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Sat-ND, 27.12.96




Sat-ND 96-12-27 - Satellite and Court News

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Compromise
The quasi-religious controversy whether television will in future be
received with modified TV sets or with personal computers is still
undecided.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission gave final approval to a
standard for digital TV a few days ago. The compromise solution had been
widely expected (Sat-ND, 27.11.96.) 
It's not what one might call a real standard, instead it's a compromise
that simply avoids any regulation on controversial issues. These include
basics such as scanning and picture formats. While broadcasters still cling
to interlaced pictures, which have been transmitted on TV that way for
centuries, computer manufacturers favour progressive scanning or no format
at all to get rid of the TV predominance.
The FCC regulation leaves it up to computer and TV manufacturers as well as
service providers what video format they will use. This may lead to some
fierce competition, but on the other hand, it may not. It should be easy to
develop devices that can cope with different video formats -- and of
course, it's the customer who's gonna have to pay for that in the end. 

Merger cleared
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has finally cleared the merger
of Westinghouse Electric Corporation and Infinity Broadcasting Corporation
which will create the largest radio group in the world with combined
revenues of over US$1 billion. The FCC approved the transfer of licenses of
the Infinity radio stations to Westinghouse, the final step necessary to
permit the merger.
The FCC approval contains temporary waivers of the radio/television cross-
ownership rule. The future of this rule is currently being considered by
the FCC.
In addition to the new combined radio group, the Westinghouse/CBS
organisation includes the CBS Television Network, 14 owned and operated
Television Stations, and CBS Enterprises; Group W Satellite Communications;
and TDI, a leading outdoor advertising company previously owned by Infinity
Broadcasting.

Sony sued
In case you wondered whether product placement really works the way you
always suspected: yes, it does. A sports footwear company by the name of
Reebok has filed a lawsuit against Columbia TriStar, seeking US$120 million
in damages from the studio currently owned by Sony. 
Columbia's feature movie  "Jerry Maguire" was supported by Reebok who paid
US$1.5 million for product placement that unfortunately did not appear in
the movie -- on the contrary, the company feels insulted by a movie
character (a professional football player) that explicitly complains about
Reebok ("All they do is ignore me, always have.")
According to the Wall Street Journal, a Sony spokesman said the suit was
"totally without merit and we will vigorously defend against it."

Australis sued
Australis Media Ltd., operator of the Australian pay-TV service Galaxy,
faces legal action against a joint venture with Optus Vision. Last August,
Australis announced to share DTH satellite infrastructure (Sat-ND,
21.8.96.) Several Australis franchisees have meanwhile taken to court,
claiming the joint venture was a breach of existing contracts.
Competitors such as Foxtel, operated by Telstra and Rupert Murdoch's News
Corp., also try to challenge the Australis/Optus venture. Foxtel claims it
has a pre-existing programming agreement with Australis.
There were even more bad news for Australis: During the last fiscal
quarter, the company recorded an A$51.1-million loss. 

PrimeTime 24 sued
The major TV networks in the United States are probably interested in
reaching as many viewers as possible -- but not at any price. CBS and
Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network have sued PrimeTime 24 for distributing their
network programming via satellite. 
Interestingly, this is not generally allowed by law. The Copyright Act
makes satellite redistribution of network programming illegal when a
subscriber to such a service can receive the same network terrestrially on
a local TV station.
The motivation for the networks' taking legal action, however, is more of a
commercial nature. According to a lawyer, the availability of network
programming "has caused a very grave impairment of the local network
system; advertisers are getting worried." In other words: the local
stations fear a drop in revenues from local advertising which, of course,
is not shown on satellite.
PrimeTime 24 claims it has provided programming only to households that
cannot receive an acceptable off-air picture with the use of a conventional
rooftop antenna. The company said it stayed open to settling the dispute
out of court.
PrimeTime 24, founded in 1986, says it was the "#1 provider of network
television via satellite to C-band home satellite dishes and cable systems
in areas throughout the United States and the U.S. Caribbean where network
signals cannot be clearly received over-the-air." 

Spanish soccer war over
A television war in Spain was settled recently when the country's two
largest commercial media groups agreed to pool their TV rights to national
football [soccer.] Sogecable SA and Antena 3 de Television SA have agreed
to end the chaos that began when commercial TV was introduced in Spain,
resulting in every football club selling the TV rights to their matches on
their own.
The agreement also includes the regional commercial broadcaster Televisio
de Catalunya who holds the rights to games played by Catalonia's two
principal teams.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the contract may be the foundation of
a new digital TV alliance in Spain. The football rights will give the group
a tremendous advantage over Telefonica, which has launched a digital
platform in co-operation with Grupo Televisa of Mexico ("Galavision") and
public broadcaster RTVE. However, Antena 3 agreed to join that venture last
November.

Lebanon censors news feeds
Isn't it strange that the so-called "Information" Ministries in many
countries do exactly the opposite of what one might expect regarding their
name?
A new law issued in Lebanon bans several topics from satellite news
broadcasts, reports the Chinese news agency Xinhua (which by the way is a
good source for this subject. As satellite reception is banned in China,
officials have an obvious interest in pointing out that they're not the
only ones to curb the free flow of information. Most definitely they're
not!) 
According to the Beirut Daily Star, the Lebanese "Information" Ministry
claimed the censorship was necessary to "protect Lebanon's international
image and refrain from serving Israel's interests during this crucial
post-civil war phase." 
The law seems to be targeted at satellite news feeds for foreign
broadcasters which will not be allowed to report on issues like Muslim
guerrillas fighting the Israeli occupation forces in Southern Lebanon, the
presence of a 35, 000-strong Syrian force in the country, drugs, smuggling
and besides anything that may harm Lebanon's relations with Arab and
foreign countries. 
It is yet unknown how Lebanese officials will try to enforce the
censorship. On the other hand, it seems pretty clear that news feeds may
also be uplinked from other countries in that region.

Thai spy
Finally, Thailand will get what the country's military has always wanted: a
spy satellite of their own. Just two months ago, Thai defence minister
Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh announced that expensive projects will have to be
deferred (Sat-ND, 10.10.96.)
The minister, who also became Thailand's prime minister recently while
keeping his old job, now has exempted the military from his austerity
policy by telling generals it would not apply to them.


Re: Sat-ND, 23.12.96 [BBC license fees]
I wrote about the BBC license fee that will be raised to "91.5 (am I
right, just US$55?!)" Oh well, it was just a question ;-) Here's the
answer: of course I was wrong. Actually, the amount is approximately U$150.
Thanks to Robert Hoare, Ian Kendall and Tony Arrowsmith for their emails
(and especially their encouraging remarks about Sat-ND.)


RupertWatch
By Dr Sarmaz <DrSarmaz@aol.com>

Rupert looks for investors
Rupert Murdoch has had some problems with ASkyB, a joint venture with MCI
that is to offer (yet another) digital DTH service in the USA in the fourth
quarter of 1997. 
As reported earlier (RupertWatch, 6.12.96,) MCI is poised to reduce its 50
percent stake in ASkyB, but so far no new investors have turned up. In an
interview with the Financial Times, Mr Murdoch disclosed his News Corp. was
considering a public offering of 30 percent of ASkyB. MCI intends to hold
the remaining 20 percent.
Mr Murdoch also expressed his hope to form alliances with regional
telephone companies to market ASkyB services and reception equipment.

Rupert finds investors
There are better news for Mr Murdoch coming in from the UK. The
US$830-million question "Who will subsidise the decoders for BSkyB's
digital service?" (RupertWatch, 15.11.96) may be answered. Press reports
suggest that the final set-up of the company that supplies the decoders may
look like this: Mr Murdoch's BSkyB and British Telecom each would hold 30
percent of the joint venture while HSBC Holdings' Midland Bank and Japan's
consumer electronics giant Matsushita would take about 20 percent apiece.


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

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