SVENSKA DAGBLADET–The biggest media news in Sweden right now has been the interest shown by the giant Bonniers publishing empire in Stockholm’s ailing Conservative daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Besides its extensive interests in books and magazines here, Bonniers owns the Stockholm evening tabloid Expressen, and several key provincial newspapers. More importantly in view of Bonniers’ possible purchase of Svenska Dagbladet is that fact that the company also owns its main rival, the respected Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter.
But last weekend Bonniers suddenly announced it was pulling out of the deal, and Svenska Dagbladet’s major owner, the Wallenberg concern, perhaps left once too often at the altar recently, now says it might just hang on the paper anyway.
Bonniers has blamed its reversal on criticism from Minister of Culture Marita Ulvskog, who had echoed the feelings of many that one company controlling three of Stockholm’s four dailies, including both morning papers, was less than desireable.
The opposition Conservatives, who’ve been dropping in the polls in the run-up to September’s elections, immediately denounced the minister, with party leader Carl Bildt referring to her remarks as “Mafia methods”. The story has attracted attention because it’s just about the only news during the current Summer holiday slow period, and it’s being fed by enthusiastic but inexperienced newsroom summer replacements trying to make names for themselves, but asking the wrong questions.
Bonniers’ reported offer to the minister, to establish some kind of working relationship between its newspaper in Malmoe, Sydsvenska Dagbladet and local Social Democratic rival Arbetet, has been portrayed in the press as desireable for Ulvskog’s Social Democrats and worthy of attention. On the surface it would seem to centralize control over media even more.
Attributing Bonniers reversal to Ulvskog’s criticism is questionable, since a few months ago, the same company went ahead and bought into Sweden’s only commercial terrestrial TV station, TV4, despite even more outspoken comments from the minister, who then launched a study to propose legislation to control media concentration.
Ironically, Ulvskog, who has a background in the press, is far more concerned about Bonniers, which is mostly based on old-fashioned publishing, than new media upstart Kinnevik, which has interests in radio, TV, satellite television and distribution, cable TV, the Internet, and mobile, long distance, and local telephone networks.
I asked Ulvskog’s number two, Undersecretary Ann-Christine Nyqvist, who is heading the media concentration investigation, why they consider Bonniers to be more of a threat? You can hear her answer in today’s program.
RADIO SWEDEN–You can read below under Europe about the NBC/National Geographic deal. This affects Radio Sweden, as we are relayed to Europe on what was the NBC Europe transponder on Eutelsat II-F1, 10.987 GHz. This is now relaying National Geographic, but we’ve been notified that this will close by October, and we are negotiating to find a new spot, also at 13 degrees East.
The first broadcast from Radio Sweden was July 1st 1938. We’ll be officially celebrating our 60th anniversary a little later in the year, when Sweden wakes up again after the Summer holidays. But in today’s program reporter Judi Milar got our boss, the head of Radio Sweden, Finn Norgren, into a studio, and asked him how the whole thing got started?
Canal Plus and Canal Plus Gul (“Yellow”)
M2 (a new music channel which has not started in Europe yet)
Kanal 5 (Sweden)
NRK International (Norway)
DR1 and DR2 (Denmark)
Music Choice (music audio channels)
Frank Östergren reports in “Aftonbladet” that the reason for Canal Digital’s long test phase has been to make sure that everything really works, especially the PPV channels. Beginning in the Fall, the PPV will include all of the matches from British soccer’s Premier League (ironically, League bosses rejected BSkyB’s plan to offer matches as PPV in Britain), along with Formula One races. Not joining the package are public channels SVT1 and SVT2, and TV3, owned by Canal Plus’ rival Kinnevik. Canal Digital’s Magnus Simons says that those who won’t want to buy a digital satellite receiver, which will be expensive for a while yet, will be able to rent one for SEK 69 (around USD 9) a month. Interactive services such as home shopping and fast Internet access will be added later. (Frank Östergren, “Aftonbladet”)
DIGITAL TV–Last week the Swedish government formally approved the allocation of terrestrial digital television channels here. As expected, the existing analog broadcasters are included, the public service Swedish Television and the commercial TV 4, as well as Swedish Educational Broadcasting, which currently puts its programs on Swedish Television’s channels.
But, contrary to earlier reports, Swedish Television’s second channel is not included. The first channel and the coming 24 hour news outlet, SVT 24, will be included in the first national digital package, while SVT1 and Educational Broadcasting will share a channel.
Swedish Television’s regional channels will be sharing a spot in all 5 regions with a new channel called Kunskaps TV (Knowledge TV). Also in the regional packages are TV4’s regional channels in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Sundsvall-Östersund; TV4 Linköping, and Landskrona Vision in the southern province of Skåne.
Joining terrestrial television for the first time will be the current cable and satellite broadcasters TV 3, Channel 5, TV 8, and the pay film broadcaster Canal Plus. TV 8 will be sharing its channel with Cell Internet Commerce Development, which is to offer new interactive services.
Because there are more applicants than available channels, TV 3 and Channel 5 are also sharing, and according to reports they have decided to alternate weeks. (TT, “Dagens Nyheter”, “Svenska Dagbladet”, “Public Access Nyhetsbrev”)
Meanwhile the authorities are working out when and how to add more digital channels. (TT)
According to reports, Swedish Television is gaining support from the politicians for a planned Nordic pay channel, called Nordik, with programs also from the public service broadcasters of Denmark, Norway, and Finland. (TT)
But there is also a plan to launch a Nordic public service digital package, working with Canal Digital. Among the channels to be included are Denmark’s DR1 and 2, TV Finland, Norway’s NRK International, and Swedish Television’s own SVT Europa. All of these, except for SVT, are already carried via Telenor’s system at 1 degree West (SVT Europa is on Sweden’s Sirius satellite at 5 degrees West). Reception will be possible in Iceland, and that country’s public broadcaster, Rikisutvarpid, is invited to participate. Plans for the package were finalized at a meeting of Nordic public broadcasting heads on July 3. The meeting also approved going ahead with the Nordik project, as well as a satellite-based Scandinavian Channel to North America. (SVT)
The first terrestrial digital broadcasts here are expected around the beginning of next year. Teracom, part of what used to be Swedish Telecom, is building the digital transmitter network. At the recent Cable and Satellite Show in London, Teracom’s Tore Karlsson spoke about their plans. Afterwards, I asked him to explain the advantages of digital television over the current analog system, and you can hear part of that interview in today’s program.
EVERGREEN–A station called Radio Evergreen, carrying old song classics, is to start via community radio in the southern Swedish city of Malmoe on August 1. Several veterans from public broadcaster Swedish Radio are behind the new channel (including the former head of the P4 channel, targeted for those over 45 years old). Using community radio means the channel will have to share a frequency with others, but its backers hope to get their own frequency to cover the southern part of the province of Skaane. (TT)
ASTRA–Sweden’s Saab Ericsson Space has received a USD 5 million dollar order for computer systems and microwave equipment from France’s Aerospatiale for SES’s new Astra 1K satellite. The satellite, which will be launched with Ariane 5 at the end of the year 2000, will be the largest telecommunications satellite every built and will carry 52 Ku- band and 2 Ka-band transponders. It provide TV and multimedia applications to Eastern and Central Europe (and will be the first satellite to offer an inexpensive return path, via the Ka-band, making, for example, two-way Internet access possible). AStra 1K will be positioned with the other Astra 1 satellites at 19.2 degrees East.
ARIANE–Sweden’s Volvo Aero has received a USD 25 million dollar order from the rocket motor company SEP for combustion chambers for the Ariane 4 rocket during the period 1999-2001. (TT, Volvo)
Here in Sweden, the deal has led to some major changes in the Telia digital cable system. The National Geographic Channel has replaced NBC, while the combined Sky News and National Geographic Channel has been replaced with 24 hour Sky News. (CNBC is still not part of the package.)
Sky News and National Geographic continues on Thor at 1 degree West in Eurocrypt-S encoded D2-MAC on 11.773 GHz, as part of the analog Telenor package there. But among the MPEG-2 Telenor/Canal Plus channels at that location, a pure NBC feed remains, with programming such as Jay Leno and NBC Europe’s V.I.P. (possibly reruns). Baseball is not part of the output, and the schedule does not match Canal Digital’s Electronic Program Guide. “SATCO DX” says this is on the 11.309 GHz transponder. “SATCO DX” also reports that NBC Europe continues in clear MPEG-2 on Eutelsat II-F1, on 11.020 GHz. Could this possibly be related to the NBC feed that will continue to German-language cable networks?
Following the expansion of National Geographic to 24 hour operation, it’s been reported that it could be replaced on Astra transponder 7, which it shares with Fox Kids, with the return of Sky 2. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
See also under Asia below.
CNBC–Meanwhile, as part of NBC’s rationalization, CNBC is giving up its part-time spot on Astra transponder 35 (which it inherited from EBN), where Flextech’s TV Travel Shop is expanding. CNBC is closing its 24 hour service on Hot Bird this Summer (also inherited from EBN), but it continues on Astra transponder 50, which is reported to be joining the Sky Multichannels package (it is currently uncoded). (“What Satellite TV”)
CNNfn–Ted Turner has given the go-ahead for his business channel CNN Financial News to launch in Europe later this year. Expected to start in the Fall, CNNfn is likely to be operated in conjunction with the “Financial Times” (which had worked with CNBC before the merger with EBN). Although it currently airs only 5 days a week, 18 hours a day, in the US, CNNfn will be expanded to 24 hour operation in Europe. (“What Satellite TV”)
ASTRA–Sweden’s Sirius 3 satellite, due to launch on October 3, is to be initially leased to Astra’s owner SES. It will be located at 28.2 degrees East as a back-up for Astra 2A, due to launch in August. The Nordic Satellite Company (NSAB) has concluded that the slower-than expected roll-out of digital satellite television in Scandinavia will lead to a delay in demand for transponder capacity in the Nordic market. Upon completion of the lease, no later than October 1, 1999, the satellite will be transferee to NSAB, and 5 degrees East, where it will replace Sirius 1. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”, “SATCO DX”, AFX)
Sky Box Office 1-48 have started at Astra’s second position at 28 degrees East. (“SATCO DX”) Playboy’s pay-per-night service will be offered on Sky Box Office 2, and the Adult Channel on Sky Box Office 4 through-out July. (“What Satellite TV”)
SATCO no longer lists any BBC signals at this position. In my survey of the satellite, a number of channels labelled BBC showed up, but none were in the clear. In some cases BBC Tele-Text was available.
The BBC says its new free-to-air sports, drama, and current affairs channel BBC Choice will start in mid-September. It will broadcast for 24 hours a day on Astra 2A, supplementing major BBC 1 and 2 shows by providing related behind-the-scenes programs, live studio debates, and after-show reactions. (“What Satellite TV”)
Britain’s Channel 4 is considering following the lead of the ITV channels in rejecting a deal with BSkyB to simulcast its terrestrial service on satellite. However, C4’s planned Channel 4 Film Club is certain to seek carriage in Sky’s digital package this Fall. (“What Satellite TV”)
BRITAIN–Britain’s Independent Television Commission ruled on June 26 that rather than having to subscribe to a single all-or-nothing bundle of up to 40 channels, they should be offered more flexible “mini- bundles” of 7 or 8 eight channels. From September 30, customers will be able to buy premium channels from any basic bundle. The requirements apply to all new agreements between program providers and distributors, including existing contracts for digital television, but do not come into force for existing contracts for analog TV until 2000. The only exceptions are new channels, which will be allowed to join a basic bundle for a year, to give them a chance to thrive, and exclusive channels available on cable or satellite, but not both, like the Parliamentary Channel. (“The Daily Telegraph”) While this ruling is aimed at both cable and satellite, it seems like its prime target is Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB.
British Sky Broadcasting has reportedly already considered reducing its subscription price for the Sky Multichannels package, as a number of its channels have gone off the air. Another reason to launch some analog mini-bundles, the number of BSkyB subscribers cancelling their subscriptions has reached a 4 year high of 16 percent, according to Sky’s latest financial results. (“What Satellite TV”)
BSKYB–On July 1 Flextech and UKTV announced a carriage agreement with BSkyB which would see 10 Flextech and UKTV channels launched on Sky’s digital satellite platform. (UKTV is a joint venture between Flextech and the BBC.) Flextech’s wholely-owned channels Bravo, Channel TV, UK Living, and Trouble, all of which are part of the analog Sky Multichannels package, will launch as part of Sky Digital on August 1.
UKTV has secured digital satellite carriage for existing channels UK Gold, UK Horizons, UK Arena, and UK Style, and also for a music entertainment service which will be launched within a year. UK Gold’s package will be enhanced with an additional service, UK Gold 2, to start in the Fall.
Separately, BSkyB announced another agreement July 1 with Discovery Networks to carry 7 channels, two of which are existing channels with expanded hours, while 5 are new. (Reuters)
SPORTS–The company that owns the soccer teams Leeds United plans to start a Yorkshire sports TV channel this Fall. Meanwhile, United News and Media is planning on starting a British sports channel together with cable operator NTL and Welsh broadcaster S4C. (“What Satellite TV”)
EUTELSAT–On Fashion TV’s former clear PAL transponder on Eutelsat II- F1 11.955 GHz, the French techno music channel WBPM has started, also in clear PAL.
UAE Radio Dubai has started on 11.747 GHz on Hot Bird 2, from 7.02 to 7.20 MHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
The German music video channel Viva has started in clear MPEG-2 on Hot Bird 3, on 12.149 GHz. (“SATCO DX”)
There’s a new digital package on Hot Bird 4 on 12.654 GHz, from Arabesque. This includes: Sharjah TV, Bahrain TV, Saudi Channel 1, Kuwait TV, Jamahirya Satellite Channel, and several radio stations. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
The Caribbean Music TV Channel plans to launch on August 9 in clear PAL on Hot Bird 1 on 11.280 GHz. It originates in Guadeloupe, and will be uplinked from Paris. (“What Satellite TV”)
Canal Plus is putting its Polish digital platform at 13 degrees East. The new package will be launched in September. The current analog Canal Plus Polska, also via Eutelsat, was launched in 1995 and has 250,000 subscribers. (Eutelsat)
ITALY–Italian public broadcaster RAI and its French counterpart TF1 have agreed to set up a digital platform in Italy to rival the Canal Plus-backed Telepiu (just as TPS, of which TF1 is a major shareholder, competes with Canal Plus’ Canal Satellite in France). (Curt Swinehart)
RAI is planning to scramble its digital satellite channels, which are currently in clear MPEG-2 at 13 degrees East. (Curt Swinehart)
PORTGUAL–Portugal Telecom has announced that it is launching a digital satellite platform which will allow coverage through-out Portugal, beginning September 1, 1998. The TV Cabo Portugal digital platform will include a sports information channel called Sport TV, as well as special channels for Lisbon and Oporto. (Curt Swinehart)
SWITZERLAND–The Scandinavian Broadcasting System (owned by Disney/ABC) has formed a 50-50 joint venture with Swiss publisher TA-Media Group, to launch a national private television station in Switzerland. The companies are applying for a licence to start the channel in 1999, with general entertainment and news for the country’s German-speaking community. (PR Newswire)
GAMES–The cable-exclusive Sega Channel, which had hoped to launch on satellite his year, instead closed down on June 30, due to a lack of subscribers. The interactive service, gave children the chance to download video games for GBP 10 (around USD 16) a month. Meanwhile, Canal Plus is to link up with video games manufacturer Infogames this Fall, to start a pan-European TV station offering programs about new games and trends. (“What Satellite TV”)
NTV–The Russian independent television company NTV is launching a Russian-language DBS service for Europe and the Middle East that will feature four channels. (Curt Swinehart)
IRAQ–According to the weekly economic magazine “Al-Iqtissadi” Iraq has leased a channel on Egypt’s Nilesat 101 to carry its own TV programs, in spite of a UN embargo. There is no official confirmation of the report. A Baghdad newspaper has reported that the government’s ban on satellite dishes might be lifted. (AFP)
WORLDSPACE–At a press conference at the Eiffel Tower, Worldspace announced that it has signed a contract with Radio Kledu, from Mali. The agreement will allow Radio Kledu to reach all of West Africa via the coming AfriStar satellite, to be launched late this year. (PR Newswire)
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/NBC–Just as the NBC/Dow Jones channel merger was reflected in Asia as well as Europe, the NBC/National Geographic deal has caused changes in Asia as well. On PAS-2 (169 degrees East), the National Geographic Channel was replaced NBC Asia on 4.093 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“SATCO DX”)
PAKISTAN–On July 6 Information Minister Mushahid Hussain said Pakistan would be launching its first satellite channel, PTV World, from July 9. The channel will be available in 38 countries. (Curt Swinehart)
CHINA–The American Justice Department is reviewing 1995 and 1996 Chinese rocket launch crashes as part of its investigation into whether China has been given information about restricted US space technology. There is concern that after one of the crashes, the Chinese recovered secret American technology. (Reuters) NPR covered this story in “All Things Considered” on June 30.
ATT/MCI–AT&T; announced on June 24 that will buy cable giant TCI in a USD 48 billion stock swap, giving ATT an outlet to provide consumer long-distance and local phone service, Internet access, and cable service. The pact may allow ATT to break open the local phone monopoly. (Reuters)
CABLE/SATELLITE–For the first week ever, more American households have tuned to basic cable and satellite programming during prime time than to the four major networks combined, according to Nielsen Media Research. The ratings came during the week of June 22-28. (Curt Swinehart)
HDTV–On the evenings of June 23, 24, and 25, Unity Motion successfully carried out US nationwide satellite broadcasts of high definition television. According to reports, those who viewed the tests responded positively. (Curt Swinehart)
MILITARY CHANNEL–The Military Channel launched its 24 hour service on the 4th of July, on Satcom C3 transponder 24 (4.180 GHz). The channel’s main themes are “heroes, history, and hardware”. It will feature a shopping show called “PX” where viewers can purchase military surplus goods, videos, and clothing over the phone. (AP and “SATCO DX”)
WINGS AND HEALTH–Discovery has delayed the launch of the Discovery Wings Channel and the Discovery Health Channel until July 28. They had been scheduled to start June 30. The delay reportedly is partly because TCI is launching a revamped programming line-up on July 28. (Curt Swinehart)
KIDS–Noggin, a 24 hour educational channel for 2-11 year olds, to be run by Nickelodeon and the Children’s Television Workshop, will start in January in the US, before its planned European launch in late 1999. (“What Satellite TV”)
CANADA–The CRTC has denied the application by Canadian Satellite Communications Inc. to add Euronews to its offerings. The application was opposed by the Specialty and Premium Television Association and the Telelatino Television Network, which argues that as a foreign service, Euronews is not obligated to make any contributions to the Canadian broadcasting system, and could offer its service at a lower rate, undercutting other Canadian specialty services. (Curt Swinehart)
BRAZIL–Arianespace has signed a contract to launch Brazil’s Brasilsat B4 late next year. The satellite, with 24 C-band and 4 extended C-band transponders, will be built by Hughes. (Reuters)
PACE–PMC Consumer Electronics is launching its Pace PC TV card in September. Slotting into a PC, the card provides 125 channels of terrestrial, cable, or satellite TV, as well as teletext, as well as access to DVD players, camcorders, or VCRs. The price will be GBP 89 (USD 140). (Curt Swinehart). Is this DVB/MPEG-2? It seems amazingly inexpensive if it is.