NORDIC MEDIA NEWS
Y2K–There’s growing concern over what may happen to the world’s computers when the year 1999 moves on to 2000. Programs and systems designed decades ago when computer capacity was at a premium, used just two digits to designate years, like 75 for 1975, and 98 for 1998. When they try to deal with a 00 for the year 2000, they may think it is 1900 instead.
Some of the less serious problems are that credit cards may stop working, along with elevators, microwave ovens, and VCRs. But worst case scenarios involve the failure of critical hospital equipment, air traffic control, and possibly even the safety systems at nuclear power stations.
Here at the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, virtually everything is run with computers. In today’s program, I’m joined in the studio by Hans Westerberg, who’s responsible for dealing with the Y2K problem, as it’s sometimes called. We’ll also be continuing to take up aspects of the issue here in Sweden in our monthly science magazine Horizon.
YLVA MARIA THOMPSON–The British magazine “What Satellite TV” recently announced its 1998 awards for the best satellite programming and channels, chosen in a reader poll. The Best Foreign Language Channel was Sweden’s pay film TV1000. What makes this interesting is TV1000 is restricted to viewers in Scandinavia, and the only way you can see it in Britain is with a special decoder and a pirate card. And the reason people in rather puritanical Britain go to great lengths to tune in is because TV1000 broadcasts hardcore pornography, something which is not even available in British adult bookstores, let alone on any legal TV channels.
Until recently those TV1000 programs were presented by former stripper Ylva Maria Thompson. She recently dropped by the Radio Sweden studios, and you can hear our conversation with her in the next edition of MediaScan.
SIRIUS–Britain’s Front Row (the new PPV service operated by cable operators as an alternative to BSkyB’s hitherto monopoly) Channels 50-54 are being relayed on Sirius 2, on 12.303 GHz in MPEG-2/Viaccress, SR 25537 FEC 7/8. CNBC Europe and Sci-Fi Channel Scandinavia have left 11.912 GHz on TV-SAT 2 and have moved to Sirius 2 (in D2-MAC/Eurocrypt). (“SATCO DX” and “Transponder News”)
DK 4 and Star TV have started on 12.437 GHz in clear MPEG-2 (SR 14994 FEC 7/8). Transmissions on 12.636 GHz are to end. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “SATCO DX”)
INTELSAT–Video Zone (from Sky Granada) has replaced CMT Europe on Intelsat 707 on 11.667 GHz in D2-MAC/Eurocrypt. (“SATCO DX”)
CANAL DIGITAL/SBS–Updating our previous reports, the agreement between Canal Digital and SBS reportedly guarantees that all three SBS channels (Sweden’s Kanal 5, Denmark’s TV Danmark, and Norway’s TV Norge) shall be available in all three countries when they are encoded this Fall. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”) Norway’s media giant Schibstedt, which already owns part of Norway’s TV2 (which owns part of TV Norge) is reported interested in buying into Sweden’s Kanal 5. (“Dagens Nyheter”) Disney is reportedly interested in selling its controlling share of SBS, which it acquired with ABC.
NPR–NPR Worldwide replaced America One on the Astra satellite system on April 1st. America One brought together programming from both of the public radio networks in the United States, National Public Radio and Public Radio International, which used to be called American Public Radio. In today’s program I’ve got NPR’s Director for News Broadcast Relations, Jeff Rosenberg, on the line. Jeff tells us what happened to America One (the money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ran out after 3 years), why NPR can afford to put NPR Worldwide on the air (the service is already running to Japan and via the American Forces Network), why PRI’s “Prairie Home Companion” is part of the service (PRI doesn’t have an exclusive agreement with Minnesota Public Radio, which produces the show), and whether NPR Worldwide will be longer- lived than America One (probably, but nothing is certain).
NPR Worldwide continues on the old America One channel, on Astra transponder 22, audio 7.74 MHz. Many of the PRI programs which have disappeared can be found on the World Radio Network, on the same transponder, audio 7.38 MHz.
ASTRA–The Sky PAL test card remains on Astra 1D at 29 degrees East, on 11.992 GHz. Astra Vision is on 11.817 GHz in clear MPEG-2, SR 27500 FEC 3/4. The BBC has tested on on 11.720 and 11.798 GHz (SR 27500 FEC 2/3) in clear MPEG-2. Sky is testing on 11.914 and 11.934 GHz, in clear MPEG-2 (SR 27500 FEC 2/3). There are 9 channels in the two multiplexes, with four Sky News copies in each, plus two channels with color bars on each transponder, plus three channels on each with Phillips test cards, which have the ID “SKY”. It looks as though there will be at least 25 Sky Box Office channels in the digital package, as some of the labels of the channels have SBO 16-20 on one transponder, SBO 21-25 on the other. (James Robinson, “SATCO DX” and “Transponder News”)
The Children’s Channel has ceased on Astra transponder 35. CNBC has moved its part time service from transponder 42 to transponder 35 at 07:00-13:00 hrs (which it shares with Challenge TV, two travel channels, and ScreenShop for short periods). TV Shop Europe is now on transponder 42 06:00-12:00 hrs. (“SATCO DX”) CNBC continues 24 hours on transponder 50. The Nordic Children’s Channel will cease on May 25. (Telia)
CMT Europe has left transponder 51, replaced by a “Betzdorf Uplink” test card, in clear PAL.
TV Shop Europe has replaced The Weather Channel on Astra transponder 60, 07:00-12:00 hrs CET. It shares this channel with Sky Box Office. TV Shop Europe is also on transponder 44 (otherwise Sky Movies Gold) 06:00-12:00 hrs. (“Transponder News”)
Austria’s ORF has begun on 12.633 GHz in clear MPEG-2, while ORF 2 and SF 1 have started on 12.692 GHz in MPEG- 2/Cryptoworks. (“SATCO DX” and “Transponder News”)
UK Horizons plans to begin this month on Astra transponder 57 in PAL with soft-encrypted Videocrypt. (“Transponder News”) It’s part of the UKTV promo channel on transponder 56.
EUTELSAT–The Discovery Channel has left 11.288 GHz (MPEG-2) on Hot Bird 1 and Animal Planet has closed its PAL service on 11.304 GHz on that satellite. It’s been replaced on that frequency with a new digital package with both Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel in MPEG-2/PowerVu, SR 27500, FEC 3/4. (“SATCO DX”)
Hot Bird 4 has left 29 degrees East and is now in its final position with the other Hot Bird satellites at 13 degrees East. There are Eutelsat Skyplex tests on 10.719 GHz in clear MPEG-2 (SR 27500 FEC 3/4). Hungary’s Duna TV has started on 10.815 GHz in clear PAL. The French TPS packages on Hot Bird 2 11.938 and 12.092 GHz have moved to Hot Bird 4 on 10.758 and 10.796 GHz. (“SATCO DX”) TPS is also to use 12.615, 12.635, 12.654, 12.673, 12.692, and 12.713 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Arabic News Network is moving to Hot Bird 4, 10.949 GHz from Hot Bird 2. RAI is expected to take over 11.766 GHz on Hot Bird 2. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Thailand’s TV 5 has ceased on Hot Bird 1 11.248 GHz, and is now only available in the Telespazio digital package on Hot Bird 3 on 12.111 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Cyprus Sat has left Eutelsat II-F4 and is now available only on Sirius 2. (“SATCO DX”)
INTELSAT–On April 1, CMT Europe also left Intelsat 605 (27.5 degrees West), 11.170 GHz PAL. (“SATCO DX”)
BRITAIN–The BBC has revealed that it will be providing separate viewing cards for its BBC digital services, although they will also form part of the Sky or Flextech digital packages. The corporation is required by its charter to provide BBC1 and 2 free of charge to the UK. (“What Satellite TV”)
BSKYB–Sky One, which has the sole English-language rights for Star Trek “Deep Space 9” and “Voyager” in Europe, has aired them by showing first one whole season (26 episodes) of one, followed by the whole season of the other. But something went wrong following the conclusion of the last season of DS9 on March 23. The following Monday, March 30, Sky should have broadcast part 2 of “Scorpion”, the first episode of the new “Voyager” season, and continuation of the cliff-hanger that ended the last season. Instead Sky announced contract problems, and showed a DS9 rerun. Yesterday, April 6, Sky showed a “Voyager” rerun, with no explanation. There is no information about the problem anywhere on the (oh so sloowwww) Sky website and the reference on Sky’s Teletext is to a page selling premium telephone calls with Science Fiction information. There is another cryptic reference on the 12th and last of Sky’s Teletext letters page. Sky’s only had 6 months to negotiate this deal….
English premier league soccer clubs have rejected a proposal from British Sky Broadcasting to introduce PPV TV coverage of matches from next season. A working party has been formed to consider the implications of PPV. Some of the smaller clubs fear PPV would widen the existing gulf between the richest clubs and the rest. (Reuters)
The launch schedule for British Interactive Broadcasting, the consortium of BSkyB, British Telecom, Midland Bank, and Panasonic to offer interactive services for Sky’s digital TV network, has been delayed. Originally scheduled for a start this summer, BIB will start as a “barker” or promo channel in November, with onscreen interactive advertising to appear in the Spring of 1999. E-mail, contests, banking, TV voting, and lottery ticket sales will be introduced in October, 1999. The full service has been pushed back to March, 2000, when extended retail services, online gambling, and downloadable video games wil be added. Plans for “walled garden” (that is, very restricted) Internet access have been scrapped. (“What Satellite TV”)
On the other hand, the European Commission may soon warn that it will not grant clearance to the BIB joint venture. European Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert said in January he was concerned about the venture because of the dominant position BSkyB and BT have in their own market sectors. A source close to the commissioner says the firms in the consortium have done nothing to allay these concerns. EU approval is recquired for the launch of BSkyB’s own digital TV platform, as this will be using set-top boxes subsidized by the BIB partners. The Commission is also concerned that as a result of the deal, BT would not be upgrading its telephone networks, which is essential to allow other companies to offer competing services. (Reuters)
ITALY–Shares in Italy’s Mediaset tumbled last week after the collapse of talks with Rupert Murdoch about his News Corp buying a controlling stake in the Italian broadcaster. A suprise visit to London by Mediaset majority stockholder Silvio Berlusconi to speak with Murdoch was not enough to revive hopes the two media barons would agree on an alliance, say analysts. A source close to the negotiations says Murdoch walked away because Berlusconi wanted too high a price. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has denied any impropiety after reports he did Murdoch a favor by asking Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi about his government’s attitude to Murdoch’s bid. Blair says he treats all media barons the same. During the recent election campaign, Murdoch’s “Sun” tabloid, traditionally anti-Labour, switched its support to Blair. (Reuters)
FASHION TV–Fashion TV, which features clad and semi-clad models on the catwalks, disappeared briefly from 13 degrees East 11.055 GHz from March 31, but returned a couple of days later.
RADIO–Merlin Communications International (the former BBC Transmitter Department) has announced its Merlin Network One service for International Specialist Broadcasters. Starting April 8, this will air on a trial basis every Wednesday at 17:00-01:00 hrs UTC, on shortwave frequencies to North America and Europe, and on Astra transponder 50 (CNBC) audio 7.38 and 7.56 MHz (CMR). (Richard Buckby)
Since the tests include a Radio Caroline show, I would have thought this was an April Fool’s joke, if Merlin didn’t have a perfectly respectable-looking press release with the shortwave schedule.
VOICE OF AMERICA–During his visit to Botswana last week, American President Bill Clinton announced plans to launch a new African service of the Voice of America, to promote democracy and respect for human rights. The new station, due to start broadcasting in May, will be known as Radio Democracy for Africa. It will transmit for 22 and 1/2 hours a week in 9 languages (including English, French, and Portuguese), with programs aimed at 19 countries, including Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (AFP)
BBC–On March 24 the BBC World Service launched an FM relay in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The new service, on 93.7 MHz, is mostly in English, but will also include one and a half hours of Kiswahili and 15 minutes of Somali every day. It is to be extended to Mombasa and the Indian Ocean coast later in the year. A similar 24 hour FM relay was launched in Madagascar a few days before the Kenyan relay started, and another began in Rwanda on 93.9 MHz on March 27. There are already BBC FM relays in Uganda and Tanzania. The BBC says it will maintain its critical coverage of Kenyan affairs despite the local relays, ruling out speculation reporting on Kenya would be soft to avoid annoying the government of President Daniel arap Moi. Merlin Communications International is relaying the signals to Africa over the Intelsat 707 satellite. (Reuters, AP, and Richard Buckby)
SOUTH AFRICA–Beaitng 6 other entrants, a consortium backed by Time Watner on March 30 won the licence to build a new TV network in South Africa. Midi Television, which is 20 percent owned by Time Warner, will create the first privately owned terrestrial channel in South Africa. It’s rivals were backed by networks from France, Sweden, Canada, Britain, and Australia, along with one with no overseas partner. (Curt Swinehart)
APSTAR–On March 14, a “mysterious” signal began interfering with the Apstar 1 satellite. By late March Chinese technicians were reporting that the interference was disrupting share- trading, earthquake monitoring systems, and pager services in China. The source is still unknown, but investigators have not ruled out domestic or foreign saboteurs. Technicians have ruled out a problem with the satellite itself, saying tests have showed the interference is Earth-based. (Reuters, SAT- ND, and “Satellite Times”)
INTELSAT–There’s a new package on Intelsat 701 (180 degrees) on 4.095 GHz (MPEG-2, SR 27500 FEC 3/4): Canal Plus New Caledonia (encoded), Canal Plus Polynesia (encoded), RFO 1, RFO 2, and Saudi Channel 1. (“SATCO DX”)
CNBC–Following its merger with Asia Business News, CNBC Asia has left 4.148 GHz (MPEG-2) on PAS-2 and 3.620 GHz (PAL) on Palapa C2 (113 degrees East). The early termination of its transponder lease on Palapa will cost NBC Asia more than 16 million dollars. (“SATCO DX” and TS-ASIA)
INDIA–India’s new BJP-led coaltion government has made it clear that it will not permit foreign ownership of private television broadcasting companies to exceed 20 percent. This is being seen as an attempt to force satellite broadcasters like Star, Zee, and Sony Entertainment to toe the government line. While many of these stations are free off satellite, the government could block their marketing for advertisers. (Curt Swinehart)
JAPAN–On April 1, NHK launched two new Asian TV services. NHK World TV is free-to-air, while NHK Premium TV, is a pay channel. Both services use Scientific Atlanta’s PowerVu digital encryption system. Beginning in October, NHK plans to begin uplinks from Singapore for distribution to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Additional plans call for another uplink from California to serve Latin America. (TS-ASIA)
JCSAT 4 has now completed its moved from 150 degrees East to 124 degrees East. JSkyB is testing on 12.658 GHz in clear MPEG-2, SR 21086, FEC 3/4. (“Satco DX”)
ASIASAT–Sky News has ceased on Asiasat-2 (100.5 degrees East) on 3.900 GHz (MPEG-2). It remains in the Star TV digital package on 3.700 GHz (“SATCO DX”) Star-TV launched the STAR News channel on AsiaSat-2 in February, to provide coverage of the the general elections in India. (TS-ASIA) It broadcasts in clear PAL on 3.740 GHz. Both Sky News and Star News of part of the Rupert Murdoch media empire.
Mongolian TV and Voice of America TV have left Asiasat-2 3.680 GHz. VOA TV programs are now included in WorldNet on 3.880 GHz, while Mongolian TV is on an Intelsat satellite. (“SATCO DX”)
INDIA–The Adult Channel Plus 21 is broadcasting to India from Apstar 2R (76 degrees East) on 3.760 GHz. (“SATCO DX” and Rudi Puhar in “Transponder News”)
DIGITAL TV–Federal regulators are preparing to block the 1 billion dollar sale of a key television satellite slot by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and MCI to a group of cable operators, according to sources close to the deal. The sources say staff of the telecommunications office in the anti-trust division of the Justice Department will recommend soon that the satellite sale to Primestar Partners be blocked outright or substantially modified. DBS is seeen as the strongest potential competitor to cable. Primestar is owned by cable giants TCI, Time-Warner, Comcast, Cox Communications, and MediaOne. (Reuters)
DISCOVERY/BBC–The BBC and Discovery have reached a new 600 million dollar deal for a BBC cable channel in the United States. BBC America was due to launch on March 29, with a mix of comedies and dramas, plus two hours a day of news. Initially the service is being carried by TCI, but there have been preliminary talks with the second largest US cable operator, Time-Warner, and Cox Communications has expressed interest. (“USA Today” via Michael Murray and Curt Swinehart)
INTELSAT–The Intelsat Assembly, meeting in Salvador, Brazil, on March 30-31, approved the creation of an independent spin- off, called New Skies Satellite, which will be incorporated in the Netherlands. This is supposed to be a first step in the privatization of Intelsat. The following satellites are to be transferred from Intelsat to New Skies:
In addition the Intelsat Ka-band frequency registration associated with the 95 degrees East and 40.5 degrees West will be transferred to New Skies. (Curt Swinehart) If this had been dated the following day, I would have assumed it was an April Fool’s joke.