$140 for reception
equipment, which is more than half the Russian average wage. The monthly
subscription fee will be just under US$10. NTW's executive director Igor
Litwak expects more than half a million subscribers within 18 month's time,
making the package profitable by then.
NTW officials claimed the time was right for satellite TV in Russia as in
some parts of the country there's no terrestrial TV reception possible at
all, or just the two state channels. However, the NTW package won't change
the situation that much as it will only be available in the European part
of Russia -- and, by the way, in many parts of Europe. NTW is obviously
also hoping for Russian viewers in Western countries, who may have more

Taiwan allows commercial satellite communications
Taiwan will "open the market to private interests in the mobile and fixed
satellite communication business by December 1999," a ministry spokesman
said today. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has submitted
a liberalisation plan and a timetable to the cabinet for final approval.
Last January, individuals were allowed to own and operate satellite
transmission equipment for the first time by the Taiwanese parliament.
"Currently only the military and a few government agencies can offer
satellite telephone service, but commercial demand for the service is
strong," added the ministry spokesman. Local telecommunications companies
will then be able to sell access to Inmarsat and other satellite systems.

Letterman without commercials
David Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS is back in the news again. The network
has asked advertisers to swap their usual 30-second commercials for a short
sponsorship announcement at the beginning of September 20's show. At least,
this is what advertisers told the Variety newspaper. CBS, they say, wants
to experiment with a commercial-free edition of the show -- probably to win
back viewers who deserted to Jay Leno's "Tonight" show on NBC.
The advertisers' reaction wasn't too favourable, reports Variety. One
admitted he hasn't "got a clue to what CBS is doing," and another even
stated he was "shocked and appalled that Letterman, who makes $14 million a
year, expects advertisers to pay the costs so he can foist what looks like
a pointless gimmick."

Walt meets Leo
Walt Disney Co. announced it has signed an exclusive 10-year deal with
KirchGroup for the German pay-TV rights to its films for an undisclosed
price. The deal also calls for a German Disney channel distributed on
Kirch's digital TV platform DF1.
It is Kirch's latest deal in a row of multi-billion dollar contracts with
Hollywood majors. Nonetheless, figures available so far support the view
that Germans do not want digital pay-TV service after all. Since Kirch's
package DF1 started a month ago, less than 3,000 IRDs (Integrated
Receiver/Decoders) were sold, making the goal of 200,000 subscribers by the
end of 1996 become less realistic every day.
Domestic observers meanwhile claim the whole package is nothing less but
Kirch's Great Rock'n'Roll swindle. In other words, it was set up just to
convince Hollywood's major studios that they would have an additional
distribution line for their products. He has managed to do so, clinching
four major output deals for roughly US$4 billion that almost re-established
his quasi-monopoly on the German market for Us programming distribution
Analysts pointed out that his IRD called d-box, offered at DM890 (US$620)
has to be heavily subsidised while retailers are reluctant to offer it
anyway: Their profit margin is reportedly close to nothing.

Satellite boom in the USA?
A survey predicts a 500 percent increase in the number of US households
getting television signals from satellite providers by 2000. Lasat year,
2.4 percent of households received TV signals from satellite services, but
that figure will grow to 12 percent by 2000, said Inteco Corp., an
independent research firm based in Norwalk, Connecticut. Currently 65
percent of households have cable connections, but the number will just grow
to 67 percent by 2000.
While believing that satellite offers better programming choice, many
respondents said the will continue to subscribe to basic cable tiers
because of their carriage of local terrestrial channels. "Households will
pay more to watch less TV, if they have increased control over their
entertainment such as the larger number of pay-per- view and premium movie
channels," said Harry Hoyle, vice president of research company Inteco.
While a cable household spends US$ 35 per month, average satellite users
pay US$52.
Intenco has quite an interesting number in store: In households with both
satellite dishes and Internet-connected personal computers, men spend an
average of 14 1/2 hours per week on the Internet, and women 11 hours.

Zeroes and ones
By Grandpa Zheng

AFP counts Web pages
Finally, French news agency AFP has come to the conclusion that indeed
there was something wrong with their infamous kiddie-porn item (Sat-ND,
In fact, an AFP correction forwarded to me by Jean-Philippe Donnio admits
that there are "severe errors" in the numbers given in the first paragraph
("One million pornographic images and 40 million Internet [Web] pages are
actually devoted to child pornography".)
I have certain doubts about the correction, however, which now has been
diluted in order not to give any concrete number of child pornography on
the 'net at all -- while still claiming it exists.
The new version reads "Un million d'images pornographiques - dont une
partie met en scène des enfants - sont actuellement 'facilement
accessibles' sur les 40 millions de pages que compte le réseau Internet,
estiment les experts présents au congrès de Stockholm sur l'exploitation
sexuelle des enfants." (Attempt of a summary: "One million pornographic
images, partly showing children, are 'easily accessible' on the 40 million
[Web] pages on the Internet, estimate experts attending the Stockholm World
Congress Against Commercial Exploitation of Children.")
This statement, of course, means anything while claiming nothing. It leaves
the door wide open for speculations while still connecting the Internet to
child pornography, citing so-called experts who often enough have no idea
what they're talking about when it comes to the Internet. Quod erat

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

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