Sat-ND, 9.10.96

Sat-ND 96-10-09 - Satellite and Media News

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Tighter security measurers for China launches
China today proudly announced its satellite launch vehicles will now
self-destruct in case of a malfunction. (Cynics may argue that the Chinese
Long March rockets have been doing this for quite a while now.) But Zhang
Qingwei, vice president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology,
also added that people living in the vicinity of the launch sites "will be
moved away when we conduct a launch." Good for the people, as quite a lot
of them got killed as a result of China's inability to provide secure
satellite lannches.
Speaking to a press conference today, Zhang announced that the cause for
the latest Long March 3 launch failure has been pinpointed. A faulty
hydrogen valve is said to be the reason why CHINASTAR 7 never reached its
geostationary transfer orbit following the launch on August 18. "We are
still conducting ground testing," said Zhang. "There will be delays but
this will not affect other Long March vehicles."

Playboy goes Latin
Playboy Enterprises, Inc. is joining forces with Cisneros Television Group,
a division of the Cisneros Group of Companies, to launch two new television
networks: Playboy TV/Latin America and AdulTVision/Latin America. Both
services will be part of a new venture called Playboy TV Latin America
L.L.C. The announcement was made today by Christie Hefner, chairman and
chief executive officer of PEI, and Carlos Cisneros, managing director,
Cisneros Group of Companies. 
The Cisneros Group of Companies, which owns and operates television
stations throughout Latin America and is a leading producer of television
programming, holds an 81 percent interest in the new venture. Playboy holds
the remaining 19 percent, with an option to buy up to an additional 30
percent ownership. PEI also will receive license fees for its programming
and royalty fees for the use of the Playboy brand name for pay television.
Playboy and AdulTVision will be offered initially on an exclusive basis by
Galaxy Latin America, a 144-channel direct-to-home satellite service. Like
their U.S. counterparts, Playboy TV will be offered as either a monthly
subscription or pay-per-view service, and AdulTVision will be offered only
as a pay-per-view service. The new venture expects to expand Latin American
distribution of both channels to cable within a year, and then to other pay
TV delivery systems. 

The never ending story of Channel 5 twiddling knobs
Channel 5, a terrestrial TV channel due to be launched in the United
Kingdom next spring, may have done a bad job in retuning video recorders
and satellite receivers. Unfortunately, they use the same frequencies that
Channel 5 will be transmitted on. The broadcasting license issued to
Channel 5 calls for retuning 90 percent of 11.6 million homes before the
service can go on air. Channel 5's competitors said it will take a few more
years until the goal is achieved. Independent research commissioned by the
Independent Television Association claimed only 2 percent of targeted homes
had been successfully retuned two months after the massive 120 million
retuning programme began.
"Projecting on the channel's current retuning performance, the 90 percent
threshold would not be reached until mid-1998," ITV marketing group chief
Martin Bowley told a media seminar in Manchester.
A Channel 5 spokeswoman claimed that about 10 percent of the total homes
concerned were visited for retuning "before we have even put the full
workforce out there." Which, by the way, consists of 7,000 so-called
retuners. And, of course, "We advise ITV to worry about their own declining

Indonesia to shield broadcast media from foreign influence
A new, and actually the first, broadcasting law may be in effect in
Indonesia soon. The parliament is expected to pass a draft bill, which was
submitted by the Indonesian government half a year ago, the next few days.
But actually, there's little hope for foreign investors. Legislation will
probably sharply limit foreign participation in broadcasting and
advertising. This could in effect lead to a ban of foreign advertising.
Observers expect the country's largest television station RCTI to float its
shares on the local stock exchanges, a move that has not been possible
under current regulations. The draft bill would also allow Indonesia's
state TV (TVRI) to carry advertising. Indigenous, of course.

Tee-Comm in for hearing in December
Tee-Comm Electronics Inc. (Tee-Comm) and AlphaStar Canada Inc., its wholly
owned subsidiary, announced "a positive step forward in our effort to bring
to market an approved digital direct-to-home service in Canada," as Al
Bahnman, President and CEO of Tee-Comm, put it. The Canadian Radio and
Television Commission (CRTC) said it will hold a public hearing on the two
applications in Montreal, Quebec on December 2nd, 1996. "If successful in
our application, we are ready to provide Canadians with an alternative to
grey market products which are presently diluting the market with costly
services that do not carry Canadian programming," Bahnman added.
Tee-Comm, also owner the U.S. digital TV provider AlphaStar Television
Network Inc., left the Canadian ExpressVu digital TV consortium recently.

USSB: 1 million mark passed, but shares drop
United States Satellite Broadcasting Company, Inc., sharing transponder
capacity on the DBS satellites with Hughes' DirecTV, confirmed it has
surpassed 1 million paying subscribers in the recently concluded quarter,
ended September 30, 1996.
The news was announced in a letter to shareholders from USSB President and
CEO Stanley E. Hubbard. He assured shareholders that "the fundamentals of
USSB's business are as strong as they have ever been," and that management
believes "we are on the right track for continued growth of our business
and our industry."
However, there's something going wrong at the stock exchanges. USSB said it
knows of no reason for the decline in the company's share prices over the
last several weeks. Since the beginning of July, the USSB stock price has
dropped by almost 50 percent (from US$38 to US$20.)

Vebacom waves Leo good-bye
The privately-owned telecommunications company Vebacom of Germany has
dropped out of an alliance with media mogul Leo Kirch. After almost every
German company (except for Kirch) had scrapped their digital TV plans
during the past few weeks, Vebacom today announced it will discontinue its
efforts to promote Kirch's digital decoder "d-box" in a joint venture
called "Primus."
Kirch, who hopes to sell 200,000 d-box decoders until the end of the year,
so far has just attracted 10,000 subscribers to his digital package DF1.
Until now, the digital bouquet is available only on ASTRA. Talks continue
with Deutsche Telekom, Germany's largest cable operator, to make the
package available on cable. Too bad for Leo: Vebacom could have contributed
1.2 million cable subscribers of their own network. Instead, Vebacom is now
talking to Deutsche Telekom to get involved in their pay TV plans, the
financial paper "Handelsblatt" reported.

Zeroes and ones
By Grandpa Zheng

Experts say no new laws necessary
Scientists, Experts and content providers today warned the German
parliament to pass laws restricting new media including online services and
the Internet. This being the result of a parliamentary committee hearing,
it might hopefully bring some of the Internet illiterate politicians back
to their senses.
The Internet is not the Wild West. Laws that apply to criminal activities
do, of course, include the Internet. Nonetheless, politicians again called
for a toll-free hot line where Internet users could report kiddie-porn
spottings, and even demanded a German "cyber patrol" that should constantly
search the Net for criminal contents. I know a better word for that:
"Internet-Blockwart." (In the Third Reich, a Blockwart would keep an eye on
a block of flats and report any disobedience.) 
Meanwhile, European Union industry ministers agreed on Tuesday that Germany
should host an international conference to discuss ways "to prevent the
misuse of the Internet and other information networks." There are,
unfortunately, no conferences in sight that will discuss the misuse of
regular mail by sending bombs or the misuse of knives by stabbing people. 

Online services likely to switch to flat rates
AOL and MSN reportedly consider flat rates for their customers - monthly
one-off payments that would cover all cost for accessing their online
services. While this has been pure speculation so far, it will finally be
inevitable in order to compete with Internet access providers and their
flat rates. AOL recently admitted it would become increasingly difficult to
keep subscribers, many of whom defect to cheap Internet access providers.
The company now has admitted it was testing a new pricing scheme with a
flat rate of US$19.95 per month.

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

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