Sat-ND, 30.9.96

Sat-ND 96-09-30 - Satellite and Media News

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This satellite will self-destruct in 15 seconds
Taiwan has admitted "severe technical problems" with its first national
satellite, ROCSAT 1, which will likely delay its launch originally
scheduled for April 1998. The satellite is designed and built by TRW
Inc. of the United States under a US$61-million contract, while launch
services will be supplied by Lockheed Missiles and Space for US$18
million. This probably wasn't a good idea as Taiwan's National Science
Council found some technical problems related to coupled loads between
the satellite and its launching vehicle. They could lead to the
destruction of the spacecraft and its launcher within 15 seconds from
Liu Chao-shiuan, chairman of the National Science Council, told a
parliamentary committee today he expected the launch to be postponed.
"The design will not necessarily cause the satellite to explode within
15 seconds, but since it has the potential risk, we must try to fix the
problems and reduce such risk to the minimum level," he added.

ECHOSTAR 2 at 119W
Echostar Communications Corporation let it be known that their second
Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), which launched successfully on Sept.
10, 1996, from Kourou, French Guiana, has reached its FCC-assigned final
orbit at 119 degrees West Longitude. "We were able to integrate this
satellite and launch it successfully in record time with the help of
Arianespace, Lockheed Martin and AT&T Skynet Satellite Services," said
Charlie Ergen, chairman and CEO, EchoStar Communications Corporation.
The Lockheed Martin Series 7000 satellite, with 16 transponders capable
of transmitting over 100 additional channels for the company's DISH
Network(SM) satellite television service, is expected to deliver
programming from its final orbital location at 119 degrees West
Longitude by November 1. The new satellite will include programming
complementary to that offered by the DISH Network on ECHOSTAR 1 with
expanded Pay-Per-View, sports, movies and educational programming. In
addition, ECHOSTAR 2 will also be used for testing business television
delivery and Internet applications.
EchoStar is presently petitioning the U.S. Federal communications
Commission (FCC) to further expand its channel offerings to consumers by
using all available satellite capacity. The first step in this process
began last Friday when EchoStar started using five additional
transponders following a ninety-day approval by the FCC. The total
number of used transponders now totals 26, enabling the transmission of
up to 150 digitally compressed channels.

BBC explains pay TV plans
More details have emerged on the BBC's activities to set up an
internationally distributed package of theme channels. The corporation's
commercial arm, BBC Worldwide Television,  today announced it was to
enter into "exclusive negotiations" with partners in the UK and the US
to create a number of subscription TV channels. Those partners are, as
frequently reported, Flextech Plc for the development of UK pay TV
services, and Discovery Communications of the USA for the international
package. Both companies are, in effect, controlled by the U.S. cable
giant TCI. 
A BBC spokesman said this was "one of the most important ventures it has
ever gone into. It will expand people's choice, allowing viewers to
catch up with good programmes they missed or to pursue their particular
interests, while at the same time augmenting the income from the licence
fee." He added that BBC Worldwide would be able to contribute up to 15
percent to the BBC's income, should the deals go through. Currently,
only 5 percent of the BBC's earnings stem from their commercial venture.

Tee-Comm leaves ExpressVu
The Canadian satellite communications company Tee-Comm Electronics has
left the Canadian digital TV venture ExpressVu which still is on halt
owing to regulatory issues. The company's former 21 percent stake is
currently held by a trustee. According to an ExpressVu press release,
the interest will be purchased by BCE Inc., WIC Western International
Communications Ltd. and/or Canadian Satellite Communications Inc.,
pending approval by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications
Commission (CRTC.)
In August, Tee-Comm had announced it would apply for a separate Canadian
digital TV license, stressing it was a move independent from ExpressVu.
Tee-Comm also owns AlphaStar Television Network Inc., the first
MPEG-2/DVB compliant digital direct-to-home satellite television
provider which offers the Alphastar TV package in the USA. 
Last June, Hyundai Electronics America (HEA) made a strategic investment
in Tee-Comm which had ordered 100,000 set-top boxes from HEA's
subsidiary TV/COM before.

ARD plans Volksdecoder
What seemed a potentially successful business a few months ago, now has
become a running gag in Germany: Digital TV. There is some, set up by
media magnate Leo Kirch, but nobody buys the decoders. And Mr Kirch is
not to keen to sell them because the set-top boxes are heavily
subsidised. Other companies have put their planned digital TV ventures
on halt or even sacked them completely.
The network of German regional pubcasters, ARD, surprised the German
public yesterday with the announcement that it would use a decoder
system of its own which will cost just DM200 (US$140.) As the ARD has no
money anyway, it will probably not be subsidised. Instead, the box will
simply contain what's necessary. For example, there will be no slot you
could insert a viewing card to -- which also means that all services
should be freely available at least to the German audience.
ARD chairman Albrecht Scharf of Bavaria's pubcaster BR stressed that
viewers shouldn't be forced to buy the still expensive [Kirch/Nokia]
decoder in order to watch the multiplexed ARD programming. So far, this
seems to be just an offer to the electronics industry. An ARD spokesman
said it would be "up to them to react." Contrary to earlier reports,
there is no firm date set for the introduction of the ARD decoder. The
network will start digital broadcasts next year within some pilot

Thoma on the future of German TV
"There are not enough commercials for 18 channels." This is how Dr
Helmut Thoma, head of Germany's most successful commercial TV station
RTL, characterised the state of the German TV market today at a
discussion of the European Business School in Oestrich-Winkel. Of the
some 30 free channels available today, including public broadcasters,
just four to six commercial stations will survive, he said. Currently,
just two of them were profitable -- as far as I know, RTL and Pro
Thoma again stressed that digital TV was just a form of "media mad cows
disease" while pointing out that there were almost "more children's
channels than children." Digital distribution of TV channels would
finally prevail owing to cost-effectiveness, but pay TV would not be a
big deal in Germany.
Other participants attending the event, of course, assessed the
situation completely different. Karl-Ulrich Kuhlo, head of the ailing
German news channel n-tv, for example said that pay-TV theme channels
might be profitable if they attracted as less as 50,000 subscribers. 
Anyway. Dr Thoma is entertaining, he has an interesting Austrian accent
('cause that's where he comes from,) and so far has always told the
truth even when it hurt. RTL, please: Give him a TV show of his own.
He's much better that so much of your current presenters!

Zeroes and ones
By Grandpa "Thou shalt not swear" Zheng

Compare for yourself
- German family minister Miss Nolte (you should see her, by the way)
today announced that some Internet pages were put on the so-called Index
of the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften (BPJ.) That
means that the pages, offered legally by the Canadian revisionist Ernst
Zündel on a U.S. server, must not be made accessible to minors in
Germany. Internet access providers, she said, had to obey this ruling.
She admitted that banning the pages was not as easy as prohibiting a
magazine or a video from being accessed by youths. She did not mention
that this was impossible after all, while nonetheless announcing a
planned Multimedia law would soon do away with any remaining legal
- Malaysia's prime minister accused the West of spreading smut and
violence, particularly on the Internet. In a speech to the U.N. General
Assembly on Friday, Mahathir bin Mohamad alluded to the United States
when he said that if one great power could apply its laws to citizens of
another country for drug trafficking, "why cannot countries with
different moral codes extradite the traffickers of pornography for legal
"Before the whole world sinks deeper into moral decay, the international
community should act. Abuse of the ubiquitous Internet system must be
stopped," Malaysia's prime minister said.

Okay, take a deep breath and count to ten now. Then, go to a clean web
site such as http://www.newscorp.com/ where Mr Murdoch will present the
latest company figures of his News Corp. as from October 4. (Thanks to
Dr Sarmaz <DrSarmaz@aol.com> for this URL.)

Copyright 1996 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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