Sat-ND, 6.3.97

Sat-ND 97-03-06 - Satellite and Media News 
(This one's a good one for a change)

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It should have been launched yesterday, but it was only today that
TCI Satellite Entertainment acknowledged that it's digital TV
satellite TEMPO will go up no earlier than tomorrow. The delay was
caused by a malfunction of a telemetry processing computer at the
Space Systems/Loral spacecraft mission control centre in Palo Alto,
California. The cause of the problem is under investigation.

You may remember the discussion about killer satellites, i.e. more or
less dumb space bombs that find an enemy satellite and blow it into
smithereens. How primitive! But that was long ago, and the U.S. Army
has in the meantime developed smarter weapons that even leave the
celestial environment intact.
According to a report in New Scientist, a new device designed to kill
enemy spy satellites looks just like a giant fly swatter (that's that
flat piece of plastic with a handle, usually used to kill flies, but
also good for scratching the parts of your back you cannot reach with
your own hands.) 
What's so clever about the fly... er, spy swatter? "The 'smart
projectile' is designed to smack a satellite hard enough to disrupt
its electronics but not to break it into pieces," the report said.
This, of course, helps reduce space junk that poses a threat to all
satellites, including U.S. ones.
The device isn't too new, by the way; research began in 1989 but had
to be interrupted in 1993 due to a lack of funding. Last year, the
U.S. Congress treated the Army to an additional US$50 million so that
the research on how to kill spy satellites softly could be resumed.

Good news for the European aerospace and telecommunications industry?
The European Commission has come to the conclusion that "a strong and
coherent satellite communications industry and services sector is of
high economic and political importance for Europe." 
The Commission thus adopted an "action plan" in order to expand the
European Union's role in the provision of global satellite
communications services. That role isn't too important yet, as hinted
several times in Sat-ND (cf. yesterday's bit on the Teal group
forecast or the recent special on the WTO Agreement.) And now,
there's even a new challenge coming up with loads of new satellites
and services, most of which will operate in the Ka-band.
At this point, the adoption of the plan just means that the European
Commission is well aware of the dangers that lie ahead for the
European industry (which sometime does not seem to be too aware.) It
also warns of side-effects: should Europe not react in a co-ordinated
manner, it will not only stay out of a market with the potential to
turn over US$400 billion within the next ten years. 
"In the long run this would have consequences on the European
position in launching services," the Commission said. The European
provider Arianespace still is the world market leader for satellite
launch services.

I'm sorry, but now it's time for our almost daily dose of Canadian
digital TV. The companies involved are once more pretty active, and
today two of them have even announced to join forces: Star Choice
Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. will merge their
services Star Choice Television Network and HomeStar.
The combined operations of Star Choice and HomeStar have an
approximate value of Can$110 million. HomeStar will contribute up to
Can$55 million in cash, satellite space and uplink facilities to Star
Choice so that upon completion of the transaction, Shaw will own
approximately 50 percent of the common shares of Star Choice
Communications on a fully diluted basis.
"By combining our expertise and access to satellite capacity, we will
be able to launch a service with over 80 video and audio services by
April 30, and by the fall of 1997 the company will be able to provide
over 100 channels to Canadians," said Brian Neill, Chairman and CEO
of Star Choice Communications.
As a result of the arrangement, Star Choice will have access to 14
transponders on Canada's ANIK E2 (107.3W,) enabling the company to
offer a DTH satellite television service with over 100 video and
audio channels. 
Star Choice will adopt General Instrument's DigiCipher II digital
compression technology and will use single feed technology, beaming
its programming from ANIK E2 to subscribers' 60-cm satellite dishes. 
Should you wonder what "single feed technology" means, so do I. Maybe
they mean SCPC (single channel per carrier) as opposed to the MCPC
(multiple channel per carrier) approach usually used for digital TV
bouquets. MCPC generally offers at least the advantage of a flexible
data transmission rate management by balancing the bandwidth needs of
those six to eight channels that usually share a transponder.

Weather reports all over the world have something in common: in most
cases, they're not accurate. This is not really owing to a lack of
data but to the very nature of the weather in most regions which in
physical terms can be described as somewhere between turbulent and
chaotic, rather unpredictable in any case.
Nonetheless, NASA scientists are confident to extend the range of
useful weather forecasts at least in the southern hemisphere by
another 24 hours with a wind measuring instrument by the strange name
of NASA Scatterometer (NSCAT.)
It can be found aboard Japan's Advanced Earth Observing Satellite
(ADEOS) which was launched last August. The improvements apply mainly
to the southern hemisphere where there are fewer stations that
measure the wind velocity. (There simply can't be too many of those
stations because there's much more water than in the northern half of
the Earth.)
Dr. Robert Atlas, an NSCAT science team member, reports that "We have
also seen improvement in early analyses and forecasts of storms in
the Northern Hemisphere. Specifically, NSCAT appears to more
accurately locate both cyclones and fronts, and to improve the
forecasts of their location by as much as several hundred
kilometres." Which, of course, also helps the U.S. National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Prediction Center to issue
more accurate warnings that could help reduce the loss of life and
property at sea and along the U.S. coastline.
The radar-based scatterometer takes 190,000 wind measurements per
day, mapping more than 90 percent of the world's ice-free oceans
every two days
"Weather forecasters will be able to use these data to better predict
the evolution of fronts and storms over the oceans and track them as
they approach land and major population centres. The maritime
industry will benefit by steering ships away from storms and toward
areas with favourable tailwinds," said Jim Graf, NSCAT project
manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "By combining the
scatterometer wind data with ocean height data from the
TOPEX/Poseidon mission, Earth scientists are getting a first hand
look at the forcing function, the winds, and the ocean's response,
ocean height and waves, or the yin and yang that control much of our
planet's weather and climate change."
* Kate Bush, "Hello Earth." Not the first line I borrowed from that
incredibly impressive song, I'm afraid.

Australia has made some rather awkward steps to set up an
international TV service over the past few years. ABC's Australia
Television is available via satellite in 33 countries and territories
from India to Western Samoa and as far north as Beijing. Rebroadcast
arrangements for the service exist in 14 countries.
However, critics argued that beaming just Australian soaps to an
audience like that wouldn't make too much sense. As a consequence,
the service will likely be privatised to see whether a commercial
venture would do any better. The channel is subject of a Senate
inquiry, due to report by May 14, regarding the impact and viability
of Australia Television in the Asia-Pacific region.
Surprise, surprise: a recent survey says that Australia TV doesn't
that bad at all, For instance, the service has increased its viewing
share in Indonesia threefold since 1994. In this country, "Australia
Television is seventh overall amongst all channels available to
viewers, including domestic terrestrial broadcasters in Surabaya and
Medan which shows that a substantial and significant audience exists
for the service," said Satellite TV Research spokesman Dr Hart Cohen.

On the whole, the channel hasn't lost its audience despite the number
of competitors more than doubling. "Comparing the survey with rating
figures in Australia, I'm sure there are a lot of other broadcasters
who would be happy to achieve similar results," Cohen noted.
Over the last twelve months, Australia TV has doubled the number of
Asia and Pacific cable operators and broadcasters who have signed
arrangements to carry the service.

Mrs Bottomley does it again. 
Disposing a truly grotesque misunderstanding what television, and
especially pay-TV is all about, Britain's National Heritage Secretary
seems determined to ban another hard-core satellite station; the
fourth one after Red Hot TV, TV Erotica, and Rendez-Vous Télévision. 
"Television in our homes is like the water supply -- used every day,
a necessity and a pleasure. But in washing over us and our children,
it leaves its traces behind," Mrs Bottomley said. 
First of all, a society that considers television as important as
water definitely has a serious problem, although that problem has got
nothing to do with porn channels. Let's face it: in many parts of the
western world, television has become a drug that isn't as harmless as
it may seem. It wastes your time as well as it wastes your money.
Mrs Bottomley was also quoted as saying that "the current debate
about violence has made us consider again the power of television.
That power can be, and often is, a force for good. [I even disagree
with that.] We must also acknowledge its potential for disruption,
disaffection, and destruction."
True, of course. However, that applies to _all_ the channels that are
available. I don't remember the exact figure, but the average
American kid watches some ten thousands of murders on the TV screen
before he or she turns 18. That figure is probably applicable to
every child in western societies. 
Now, compare that to the number of sexual acts any child gets to see
on TV. Apart from the fact that the number is somewhat smaller, I
wonder why people get jailed for murder but not for sexual
intercourse, if it's really that evil and damaging. Why on earth does
nobody object dozens of murders in any movie while at the same time
crying foul when it comes to the exact contrary, to human
reproduction which even the Catholic Church hasn't managed to abolish
Anyway, I'm tired. I'll omit Mrs Bottomley's unqualified uttering
about new media in general and the Internet in particular. Regarding
Satisfaction Club TV, she just had this to say: "I think the new TV
satellite channel Satisfaction Club TV is damaging to young people."
Any proof at all for that frivolous claim? No, of course not. Sheer
rubbish. Kids can't watch it, you know, unless their parents are
complete morons. You cannot prevent people from being idiots by law,
not even in the UK.
Bottomley added that "they [Satisfaction Club TV] have got 15 days to
look at it, to take further action or I shall be proscribing
[banning] it." The move would mean that any new subscriptions to the
pay-TV service would become illegal in the UK. 
Just go ahead, do it, you don't even remotely tackle any real
problem. You're just once again bashing just the wrong ones. What
about scrutinising Mr Murdoch's pay-TV services, known under the
brand of BSkyB, in regard to gratuitous violence? Any ideas? Nah, I
don't have the impression.

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

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