Sat-ND, 14.11.96

Sat-ND 96-11-13 - Satellite and Media News

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Yet again: Ariane launch successful
Ariane rockets put ARABSAT 1A and MEASAT 1 into orbit, and an Ariane 44LP
yesterday had no problems in launching ARABSAT 2B for the Arab League and
MEASAT 2 for Malaysia either.
The 92nd Ariane flight was carried out by an Ariane 44L, the most powerful
version of the European launcher, equipped with four liquid-propellant
strap-on boosters.
ARABSAT 2B is the second-generation satellite of the Arab League's Arabsat
organisation. It was launched by Arianespace as part of a contract signed
with Aerospatiale, which built the satellite at Cannes, France. Equipped
with 34 transponders, it will provide telecommunications and direct
broadcast television services for 16 years to people in all 21 countries of
the Arab League. Its lift-off weight was 2,661 kg. Arabsat officials
estimated the value of the satellite, launch and insurance to be in excess
of US$200 million.
MEASAT (Malaysia East Asia Satellite) 2, the second satellite owned by
Binariang Sdn Bhd, was built by Hughes Space & Communications at El
Segundo, California. Weighing 1,512 kg at lift off, it will remain in
service for over 11 years. MEASAT 2 is equipped with six high-power C-band
and eight medium-power Ku-band transponders. Positioned over New Guinea,
MEASAT 2's coverage footprint will extend over East Asia for fixed and
mobile services.
"We hope MEASAT will revolutionise telecommunications in Malaysia as well
as in the rest of Asia," said Tun Mohamed Hanif Omar, chairman of
Biniariang, a joint venture among Malaysian shareholders and the "Baby
Bell" company U.S. West. Company officials said the insured value of the
satellite and launch was more than US$100 million.
Following Flight 92 and the eighteenth contract of 1996 signed several days
ago, Arianespace has now 41 satellites on order to be launched.

Other news from French Guiana
French Guiana is the last colony in South America. Some of the inhabitants
don't like being a part of France, at least not under current conditions.
So, there are not only satellite launches going on there, but also violent
clashes between youths and riot police. 
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamed, watching the launch of MEASAT 2,
told a news conference he was sure the French would be able to "deal with
the situation." But that depends on whether "dealing with the situation"
means just suppressing protest. Of course, that can be done with ease.
Paris flew 200 paramilitary riot police reinforcements to the territory
over the weekend after local police were overwhelmed by the rioting.
French Guiana suffers from a sluggish economy and has an unemployment rate
twice as high as that of mainland France. Joblessness mainly affects
younger people whose protest originally was about better education. French
Guiana's main labour union called a general strike in solidarity with the
The situation escalated when two firearms shops were looted by youths.
Local state-owned radio said rioters had fired shotguns at paramilitary
policeman. Violence continued today in the colony's capital Cayenne today
as youths looted stores and clashed with police. 

Hot Bird 2 delayed
Unlike the satellites mentioned, EUTELSAT's Hot Bird 2 remains grounded.
The launch of the Atlas rocket was put off owing to bad weather and high
winds yesterday. The delay also affects the launch of space shuttle
Columbia that uses the same tracking facilities at Cape Canaveral as the
Atlas rocket. International Launch Services (ILS) booked its slot before
the shuttle and therefore is given priority.
The Atlas launch was rescheduled to take place today. However, according to
weather forecasts a quick launch is highly unlikely. Meteorologists said
bad weather conditions may continue until next week. 

Watch U.S. TV, get in jail
Canadian importers and retailers of U.S. digital TV equipment received a
brochure from their government yesterday, saying sellers and purchaser of
such equipment could be fined or even jailed. "Retailers cannot legally
sell such equipment, and everyone involved -- pirate, retailer and
purchaser -- could be charged with a criminal offense," the paper said. It
also had some good advice for potential buyers of reception equipment:
"Viewers -- who might believe, or be told that such subscriptions are
legitimate -- may be asked to provide a U.S. address, or have one provided
for them," the brochure says. "This is a sure tipoff the service is not

Satellites boost CNN/SI reach
Satellite TV becomes increasingly important for U.S. niche channels. CNN's
offspring CNN/SI will have 2.5 million viewers when it launches on December
12, one million more than its competitor ESPNEWS that debuted earlier this
month. Initially, most of CNN/SI's viewers actually will be served by
satellite as not even all Time Warner cable networks carry the channel from
the beginning. Following the merger of Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting,
CNN has become a part of Time Warner.
The new sports channel is available 19 hours per day and will concentrate
on storytelling, said Jim Walton, executive in charge of CNN/SI. Parts of
CNN/SI will also be carried on CNN.

More DBS to come
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Echostar will team up with Mexican
companies Televisa and Medcom Telered in order to launch a 100-channel
digital TV and radio operation. The Spanish-language service, targeting
Hispanic Americans, is expected to launch in the second half of 1997.

Is sex on TV protected by the U.S. constitution?
Playboy Enterprises Inc. and Graff Pay-Per-View Inc., two leading suppliers
of adult TV programming in the U.S., said they will appeal to the Supreme
Court after a decision by a three-judge panel in Delaware. The panel upheld
a provision by the Telecommunications Decency Act (TDA) that forces cable
TV operators to ensure that adult programming is blocked from households
that don't subscribe to it. And that doesn't mean just scrambling the
picture -- it means that households must be equipped with special filters
or addressable decoders (if I understand Sat-ND, 27.2.96, correctly --
ridiculously, it's in German.) The additional cost would have to be paid by
households without any children under 18.
Steve Saril, president of Graff's unit Spice Networks, also fights against
a provision of the TDA that limits adult TV to so-called safe harbour hours
from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. "We believe that ordinary consumers will be denied
constitutionally protected programming simply because they cannot, because
of the hours they work or other lifestyle needs, view during the
'safe-harbor' hours."

More digital super chips
A few more companies have introduced single highly integrated chips that
will replace numerous components of digital set-top boxes. Philips (The
Netherlands) and Toshiba (Japan) introduced one-chip solutions today at an
electronics fair in Munich, Bavaria (which reportedly still belongs to
Germany.) The Toshiba chip even provides Internet access. Both are,
however, capable of rendering Digital Video Discs (DVD) as well.
By the way: DVD is capable of storing full-length movies on a CD-sized
disc. But be prepared for some surprises, as copyright issues play an
important role just like they do in satellite television. 
Let's suppose you're a European who buys some DVDs with the latest
blockbuster movies while visiting the USA. Will you be able to watch them
back home on your DVD player, or whatever that gadget will be called? 
Probably not. The industry has divided the world into six zones. DVDs from
a different zone simply won't play on your player. So much for supposed
world standards.

QE-2 in space
U.S. digital TV service Primestar prepares to move to a new satellite early
next year. Today, the company announced it would add more than 50 new
channels to its line-up following the transition, including The History
Channel, Court TV, Comedy Central and TV Land.
Primestar issued a press release yesterday that quoted Denny Wilkinson,
senior vice president of marketing and programming, as saying the company
would use "the QE-2 satellite." I've never heard of that model before, but
it obviously is a British spacecraft. 

Teledesic puts satellites on a diet
Martyn Williams sent me this one from Microsoft-backed Teldesic. Thanks!
"Teledesic Corp., which is building a global, broadband
'Internet-in-the-sky,' Tuesday announced the appointment of John Zukoski as
the manager responsible for lean satellite design and production."

The first Chinese flag that went to space (and came back unharmed)
Beijing's Tinanmen square will be adorned by a very special Chinese
national flag as from January 1, 1997. It was placed aboard remote sensing
satellite under notarial supervision and successfully recovered once the
spacecraft had completed its 15-day mission. News Agency Xinhua proudly
noted that it was "the first Chinese national flag that has travelled to
space. The red flag with five golden stars, is five meters long, 3.3 meters
wide, and weighs 1.36 kg."

By Dr Sarmaz <DrSarmaz@aol.com>

Lachlan Murdoch, son of the world's only global media tycoon Rupert
Murdoch, seemed a bit clueless yesterday. "Nobody knows where it's going.
Very few are making any money from it. I know we're certainly not." This,
of course, is a highly alarming statement because "it" is the Internet. But
Mr Murdoch also had a commonplace to offer. "Who would have thought -- only
a few years ago -- that the Net would so thoroughly invade modern culture
and commerce?" Well, who? Obviously not the Murdoch family.
Mr Murdoch's comments came just a few weeks after News Corp. announced it
would launch an Internet service called Springboard in the UK as a 50-50
venture with British Telecom (BT.) And they came just ten days after BT had
announced it would merge with U.S. telecommunications company MCI, which
also is a US$-2.7 billion investor in News Corp. 
That should surely make some impact, even though MCI will probably reduce
its stake in News Corp. But whenever two business elephants mate, there's
likely a third one to appear at the scene. This time, it's nobody else but
William Henry ("Bill") Gates III.
He may have an idea for BT and MCI that could make them some money.
Together with Gates' company Microsoft, they will set up a world-wide
network offering Intranet services. (Intranets use the same technology as
the Internet but usually aren't available to the public. Instead they
provide internal business communications.) The three companies yesterday
said they expected the Intranet market to generate revenues of US$28
billion by 1999, more than half of the total Internet revenues.

Highly inflammable
I thought you would be interested that The News Limited Building in North
Terrace, Adelaide South Australia burned down last night. This was where it
started all those years ago. The News was an Adelaide evening tabloid. The
Advertiser was a morning broadsheet in opposition. Rupert bought the
Advertiser, the News folded and the building has been unoccupied for some
years. It is thought that squatters lit the fire about 17.00 in local
evening rush hour 13/11/96. Of course Rupert comes home every year to
deliver his annual report. He was here recently as reported by you in a
previous Sat-ND. 
(Bevin Boden)
[Thank you very much for this story. By the way, Mr Murdoch has had his own
experience with flaming infernos like that. On a visit to Sydney on October
12, 1995, he actually was among 500 people evacuated when fire broke out at
the Australian headquarters of News Corp. Mr Murdoch watched the scene from
the street for several minutes and then left in a taxi cab, eyewitnesses
reported back then. -- Ed.]

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

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