RADIO SWEDEN–Here is an update to our current English shortwave frequency schedule. To North America, at 11:30 hrs UTC, we’re now using 15235 kHz instead of 15240, with 17870 kHz in parallel. (Note that 15240 kHz continues in Swedish at this time to Asia.)
To Asia at 01:30 hrs, we’ve added a new frequency of 9435 kHz, along with the existing 11985.
DIGITAL AM–Repeating our recent report that the International Telecommunications Union has brought together broadcasters, network operators, receiver and transmitter manufacturers, and others in a constortium (Digital Radio Mondiale or DRM) to produce a system for digital AM (that is long, medium and shortwave) broadcasting….This would give digital radio worldwide coverage, without the current fading and interference found on today’s analog shortwave. The new system would also allow broadcasters to use their current transmitters, as Simon Spanswick writes in the May issue of “BBC On Air”: “…a majority of the expensive transmitters which have been installed around the world can be modified to provide digital signals alongside analogue ones at a relatively low cost”. (ITU and “BBC On Air”) Sweden’s Teracom, which operates our transmitters, has begun experiments with various digital compression systems, and we’ll be reporting on them in a future program.
DIGITAL TV–Sweden’s governing Social Democrats and their Center Party allies have been publicly rebuked over the allocation of digital television channels in Sweden. Johan Jakobsson represents the opposition Liberal Party in the Digital TV committee, which reportedly will turn its recommendation over to the government for consideration on Thursday.
He says the report calls for giving three of the seven national allocations to public service broadcaster Swedish Television, for its two existing channels and a planned 24 hour news channel (SVT24). The other allocations would go to commercial terrestrial broadcaster TV4, the satellite and cable channel TV3, the French-owned pay service Canal Plus, and a new channel called Knowledge TV (Kunskaps-TV).
In an opinion piece in the national daily “Dagens Nyheter” Jakobsson says the decision represents too much government interference, and the Liberals refuse to accept it. He also complains about a government proposal to require cable companies to carry more free channels, which he says with Swedish Television’s current plans could ultimately mean up to 9 public service outlets. I called Johan Jakobsson and asked him to explain his objections, which he explains in today’s program. He says he would prefer market forces to decide for the government. But when pointed out that his party was involved in the auctioning off of private radio channels here to the highest bidder, a system that resulted in dozens of stations playing non-stop CD rock and pop and little else, he said invidivual channels should be format-allocated, one for public service, one for general entertainment, one for pay films, one for educational programming, etc, with bids within each category except the first and last.
The government will reportedly approve draft legislation close to the committee’s report on Thursday. (“Dagens Nyheter”) With support from the Center Party, the ruling Social Democrats have a majority in parliament, so there’s nothing the Liberals can do to block the proposal from going through.
SIRIUS–Cartoon Network Nordic has started on Sirius 2 on 12.437 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“SATCO DX”) Cartoon Network Nordic is not in parallel with the ordinary Cartoon Network on Astra transponder 37 (where the Swedish sound track has been removed from 7.56 MHz).
NORWAY–Norway’s NRK International on Intelsat 707, 11.174 GHz, is now coded in MPEG-2/Conax. Viewers outside the Nordic region can get subscriptions from NSB in Belgium. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
WRN/DAB–Turning to the digital radio front, Sweden like Britain, has had Digital Audio Broadcasting for a couple of years now. Unfortunately there are few, if any, receivers in the stores here yet, so only a handful of people can actually tune into the programs. But that hasn’t stopped our partners the World Radio Network from pursuing ambitious DAB plans. On his recent visit here, WRN’s Jeff Cohen outlined some of them, and you can hear his comments in today’s program.
EUTELSAT–Eros TV has started on Eutelsat II-F1, 11.658 GHz, in D2- MAC/Eurocrypt S2, 01:00-05:00 CET, in parallel with Eutelsat II-F3. (“SATCO DX”) From May 16, Eros is expanding its broadcast hours, with unscrambled general entertainment at 17:00-22:00 hrs CET, follwed by three hours of “adult entertainment” until the usual encrypted hardcore service starts at 01:00 hrs CET. (“What Satellite TV”)
The BT package on Hot Bird 3 on 12.188 GHz has moved to 12.092 GHz, in clear MPEG-2 (SR 27500, FEC 2/3). (“SATCO DX”) CMT may be gone, but Country Music Radio has expanded, with digital transmissions in the BT multiplex. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
The British government says it will give BT permission to provide nation-wide broadcasting services from 2001, lifting regulatory controls one year earlier than expected. Trade and Industry Minister Margaret Beckett also says BT and other national operators will be immediately free to broadcast entertainment services to the 17 percent of British homes outside the cable franchise areas. Despite the planned relaxation, BT says it is not interested in making TV programs and competing directly with cable operators or BSkyB. Instead BT has been urging clarification of regulatory restrictions, so it can invest to make the best and extensive use of its network and continue to offer broadcasting over the Internet. (Reuters)
France 3 has started on Hot Bird 4 as part of the TPS transponder on 10.911 GHz in clear MPEG-2. An Arabic package has started on 12.654 GHz in clear MPEG-2 (SR 27500, FEC 3/4): Sharjah TV, Bahrain TV, Saudi Channel 1, Kuwait TV, and Libya’s Jamahirya Satellite Channel. (“SATCO DX”)
The shopping channel Quantum, which has shared transponders with Eurosport on various satellites, now has its own 24 hour transponder on Hot Bird 4: 10.930 GHz in clear PAL, with German sound on 6.60 MHz, English on 7.02, Dutch on 7.20, and French on 7.38, (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Eutelsat is currently carrying out test broadcasts of Skyplex, a world first in onboard multiplexing of digital television, radio, and multimedia signals. The processor on Hot Bird 4 (10.719 GHz, SR 27500, FEC 3/4) can assemble six uplink carriers with a net bit rate of 6.3 Mbps into a downlink stream of 38 Mbps. Special demonstrations during May can be received directly on a TV connected to a digital receiver. The Skyplex unit on Hot Bird 5 will be launched this summer, and will be able to accomodate lower bit rates, down to 1 Mbps, and even down to 350 kbps, using advanced TDMA techniques. (Eutelsat)
POLAND–Following the report last time about the merger between Poland’s Wizja TV and Canal Plus, the launch of Wizja’s digital package on Astra has been postponed, replaced by their joint digital package, which will start in September. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
BRITAIN–Britain’s United News and Media has reached an agreement with British Digital Broadcasting. United will help develop channels and provide other services to BDB, which plans to launch a 15-channel digital terrestrial TV service in Britain this Fall. (Reuters)
GERMANY–The Kirch Group and Bertelsmann’s CLT-Ufa say they have proposed changes to their planned digital TV venture in an effort to overcome opposition from the European Union anti-trust authorities. The EU’s competition commissioner, Karel Van Miert, has repeatedly arned that the commission will block the venture if it isn’t modified. (“Wall Street Journal”)
INDIA–Indian Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj has called for a complete ban of “immoral” on-air advertisements for such products as alcohol and cigarettes. Swaraj’s threatened ban of “unacceptable” advertisements has caused concern among the Indian satellite community because liquor and tobacco ads tend to bring in the greatest revenues. According to estimates, Rupert Murdoch’s Star-TV alone stands to lose nearly USD 4 million a year is the ban is enforced. (Curt Swinehart)
On Apstar 2R (76.5 degrees East) there are two new digital transponders in MPEG-2/Digistar: 12.538 GHz (Viva Cinema, Discovery, TNT, Cartoon Network, Channel V Int., Channel V Asia, and Star Sports) and 12.660 GHz (Star Plus Japan, Star World, Star Movies Asia, Star Movies North, and Phoenix Chinese). (“SATCO DX”)
NEW ZEALAND–New Zealand’s Sky Television will rename its two existing television services on June 1. The move is in preparation for the arrival of digital TV. “HBO: The Movie Channel” will become Sky Movies, while “Orange” will become Sky One. (TS-ASIA) However, Sky says it faces a slight delay in the launch of its digital service. Originally scheduled for September 1, the company now says it hopes to start installing digital decoders by October. This follows an agreement with Pace’s Australian subsidiary to supply decoders for the satellite service. (Dow Jones)
VOICE OF AMERICA–Beginning May 28, the Voice of America is replacing its current English service with VOA News Now, a 24 hour all-news English language international radio service. This will be the VOA’s first change of format in two decades. The new format will be fast- paced, and will have shorter news and feature segments.
This does not mean the elimination of some of the VOA’s most popular programs. Kim Andrew Elliott’s “Communications World” program will continue, but as three different 9 minute editions, rather than as a single 29 minute program. The program will be aired Saturdays at 36 minutes past the hour, odd UTC hours (01:36, 03:36 etc.). “Press Conference USA” and “Issues in the News” will remain largely intact, though reduced from 29 to 22 minutes.
Transmissions of music will be broadcast solely via satellite in the future. VOA’s Special English will continue on separate frequencies (which will probably come as a great relief to native speakers of the language around the world). The union that represents VOA broadcasters says that more time is necessary for the negotiations, so the date of the transition may be postponed. (Kim Andew Elliott, Voice of America)
CANALES–Liberty Media Corporation (owned by cable giant TCI) has announced “Canales n”, a digital package of Spanish-language channels, that is expected to launch in June. The package will consist of: Canal 9, CBS TeleNoticias, CineLatino, Discovery en Espanol, Fox Sports Americas, BoxExitos, BoxTejano, and channels of DMX Latino-formatted digital audio. (Curt Swinehart)
PAS–Hughes Electronics has agreed to pay USD 846 million for the stake in PanAmSat held by Mexican media company Grupo Televisa and a small group of founding PAS shareholders. Hughes is already a majority of the global satellite system, and upon completion of the deal its share will rise to 81 percent, up from 71.5 percent. (CNNfn via Maryanne Kehoe)
CONTEST–MLESAT is announcing a special contest for the month of May, that will award a free copy of “The World of Satellite TV for Asia, the Pacific Rim, and the Middle East” every day from May 3 to the individual who makes the most important satellite observation contribution to MLESAT’s online list of analog and digital satellite TV and audio services for satellites between 26 and 183 degees East longitude. The observer who makes the most important contribution for the entire month of May will win a free one year subscription to MLESAT’s “Satellites On Disk Library Online”.
METEORS–In November, the Earth’s atmosphere will be hit with the most severe meteor shower in 33 years, a bombardment of debris that could damage or destroy some of the nearly 500 satellites that provide worldwide communications, navigation, and weather-watching. Some 200 commercial and military satellite operators, insurers, and scientists have been meeting in Manhattan Beach, California to discuss how they can prepare, such as turning off satellites, or turning away from the stream of particles. (AP)
ASISAT–Hughes Electronics says it will try to fix the orbit of the Asiasat 3 satellite by sending it around the Moon, to use the Earth’s natural satellite’s gravity to shoot Asiasat back around the Earth. Asiasat-3 was launched from Kazakhstan on December 25, but the Proton rocket malfunctioned, leaving the satellite in an orbit too low and too inclined (51 degrees) relative to the Equator to be useful. Engineers at Hughes say they will use the satellite’s onboard rocket motor (which has an unusually large 3,700 pounds of liquid fuel) to send it around the Moon, and then slingshot it into an orbit around the Earth. Since April 10, Hughes has been activating the rocket motor at precise times to boost the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit. On May 7, the 12th and final rocket firing is planned, which should carry the satellite on its 9 day figure-eight journey around the Moon and back. With more rocket firings, it should be reinserted into a nearly geo-stationary orbit by late May.
In its new spot, and less than perfect orbit, the satellite probably won’t be much use for the Hong Kong-based Asiasat, which has already collected USD 200 million in insurance. But Hughes hopes to find other buyers to lease the satellite’s 44 transponders, possibly the US government (the Navy might be able to use it communicate with ships). Hughes Global Systems plans to split the profits with the insurers. The saellite has a new name: HGS-1. (AP, “New York Times”, and “Wall Street Journal”)
ARIANE–On April 28 at 22:53 hrs, Egypt’s Nilesat 101 and Japan’s BSAT 1B were successfully launched from French Guiana. Nilesat, which will be located at 7 degrees West, has 12 Ku-band transponders. Transponder tests are scheduled for May 15-29, with the official inauguration on May 31. Nilesat will provide direct-to-home television, radio, and data broadcasting throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean region, and North Africa. (One hopes that any European beams will be better than the extremely weak half-transponder used by Nile TV International to Europe on Eutelsat II-F3. Ironically the Arabic language Egypt Satellite Channel on the same satellite is much stronger in Northern Europe.)
PROTON–The launch of Echostar 4 has been delayed from April 29 to May 8 at 00:10-00:20 hrs. It will replace Echostar 1 at 119 degrees West. Echostar 1 will move to 148 degrees West. The new satellite will allow Echostar to compete with cable companies by offering local terrestrial TV channels in 20 Western and Central major US markets. (East Coast markets are served by another satellite.) The new satellite will also provide Echostar’s first service to Hawaii and Alaska. (“SATCO DX” and AP)