Sat-ND, 24.2.97

Sat-ND 97-02-24 - Satellite and Media News

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Well, finally there's a new rocket, and it's really huge and powerful for a
change. Not like those small ones that are all the rage right now. Bah! This
one can lift almost 22,000 kg (48,000 lbs) into a low earth orbit in its most
powerful configuration. Imagine that! It took nine years and US$1 billion to
build it and send it off to its maiden flight which happened to take place
It's called Titan-4B, it's manufactured by Lockheed Martin, and it will be used
by the U.S. Air Force mainly to launch spy satellites. Air Force officials were
full of praise, pointing out that the launcher can deliver about 25 percent
more power than its predecessor, and is quicker to prepare for launch. Major
design changes of the new launcher include the use of light-weight composite
materials as well as fewer fuel segments and connecting joints in addition to
several other engineering enhancements. Other improvements include better
steering, improved navigation and a new self-destruct system in case the rocket
veers off course. (Just about time that this feature was included -- it's not
really new with commercial launchers.)
This time, it was a missile warning satellite that (after the usual delay of a
few days) went up and will finally be positioned in a geostationary orbit. Its
instruments are sensitive enough to detect the exhaust heat of a jet aircraft
on afterburner, let alone any Scud missile Mr Hussein might fire in the future.
The next satellite that will be lifted by a Titan-4B will probably be the space
probe Cassini which destination actually is Saturn. Just like the ill-fated
Mars 96 probe launched by Russia, Cassini has Plutonium cells on board that
provide long-time energy supply. Protesters have claimed that if the rocket
exploded it could scatter the highly toxic material over a wide area and kill
thousands of people. Actually, at the first Atlas-4B launch attempt on Friday
workers at NASA's nearby Kennedy Space Center were warned to take cover in
air-conditioned shelters should there be an explosion within 20 seconds of

According to news agency Itar-Tass, Russia has set the date of opening its new
Svobodny cosmodrome in the Russian Far East to March 4. A Start-1 rocket,
formerly known as SS-20, will be used to put a satellite called ZEYA in orbit,
which was "commissioned by the Military Space Forces and manufactured by an
applied mechanics research and production association." There already is a
contract for launching an American satellite from Svobodny in mid-1997.
Launches of other foreign spacecraft with Start-1 rockets are being negotiated.

German media laws aren't too simple; in fact, there are 16 of them, one for
each federal state. To complicate things, the states are from time to time
signing treaties that allow regulation of nation-wide channels. All these
regulations have to be applied by 15 media authorities (the two states of
Berlin and Brandenburg share a common one.) In the past, however, German media
authorities acted more like social welfare services for destitute channels
instead of regulating them.
From time to time, commercial channels got a bit cheeky, though. That was the
case when the son of Bavarian media mogul Leo Kirch, Thomas, bought into a TV
station that was to be known as Pro Sieben from then on. Many observers argued
that Pro Sieben and its offspring Kabel 1 (formerly Kabelkanal) were in fact
controlled by Leo Kirch, a condition that would have been against the law.
In 1995, Pro Sieben managers came up with a solution: the company should go
public. Not really public in the very meaning of the word, but public enough to
convince media authorities. It worked exactly as planned; Pro Sieben in fact
received a new license from the media authority of Berlin and Brandenburg which
used to be its strongest critic before the move.
After some delays, the schedule for the initial public offering (IPO) has now
been announced. It will take place next July. However, ordinary shares will
still be held by those that are involved with the channel right now. Thomas
Kirch will reportedly increase his share from 24.5 to 60 percent, taking over
stock from other owners, while the supermarket chain Rewe AG will keep their 40
The public will trade a different class of stock, although the current owners
will retain much of it for the time being. The IPO is expected to raise US$594
million by making roughly a third of the company's stock available to the
Interestingly, one of the main arguments Pro Sieben used to defend Thomas
Kirch's involvement with Pro Sieben was to keep foreign, read: U.S. capital
from dominating German media. But in fact, Pro Sieben earlier announced they
would offer shares mainly in the USA (Sat-ND, 12.4.96.)

Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS) may move a step closer in the U.S. as the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is finalising its plan to auction two
licenses for a nation-wide subscription radio service via satellite. 
So far, four companies have announced to bid for the licenses. Speaking at a
gathering of the National Association of Broadcasters, FCC Chairman Reed Hundt
however said the proposed auction of licenses shouldn't be limited to those
four companies. Instead, it should be open to all interested bidders.

The Voice Of America (VOA) is in urgent need for some money to keep up their TV
feeds to Serbia, the U.S. News & World Report says in its latest issue. Those
feeds have a relatively short history as they were set up back last December
when the crowds had long taken to the street, protesting the government's
annulment of opposition victories in recent local elections. 
However, other U.S. agencies asked to pass the lousy sum of US$25,000 to pay
the satellite capacity don't seem to have reacted . VOA now reportedly is
considering trimming other services in order to maintain the Serbian broadcasts
that are taken over by eight so-called independent TV stations in the country. 
Well, how independent are they if they take over U.S. made programming? 

MultiThématiques, a joint venture set up by U.S. cable giant TCI's
Tele-Communications International Inc. and French companies Canal+ and Générale
d'Images, is already active in countries such as France, Spain, Poland and
Add Japan to the list. MultiThématiques has signed an agreement with Japan's
Jupiter Programming Co. Ltd. to create two thematic channels for cable and
satellite distribution in Japan. The first one will be dedicated to European
cinema and life style; the other one will be a Japanese adaptation of Canal
Jimmy, an established channel in France, which is dedicated to young adults,
featuring a mix of new and not so new series, concerts, road movies, chronicles
and talk-shows.
In a press release, TCI International described MultiThématiques' "mission" as
developing, producing and marketing thematic channels sized to local market
tastes. Less romantically, it would probably also be fair to describe the
copmany's activities as "recycling original productions of Canal+' French theme
channels abroad." The names of the channels MultiThématiques offers support
this view: Planete, Canal Jimmy, Seasons (hunting and fishing -- how
disgusting), Cine-Cinemas (a recent movie channel), Cine-Cinefil and
Cine-Classics (classic movie channels; and sorry if the accents are missing.)
It's a less known fact that Canal+ is the largest holder of multi-territorial
audio-visual rights in Europe through Canal+ D.A. and Canal+ Distribution.

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

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