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Sat-ND, 24.1.97




RUPERTWATCH 24-01-97
by Dr Sarmaz


PLEASE NOTE
For your convenience, we will provide you with a gratuitous... er, gratis copy
of Mr Klanowski's Sat-ND appended to RUPERTWATCH, the excessive newsletter
solely dedicated to the one and only global media mogul, Mr Murdoch, and his
activities. Enjoy. 


GRANADA STICKS TO BSKYB
Granada Group PLC said it has no intentions to sell its stake in British Sky
Broadcasting Group PLC (BSkyB.) Why should it? Granada chairman Gerry Robinson
is also chairman of BSkyB. Last year, he said Granada definitely would not sell
its BSkyB stake. And above all, Granada launched some new channels within the
BSkyB package.
So, why should Granada sell its 11 percent share? Because it is worth 1
billion and Granada has a debt of 3.5 billion, stemming from the 1996
take-over of Forte PLC. Those rumours were so strong, indeed, that BSkyB stock
dropped notably today. Then, a Granada spokesman dismissed the speculation as
completely without foundation.
Granada, a company that has grown to become a leisure company, instead plans to
sell some hotels and motorway restaurants in order to reduce its debt.


SONY PONDERS JSKYB STAKE
Japan's electronics giant Sony is talking with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. on
joining JSkyB, the Japanese digital satellite TV alliance led by Mr Murdoch. 
In a statement, Sony confirmed it considered "JSkyB a possible investment
target." While negotiations were still under way, a final decision has not been
taken yet." According to Japanese newspaper reports, Sony thinks big and is
aiming at a one-third stake in JSkyB.
Broadcasting actually is an area where Sony hasn't been too successful.
Ironically, not only TV viewers use Sony hardware; many professional
broadcasters also do. In addition, Sony has also piled up quite a lot of what
is called "content" nowadays; software such as movies, music and video games.
For instance, Sony controls the Columbia and TriStar studios in the USA. It is
unlikely, however, that Sony content will exclusively appear on JSkyB. "We
don't think Sony's joining JSkyB would make it difficult for us to acquire
content from Sony's entertainment units," said a DirecTV spokesman.
DirecTV is one of JSkyB's competitors. Led by Hughes, who also run a likewise
named service in the USA, the service also includes direct competitors of Sony.
Matsushita, whose products are sold under different brand names such as
Panasonic, owns a 15 percent stake in DirecTV. The third rival, PerfecTV, is
run by leading Japanese trade houses. It is the only of the three services that
has already become operational. JSkyB plans the launch of some test channels in
April while DirecTV will start next autumn.
All three have, however, indicated to be willing to adopt a common decoder
standard -- a move that


GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
Not everything that Mr Murdoch touches turns to gold or, at least, to dollars.
News Corp.'s British subsidiary News International Plc said its CD-ROM
publishing arm will stop developing new CD products as it found the market was
flat. 
But what's the bad news then, you might ask. News International will clutter
the Internet with the leftovers of their ill-fated CR-ROM business. "We have a
huge range of data and content now available and the Web can more than satisfy
any demand," threatened Richard Withey, director for new media at News
International.


RUPERT OWNS TEN MORE US STATIONS
Rupert Murdoch's Fox network in the US now owns 22 TV stations. News Corp. said
it has completed it US$2.8 billion acquisition of New World Communications
Group Inc. The take-over does not only add ten stations to News Corp.'s Fox
Television Station Group. New World's television programming library and
production division will be merged with the according 20th Television and 20th
Century Fox Television units.


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Sat-ND 97-01-24 - Satellite and Media News

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FIRST SVOBODNY LAUNCH IN FEBRUARY
Russia will launch the first spacecraft from its new Svobodny cosmodrome at the
end of February, news agency Itar-Tass reported. An exact date has not been set
yet. 
Whoever collects Sat-ND (for whatever sinister purpose) may remember that there
has been quite some confusion about what satellite was going to be launched,
and when (e.g. Sat-ND, 16.12.96.)
The official version, however, now goes like this. The initial launch,
scheduled for September 1996, was to carry a U.S. remote sensing satellite into
orbit. American specialists, however, "failed to prepare the spacecraft in time
and the launch had to be postponed until the middle of 1997", Itar-Tass said. 
The agency did not mention that in November 1996, a Russian satellite called
ZEYA was almost ready to go, with a launch date scheduled for December 1996. It
didn't happen, though. On December 15, Itar-Tass reported "The delay became
necessary as the satellite was not ready in time for the launch." Well, well.
On top of this, Itar-Tass now claims that "all technical problems relating to
the preparations of the booster for the blast-off have practically been
completed." Strangely, there haven't been reports on technical problems with
the Start-1 launcher before. 
Anyway, here's what's going to happen in February. The Start-1 rocket, a
modified combat missile, known in the West as SS-20, will put ZEYA into a
sun-synchronous orbit. (Zeya, by the way, is the name of a river in the
vicinity of Svobodny.) Neither Russia's Plesetsk cosmodrome nor the launch
facilities in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, offer the possibility of launching a
satellite into this kind of orbit. In both cases, the rocket's trajectory would
lead over densely populated areas. 
Reportedly, ZEYA will serve navigation and geodesy purposes and besides be used
by radio amateurs. 


LAUGH YOUR HATS OFF
The price war fought in the U.S. digital satellite TV industry has brought the
cost of reception equipment down to US$199 -- strings attached. Customers have
to subscribe to a service for at least twelve months in order to make this
bargain. One digital TV service however, Primestar, has never sold any
equipment. Instead, users pay for its use with their subscription fee. 
To make that perfectly clear, Primestar has announced a television commercial
being aired on network television. According to a press release, it goes like
this:
"In the commercial, called 'Applause Meter,' a game-show format is used in
which a 'PRIMESTAR marketing executive' is pitted against a 'Brand X marketing
executive.' A host questions the two guests on the details of their offers,
while an audience provides applause response to their answers. At the end,
after the Brand X marketing effort has disclosed all the details of his offer,
only one woman is left applauding -- and she turns out to be, the mother of Mr.
Brand X. Meanwhile, the PRIMESTAR executive explains that no equipment purchase
is required, and the spot ends with a recurring copy line describing PRIMESTAR
as 'the best value in satellite TV.'"
Oh Lord, isn't that funny? 


TESTING, TESTING, ONE, TWO
This weekend is going to be a very special weekend in Britain. Channel 5, the
latest and last analogue broadcaster using terrestrial outlets, will be
carrying a test broadcast. Don't laugh! Their transmitters use frequencies that
are usually occupied by video recorders, satellites receivers etc. that are
hooked up to the TV set using its aerial socket. Thus, a major retuning scheme
had to be carried out, and next Sunday will prove whether it was successful --
at least in the Greater London area where Channel 5 will be broadcasting a test
signal from its Croydon transmitter from 9 am to 8 pm local time.
A spokesman said that Channel 5 was expecting "thousands of calls from people
saying `Can you re-tune me?'" A similar test carried out in Scotland earlier
this month generated 14,000 calls through the day.


MANSFIELD RECOMMENDS SHUTTING DOWN FOREIGN SERVICES
As announced (Sat-ND, 20.1.97,) the Mansfield report on Australia's pubcaster
ABC was published today. In effect, it suggests ABC concentrate on its core
business, i.e. providing the domestic audience with commercial-free radio and
TV programming. 
The services that should be closed include not only Radio Australia, a station
that reportedly reaches almost 3 million listeners in Indonesia and 2 more
millions in the rest of the world.
Mr Mansfield also criticised the ill-fated satellite TV service Australia
television, targeting an Asian audience with programming that according to
critics mainly consists of domestic soap operas. Half a year ago,
communications minister Richard Alston indicated he was willing to sell the
channel anyway (Sat-ND, 16.7.96.)
The Mansfield study was, of course, commissioned  in order to save money. ABC
is expected to cut its budget of around A$500 million by about A$55 million
next financial year.
Minister Alston told reporters that if the Foreign Affairs Department wanted to
keep Radio Australia alive it should pay for it, as the Foreign Office in
London now pays for the BBC World Service. [What a truly independent source of
information that is. -- Ed.] 


DMX SWALLOWED BY TCI
Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI) has become the sole owner of digital music
service DMX in the USA. It acquired the 55 percent of the company it didn't
already own in a US$65 million stock transaction. DMX will become a unit of TCI
Music Inc., a new unit that will be publicly traded.
The deal does not affect DMX Europe which was spun off prior to the TCI deal.
DMX Inc. sold its loss-making European subsidiaries DMX Europe N.V. and DMX
Europe (UK) Limited to Jerold H. Rubinstein, DMX Chairman and Chief Executive
Officer (Sat-ND, 15.12.96.)


FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 22.1.97
SATELLITE LAUNCH SITE IN CAPE YORK, AUSTRALIA
Cape York is in far north Queensland. I can't describe it real well and I don't
have the exact specifics of where it is, but if you have a look at a map of
Australia, you will see that Queensland narrows to a point at the top of the
country. That's Cape York Peninsula and I presume they propose to build up
there, somewhere.
This is not the first I've heard of space developments up there, but as far as
I know, there's been little more than talk about it so far. (Geoff Shang)
[Thank you very much for this contribution. I have some maps available on
CD-ROM, but unfortunately they're not too detailed when it comes to Australia.
With this description, anyone should find the spot now. -- Ed.]



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