Congratulations are in order to space visionary Arthur C. Clarke, who shortly after his 80th birthday was knighted by Tony Blair’s British government, in its first New Years honors list since taking office in May.
In 1945 Sir Arthur proposed the wild and crazy idea that artificial satellites at just the right distance from the Earth would orbit at the same speed as the planet’s rotation, making communications relays possible.
Congratulations as well to Christian Lyngemark of Helsingborg, Sweden, and his Satco DX website, which has just celebrated its second anniversary. Satco DX is an incredible encyclopedia of satellite broadcast news, which on its second birthday listed 160 satellites, 4504 TV channels, 1992 radio stations, with links to 4168 other satellite-related webpages.
NORDIC MEDIA NEWS:
SIRIUS–Sweden’s new Sirius 2 satellite has replaced Tele-X at 5 degrees East, after Tele-X was switched off on January 8. Among the channels on the satellite are:
- Swedish Television’s new digital SVT Europe service (12.380 GHz, SR 27500 FEC 3/4, encoded in Viaccess), including relays of Radio Sweden
- Digital transmissions from Denmark’s new DK4 (in the SVT package)
- Analog (12.207 GHz) and digital (12.245 GHz, SR 18750 FEC 1/2, also reported SR 27500 FEC 7/8) relays of the new Swedish business and documentary channel TV 8
- Kanal 5 in uncoded PAL on 12.476 GHz
- CNBC (originally EBN, see below) and Sci-Fi Channel are sharing 12.322 GHz in Eurocrypt M-encoded D2-MAC.
(“SATCO DX”, “SatNytt”, Richard Karlsson, and James Robinson)
RIK from Cyprus has also begun broadcasts from Sirius 2, in clear PAL on 12.265 GHz. This is the first customer for the Sirius 2 transponders distributed by General Electric to Europe. (Richard Karlsson)
THOR–The Scandinavian version of Nickelodeon is sharing a transponder on Thor 2 with the Sci-Fi Channel, 11.309 GHz in MPEG-2, encoded in Conax (SR 24500 FEC 7/8). (Richard Karlsson)
NRK’s shopping channel Canal M is sharing the NRK transponder on 11.325 GHz in clear D2-MAC at 01:00-17:00 hrs CET. (“SATCO DX”)
TVS–Denmark’s satellite and cable sports channel TVS closed December 31 after 10 months on the air. Owned by the Danish Telecommunications company Tele Danmark, the public broadcaster Danmark’s Radio, and the Danish soccer association, TVS was doing all right until it began coding broadcasts four months ago. Only 11,000 subscribers were willing to pay for what had been a free service. TVS transmit on Intelsat 707 on 11.592 GHz and on Thor 2 on 11.389 GHz. (AP and Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
TV6–Here in Sweden, the satellite entertainment channel TV6 is about to follow that same TVS route, switching next month from free to subscription-only. (“Dagens Nyheter”) Not only has TV6 not been earning enough money, it’s also been cutting into the audience for sister station TV3, also run by the Kinnevik media empire.
TV–TV3, which was Sweden’s first satellite TV station, just celebrated its 10th birthday. But its position has been undermined by rival satellite broadcaster Kanal Fem, Channel 5, and Sweden’s private terrestrial broadcaster TV4.
A new survey indicates that on an average day TV4 is Sweden’s most popular channel, with 27 percent of households tuning in. Public broadcaster Swedish Television is close behind, with SVT2 at 26 percent, and SVT1 at 22 percent. Satellite and cable only TV3 attracts 10 percent, with Channel 5 rapidly closing, now up to 6 percent viewership. (TT)
TV4–Kinnevik took a hit recently when it lost its representation on the TV4 board. The company had been the largest single stockholder in the private terrestrial broadcaster. But late last year the rival Bonniers publishing concern and one of its Finnish partners bought into TV4, and gained enough control to install its own people on the board instead of Kinnevik’s owner Jan Stenbeck and two of his underlings. (“Dagens Nyheter”, “Svenska Dagbladet”)
So broadcast media concentration here has been broken up a bit, even if Minister of Culture Marita Ulvskoog seems to be far more concerned about old media power Bonniers (newspapers, magazine, and book publishing) instead of new media conglomerate Kinnevik (satellite TV channels and distribution, radio, cable networks, long distance and local telephone company, GSM operator, Internet provider), and its Rupert Murdoch wannabe, Jan Stenbeck.
INTERNET VIA SATELLITE–Kinnevik has yet to announce any plans for digital broadcasting. But it’s stolen a match on rival Canal Digital, by offering digital satellite access to the Internet, without even having to buy a digital receiver. The downlink is on Sirius 2, at 200 to 300 kbps, 10 times the speed of an ordinary modem, with the return path by telephone. The system involves a complete satellite receiver on a computer PCI card, so user’s families can continue to watch satellite TV. (NewsWire, Tele2, “SatNytt”)
INTERNET VIA CABLE–Stockholm’s largest cable network, Stjärn-TV, has begun tests of Internet services to 300 selected households. The system currently has the capacity to provide the Internet to 30,000 of its 226,000 households. The service will probably be a closed version of the Web, concentrating on sites with news, shopping, banking services, and entertainment. (“Dagens Industri” via “SatNytt”)
Telia is also offering Internet access via its new digital network. This is supposed to access the entire Web, and not just selected sites. Unfortunately the promised digital decoder boxes for Telia’s digital cable system have yet to be marketed. A Radio Sweden colleague who called Telia was told to contact a particular TV rental company, which in turn said they had received no information about digital decoders from Telia. According to Telia, prospective Internet users will have to have their landlords agree to (and pay for) new additions, including new cable wall outlets.
CABLE PACKAGES–The Swedish cartel authorities have ruled that it is legal for cable operators to offer channels in packages, rather than a la carte, since selling channels individually would increase the cost to consumers. The Swedish Tenants Union had filed the complaint. Telia Cable says it would gladly offer a la carte channels, but the stations themselves block this by demanding too much compensation. Telia says this possibility will be available to digital subscribers. (“Svenska Dagbladet”, Dagens Ekot, and “SatNytt”)
DIGITAL SATELLITE BROADCASTING–Canal Digital has yet to start marketing digital receivers for its new service. But “Aftonbladet’s” TV commentator Frank ™stergren has gotten his hands on a Nokia Medimaster box. However, it seems there are some problems. Frank writes in “Aftonbladet”:
“Nokia and Canal Digital should think about user-friendliness. When the Mediamaster was upgraded a short time ago, I swore a bit when the new software was downloaded. Now you can’t use the automatic channel search to save channels from different satellites. If I’ve downloaded everything from Thor and, for example, go over to Astra, then the Thor channels are erased. I’m forced to individually save the approximately 250 Astra channels. It’s not hard to work out that this has to do with Canal Digital wanting us to limit outselves to its package. But Canal Digital should have learned enough about the Nordic market by now to know that you can’t afford to make things even more difficult if you want to succeed digitally.”
WRN–The World Radio Network, which relays Radio Sweden and many other international broadcasters, on satellite, local rebroadcast, and the Internet, has taken a big step into Eastern Europe. Since January 15th, WRN has been included in Digital Audio Broadcasting tests in Warsaw, Poland, the first multi-lingual DAB broadcaster in Eastern Europe. There are also plans to extend the WRN relays to southwestern Poland. (WRN) Of course, we still haven’t seen any DAB receivers in the stores yet.
Some weeks ago I visited the WRN offices in London, and in today’s program you can hear the network’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Simon Spanswick, describe their plans for DAB and other digital services, including digital satellites and the Internet. We’ll be continuing our conversation about WRN’s upcoming projects in the next edition of MediaScan.
ESTONIA–Sweden’s Telia has been blocked from investing in cable networks in Estonia by a court in Tallinn. A rival, owned by the city of Tallinn, accused the Swedish company of monopoly practices. Telia is appealing the decision. Telia owns 60 percent of the cable operator Starman, as well as 24.5 percent of both the Estonian Telephone Company and the Estonian Mobile Telephone Company, both of which are 51 percent held by Estonian Telecom. (“Dagens Industri” via “SatNytt”)
Kinnevik’s MTV-clone ZTV began broadcasts in Estonia on January 12. ZTV Eesti initially is broadcasting for one hour a day, in a window on Kinnevik’s Estonian version of TV3, which unlike the Scandinavian versions of the channel is national and terrestrial in Estonia. There are plans as well to expand ZTV to Lativa and Lithuania. (“Metro”)
CNBC/EBN–Following an agreement between NBC and Dow Jones, European Business News merged into CNBC Europe. Beginning January 12, the transmissions on Astra transponder 42 (06:00-12:00 hrs UTC in Videocrypt 1) and 50 (24 hours uncoded PAL), Hot Bird 1 (24 hours uncoded PAL) on 11.262 GHz, and Sirius 2 on 12.322 GHz (Eurocrypt D2-MAC) are carrying the same CNBC programming. (James Robinson and Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
ASTRA–Travel Industry Channel is now sharing transponder 35 (with TCC and Challenge TV) in uncoded PAL, at 05:00-07:00 hrs CET. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Sky Box Office now carries a 24 hour promo channel on transponder 57, in soft Videocrypt 1. This has enabled Sky Box Office 1-4, which use four separate transponders, to expand their film programming. (James Robinson)
The German educational channel BR Alpha has started broadcasts on Astra transponder 32, in clear PAL. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Hessen Fernsehen has begun test transmissions in uncoded PAL on transponder 40. A number of HR radio channels are included, using the ADR system. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Some of the (digital) services on the new Astra 1G satellite are Germany’s ARD (transponders 111 and 120), ZDF Vision (transponder 115), Pro Sieben Digital Media (transponder 120) and Austria’s ORF and Switzerland’s SRG (transponder 117). Beta Teknik is replacing ARD on transponder 101. There are digital test carriers on tranponders 113 and 115 on 1G and on transponders 73, 79, and 101, on 1E and 1F, the former home of these German stations. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and James Robinson)
Vivir and Taquilla 9 and 10 have joined the Spanish Canal Satelite Digital package on transponder 110. (James Robinson)
Swiss Radio International is broadcasting a test music program on Teleclub’s transponder 55, on 8.46 GHz. (James Robinson)
KOPERNIKUS–The ARD and ZDF packages have started on Kopernikus 3 on 11.498, 11.616, and 12.692 GHz in clear MPEG-2, almost the same frequencies as on Astra 1G. (“SATCO DX”)
SKY–British Sky Broadcasting says the launch of its 200 channel digital system has been moved back from Spring until early Summer. Industry sources say this is because manufacturers have yet to start producing the set-top decoders needed. While Sky says it is still on target, Pace has told Reuters that it will not begin producing the decoders during its current fiscal year, which ends in May. A separate source says the manufacturing of the boxes has been put on hold pending European regulatory approval of BSkyB’s partly owned interactive joint venture called British Interactive Broadcasting. BSkyB also says SES has confirmed it will use a spare satellite to ensure that digital transponder capacity will be available for BSkyB by this Spring. (Reuters)
Astra 2A, which is to be placed at 28.2 degrees West and will carry digital services from BSkyB and the BBC, is scheduled to launch with a Proton rocket on March 30. We’ve reported before that now that the 1G satellite is in orbit, SES may move one of the older Astra satellites to 28 degrees East for digital relays before 2A is in orbit.
European Union sources say the European Commission has expressed concerns that BIB may prevent fair competition in the new digital TV market. They say the Commission has informed the companies involved that it is particularly worried BIB could use its control of set-top decoders to keep competitors at bay. The Commission has also raised objections about the fact that BSkyB would benefit from subsidizing decoders to launch its digital TV service. (Reuters)
Meanwhile, BSkyB is reported to be waging a vendetta against a small cable company in West London, which dropped Sky News from its service. The row broke out last November when General Cable dropped Sky News in protest at a 10 percent rise in Sky’s charge for the channel, making it twice as expensive as any rival channel. In its place General Cable started to carry the BBC’s new 24 hours news channel.
In response, BSkyB has taken out full-page ads in local newspapers denouncing the move by General Cable, and urging readers to telephone the company complaints hotline. The move is particularly infuriating to Sky, since its studios in Isleworth are within the General Cable franchise area. (“Sunday Telegraph”)
PORNOGRAPHY–The British government has moved to ban a French hardcore poronography channel from broadcasting to Britain. Culture Secretary Chris Smith wrote on January 9 to Eurotica Rendezvous warning it that under EU rules, it had 15 days to make its services comply with rules set by Britain’s Independent Television Commission (which outlaw hardcore, and place severe restrictions on the kind of softcore that is broadcast in the clear, for example, in Germany). If the ban goes ahead, the channel would be the 5th to be barred in Britain, joinning Red Hot Television, TV Erotica, Rendez Vois, and Satisfaction Club TV. (AP)
EUTELSAT–The Italian adult channel Satisfaction Club TV has moved to Hot Bird 2 on 11.977 GHz. It is in PAL and is still coded in Ping Pong (which used to be called Nokia Line Shuffling. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”) SCT is also reported back on 11.163 GHz. (“SATCO DX”)
Wereldomroep TV on Hot Bird 1 on 11.283 GHz has changed its name to BVN, Beste van Nederland. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Thai TV5 Global Network has begun digital transmissions on Hot Bird 1 on 11.248 GHz, in clear MPEG-2, SR 5632 FEC 3/4. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “SATCO DX”)
Romania’s Pro TV is on Hot Bird 3 on 12.206 GHz in uncoded MPEG-2, SR 5632 FEC 7/8. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
The Spanish channels TVE Internacional, Canal 24 Horas, and Onyx have begun on Hot Bird 3 on 12.111 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“SATCO DX”)
The Iranian IRIB’s Jaam-e-Jam TV Network has started tests on Hot Bird 3 on 12.437 GHz, in uncoded PAL. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
SLOVAKIA–Norway’s Telenor (operator of Thor 1 and 2) is opening a new digital satellite uplink station in Bratislava, Slovakia. The new station will receive the signals from seven TV channels and will put the multiplexed signal through to Telenor’s satellites at 1 degree West. The channels that are already being distributed via the new station are BBC Prime, TV1 Estland, STV and VTV (both Slovakian). A Czech channel and Shopping TV will also be uplinked soon. (Curt Swinehart)
VTV has switched from PAL to clear MPEG-2 on Intelsat 707 on 11.540 GHz. BBC Prime has been added to the package on that transponder. (“SATCO DX”)
INTELSAT–Romania’s Prime TV has started on Intelsat 705 (18 degrees West) on 10.978 GHz, in clear MPEG-2. (“SATCO DX”)
Intelsat 803 has replaced Intelsat 515 at 21.3 degrees West. (“SATCO DX”)
GERMANY–The German cartel office says it opposes the digital TV alliance betwen Bertelsmann and the Kirch Group, dealing a further blow to the struggling venture. The cartel authority said on January 9 that the proposed link-up would dominate the market, and should be blocked. While the cartel office’s opinion doesn’t kill the deal, it could become decisive if the European Commission refers the case to Berlin. The commission has until January 21 to decide whether to rule on the plan or pass it on to the German cartel office. (“Wall Street Journal”)
Following the ruling, it’s been reported that Bertelsmann is having second thoughts about the venture, arguing that it might back out if its Belgian business partner Albert Frere doesn’t support the project. (“Wall Street Journal”)
EASTERN EUROPE–Alfa TV, an international satellite channel set up by 25 countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, is due to start tests from Budapest in March, 1998, although regular broadcasts are not expected until 1999. The channel, which is being financed initially by the European Union and private sponsors, hopes to eventually become self-financing. It plans to offer simultaneous broadcasts in eight languages. Alfa is intended to be a public TV channel, emphasizing European cultural and intellectual values. (Curt Swinehart)
SPAIN/LATIN AMERICA–The shareholders of Via Digital have approved the sale of a stake in their company to Galaxy Latin America, provider of the DirecTV service to Latin America and the Caribbean. The 6.9 percent share could be increased to 17 percent. The agreement allows the exchange of new Spanish channels in Latin America and Spain. (Curt Swinehart)
FRANCE–Canal France International says it is suing France Telecom over a technical mistake that led to the broadcast of a pornographic film around the Arab world instead of a children’s program. Following the switching error at France Telecom, the Arab satellite operator Arabsat banned CFI, despite apologies from the channel and the French government. The ban dealt a blow to France’s efforts to reach audiences in the Arab world. (Reuters)
France’s state-owned TV5 will start trial transmissions to the Arab world in French and Arabic using Arabsat from January 25. This follows an agreement in October for Arabsat to lease transmission time to TV5. (Reuters)
INTELSAT–Changes in Murdoch channels: Fox Sports World has replaced Star Sports on Intelsat 703 (57 degrees East) in the Orbit Nework package. (“SATCO DX”)
CFI Afrique has started on Intelsat 605 on 3.935 GHz in clear MPEG-2, SR 8448 FEC 1/2. (“SATCO DX”)
TV5 Afrique has started on Intelsat 803 (21.5 degrees West) on 4.082 GHz in clear PAL. BFBS TV has started on 4.082 GHz in encoded MPEG-2 (SR 6398 FEC 1/2), along with these radio stations (in the clear): BFBS World 1/2/3, BFBS Falklands, BFBS Belize, and BFBS Cyprus. (“SATCO DX”)
Nigeria’s NTA has started on Intelsat 605 (27.5 degrees West) on 4.093 GHz, in clear PAL. (“SATCO DX”)
PORTUGAL–On January 7 the Portuguese state broadcaster RTP launched a new service to Portugal’s former African colonies, RTP Africa. The 24 hour channel will feature public service programming from RTP, including news and sports, and special programs about Africa. It can be found at 3.836 GHz on Express 2 at 14 degrees West, in clear MPEG-2. RTP already beams RTP International by satellite to North America, Europe, and Asia. (Reuters and “SATCO DX”)
IRAN–At the end of December, Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized 200 satellite dishes and related equipment in Tehran, as part of a campaign to check Western cultural inroads. The Islamic republic banned satellite equipment three years ago, to keep people from watching “depraved and anti-Islamic” foreign television programs. (AFP)
LIBERIA–The Liberian government has closed down Radio Monrovia, which relays the Voice of America, in a dispute over frequencies. This is the second Liberian FM station closed by the government in the dispute. The first was Star Radio, funded by the US government as a neutral voice for Liberia’s political groups. Star Radio was established in the run-up to Liberia’s July elections, and broadcast in 14 local languages, English and French, on FM and shortwave. Radio Monrovia was cited for allegedly reassigning two of its frequencies to Star Radio. President Charles Taylor closed down his own Kiss FM station on January 5, saying it was inefficient. It came back on the air shortly afterwards, without any explanation. Human rights groups, diplomats, and the church have condemned an appparent crackdown on the media in general. (Reuters)
SOUTH AFRICA–Time Warner will invest 20 million dollars in South Africa’s new terrestrial TV network, if its local partner Midi Television is granted the licence. Six other ventures are bidding for a licence, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (Curt Swinehart)
JAPAN–Rupert Murdoch’s JSkyB and rival digital satellite broadcaster PerfecTV have reached a tentative agreement to merge in February. This follows the launch of Japan’s third digital DBS broadcaster, Hughes’ DirecTV, in December. (Curt Swinehart)
CHINA–On December 25, Beijing’s BTV 1 started on Asiasat-2 on 12.329 GHz in clear MPEG-2. BTV, which is hoping to reach Chinese outside China, is including a 30 minute program in seven languages. (“SATCO DX” and “China Daily”)
The Hong Kong-based APT Satellite Holdings is planning to set up a DBS system to China, pending approval from the authorities. The service, which would also be aimed at Macau and Taiwan, hopes to have the go-ahead by March. APT operates the Apstar satellites. (AFP and Curt Swinehart)
Meanwhile, the American Congress has more than doubled the funding for Radio Free Asia to expand its broadcasts to China and Tibet. The new budget is for more than 24 million dollars, compared to 9 million the previous year. From transmitters in the Pacific, RFA broadcasts to China, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, and Cambodia. With the new funding, Mandarin broadcasts will increase from 5 to 12 hours a day, and Tibetan from 2 to 4 hours, along with new programming in Cantonese and Uighur. (AFP)
INTELSAT–On December 21 the European Ariane rocket successfuly orbited Intelsat 804 from French Guiana. The new satellite will be located at 64 degrees East and will provide voice, data, and video services to the Indian Ocean region. It carries 38 C-band and 6 Ku-band transponders. Intelsat 801, which has been at 64 degrees East, is now moving to 31.5 degrees West. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Thai TV5 Global Nework has started on Intelsat 702 (177 degrees East) on 12.612 GHz, in clear MPEG-2. (“SATCO DX”)
ASIASAT–AsiaSat 3 went into a useless orbit, following a booster failure with a Russian Proton rocket on Christmas Day. The Hughes-built satellite was to have joined AsiaSat 1 and 2 in beaming broadcasts to Asia, the Middle East, and parts of the former Soviet Union.
The Satco Chart continues to list CNBC on Asiasat-2 (3.700 and 3.785 GHz, both MPEG-2), Palapa C2 (3.620 GHz in PAL and 11.645 GHz in MPEG-2), and PAS-2 (4.093 GHz in MPEG-2). ABN is still listed separately on Palapa C2 (4.040 GHz in PAL) and PAS-2 (4.148 GHz in MPEG-2). (“SATCO DX”)
ECHOSTAR–Echostar is planning to launch local channels to satellite subscribers, starting in six local markets. The company has uplinked the ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affliliates from New York, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas to its new Echostar 3, and has started selling the second dish needed to receive those local channels. Echostar 3, which is at 61.5 degrees West, also carries a variety of religious broadcasters, as well as some business and foreign language channels. Starting in March, EchoStar will offer new data services through a special computer card. (“SATCO DX” and Curt Swinehart)
DELAYS–Sinosat 1 will launch with Long March in February, Gorizont 33 will launch with Proton in March, Chinastar 1 will launch with Long March in March, Echostar 4 will launch with Proton in April. (“SATCO DX”)
The following launches are scheduled with Atlas: Intelsat 806 on March 3, Eutelsat W1 on May 12, Intelsat 805 on June 12, JCSAT 6 on July 20, and MCI 1 (formerly Sky 2) on August 21. (“SATCO DX”)