Sat-ND, 13.4.97

Sat-ND 97-04-14 - Satellite and Media Leftovers

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Editorial Note

Just to let all new subscribers and occasional readers know: Please don't
expect Sat-ND to be delivered daily over the next few days as I probably
will be pretty busy otherwise. Thanks for your patience. Same applies to
anyone who expects an answer to his/her Email.


According to news agency Itar-Tass, a U.S. satellite will be launched
from Russia's Svobodny cosmodrome in the second half of June. Early Bird,
by the way not the first satellite with this name, actually was expected
to be the first satellite launched with a Start-1 rocket from Svobodny.
Reportedly, preparing the spacecraft took the U.S. side longer that
expected, so the launch had to be postponed. As a matter of fact, the
launch of the Russian satellite that was put into orbit instead also had
to be delayed and took place in March.
Itar-Tass noted that a team of Russian and U.S. specialists went to
Svobodny yesterday to prepare the launch. Some more specialists and the
first batch of equipment are expected in May whilst Early Bird will be
rather late: it is expected to arrive in early June. 
Another Start-1 launch for foreign customers is planned for the end of
the year, when a Swedish satellite is to be lifted. There are no official
details on the launch costs which experts estimate at US$6.5-8 million.


It seems all geostationary satellites have survived the latest magnetic
cloud spit out by the sun. At least, I couldn't find any complaints ("Is
my receiver going out on me...?") in satellite-related newsgroups so far.
Latest word from the experts (who don't seem to work over the weekend)
was that the arrival of cloud was somewhat delayed. Nonetheless, it has
already produced spectacular auroral activity seen as far south as
Massachusetts and New Hampshire (but apparently not in North Germany --
too bad.) 
* Headline stolen from "Nineteen Forever" by Joe Jackson


France Telecom has renamed its video and audio broadcasting operation as
well of those of it subsidiaries Keystone Communications Corp. (USA) and
Maxat Ltd. (UK), both leading video and audio transmission providers in
their respective markets, to form GlobeCast. 
According to France Telecom, the new entity is the world's first and only
global communications provider for local/regional, around-the-world or
"multi-domestic" broadcast. It comprises:
GlobeCast North America, formerly Keystone, overseeing North America and
parts of the Asia Pacific region;
GlobeCast Northern Europe, formerly Maxat, managing services in the UK,
the Netherlands. Germany,  Scandinavia and other important media markets
such as Israe;
GlobeCast Paris, formerly France Telecom Broadcast Services Worldwide
Transmissions dept., managing services in France and all world regions
not yet served through TIBA, a joint venture between GlobeCast and
Keytech, the leading video transmissions operator in Argentina. 
France Telecom's goal is to establish itself, through GlobeCast, as the
number one worldwide partner for the broadcasting industry. The France
Telecom's Group already handles 10 per cent of the world's broadcast
transmissions, and 15 per cent of the world's contribution market with
over 90,000 ad-hoc feeds in 1996. The goal set by France Telecom for
GlobeCast is to capture 20 per cent of the world's ad-hoc contribution
feeds by the year 2000.
By combining the vast infrastructures of its different business units,
GlobeCast now offers a world-wide network that included access to all
major satellites, supported by more than 30 teleports world-wide and a
fleet of digital and analogue mobile uplinks. France Telecom is the
number two signatory in Eutelsat and the number four signatory in
Intelsat. In addition to facilities and transponder inventories of the
former Keystone and Maxat operations, it maintains a network of
partnerships with leading local operators in South America and the Asia
Pacific region.


Ka-band satellite services may be en vogue, but at least in the USA, not
everybody is allowed to compete. In fact, it's more or less a closed
shop: Major players such as Iridium, Teledesic, Globalstar and Odyssey
were granted licenses by the Federal Communications Commission FCC over
the past few years to launch their global communication systems.
The proposal of a potential competitor, Constellation Communications Inc.
(CCI,) was turned down because it the FCC ruled that it did not have
enough financial strength to continue with its project. CCI has found
some new backers since then, namely that Bell Atlantic Corp. and Raytheon
Co., and is appealing the original FCC decision. CCI has formed
partnerships with communications companies in Brazil and Indonesia. It
also hopes to gather money from investment banks and public markets.
While the FCC is still debating the issue, CCI has presented a smaller
project that will cost half as much -- US$550 million instead of US$1.15
billion. With its first satellite to be launched in April 2000, the
twelve-satellite system by the name of ECCO would service to rural areas
in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines. "We aren't
going after the wealthy end," said Frank DiBello, CCI's chief executive
The ECCO satellites would be used for the larger global project that
would offer world-wide voice and data communications. CCI is about a
month away from announcing a manufacturer for the satellites, although
DiBello said the choice has been narrowed to about three companies,
including Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md. 

European channels buy TV broadcasting rights, and they sell them. There
has been som activity on this field over the past few days. The UK's
Channel 5 has signed a programming deal with Warner Bros. worth around
some US$140 million. Its rival ITV was also interested but instead signed
a deal with Universal that reportedly is worth half as much. 
Mediaset, the TV holding company of Italy's media mogul and
wannabe-politician Silvio Berlusconi, has bought the rights to all TV
movies, miniseries and series produced by the U.S. network NBC in 1997
and 1998. 
Canal Plus, the French pay-TV giant, may also heavily depend on external
sources, but the company also is a programming provider. It now has
formed a joint distribution venture called Sogepaq Television in
co-operation with Spanish pay-TV operator Sogecable. Sogepac has more
5,000 feature films and 2,000 hours of TV programming on store.


As if digital TV and its appalling picture quality wasn't enough, efforts
are underway to abolish analogue radio transmissions as well. The new
standard is called Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB,) and it has recently
been broadcast via satellite in the Ku-band for the first time. 
Well, actually there are quite a few DAB "standards." The one in question
is called Eureka-147, and it was used to transmit a signal from the
Centre for Broadcast Skills Training (CBST) at Wood Norton (UK) to the
headquarters of the European Broadcasting Union in Geneva. The
demonstration, probably carried out on some EUTELSAT,  was staged by BBC
Research and Development. 
The transmission was based on the same system as that currently being
broadcast from an increasing number of terrestrial transmitters
throughout the UK, delivering excellent audio quality to the listener
(unless they put their headphones on, that is.)
Satellite DAB is unfortunately expected to become a major force in future
international radio broadcasting to the public, since its advertisers say
it was ideally suited to mobile users and those in less accessible
locations. In coming years, more powerful satellites will allow reception
by small flat-plate antennas on portable radios or mounted on car roofs.
But as European digital TV proves, you have to live in the right place to
receive what you want. Travelling in Europe, you're much better off with
good old-fashioned FM or even AM radio where you don't have to swap
conditional access modules and smart cards you can't buy anyway, whatever
sum you're willing to pay.


The letters TWR may be known to short-wave enthusiasts only, as Trans
World Radio actually is a religious broadcaster. I know, I shouldn't say
that! Every time I use words like "religious" or "Christian" in Sat-ND,
which is also posted to newsgroups, I find stuff like this in my mailbox:
"There is no salvation apart from the Name of Jesus, and apart from the
Lord Jesus Christ" and so on, and so on. Maybe I should write more about
sex, which wouldn't necessarily make Sat-ND become more entertaining --
but at least that spam in my mailbox.
Sorry for this digression. TWR still is a short-wave station which just
has expanded its English language programming to the countries and
islands of the Caribbean. As TWR explained in a press release, this will
pave the way for an extensive pioneering satellite linkup with local
Christian stations throughout the region.
Plans are underway to make available these same programs by satellite
downlink to the approximately 20 Christian radio stations scattered
throughout the Caribbean, and other stations that air religious
programming on Sunday mornings. This phase is scheduled to take place
possibly by October. 
The program schedule will be similar to that of a Christian station
format in the U.S. -- 50 percent music, 30 percent Bible teaching, 10
percent news and information, and 10 percent geared for the family. The
mix features programs from well-known North American broadcasters and
respected church leaders in the Caribbean. Musical selections will have a
distinct Caribbean flavour. 
Trans World Radio describes itself as an international Gospel
broadcasting network, airing more than 1,200 hours of Gospel programs
each week in over 120 languages from 12 primary transmitting sites and by
satellite to three continents. 

It is rumoured that TV Slovenia, the Slovenian state TV station, will
soon begin to broadcast by satellite. Initial information from reliable
sources said that TV Slovenia was planning to broadcast via  Hot Bird
(13E.) A couple of days later it was confirmed that instead Hot Bird
satellite, Eutelsat II-F2 (10E) 11.596 GHz h was going to be used, while
the current user of this frequency, Greek channel ERK 1, will be moving
to the Hot Bird 3 [which to my knowledge has not been launched yet, or
did I miss anything? - Ed.]
(Branislav Pekic, SATELIT TV VIDEO)

by Dr Sarmaz

Last Thursday, Rupert Murdoch tried to persuade U.S. lawmakers to change
legislation in order to allow his News Corp.'s joint venture with
EchoStar to carry local TV stations on their Sky DBS service. On the
other hand, EchoStar... hmm... Who's EchoStar?
Rumour has it that Mr Murdoch still hasn't given up older plans that
called for a co-operation with U.S. cable giant TCI. In fact, USA Today
reported that Mr Murdoch might be looking at TCI's DBS service Primestar
as an alternative partner.
Over the weekend, there have been neither new developments nor any
statements. So, there's still only a statement by Preston Padden, Mr.
Murdoch's president of World-wide Satellite Operations, who was quoted as
saying "This is somebody's fantasy."

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

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