Sat-ND 97-06-13 - The Onx Mix (Cable TV for you and me)
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TODAY'S AMAZING DISCOVERIES:
* ARIANESPACE ADDS FOUR TO ORDER BOOK
* THE MYSTERY LAUNCH COMPETITION
* BUT SIRIUSLY
* PANAMSAT: YES, BUT...
* COMSAT: YES, BUT...
* JAMAICA: STATE BROADCASTER SOLD
* AUSTRALIA: THE BIG, BIG PAY-TV MERGER
* RUMOURS OF ANALOGUE DEATH SLIGHTLY EXAGGERATED
* ANOTHER SATELLITE TV REVOLUTION?
* JUNE 1997: THE UFO ANNIVERSARY
*** Sat-ND summer break: June 24 - July 9, 1997 ***
All over the past weekend, I've had a certain uneasy feeling. Was it just
the inclement weather? My discomfort grew even stronger today when finally
I realised where my uneasiness came from.
So far, I had not received any complaints at all about Friday's Sat-ND.
NOT A SINGLE ONE.
I was extremely alarmed. Something must've gone wrong. Really wrong.
Totally wrong. Dangerously wrong. This very planet was in ultimate danger.
Had there been, by any coincidence, a nuclear war I was not aware of, a
pretty lethal email virus spreading around, an Internet blackout, or even
an alien assault that casually wiped out my well-beloved readership?
But no, I'm neither Douglas N. Adams nor one of his co-authors. Some
analysis of the (both cumbersome and cryptic) output of "Majordomo," the
mailing list program I have the misfortune of being forced to use, soon
made me realise that Friday's Sat-ND never reached its customers at all.
That hyper-intelligent Majordomo refused to re-distribute that issue, not
because it contains only rubbish, which I'm prepared to admit
despite/because I had a really good time writing it, but because of an
"Admin request of type /\buns\w*b/i at line 5." Awww yes, of course, how
could I forget that. Silly me.
So here it is, three days late, with the nasty word "unsubscription"
censored. Enjoy. And do complain, please, will ya? Cheers!
ARIANESPACE ADDS FOUR TO ORDER BOOK
Arianespace announced four new launches for communications satellites:
SIRIUS 3, TELSTAR 6, and two for a mystery company.
SIRIUS 3 will by launched for Nordiska Satellitaktiebolaget (NSAB) of
Sweden during the third quarter of 1998. (Its predecessor, SIRIUS 2, will
be put into orbit this summer.) SIRIUS 3 is being built by Hughes Space &
Communications in El Segundo, California. Based on the HS 376 HP platform,
it will weigh about 1,450 kg (3,190 lb) at lift-off and carry 14 Ku-band
transponders. Sirius 3 will provide direct-to-home digital TV broadcasts to
all Scandinavian countries.
TELSTAR 6 will be launched in the fourth quarter of 1998. Being built by
Space Systems/Loral using the FS 1300 platform with a total of 52
(fifty-two) high-powered C- and Ku-band transponders, is part of a turn-key
contract with Loral Skynet(TM). This advanced spacecraft will allow Skynet
to add to its current broadcast syndication neighbourhood on Telstar 4 and
5, and to deliver direct-to-home and satellite news-gathering services. The
satellite's payload will be configured like the recently launched Telstar
5, creating redundancy for Skynet's customers. The launch mass of the
satellite will be approximately 3,600 kg and its final orbital location
will be 93 degrees West.
TELSTAR 6 the first satellite to be put into orbit under a multiple-launch
contract signed between Space Systems/Loral and Arianespace. The European
consortium also announced that a second Space Systems/Loral satellite,
still to be named, will be launched by Arianespace by mid-1999. All
launches will take place from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French
Guiana, and will use Ariane 5 launch vehicles.
Arianespace and Space Systems/Loral also announced that their
multiple-launch long-term contract signed in May 1996 has been extended by
another year, to 2001. This long-term agreement ensures that one of the
world's largest satellite manufacturers will have access to space and
guaranteed launch services during a period of very high market demand for
Arianespace has also signed two more communications satellite launch
contracts with a commercial customer who prefers to remain undisclosed for
the moment. Since its creation in 1980, Arianespace has signed 174 launch
service contracts, and boosted 132 satellites into orbit, including 117 for
telecommunications applications around the world.
With these four new satellites on its order book, Arianespace has given
seven launch contracts since the beginning of the year. Arianespace has now
42 satellites to be launched.
THE MYSTERY LAUNCH COMPETITION
Now, of course I have my own ideas about who that mystery company
preferring to be unnamed could be, but I won't tell you. Instead, this
definitely looks like pretty good stuff to make up for an ad-hoc
competition So, any ideas then? Not too serious ideas, I mean -- the more
absurd, the better.
You want something in return? Okay, here it is. The third prize: a one-year
free subscription to Sat-ND. Second prize: a six-months free subscription
to Sat-ND. First prize: I me myself personally will manually remove you
from this mailing list whenever you want me to *without* sending you an
extremely offensive email complaining about your Internet skills in
particular and your mental health in general. Now that's truly generous of
me, isn't it?
PS: Upon request, your contributions will be published anonymously ;-)
Hughes Space and Communications International Inc. has been awarded a
contract for a telecommunications satellite and ground-station support
services from Nordiska Satellitaktiebolaget (NSAB), a joint venture among
Swedish Space Corp., Tele Danmark A/S and Teracom AB. Sounds familiar...
hang on, this is... geez, it's that SIRIUS 3 again!
The new satellite, to be called SIRIUS 3, will be an HS 376 high-power
model satellite and will provide direct-to-home television services to the
Scandinavian region. Hughes will also upgrade NSAB's satellite-control
centre at Esrange, Kiruna, and will provide training to the satellite
controllers. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The current NSAB constellation includes SIRIUS 1, also an HS 376 model,
which was built for British Satellite Broadcasting and sold to NSAB
in-orbit in 1993, and SIRIUS 2, which is being built by France's
Aerospatiale and will be launched later this year. SIRIUS 3 will replace
SIRIUS 1 and will be located at 5 degrees east longitude. [That's also
where you'll find SIRIUS 2.]
SIRIUS 3 will have 15 Ku-band transponders and will use gallium arsenide
solar cells to generate 1400 watts of spacecraft power. [Did you notice?
The Arianespace press release said it had just 14. Maybe those nasty
transponders have already started to reproduce, or maybe Hughes just had a
spare transponder lying around in a corner somewhere. Who knows.] Hughes
will deliver the satellite on-ground to NSAB in July 1998. Planned service
life is 12 years, assuming an Ariane launch. [This can safely be assumed,
as we now by know.]
SIRIUS 3 is the 52nd HS 376-model satellite to be ordered from Hughes by
customers around the world, and will be built at Hughes' Integrated
Satellite Factory in El Segundo, California.
PANAMSAT: YES, BUT...
PanAmSat today said in a press release it applauded the introduction of
U.S. legislation that is designed to ensure a "pro-competitive approach to
the privatisation" of Intelsat, the treaty-based intergovernmental
satellite organisation. The proposed bill sets clear parameters and
timetables for the privatisation of Intelsat and for changes to the
regulation of Comsat Corporation, the U.S. signatory to Intelsat.
Among the bill's important features are setting a deadline for Intelsat's
privatisation and prohibiting Intelsat from registering additional orbital
slots or expanding into new services during the transition. It would also
strip Comsat and any future privatised Intelsat entity of their
treaty-related privileges and immunities. Equally as important, the bill
would prohibit Intelsat and its future privatised affiliate from providing
anything but core services in the United States if they failed to meet the
bill's new requirements.
PanAmSat intends to recommend changes to the bill, such as setting a more
aggressive timetable for Intelsat privatisation and mandating the creation
of multiple Intelsat affiliates.
COMSAT: YES, BUT...
According to COMSAT President and Chief Executive Officer Betty C. Alewine,
"The market has become intensely competitive over the past decade, and we
agree that both government regulation in the U.S. and the structure of the
international satellite organisations need to change to conform with
today's competitive realities. We also agree that such change should
provide consumers with an ever-widening range of service choices. We
differ, however, in our belief that the timetable for reform should address
the need to build an international consensus for pro-competitive change.
"When COMSAT first proposed the privatisation of the intergovernmental
satellite organisations four years ago, we recognised that an international
consensus would be required to achieve real reform. Since then, the U.S.
Government has taken a strong leadership role to build such a consensus to
restructure both Intelsat and Inmarsat in a pro-competitive manner, and
progress has been made."
She pointed out that "The U.S. regulatory status of COMSAT is a separate
issue from the reforms that are underway in the intergovernmental
organisations. The significant and direct competition that now exists for
COMSAT justifies prompt Federal Communications Commission action to grant
COMSAT's petition for non-dominant status."
JAMAICA: STATE BROADCASTER SOLD
Deals like that don't occur too often. Jamaica has sold its state-run
Jamaica Broadcasting Corp. to a commercial competitor, Radio Jamaica. (This
does not come as a complete surprise -- cf. Sat-ND, 5.11.96, should you
still have it. No, I'm not gonna send it to you if you haven't, sorry.)
Combining all those contradictory reports I know of, it seems that the
state broadcaster has sold a TV station, an FM radio station and two AM
radio channels for US$2 million. One of the two AM stations will be
relaunched as a public broadcasting service. Earlier reports suggested that
Radio Jamaica, apart from owning and operating a TV channel, will be
granted a pay-TV license, too.
AUSTRALIA: THE BIG, BIG PAY-TV MERGER
All three Australian pay-TV systems are in merger talks, one of them
(Australis Media) confirmed today. In a statement to the Australian Stock
Exchange, Australis said that general discussions between Australis and its
competitors Optus Vision and Foxtel concerned the "possibility of
rationalisation in the pay television industry, including possible merger
transactions." Australis said it was unable to predict whether and, if so,
how and when any such rationalisation will occur.
Recently, a deal between Australis and Optus Vision calling for a combined
customer service operation was successfully challenged in the New South
Wales Supreme Court by Foxtel.
Australis' future remains unclear as the company last week announced a net
loss of A$161.2 million for the 9 months ended March 31, compared with a
$164.0 million loss in the same period last year.
RUMOURS OF ANALOGUE DEATH SLIGHTLY EXAGGERATED
Yesterday, I wrote something about a study on the future of terrestrial
digital TV in the U.S. that claimed its introduction will not be
accomplished within the ten-year transitional period granted by the Federal
This is, of course, by no means a new or spectacular notion. Broadcasters
have been complaining about the deadline in Washington, and as it seems,
they have prevailed. The House Commerce Committee has approved a provision
that will allow broadcasters more time beyond 2006, the year by which all
terrestrial broadcasters were originally ordered to return their analogue
frequencies to the FCC.
The new proposal may in contrast allow many broadcasters to not switch to
digital technology at all. That is, at least if they're located in markets
where at least 5 percent of households receive television the old-fashioned
way, i.e. over the airwaves. In that case, the FCC may grant waivers.
The measure still has to be approved by Congress and signed by the U.S.
ANOTHER SATELLITE TV REVOLUTION?
Technoir Inc [never heard of it] announced today that it is changing its
name to Global Satellite Network Inc., effective June 17, 1997. [How
interesting, I could hear you say if you weren't yawning.] The company said
it was changing its name to reflect the business and operations of its
wholly owned subsidiary, Total Entertainment Network Inc. This might
casually indicate that the company wants to set up, well, a global
TEN has developed what it believes is a revolutionary new consumer Direct
Broadcast Satellite home entertainment system ("DBS system"), which can
offer more programming options than other small dish systems available
today. [Yet more channels? Have they got some content to fill 'em up with?
That would be a true revolution for a change.]
The company expects to introduce its DBS system into the North American
market later this year. It is currently negotiating the financing
commitments required for the first year of operations.
JUNE 1997: THE UFO ANNIVERSARY
This year's June is a very special month as it marks the 50th anniversary
of the birth of a strange, absurd cult as well as the creation of a branch
of the entertainment industry. It all started, where else, in the USA. In
June 1947, a pilot by the name of Jeff Arnold observed nine
strangely-shaped objects hovering over the Cascade Mountains in Washington.
Since then, more than a million sightings of unidentified flying objects
were submitted, and I would bet a considerable amount of money (even the
equivalent of a six-pack) on my personal guess that, for some strange
reason, at least 90 percent of those reports originate from the U.S.
Ironically, scientists who do believe in extra-terrestrial intelligence
(such as the late Carl Sagan) are at the same time the greatest UFO
sceptics. According to Sagan, there has not been a single UFO report that
proved the existence of flying saucers or small green men beyond any
reasonable doubt. On the contrary, almost every report could be tracked
down to be the result of forgery, mirage, misconception and even secret
weapon systems being tested during the cold war period.
There's really no lesson at all to learn from all this about our position
in the universe. There is a lesson to learn, however, about how today's
mass media work. Unidentified Flying Objects have over the past 50 years
become part of the global, U.S. dominated entertainment industry. This is
at the same time the ultimate proof that extraterrestrials have not yet
visited Earth. If they had, they'd have been chatting with CNN's Larry King
first, and following that, they'd probably have invaded the daytime talk
shows by vast numbers.
Oh yes, and shouldn't you have noticed, that stunning comet Hale-Bopp has
neither destroyed this planet as forecast by email spammers, nor was there
any evidence it hid a UFO behind its tail. Those who killed themselves
because they thought it did were just pathetic victims of the UFO cult that
has been haunting parts of the world for half a century now, exactly 50
years too many.
UFO cult members as well as TV viewers are hereby strongly advised to get a
life or at least have a look at the almost full moon that right now grins
at me right through my window. Grin back!
Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights
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