Sat-ND, 29.5.97

Sat-ND 97-05-29 - Yawn!!!

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The date for the next launch of Ariane flight 97 from Kourou, French
Guiana, has been set to June 3 local time (June 4 CEST.) The launch window
will be open from 1958 to 2059 local time (0058 to 0159 CEST.) The Ariane
rocket will put INMARSAT 3-F4 and the Indian INSAT 2D into orbit. 

The Proton-K rocket which put TELSTAR 5 in orbit last Saturday did not
damage the environment of Altai, reported Itar-Tass. Its second stage fell
back to Earth, crashing in an area of wilderness in Altai. This is by no
means unusual -- the Russian Military Space Forces have a contract with
Altai under which an annual compensation is paid for utilising the region
as a garbage-dump for used rocket stages, each of them contaminating an
area of 100 square kilometres. 
Experts said that the toxic fuel was completely burnt before the stage came
down, claiming that "not a drop was spilt." Maybe. To say that rocket
launches generally don't have any effect on the environment would be a lie,
though. For example, I once read that a single launch of a U.S. space
shuttle polluted the atmosphere with some 40,000 pounds (or kilograms? It
doesn't really matter) of, well, exhaust fumes. Other launch vehicles may
even do more damage to the atmosphere. 
Just for once, I would love to read a correction from an expert reader
telling me that it isn't so and that the actual amount of pollution was
much less. If it isn't, is that plethora of pathetic TV channels you get
from broadcast satellites actually worth the damage done -- especially as a
single fibre-optic cable has a much greater bandwidth than any existing


Nonetheless, the satellite craze continues. According to the international
marketing consulting company Frost & Sullivan, "the demand for satellite
services and earth stations are being driven by a world hungry for
entertainment and telecommunications applications. More than 1,700 payloads
are planned for launch in the next ten years, 54 percent of which are
geared towards telecommunications services."
For the ground segment, it meant US$11.32 billion in earth station
revenues, representing sales of 8.5 million units. Frost & Sullivan
forecasts the earth station industry to generate US$28.16 billion in seven
years. VSAT and the DTH terminals are some of the fastest growing market
segments. The current deregulation and the operability of VSAT networks in
the banking, automobile, and hospitality industries has driven this market
to its current market position. In the DTH market, the penetration of
overseas markets by television networks and deregulation of the
telecommunications industry in many countries, and rising income levels
have has to a proliferation of satellite-delivered home television.
As space in space is limited, especially on the geostationary orbit, it
come as no surprise that the utilisation of other orbits will increase.
Frost&Sullivan predict that "as technology and consumer demands increase,
the introduction of medium earth orbit (MEO) and low earth orbit (LEO)
satellite constellations will play an instrumental role in the development
of the telecommunications industry. Satellite technology through these
lower-orbiting constellations will vastly improve the quality and
reliability of service while reading the time delays usually associated
with this type of communication."


The association of German commercial broadcasters (VPRT) has filed a
complaint against the country's public broadcasters with the EU commission.
The want the European authorities to take legal proceedings against Germany
-- as if it was that easy. Radio and television are autonomously regulated
by the sixteen federal states of Germany. What's all the fuss about?
Pubcasters ARD and ZDF have set up two theme channels, an unnamed
children's channel and Phoenix, offering documentaries and live events. 
VPRT wants the EU commission to freeze the two channel's growing cable
distribution at its current state. The commercial broadcasters also
complain about the channel's being financed with a tiny part of the TV
licence fee that has to be paid by everybody who owns a TV set. VPRT claims
that this constitutes an unlawful state subsidy for ARD and ZDF. The real
reason is, of course, that those commercial jokers are in desperate need of
analogue cable channels to cover cable subscribers with their commercial
bullshit. Not to offer anything new, of course, but just to better exploit
the broadcast rights they bought centuries ago. Even that old crap on their
completely hopeless recycling channels still makes up for one or two
percent of the audience -- probably reaching those guys who fell asleep
before they could switch off the tele.


* India is determined to grant autonomy to state-controlled television and
radio, Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy told Reuters. In
a seven-year old law that still hasn't come into effect, state broadcaster
Doordarshan would enjoy "optimal functional autonomy," mostly like the
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC.) The bill, which will also set up a
licensing authority called Broadcasting Authority of India, had been
referred to a Joint Select Committee. 
Reddy made it clear that the government had decided not to permit the entry
of foreign print media into India. He admitted that the influx of foreign
electronic media via satellite can't be stopped. Foreign participation in
terrestrial broadcasting will probably be banned, though. 

* WorldSpace is finally close to announcing the companies that will
manufacture the radio sets needed to receive its satellite-based digital
radio service. WorldSpace's chairman, Noah Samara, said an announcement
would be made during the Asia Telecom trade fair in Singapore. He declined
to say which companies had signed to manufacture the receivers. However, he
indicated that they may even be more expensive than expected. He was quoted
as saying that "Even at US$250 our plan remains viable." He expects US150,
though, as the retail price of a receiver -- probably still too much to
reach a large audience in the developing countries. 

* The U.S. arm of the digital satellite TV venture Alphastar sought Chapter
11 protection after its Canadian parent Tee-Comm filed for court
protection. Tee-Comm also said the Toronto Stock Exchange stopped trading
its shares and debentures. The company pointed out that its Canadian and
U.S. television subscribers were still receiving services.
Tee-Comm said last week that the Bank of Montreal, its existing lender,
demanded immediate repayment of its credit facility and appointed an
interim receiver with respect to its property and assets. [And that
receiver is by no means some high-tech device you put on your TV set but an
appointed official who looks after the property of a bankrupt company.]

* The Spanish parliament has passed a so-called football [soccer] law that
prohibits the exclusive transmissions of major sports events on pay-TV.
Similar regulation is underway at the European level, but the Spanish
advance is different in a way as it also covers existing deals that would
obviously become pretty worthless once the bill comes into effect.
The law comes as another just move in the ongoing digital TV war in Spain
that involves media group Prisa's "Canal Satelite Digital" (CSD) on the one
hand and a government-backed consortium, including state broadcaster TVE,
on the other. CSD has already spent the equivalent of US$1.5 million for
soccer rights it acquired via Sogecable, a Spanish company that is heavily
involved in analogue pay-TV.

* The latest and last terrestrial network in the UK, Channel 5, is
performing far worse than expected, reports The Independent. The channel
was struggling with half its target ratings and a fall in its forecast
advertising earnings, the paper said. The bad performance has already lead
to some changes in the programming schedule.
However, the main source of the channel's problems is said to be a
terrestrial signal that is weaker than expected, reaching only around 50
per cent of the population rather than the 65 to 70 per cent announced
before launch. [Hey, didn't they launch that channel on ASTRA? Still not
Channel 5 has a viewing share of around 2.5 per cent -- a quarter of
Channel 4's share, a twelfth of ITV's, and just half of what was the target
for the first year. The situation seems to be so critical that observers
even regard the transmission of a football [soccer] game, the England
versus Poland World Cup qualifying match, as crucial for Channel 5's
future. It will at least finally indicate how many households can actually
receive the channel.
Officials play the whole thing down, however. "There is no relaunch," Sally
Osman, head of corporate affairs at Channel 5, told The Independent. "We
are two months old and the programming is evolving. That is the beauty of
running so many live shows, they can evolve and change as we go along."

FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 26.5.97

Please note the ALPHASTAR IRDs are of course DVB compliant, more than that
they contain the same excellent tuner-demod unit from TV-COM Inc. as the
Nokia 9x000 series. Thus, all of the 100,000 or so subscribers to both
Alphastar and ExpressVu DTH services will be able to re-point their larger
dishes (70cm) to the Echostar DBS service (also DVB.) Perhaps an over-air
software download will help to provide a on-screen menu update, even
without this Alphastar customers should be able to access the clear
channels from Echostar now. 
The only critical difference is the CA (conditional access) system
employed; Alphastar chose "Irdeto" and Echostar currently use DNASP.
However, thanks to MPEG-2 and the DVB organisation and the people who made
it happen the IRDs are interoperable. By simply adding an Irdeto CA encoder
unit at Echostar's uplink, a relatively simple and cheap bolt-on, both
Echostar and Alphastar IRDs will operate on the Echostar service.
(Ian Wheeler, MSc MIEEE)

by Dr Sarmaz

Mentioning Rupert Murdoch's tentative deal with PrimeStar, an existing US
satellite broadcaster comprised of cable companies, may be pretty futile.
The story's been around every single U.S. newspaper now; the first rumours
emerged weeks ago and were reported in Sat-ND. 
So, here's just a recap. The most important part of the deal would be the
access of Mr Murdoch's U.S. channels, especially his fledgling Fox News
Channel, to the cable systems of the other PrimeStar shareholders, above
all those of Mr Murdoch's arch rival Time Warner. The digital TV industry
has only about 5 million subscribers, compared with about 65 million for
cable in the USA. Other sources say that there is no requirement that the
current PrimeStar partners carry some of Mr Murdoch's cable networks on
their systems, but that won't keep 'em from doing it anyway.
The deal, as it seems now, would lead to the creation a new company that
would be part ASkyB and part PrimeStar. Mr Murdoch would have a 30 per
cent, non-voting stake in the new venture, to which he would contribute the
broadcast satellites held by News Corp's partner MCI Communications. (Those
licences, however, may still be scrutinised following the take-over of MCI
by British Telecom, a foreign company that by law is not allowed to hold
U.S. satellite licenses.) 
In addition to Murdoch's 30 percent interest, the proposed merger would
give Time Warner and TSAT a 20 percent stake each in the new entity. Four
remaining partners -- Comcast Corp., Cox Communications, MediaOne, and GE
Americom, a division of General Electric -- would together hold about 30
Another important part of the proposed PrimeStar agreement is that Mr
Murdoch would have to indemnify his new partners from any legal challenges
from EchoStar. His former partner in the U.S. satellite TV business is
seeking US$5 billion in damages for breach of contract.
Any statements? Nope. Mr Murdoch's News Corps has declined to comment
anyway. A spokeswoman for TCI Satellite Entertainment said "We continue
negotiations and have yet to have a signed agreement."
There's another problem: PrimeStar isn't actually one of the services that
use those sexy pizza-sized dishes for reception. Although it plans the
transition to high-power transmission that enables viewers to use 35-cm
dishes, the new service was planned to be an "add-on" for older cable
systems. Observers noted that at the moment PrimeStar does not operate a
real high-power direct broadcast service.

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

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