Sat-ND, 12.6.97

Sat-ND 97-06-12 - Hot Potato (Don't Pick it up)

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*** Sat-ND summer break: June 24 - July 9, 1997 ***


Orbital Imaging Corporation (ORBIMAGE), a subsidiary of Orbital Sciences
Corporation (Orbital) announced that the OrbView-2 commercial imaging
satellite has arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base where it is being
integrated with the Pegasus XL rocket that will launch it into low-Earth
orbit in July. Once in orbit, OrbView-2 will be the world's first privately
owned satellite to provide multi-spectral images of the Earth's ocean and
land surfaces that will be used by commercial customers and scientific
researchers [and probably not just by them.] 
OrbView-2 is the second of three satellites to be operated by ORBIMAGE. For
scientific research purposes, NASA is ORBIMAGE's anchor customer for
OrbView-2 imagery. As part of the space agency's Mission to Planet Earth
initiative, NASA will use OrbView-2 imagery to study the Earth's carbon
cycle and its effect on global warming trends. OrbView-2 imagery may also
be used in coastal monitoring, forestry assessments and agricultural
applications. [I'm sure some readers will now think that such spacecraft
would also make pretty good 'poor man's spy satellites.']


A European company by the name of Arianespace may still be market leader in
the business of launching satellites, but building them is not exactly a
European domain. The best-known European satellite manufacturers are the
state-owned French company Aerospatiale and Anglo-French Matra Marconi
Space (MMS,) owned 51 percent by Lagardere and 49 percent by General
Electric Co Plc.
It doesn't necessarily have to stay that way as there are efforts underway
to create a single European satellite manufacturer. "It is better for
European forces to be gathered in one place rather than fighting against
each other," MMS chief Armand Carlier told a news conference today. "If
[France] wanted to privatise its activities in space, as a long-term
possibility we have said we would be happy to play a role in this," Carlier
Following the Socialist general election victory earlier this month, it is
rather unclear whether France will continue with any privatisation plans,
however. And besides, just a few days ago Aerospatiale chairman Yves Michot
recently told journalists that "for Aerospatiale, it is very important to
have an alliance with Thomson." He also named Alcatel Alsthom and Lockheed
Martin as potential telecommunications partners for Aerospatiale's
satellite activities. [That may well have been before the recent
announcement of the joint venture Lockheed Martin Intersputnik.
Aerospatiale reportedly was also in talks about a co-operation with
Intersputnik which later broke down. Lagardere and telecommunications and
engineering group Alcatel Alsthom are rival bidders in the Thomson-CSF
sell-off. Lagardere competes directly with Aerospatiale in missiles and
Confusing? Anyway, there was no word of MMS as a potential partner for
Aerospatiale, and there's a simple reason for that. MMS is in the process
of acquiring German Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG (DASA.) The new company will
probably be known as Matra Marconi Dasa should the shareholders approve the
deal. It would create the world's third-largest satellite manufacturer
behind Lockheed Martin and Boeing/McDonnell Douglas.
"Taking into account the agreement signed between Dasa and Matra, I do not
see the point of Aerospatiale entering the alliance as a junior partner. I
would rather have an alliance with a large telecommunications company,"
Aerospatiale's Michot said, adding that "Dasa is no longer our privileged


Terrestrial digital TV in the U.S. won't really work without the help of
the cable industry, a study published by the Yankee group says. At least,
it's the cable viewers the protagonists of the digital age should be after.
"Without cable, broadcasters begin with only one-third of the pie," said
Bruce Leichtman of the Yankee Group. Cable viewers have on average more TV
sets than the country's 25 million terrestrial-only households, and they're
also more likely to buy new large-screen sets. They cost up to US$2,000,
and that would be a bit too much if the device were to receive just a few
channels terrestrially but couldn't be hooked up to the local cable.
Experts questioned by the Yankee group predict that just 20 million U.S.
homes will have digital TV by 2006 or 2008. They expect the transition from
analogue to digital to take 15 years or even longer. The U.S. Federal
Communications Commission's has ordered broadcasters to return their
analogue frequencies by 2006.
But back to the cable viewers -- above all, they watch more TV. In fact,
they spend an appalling six hours per day (to be exact: 5.8) in front of
the tube (terrestrial households: 'just' 5.5 hours.) That was news to me as
the figures I knew were in the range of four hours or so. Just for
comparison: the average daily viewing time is roughly 4 hours in the UK,
slightly above three hours in Germany, and a bit more than 2 hours in


* DirecTV, part of the Hughes Electronics Corp group, said that Tokuma
Shoten Publishing Co Ltd will take a 10 percent equity interest in its
Japanese unit. Publisher Tokuma Shoten has a programme vast library of
Japanese animation and movies.
Hughes chairman Michael Armstrong told a news conference that DirecTV was
also in "serious discussions" with a Japanese terrestrial broadcaster about
a stake in DirecTV Japan. When asked if his group was in talks with Nippon
Television Network Corp, Armstrong replied that "We would be honoured if
they would consider participation."

* Intelsat's board of governors had approved a package of tariff reductions
and substantive revisions to its voice/data service pricing structure. The
satellite organisation said in a statement that the changes will result in
long-term discounts, more uniform pricing and more long-term capacity
commitments. Intelsat has also extended the term of its chief executive,
Irving Goldstein, by eight months to October 1988.

* According to local reports, the Ugandan government has decided to build a
second earth satellite station next year. Uganda's first Earth station 80
kilometres east of Kampala is unable to serve satellites in the Indian
Ocean satellite. Therefore, telephone traffic to Asia is routed through
Kenya. The second station, which will cost US$18.5 million, will provide a
direct link to Asia as well as improve the quality of telephone circuits.

by Dr Sarmaz

Over the general stir created by Rupert Murdoch's latest satellite TV deal,
I almost missed this one out. Almost, I said :) Fox Kids Worldwide Inc.,
the children's programming arm of Mr Murdoch's global media empire, has
agreed to buy International Family Entertainment Inc for the trifle of
US$1.9 billion. Founded by TV evangelist Pat Robertson, the company is
known for its cable TV network The Family Channel. Fox Kids, which is owned
equally by News Corp. and Saban Entertainment, aims to expand International
Family through News Corp.'s worldwide distribution system. The deal will
also open new opportunities for Mr Murdoch's sports and news ventures,
observers noted.
Robertson is expected to be named co-chairman of Fox Kids Worldwide. His
son, Tim Robertson, is expected to continue as president and chief

Meanwhile, observers and analysts expect Mr Murdoch "to be grilled by
government officials" over his deal with PrimeStar. "It will get close
scrutiny," said Peter Cowhey, head of the Federal Communications
Commission's (FCC) international bureau. "It's a major development in the
market." He announced that the FCC would scrutinise the impact on
competition between providers of cable TV, high-powered DBS TV, and
direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV that is received with medium-sized dishes
as well as related issues.
Consumer advocates and lawmakers criticised the venture, saying it created
an "unregulated monopoly" that violates the spirit of competition, which in
fact was one of the aims of the new U.S. communications act.

Charles W. ("Charlie") Ergen, EchoStar Communications Corporation's
Chairman and CEO, also had something to say. 
"Consumers across the country would object in mass if they understood [the
announced joint venture] PrimeStar Inc., a proposed comprehensive
combination of the five largest cable companies in the world, including the
largest content providers in the United States, with perhaps the most
powerful media mogul. 
"This proposal, if permitted, would clearly result in even higher cable
television rates and the consumer will continue to be held hostage to the
powerful cable interests. 
"The stark contrast with Rupert Murdoch's recent promise to Congress that
he would 'offer consumers a full-fledged, satellite-delivered alternative
to cable' is disturbing, and raises serious questions. 
"This transaction is obviously anti-competitive and anti-consumer. We are
confident that the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of
Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission, together with other federal and
state regulators charged with protecting consumers, will reject this
proposed alliance."
EchoStar Communications Corporation said it intended to vigorously oppose
"this anti-competitive combination" on many levels. In its pending
litigation with News Corporation Ltd. in U.S. Federal Court in Denver, it
has demanded damages and specific performance from News Corp. which
prohibits News Corp. from completing the transaction with Primestar Inc.
EchoStar said it was contractually entitled to use the 28 DBS frequencies
at 110 degrees West which News Corp. proposes to sell Primestar, Inc.

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

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