Sat-ND, 3.4.97

Sat-ND, 3.4.97 -- Satellite and Media News 

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Telesat Canada has finally received an orbital slot for its
32-transponder direct broadcast satellite, to be launched in co-operation
with Spar Aerospace. The Canadian government assigned the 91W slot, one
of its prime direct broadcast satellite orbital positions, to Telesat.
Industry Minister John Manley stated that "By issuing this licence, the
government of Canada has put in place the elements required for a
Canadian DBS solution, and we're now looking to the DTH industry to
deliver first class services to Canadians."

As it seems, the hard core channel Rendez-Vous TV is absent again,
judging from a press release issued by the company. It said that
"technical reorganisation at Rendez-Vous" would take "another few days."
Whether anybody would believe  a statement that contains more or less
confident lines as "This is not at all the end of our operation," remains
to be seen. The channel also announced to add the Russian EKRAN 20 at
99E to its satellite line-up that so far consists of EUTELSAT II-F3
(16E) and a Russian GORIZONT.
The press release is bragging about "the largest international coverage
from the West of Europe to Japan and from the Siberia to Central Africa"
it will get from EKRAN. True -- in theory. The company forgot to mention
that, while EKRAN is a direct broadcast satellite, its downlink is in the
UHF range. (UHF is by no means an insider abbreviation for an unusual
sexual practice but an acronym for Ultra High Frequency, a range that
normally is used for terrestrial TV distribution.)
Besides "technical problems related to the uplink" that weren't further
explained, there are also many pirate cards in use. Rendez-Vous announced
a rather unusual move to combat piracy, saying it will offer owners of
"unofficial" cards a replacement -- an official six-month card for the

The new events and documentary channel set up by German pubcasters ARD
and ZDF, Phoenix, has a serious disadvantage -- it will be on air between
8 a.m. and midnight local time only. That means that it can't replace
your sleeping pills unless you get to bed well before midnight.
Embarrassingly, all of Europe will be able to see what a German events
and documentary channel looks like as it will definitely be broadcast in
clear PAL on ASTRA transponder 61, 10.891 GHz h. Today, the broadcasters
in charge (WDR and ZDF) signed a contract with Luxembourg's satellite
operator SES. The channel will launch on April 7.

It wasn't a good idea to have the four scientific CLUSTER satellites
launched by the first Ariane 5 rocket, especially as the satellites
weren't even covered by any insurance. Following the spectacular Ariane 5
launch failure last June, it looked as though the important Cluster
mission was dead. Later, it looked as though at least two new CLUSTER
satellites could be financed. Today, the European Space Agency announced
that there will be a complete reflight of the mission, meaning that four
satellites will be launched by 2000.
Cluster 2, as the new mission is called, will comprise the PHOENIX
spacecraft (being built with spares from the four original CLUSTER
satellites) and three identical new satellites to be built by a European
industrial consortium led by Daimler Benz Aerospace (DASA, Germany.)
The satellites will be launched in pairs by two Russian Soyuz launchers
in mid-2000 over a short period to meet the orbital requirements of the
mission. The launchers will be procured through the STARSEM consortium, a
joint venture of Arianespace, Aerospatiale SA of France, the Russian
Space Agency and the Russian State Centre for Research and Construction
of Launch and Space Vehicles.
The Cluster 2 mission, which costs ECU214 million (US$265 million) will
be of importance not only to scientists. The four satellites will
investigate the physical interaction between the Sun and the Earth. Apart
from various effects the radiation emitted by the Sun has on our planet,
it can also kill satellites -- its last victim was TELSTAR 401.

Officials of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission have agreed on
rules detailing the roll-out of terrestrial digital TV broadcasts. In
essence, current terrestrial broadcasters are expected to get free
licenses for digital services in a move that critics consider a
US$70-billion dollar present to the broadcasting industry. "This is,
indeed, one of the largest federal giveaways of the century," complained
Gigi Sohn, executive director of the Media Access Project, a public
interest law firm.
Under this plan, broadcasters would have to give back their analogue TV
licenses by 2006. They will probably used for other purposes still to be
decided upon. Stations affiliated to the four major networks (ABC, CBS,
Fox, NBC) will probably have to start up digital transmissions within two
years in the largest metropolitan areas, FCC officials hinted. The timing
seems to be somewhat connected to the 1998 Christmas shopping season
where digital set-top boxes for terrestrial reception can be expected to
turn up in the shops.
As usual when it comes to digital TV, there's a lot of nonsense in public
statements. "Broadcasters are prepared to voluntarily transition to
digital and high-definition TV faster than we converted from black and
white to color TV," said Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National
Association of Broadcasters.
Well, there was no transition from b/w to colour TV as even nowadays b/w
TV sets can receive colour broadcasts (although without the colour, of
course.) It will be fundamentally different with digital TV as you will
either have to throw away your TV set or at least buy an additional
decoder, a.k.a. as set-top box.
It remains to be seen whether "Consumers will be the big winners once
they experience the wonders of high-definition TV [HDTV]," as Wharton
expects. In fact, HDTV is nothing new at all but so far has not been a
success all over the world. 
Terrestrial digital TV, whether high-definition ot nor, may cause other
problems in the U.S. As far as I know, there are areas where terrestrial
reception needs some large antennas go get at least some kind of noisy
picture. In some of these cases, digital TV will change the situation.
There are no distorted digital pictures -- in fact, you either can
receive them or not, there's nothing inbetween. 

Shareholders of MCI Communications Corp. Have overwhelmingly voted in
favour of being taken over by British Telecom.. On what was probably the
last annual meeting of MCI shareholders, 77 percent of outstanding shares
approved the US$23-billion merger with BT that will create a company by
the name of Concert Plc. The deal is still subject to approval by BT
shareholders and national regulators.
After the merger, the combined firm would be the second largest
telecommunications company in the world, with about 6 percent of the $670
billion global telecommunications market. "We are going to go after the
remaining 94 percent," said MCI chairman Bert Roberts.
According to Grandpa Zheng, the renowned Internet specialist currently
detained at a lunatic asylum, Concert Plc. would become a major Internet
player once the deal gets through. "Both companies together will carry
almost half of the world's Internet traffic," Zheng told Sat-ND in an
exclusive telephone interview. "Shock shock horror horror shock shock
horror!," he added. Poor guy.

By Dr Sarmaz

You may not know Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd but you probably
know their products sold under brand names such as Panasonic. [I have to
admit that I recently bought a Panasonic camcorder. -- Ed.] Unlike its
rival Sony, Matsushita does not seem to be prominently engaged in the
electronic media (it's not among the world's 50 biggest media companies
anyway.) Of course, there's a 15 percent stake in DirecTV Japan. The
digital TV service, which is to be launched later this year, also
includes Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsubishi Electronic Corp, and U.S. company
Hughes Electronics Corp. It is a direct rival to Rupert Murdoch's JskyB,
which will probably involve the participation of Sony as well. 
But companies that are competitors on one country can be allies in
others. Matsushita announced today that it was looking for broadcasting
partners all over Europe, and Mr Murdoch's BSkyB was one of the
candidates. Matsushita confirmed it was in talks with many European
broadcasters about taking equity stakes. 
However, this seems more or less to be related to technical issues rather
than to broadcasting in itself. Among European TV professionals,
Matsushita products aren't quite as popular as those of Sony. Earlier
this week, Matsushita set up  Panasonic Broadcast Europe, a new
pan-European group that is responsible for sales and support activities
in the range of professional and broadcast video all over Europe.

FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 29.3.97
>Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has confirmed it was in talks with
>International Family Entertainment to buy a stake in the company's
>subsidiary, The Family Channel. Reports suggest that Mr Murdoch is
>seeking a 40 percent stake in the channel that would give him another
>outlet for his Fox Kids Network programming. Fox Kids, a children's
>network, is slated for launch next year. Other companies such as NBC and
>CBS are also rumoured to be looking at a stake in the Family Channel.
Eh? The Family Channel was renamed Challenge TV earlier this year, and
Fox Kids has already been launched and has been available on Astra since
last year.
(Mark Hudson)
[So I may have found a pretty old piece of news there <g>. The whole
thing, however, applied to the USA, not to Europe (what is Astra, by the
way?) As far as I know, The Family Channel is still The Family Channel
over there. I haven't heard about the launch of a Fox Kids cable channel
there. -- Ed.]

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

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