Sat-ND, 5.2.97

Sat-ND 97-02-05 - Satellite and Media News

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A group of leading Russian and Ukrainian enterprises have agreed to convert
SS-18 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) into launch vehicles for the
deployment of commercial satellite systems. SS-18 missiles must be eliminated
in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which commits
Russia and the United States to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. 
For this purpose, an international space company is being formed. The
International Corporation for Space Transport Systems has been formed to
convert and deploy a multi-purpose launch vehicle, "Dnepr," based on the SS-18
missile. "Because of the purpose for which they were designed [i.e. blasting
the western world to smithereens -- Ed.], these missiles are highly reliable,
capable of being used under any weather conditions, and relatively
inexpensive," ASKOND said in a press release.
Over 100 missiles are available to be used for space launches. The Baikonur
launch site in Kazakhstan has all the necessary facilities and infrastructure.
Dnepr launches may begin as soon as 1998. 
The Russian company Rosobschemash (ASKOND) and Yuzhnoye State Design Bureau
(Ukraine), which by the way also designed the original SS-18, are entrusted to
conduct negotiations on commercial utilisation of the launch vehicle to provide
launch services to interested companies. One such company is Teledesic
Corporation, which plans to launch hundreds of satellites to build a global,
broadband "Internet-in-the-sky."
The companies involved have agreed that Teledesic satellites and Dnepr launch
vehicles are technologically and operationally compatible, and that project
schedules are mutually acceptable. The companies are in negotiations to use
Dnepr for at least 22 launches of 2 Teledesic satellites each. These
discussions also include an option to purchase 80 additional launches.

Of course, television and radio will go digital. Of course, they will do it
just because it's possible, not because would offer consumers any benefits. In
fact, it doesn't. Instead of more channels, they will get just more of the same
-- in a worse technical quality.
One of the reasons given to explain the move to digital was the reduced cost of
transmissions. Eight channels for the price of one? Forget it, it won't work
that way. Actually, switching to digital requires the most expensive makeover
the industry was ever likely to have.
And that's where we leave this comment, because the last sentence actually was
a remark made by Peter Webb, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting
"The technological makeover of studios and the erection of digital transmitters
for metropolitan and larger regional markets in the first two or three years
will require a capital investment of some A$210 million from the commercial
television industry, plus annual maintenance costs of around A$20 million,"
Webb said addressing the Australasian Cable and Satellite Television
Conference. And that, of course, applies just to commercial terrestrial TV in

Germans are not quite content with their television programmes -- they want
more sex. That's at least what a survey conducted on behalf of the weekly
magazine "Die Woche" indicates. More than 50 percent of the audience want hard
core movies on TV -- after midnight, of course, and scrambled in order to
protect minors.
They wont get it, though -- while pornography in itself isn't illegal, it's not
allowed to distribute such material publicly. The directors of Germany's 15
media authorities have recommended not to license the British Home Video
Channel (HVC) because it might show films of a pornographic nature. It is
expected that the Berlin-Brandenburg media authority which is in charge of
HVC's application will follow the recommendation not to issue a license.

German pubcaster ARD has announced its "special event and documentary" channel
Phoenix due to be launched on April 1 in co-operation with pubcaster ZDF will
initially be distributed via DFS Kopernikus. Interestingly, there was no
mention of any EUTELSAT distribution. So far, the channel seems to have no
chance to get access to the country's already overcrowded cable networks. 
In August, ARD will launch its free digital service that instead of offering
niche channels will try to present "networked" programming. The package will
consist of ARD's national channel, their eight regional channels, Phoenix,
their recently launched children's channel plus some additional offers based
upon ARD's national progamming.
A decoder will be available next autumn at DM400 to 600, ARD officials said. 

Recently, PanAmSat announced some kind of Internet Service via satellite. So,
here we go again, but this time it's Orion Networks Systems which has launched
WorldCast, described by the company as the first of a family of innovative
Internet/intranet solutions for International Internet Service Providers
(IISPs) and multinational corporations. WorldCast is a satellite-based service
that supports multicast traffic and workflow, database, groupware and
conferencing applications. It also provides a 192 Kpbs Usenet channel, free of
charge to IISPs.
WorldCast addresses the need for real-time international Internet/intranet
access to the U.S. Internet, where -- according to Orion -- more than 80
percent of total content resides. The ORION 1 satellite provides a more
powerful, flexible and reliable medium for Internet access than landline at a
lower cost, the company said in a press release.
It further claimed that WorldCast "can save customers up to 20 percent on
Internet service. The service bypasses congested terrestrial infrastructures
and delivers information across the Internet to multiple points, thereby
dramatically reducing network transport costs. The availability to bypass
landlines also results in Orion's guarantee of 99.5 percent network
availability and Internet access."

Richard Karlsson was curious and asked the Hungarian channel Duna TV this
question: "Duna TV will move to Eutelsat Hot Bird 4 (13E) from its present
transponder on Eutelsat II F3 (16E), and TV2 will join in as well. The
Hungarian controlling body ORTT has announced the tender for two new nation
wide commercial channels, which will share the present transmitters of the
Hungarian state television's second channel TV2. Therefore during the summer
TV2 will move to the skies and will broadcast from Eutelsat's Hot Bird
position. Can you confirm this?"
Here's the reply by Balazs Dajka, Chief of Administration Duna TV. "There are
some elements that need correction. TV2 will not precisely join in, it will
move to Hot Bird 3. The two new commercial channels will use different
transmitters. One will use the present terrestrial frequency of TV2, the other
will get another frequency, also terrestrial, which at present is unused."

Growing profits, more subscribers than ever, digital TV coming soon and
problems with German business partners -- in other words, BSkyB have presented
their half-year results. During the six months to the end of December, pre-tax
profits jumped to 133.8 million from 106.3 million in the corresponding
period in 1995. "Subscribers are switching on to Sky in record numbers," said
chief executive and managing director Sam Chisholm -- there are more than 6
million of them now in Britain and Eire.
BSkyB Deputy Managing Director David Chance said the company would proceed with
plans for an autumn 1997 satellite launch. However, press reports suggest that
this will not happen on yet-to-be-launched ASTRA 2A as originally planned.
Instead, BSkyB may take over 14 of the 28 transponders on ASTRA 1F. The reason
for the move probably isn't to spare BSkyB viewers the cost of having their
dishes realigned. As a matter of fact, it's not clear whether Luxembourg's SES
will be allowed to position ASTRA 2A at 28.2E at all because its rival
Eutelsat claims it holds the older rights for this slot.
BSkyB nevertheless has some problems when it comes to the Continent. The
biggest market there undoubtedly is Germany, but where is Mr Murdoch? BSkyB has
an option to take a stake of up to 49 percent of Leo Kirch's digital venture
DF1. It's still just an option. ''We've got an agreement in Germany, but
there's important issues that need to be resolved,'' Chisholm told a news
conference. He would not elaborate, but he denied that the problem was related
to DF1's slow start. Still, reports suggest that the service has attracted no
more than 20,000 subscribers (and that number was the same back in December.)
Chisholm pointed out that the German market will be a ''long haul'' to develop,
but ''if you can get it right, it's an amazing opportunity."

Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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