Sat-ND, 15.11.96

RupertWatch 15-11-96
By Dr Sarmaz 

Yet again, welcome to RupertWatch, a newsletter dedicated solely to the
activities of the world's one and only global media -- um -- entrepreneur
(just to avoid those m-words.)

Time Warner: MCI "not eligible" for DBS license
The feud between Time Warner Inc. and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was
extended to MCI Communications Corp. today. Mr Murdoch planned digital TV
service ASkyB heavily depends on MCI that won the last remaining Direct
Broadcast Satellite (DBS) license. Being an Australian company, News was
not eligible to bid for the license and had to team up with MCI, a U.S.
Surprise, surprise: MCI will no longer be a U.S. company as British Telecom
intends to take it over completely. It should therefore lose its license,
Time Warner president Richard Parsons wrote in a letter to the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC.) ''Time Warner urges the Commission to
defer action on the MCI application until MCI has complied with Commission
procedures and filed the required amendment to its application reflecting
its announced new ownership status,' the letter said. Being a company
wholly owned by a foreign corporation, MCI "would not have been eligible to
participate in the DBS auction and would not be eligible to hold a DBS
license under FCC rules.'' 
Besides, the MCI-BT merger would likely result in a restructuring of the
relationship between MCI and News Corp. with Mr Murdoch's media
conglomerate holding an even larger equity stake in ASkyB.
"Time Warner is acting like a company that doesn't like competition,"
responded Jonathan B. Sallet, MCI Chief Policy Counsel. "The Time Warner
letter to the Federal Communications Commission isn't about MCI. Maybe it's
about the competition that ASkyB will bring to the Time Warner cable

Barclays won't subsidise BSkyB's digital box
Subsidising reception equipment in order to boost the number of subscribers
to pay-TV services is a common practice. It's not an invention of the
digital age, however. In the early days of Mr Murdoch's BSkyB service,
ASTRA reception equipment was subsidised -- and it worked in the end. 
The task of making digital TV popular seems a bit more difficult, though.
Germany's Leo Kirch is as pleased as punch with every decoder he doesn't
sell. BSkyB's digital boxes are expected to be sold for just about 200
pounds (just over US$300,) which is significantly below their manufactured
cost. Mr Murdoch's strategy is to offer other services on his digital
platform apart from TV, such as home banking and home shopping. Banks and
retailers would have to take over a part of the subsidies should they want
to participate.
At least Barclays Plc. does not, according to the Financial Times. The bank
said it won't be entering into a joint venture with BSkyB following talks
centred on Barclays running home banking services in return for subsidising
the cost of new digital decoders. BSkyB now reportedly talks to HSBC
Holdings, owner of Midland Bank.

Burning down the house
[Yesterday, Bevin Boden reported about a fire that destroyed The News
Limited Building in North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia. He sent some
more interesting details today.]
"One thing I forgot!!! The building had been sold to some Asian consortium
to build a hotel and they were pulling it down anyway."
[Maybe burning it down was just cheaper ;-) -- Ed.]
"The other thing!!! I live in Adelaide Sth Aust. and met Rupert back in the
early days!! (I worked for a firm that fixed printing machines and his
needed fixing sometimes as well) I don't think he has changed much."
[Besides, not only his printing machines could stand some fixing ;-) --

Sat-ND 96-11-15 - Satellite and Media News

This service is provided free of charge for personal use. It may be
reproduced for non-commercial reasons only, provided the following notice
is included:
"(c) Copyright 1996 by Sat-ND, http://www.sat-net.com/pck/"
Please send money, news releases, contributions and comments regarding
Sat-ND to
Peter C. Klanowski, Fax +49-451-5820055, pck@LyNet.De

This issue is sponsored by TELE-satellite, Europe's Satellite Magazine 
Have a look at their homepage! >> http://www.TELE-satellit.com/ <<


SPOT drops out
A French remote sensing satellite has encountered serious problems, as
France's national space agency CNES reported today. SPOT 3 (Système
Probatoire d'Observation de la Terre) has stopped delivering data to the
world-wide network of 20 direct receiving stations. In addition, the
satellite has turned its solar arrays away from the sun, meaning it will
soon lose its energy supply.
Specialists were quoted as saying they hoped to bring the spacecraft back
under control within 24 to 48 hours. So far, they haven't been able to
pinpoint the problem as the satellite remained silent. Launched in 1993, it
has surpassed its expected lifetime but worked fine so far.
As usual, a board of inquiry will be set up to investigate the problem and
identify causes. In case SPOT 3 can't be reanimated, SPOT 1 (which is over
10 years old) will be reactivated. The launch of SPOT 4 will then be
brought forward to the earliest possible date to maintain the system's full
onboard imaging and recording capability.

Hot or what?
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any information on whether EUTELSAT Hot
Bird 2 actually was launched yesterday aboard an Atlas rocket -- so it
probably wasn't. In that case, there is a good chance that space shuttle
Columbia will be launched next Tuesday and Hot Bird 2 would have to wait at
least 48 hours longer. That's the time it takes to re-program range
equipment to support flights of different types of rockets.

Zeroes and Ones
By Grandpa Zheng <http://www.sat-net.com/pck/zheng/>

Bill's bogus order
U.S. president Clinton today signed an executive order that makes the
country's export policy on data encryption technology look a bit better but
doesn't change anything in effect. So far, only encryption algorithms using
at most 40 bit wide keys are allowed for export. Inside the U.S., stronger
methods with up to 128 bit of key length are in use. 
The executive order allows encryption methods of up to 56 bit key length to
be exported, but companies first have to assure the U.S. government that
law enforcers -- acting on court orders -- would be able to crack the code
and intercept the communications. In effect, U.S. authorities would in
principle be able to monitor encrypted data traffic all around the world.
Quite a ridiculous notion, as people outside the U.S. already have access
to strong encryption technologies, though Bill and Al may not have noticed
it. That does not only include the international (and even the U.S.)
versions of the most popular encryption software PGP but even Web browsers
such as Internet Explorer and Navigator. Not officially, of course, but
it's easy to obtain them.
It's different with a device that reportedly doesn't sell too bad in the
U.S.: a set-top box designed to surf the World Wide Web using a TV set. It
costs just US$300, but the U.S. government has decided it must not be
exported because the boxes produced by Sony and Philips in the U.S. use
strong encryption for Email and other delicate issues such as financial
Just for once, Netscape's Marc Andreesen and Microsoft's William Henry
("Bill") Gates III reportedly share the same opinion. Both reportedly
oppose the current restrictions, saying they will damage U.S. software
exports on the long run. According to Andreesen, the future of commerce on
the Internet depended on strong encryption methods.

TCI quits MSN
Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI,) the U.S. cable giant, will return its 20
percent share in the online service MSN to its majority shareholder
Microsoft Corp. TCI will receive its original investment of US$125 million
back in turn. Nonetheless, both companies are still discussing a variety of
programming and distribution projects, including the development of new
digital set-top boxes, and possibly Internet services.

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

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