Sat-ND, 26.11.1997 A place where nothing ever happens
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The European Space Agency (ESA) has handed over launch pad 3 (ELA 3) at the European Spaceport to commercial launch service provider Arianespace.
Arianespace's Operations Directorate is now responsible for the management, maintenance and operation of both ELA 2 and ELA 3, which together make up the ground facilities for Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 at the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
ELA 3 plays an important role in industrial, commercial and operational services for Europe's new Ariane 5 launcher, including integration, launch chronology, final payload preparation, installations maintenance, and quality and safety control. The handover of ELA 3 will allow Arianespace to begin preparations for the Ariane Flight 503 launch campaign in the second quarter of 1998.
Arianespace said in a press release that over 250 engineers and technicians from 12 European companies will act as subcontractors for the operation of ELA 3 under the management of Arianespace. Further optimisation of the facilities will allow for an increase in the number of launches to eight to ten Ariane 5 launches per year by the beginning of the next decade. Arianespace said it was aiming at progressively expanding its overall launch capacity by 50 percent.
NASA and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) have in a joint effort been studying global trends in satellite communications systems recently. The results are due to be presented next Tuesday.
However, the main points of the study are already known. The U.S. can continue to lead the world in this field, if industry, government and science co-operate in the most productive ways. A specific chance to keep dominating the rest of the world was to deliver high-bandwidth services directly to consumers world-wide, at least if these services are offered before comparable terrestrial services have any chance to develop. The study also warns that some of the more specialised offerings have to be carefully planned, otherwise there will be more capacity than needed after all which might lead to a costly shakeout.
The satellite-based Global Positioning System can at least tell you where you are. The answer will now even cost you less than US$100.
Yes, the GPS system may be used at no charge anyway, but the receivers used to be rather expensive even though prices had come down over the past few years. Magellan, a subsidiary of Orbital Sciences Corp., said its "GPS Pioneer" personal navigator was now available at over 10,000 retail outlets in the U.S. for [guess what] US$99.99.
This so-called newsletter is not about useless christmas presents for bored U.S. citizens, but if Magellan can do it, other companies in the world can as well. So, maybe this time next year we'll remember Personal GPS as the hype that followed Tamagotchi.
Don't get me wrong: there are many uses for GPS. However, I usually know where I am, and I guess that's true for most of us most of the time. That's probably the reason why Magellan also has some suggestions what to do with their 99.99-gadget even though in most cases a decent map, maybe in combination with a compass, will do the trick as well.
Entertainment -- Set up treasure hunts, plan races or just explore new places.
Physical fitness -- Monitor your speed in a kayak or record distance travelled in a canoe. [What about bicycles?]
Travel -- Find your way across strange countryside or just back to the hotel.
Instruction -- Teach children about the power of satellite navigation. [That should've read "Teach children about the power of marketing, i.e. selling people things they don't really need ;-]
Environmental education -- Locate and study plants, animals or historical sites. [People have been doing this for centuries without any GPS.]
U.S. mainstream media are full of praise: the country's Federal Communications Commission FCC has acted to give foreign companies a better shot at entering the nation's US$200 billion telecommunications business. After all, more competition could mean the cost of an overseas phone call would be reduced by 80 percent.
The United States is among the first countries to implement the WTO pact, which was agreed to last February by 69 nations. It will open more than 90 percent of the US$600-billion global market for phone, cellular, satellite and other communications services.
It looks totally different from a European perspective, of course. The European Commission today said it would take action if the U.S. did not change their plan for implementing the WTO global telecommunications trade pact.
While the markets may be opened up to competition, the U.S. government could block entry if they feel a foreign company would hurt competition or raise trade, national security or other concerns. "We are concerned with what the FCC proposed, especially in the context of the national interest test, which is open-ended," a spokesman for the European Commission said.
Did you know that there are 410 TV stations in Europe, 338 on a national basis, 26 pan-European ones, 40 pay-TV channels and six digital bouquets? 300 stations are commercial, 110 public. In 1996, they aired 3.5 million hours of programming
IP Germany, a company that acquires commercials for the RTL family of channels, has once more presented its findings to the public in a study called "Television 97."
There are some striking differences between audiences in different countries. Britons have almost reached U.S. standards in terms of daily viewing times: they watch TV for an average of 229 minutes per day while U.S. citizens spend 239 minutes in front of the tube. Italians and Hungarians also don't have anything better to do, they watch TV for 222 minutes per day. [Just a reminder that we're talking about almost 4 hours per day here, and that's just an average value.]
Austrians and German-speaking Swiss behave much more sensible, they just watch 141 and 138 minutes per day respectively, more than 1½ hours less. By the way: measuring systems differ from country to country, but that does not explain huge differences like that. The Germans are meanwhile on their way to the top group of time wasters, increasing their TV intake to 195 minutes per day.
IP has detected an interesting development in Southern Europe: a second prime time, with more or 30 percent of households watching TV even on weekdays, has developed around noon. Researchers attribute the "Camel Syndrome" to the traditional Siesta in Spain, Portugal and Italy even though the development has meanwhile reached even France and Belgium.
There's more bad news. Almost every household has at least a TV set the European average is 97 percent (USA: 98 percent.) Portugal has even reached the 100-percent mark. All in all, Europe is the largest satellite and cable market in the world: one in three households, 81 million in total, have access to cable or satellite. There are regional differences, though: the rate is 99 percent in the Netherlands (mostly cable) but just 1 percent in Greece (not only for a lack of cable infrastructure but also for the fact that most satellite footprints do not include Greece.)
When I last reported about this recurring IP study, I received requests for further information. I suggest you directly contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more details. Don't forget to ask him or her how people manage to sit down in front of a TV set staring at it fours hours a day, which usually is half of their spare time [unless they're part of the ever-growing force of unemployed in Europe, which would explain some of the findings. Advertisers would not be amused, though. Jobless TV viewers don't have too much purchasing power.]
A long-awaited bill to adapt French broadcasting laws to recent developments like digital television will be presented to the French Parliament after local elections due to take place next March.
An announcement by Culture and Communications Minister Catherine Trautmann is expected at a Cabinet meeting at the end of December. The new legislation to be introduced by the newly-elected socialist government is expected to limit the stake any one shareholder can own in a media company to 25 percent. The limit had been increased to 49 percent by the former centre-right government.
Violence will be banned from Italian TV screens, at least as far as prime-time programming (including news shows) is concerned.
Public and commercial broadcasters reportedly have adopted voluntary measures to ban any kind of violence, fictional or not, from being shown before 10.30 p.m. local time. There will be exceptions for news broadcasts in case there's a "special public interest."
The measure was according to press reports taken to protect minors from watching violent scenes they might copy. It also calls for avoiding sensational reports on crimes which involve youths, either as offenders or as victims.
The Bulgarian Parliament has established a Media Council following a row over the appointment of state TV and radio directors.
The country's constitutional court had declared the appointment of some directors by the national Parliament unconstitutional. They will now be appointed by the newly created Media council that comprises seven members, four of which will be selected by the Parliament. The Bulgarian President will name the remaining three members.
Flextech Plc, the British television programming subsidiary of the U.S.-based Tele-Communications International Inc plans to launch a "transactional" travel channel in the UK.
"Transactional" probably boils down to the good old catchword "interactive" as the new channel, due to be launched in early 1998, will offer travel information and booking service in the home via television. Flextech will hold an 87.5 percent stake in the venture, with the rest held by the founders of the company that developed the initial concept.
Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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