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Yesterday, I wrote that a certain TV channel reached 650,000 homes in Luxembourg. Actually, the figure comes from a press release by France's Groupe AB. Tom Diderich from Belgium noted:
"To my knowledge, there are only about 400 000 inhabitants in Luxembourg, and though it is considered to be a rather rich country, I doubt that one inhabitant out of two owns two homes."
Useless fact: Luxembourg has a population (1992 official estimate) of 389,800, giving the country an overall population density of about 151 people per km2.
Japan's National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) seems to have found out the reason for the malfunction of the second stage of an H2 rocket last month. As a result, the experimental Comets/Kakehashi satellite ended up in a useless orbit.
The cure: NASDA plans to confirm the cause of the accident by making further studies into the manufacturing process of the rocket and into engine firing tests conducted before liftoff.
Useless fact: Luxembourg has a temperate climate with mild winters. The mean annual temperature is 10° C and the mean annual rainfall is about 815 mm.
We do live in strange times: things actually get cheaper instead of more expensive. Not only has my Internet access provider reduced the monthly fee they charge ISDN users by over 50 percent <G> -- even making telephone calls over satellite gets cheaper!
British Telecom announced it has reduced the cost of calling from mobile terminals via Inmarsat on its Inmarsat-A, -B, and M-Sat services to most countries by introducing its new U.S. dollar billing rate. The biggest reductions are on Inmarsat A off-peak calls to the Pacific Rim region, where BT customers will enjoy price cuts of 14.8 percent bringing the price down to US$4.60 per minute.
Similarly, rates for BT B-Sat off-peak calls to the same region are reduced by 13.2 percent to US$3.95 per minute. To the majority of other countries, prices will fall by at least 3.7 percent. Mobile B-Sat calls at standard rates to North America, the United Kingdom, Nordic regions, Europe and Singapore are reduced by 5.8 percent to US$4.05 per minute. Inmarsat-A calls will fall by slightly less, typically to US$6.55 per minute.
This is not so interesting by itself but rather as an example how the upcoming LEO satellite systems may affect the pricing of existing services. Iridium calls are expected to cost US$3 per minute, its rival Globalstar has announced a few of US$1 per minute.
Useless fact: Luxembourg has an area of 2,586 km2.
Orbital Imaging Corporation (Orbimage), which is 60% owned by Orbital Sciences Corporation, announced that it recently completed a financing package of debt and equity capital totalling US$173 million.
The company plans to use the proceeds of these offerings to complete the construction and launch of its third and fourth satellites, OrbView-3 and -4, which are scheduled for launch in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
OrbView-3 will produce one-meter resolution panchromatic (black and white) digital imagery as well as four-meter resolution multispectral (colour and infrared) imagery, while OrbView-4 will produce similar high-resolution panchromatic and multispectral imagery as well as eight-meter resolution hyperspectral (enhanced colour and infrared) imagery.
In addition, proceeds from the financing are expected to be used in upgrading Orbimage's existing ground stations and for general corporate purposes, Orbimage said in a press release.
Useless fact: Average life expectancy in Luxembourg is 71 years for men; 78 years for women.
In Sat-ND, 13.12.97 I wrote that the Kurdish TV channel Med TV used a UK satellite TV license for broadcasting and that "as far as I know, programming isn't monitored to comply with any law or such."
Well, what did I know -- nothing! Of course it's still true that satellite channels not targeting the UK can get such a license rather easily from the Independent Television Commission (ITC,) and of course the Brits blame Brussels for that. According to the ITC, the UK's regulatory body was "required, in accordance with the European Directive on Television without Frontiers, to license satellite television services which are established in the UK, whether or not their services are specifically targeting a UK audience." Funnily, satellite TV licenses for such broadcasters are pretty rarely issued in other EU member countries. There must be something special about British satellite TV licenses.
On the other hand, contrary to my suspicion, those channels are indeed monitored. In the case of Med TV, a channel that has attracted almost world-wide attention, it was rather to be expected that its programming was subject to close scrutiny. [Entirely my fault when I claimed earlier that this might not be the case.] As a matter of fact, the ITC has issued a formal warning to Med TV for a breach of the ITC's Programme Code provisions for the fourth time within a year's time.
The warning relates to the broadcast of the program Rastname on October 14, 1997. The programme consisted of an interview with Sen din Sakik, a commander of the ARGK. According to an ITC press release, the ARGK is "the military wing of the PKK (Workers Party of Kurdistan)" even though the PKK itself is banned in some countries because it is regarded a terrorist organisation in itself. The Members of the ITC concluded that sections of the interview constituted encouragement and incitement to crime.
The ITC said it has made it clear to Med TV that its compliance record must improve dramatically and that the Commission will consider revoking the licence if there are further breaches of the Programme Code.
Useless fact: Luxembourg has about 275 km of railways and about 5,113 km of roads. The country had an estimated 191,760 telephones in 1991, and 231,000 radios and 100,500 television receivers in use in 1993.
"If you were the proud owner of a squarial, the first in your street to show off your Betamax video recorder ... then being at the cutting edge of new digital television technology is for you," says Britain's independent consumer magazine Which? in its March issue.
The square antenna dubbed Squarial, which was intended to receive TV channels from British Satellite Broadcasting, is a nice example. The service offered five channels on two direct broadcast satellites that nowadays spend the rest of their useful life beaming TV channels to Scandinavia. BSB merged with Keith Rupert Murdoch's Sky TV to form BSKyB, and the square dishes can't be used for that service.
The industry, encouraged by the success of the digital compact disc that almost completely replaced vinyl records within just a few years, has a certain tendency towards offering products at a premature stage. Some of them never succeed, like at least three generations of video disk players. Same applies video recorders using Betamax or even Video 2000; the digital compact cassette DCC seems to have disappeared as well, and its rival MiniDisc will probably follow sooner or later.
And the same guys and gals now want you to buy a digital set-top box. Quite frivolous, isn't it? Which? said that British consumers should wait and see before switching to the country's digital TV services set for launch later this year. Of course, that applies at least to the whole of Europe as well. The technology is still more or less at an experimental stadium. Additionally, in many countries there are still set-top wars going on between rivalling platforms; and where there have been "strategic alliances," the EU commission may still be examining those deals.
If you don't buy a set-top box now, you are most likely not going to miss anything. For commercial reasons, analogue broadcasts will stay on air for a very long time (just forget that nonsense the papers tell you about the U.S. where all broadcasts were to become digital by 2006. That will probably not happen within that time frame; and Europe as well as the rest of the world is not part of the U.S. anyway.) So far, there are almost no new channels offered on digital TV -- with the exception of pay-TV. Unscrambled new digital channels usually offer just time-shifted versions of the usual analogue channels, or a re-compilation of those.
Which? noted that upgrading could be inconvenient and expensive, while digital picture quality won't necessarily be much better than current analogue images. I would like to add that picture quality will definitely be worse when compared to a strong terrestrial or satellite analogue signal. As explained in earlier issues, a weak terrestrial or satellite digital signal will not produce any pictures on your TV screen at all.
Anyway... if digital TV turns out to be a consumer electronics revolution as the CD did, you will notice that in time because the price of digital set-top boxes will drop in turn. There's no need to buy any equipment right now.
Useless fact: Luxembourg is one of the world's most industrialised countries and has the world's second highest income per head after Switzerland.
And finally, here's an important announcement. GOD will appear on your television screen on March 25 on UHF channel 18 (495.25 MHz) all over North America. Yes, I actually mean GOD, but what's more important, he or she might interrupt your favourite program if it happens to be broadcast on channel 18. What a horrible thought!
You can complain to him or her six days later when he or she will make a public appearance at 3513 Ridgedale Drive in Garland, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, USA. GOD will split into hundreds of clones so he or she can speak with everyone at once. (Politically incorrect, by the way, as there are efforts underway all over the world to ban cloning of human beings. Maybe legislation should be appended to in order to prevent cloning of divine beings as well.)
If you think that this is just another cult, you're right. If you think that it comes from Texas, you're wrong. Some 140 followers of the Taiwanese "GOD's Salvation Church" have bought about 30 houses in Garland because their leader Heng-ming Chen [probably not a Taiwanese name; sounds Chinese to me] told them that "golden balls of light" had floated down from the sky and told him GOD was coming to suburban Dallas.
GOD's television appearance, however, will according to reports be confined to Northern America although channel 18 has the same frequency in Latin America, and NTSC is used there as well. In Europe, the frequency is known as UHF channel 24, just in case you want to check. GOD The Almighty should have no problems appearing on PAL and SECAM sets as well. In China, it's channel 16 and PAL. Australians are lucky once more: they will not have to suffer from any unsolicited broadcasts by GOD as frequencies below 527.25 MHz are not used for TV purposes (says the 1993 edition of the World Radio TV Handbook. Maybe I should buy a new one, though.) As far as I can tell from reports, satellite TV viewers (analogue and digital) will not suffer from any signal interruption as well.
There are no details available at which time of day GOD will appear on TV exactly, but there can't be any doubt that he or she will indeed host an afternoon talk show.
Back to GOD's Salvation Church and their Texas field camp. Cult members behave quite well, neighbours were reported as saying, but act a bit strange apart from that. They and even their children run around dressed completely in white garment (because GOD will wear white, too,) talk a lot about "spiritual bodies" and, that's the biggest problem, they actually seem to believe in all that crap.
Besides, they wear white cowboy hats to "just help the group fit in." [Maybe they watched "Dallas" a bit too often.]
Of course, the mass media will all be there in Garland on March 31, even if GOD were to cancel his or her first TV show on March 25. In the unlikely event of him or her not appearing at all, cult leader Chen has at least promised there won't be another one of those ugly mass suicides: "GOD is the giver of life. We would not take our lives under any circumstance." Wonder what they'll do instead then.
Stay tuned for the April Fool's Day edition of Sat-ND.
Useless fact: More than 95 per cent of the inhabitants of Luxembourg are Roman Catholics, and [despite that?] illiteracy is almost unknown.
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