NORDIC MEDIA NEWS
DIGITAL TV–April 1st marked the inauguration of terrestrial digital television here in Sweden. Some critics may regard the whole project as an April Fool’s joke, but the government and the public broadcaster Swedish Television are fully serious. While a number of commercial channels have been allocated digital licences, they apparently won’t be ready to broadcast for several more months. The system is starting with Swedish Television’s two regular channels, and the public broadcaster’s new counterpart to CNN, called SVT24.
And while not that many people may be spending money on new decoder boxes just to watch SVT24 over the airwaves, the new channel is also being relayed by the country’s largest cable operator, Telia, in it’s digital cable system. And for the first time SVT1 and 2, along with SVT24, are being carried to Sweden by satellite, as digital channels on the Sirius 2 satellite, on the same transponder that carries Radio Sweden (12.245 GHz). Unfortunately they’re encoded in Conax, as part of the Canal Digital package, which otherwise is carried on Norway’s Thor satellites. Apparently SVT can be seen without having to subscribe to Canal Digital , but that does require a Conax CA-module in the receiver. (TT and Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
TELIA–Following the disappearance of the European version of the Sci-Fi Channel, Telia, Sweden’s largest cable operator, has added a few new channels to its system. Besides SVT24, new offerings include TV Chile, Fox Kids, the new ViaSat Sport, and the Croatian HRT1. (Telia)
On March 30 Telia and Norway’s Telenor announced final agreement on the merger of their state-run telecommunications companies. The new Nordic giant will focus on expanding international operations, and taking a leading role in developing mobile communications, satellite, and Internet. Telia’s owner, the Swedish government, will hold 60 percent of the new company, while Telenor will have a 40 percent holding. The merger has to be approved by the Swedish and Norwegian parliaments, as well as the European Commission. (Reuters) The merger would give Telia access to Telenor’s several Thor satellites at 1 degree West. Telia currently uses Sweden’s rival Sirius satellites at 5 degrees East.
MEDIA CONCENTRATION–There’s growing concern in Sweden over media concentration. The traditional print media here have been dominated by interests connected to the Liberal Party, which ideologically has been a strong supporter of press freedom. In fact there’s an old joke in Swedish that the Liberals love freedom of the press so much they own most of it. This has been balanced against publishers connected with the labor movement and the Social Democratic Party. And until recently, the only ether media belonged to the non-commercial public service Swedish Broadcasting Corporation.
All this has changed in recent years with the rise of satellite and cable television, and the Social Democrats’ reluctant decision to allow commercial radio and TV in this country. And this is what has led to the new concern over media concentration. Private radio channels were auctioned off to the highest bidders by a government dominated by the right of center Conservatives and Liberals. Despite rules intended to prevent networking, unfettered market forces have seen smaller innovative stations bought up by national, or international, networks, programming little more than round-the-clock rock and pop CDs.
Swedish satellite TV broadcaster Kinnevik has expanded to acquire stations in neighboring countries, along with a radio network, a satellite distribution company, a major cable operator, a long distance telephone company, a mobile telephone system, and one of Sweden’s biggest Internet service provider.
Last year the country’s dominant publishing company, Bonniers, which already had a radio network and Internet interests, took the largest share of the country’s only terrestrial commercial TV station.
These developments led Minister of Culture Marita Ulvskog to appoint a committee to investigate media concentration. Their report was released recently. It calls for the extension of existing legislation to maintain competition to media companies. They are currently exempt from such controls because of constitutional protections for freedom of the press and expression. The proposed change would require that a court determine if a proposed mergr or buy-out in the media would restrict the free exchange of views and a comprehensive supply of news.
Public broadcasters Swedish Television and the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation would be exempt from the new provisions.
The proposal requires a constitutional amendment, and the Conservative, Christian Democrat, and Liberal members of the committee have all opposed the final proposals. We’ll be talking to Minister of Culture Marita Ulvskog about the proposal in the NEXT edition of MediaScan.
PRIVATE RADIO–Recently the Ministry of Culture received another controversial report, on the future of private radio broadcasting in Sweden. The study, by the head of the Young Social Democrats, Niklas Nordström, proposes an extension of the current licences. But it also calls for the abolition of the current highest bidder system.
Fees would be based instead on a station’s actual advertising and sponsorship income. And the granting of licences would take into account the applicant’s other mass media properties, and local origination of programming. To break up networking, the report proposes that every station must broadcast at least three hours of material not carried on any other station every day sometime between 6:00 AM and 9:00 PM.
The Conservatives are adamantly opposed to changing the current system, and have vowed to use a parliamentary loophole to block any radio reforms.
RADIO SWEDEN–Satellite listeners in Europe may have noticed a change on our Hot Bird 4 outlet (10.853 GHz). The TV channel there, MED-TV, has received a temporary order to suspend broadcasting for three weeks from Britain’s Independent Television Commission, which went into effect on March 22nd. The Kurdish channel has been accused of carrying programming inciting violence in Turkey. This hasn’t affected our audio signals on 7.38 MHz, which continue as usual.
We have a new frequency for our broadcasts to Australia and Southeast Asia at 01:30 hrs. A new frequency of 9435 kHz is now being used in parallel with the previous channel of 13625 kHz.
RADIO FINLAND–YLE Radio Finland is no longer part of the NPR Overnight service. Continued participation in the system (which currently is only carried on 8 NPR stations) would have violated YLE Radio’s policy of not paying for airtime on stations or networks (YLE does pay for satellite time). (Juhani Niinistö, YLE Radio Finland)
SCANDINAVIAN CHANNEL–The 5 Nordic public service broadcasters are preparing to launch the Scandinavian Channel, aimed at the estimated 12 million Americans of Scandinavian descent, as a pay-TV channel in September. Programming will come from Norway’s NHK, Sweden’s SVT, Denmark’s DR, Finland’s YLE, and Iceland’s RUV. Currently the International Channel is relaying one hour from the 5 every weekend, and the Scandinavian Channel distributes a regular 13 hour block to PBS affiliates. The new channel will be carried on a digital transponder on Galaxy 7, multiplexed with 10 other ethnic channels. (Curt Swinehart)
SBS EXPANDS–Meanwhile, the Scandinavian Broadcasting System (largely owned by Disney) has acquired Central European Media Enterprises, adding another potential 80 million viewers in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine. Besides Scandinavia, SBS also has interests in Hungary, Italy and Belgium. (Reuters)
SIRIUS–The new channel ViaSat Sport has replaced BBC World on Sirius 2 (5 degrees East) on 12.322 GHz (previously used by the Sci-Fi Channel), in Eurocrypt M D2-MAC. This marks Kinnevik’s return with a sports channel, after TV6 was forced to change format by SuperSport (which was then closed down when Canal Plus bought out FilmNet). Cartoon Network UK (06:00-22:00 hrs CET) and TNT (22:00-06:00 hrs CET) have started on 12.303 GHz in clear MPEG-2. Eros-TV is back on 12.245 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
THOR–Canal Plus Danmark has ended analog transmissions, and has left Thor 2 11.261 GHz (D2-MAC). It is now only on 11.278 GHz in MPEG-2. With the closure of the misnamed Sky Entertainment (all the programming was from Granada) Video Zone, Granada Breeze, Granda Plus, and Granada Men and Motors have left 12.054 GHz on Thor-3 (D2-MAC). (“LyngSat Weekly”)
INTELSAT–Estonia’s TV1 and ORT Balt have moved from 11.462 to 11.665 GHz on Intelsat 707, in Conax MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
RADIO–The commercial Danish station Radio 2 is no longer broadcasting in analog on Intelsat 707 on 11.679 GHz (BBC Prime). It now only transmits digitally on 11.592 GHz on the same satellite. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
MERGER MADNESS–On February 26, two of Europe’s biggest pay-television groups confirmed they were in preliminary talks about a link-up. France’s Canal Plus said in a statement it was having exploratory talks with Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting. This could range from pooling technical resources to a “rapprochement” (link-up). Such a merger could create the world’s largest TV group, but the European Commission might have serious misgivings. (Reuters)
On March 2, Canal Plus’ director of European Affairs told a European Parliament conference that European TV operators should pool their resources to finance skyrocketing film and sports rights, and heavy technological investments. Speaking at a conference on fair competition between public and private TV, Canal Plus’ Claudine Ripert-Landler was careful not to refer to specific plans of Canal Plus to link-up with BSkyB. (Reuters)
On March 22, Italy’s Mediaset and Germany’s Kirch Group said they hoped more broadcasters would climb aboard their new European TV venture, and the door was still open to Rupert Murdoch. The Italo-German partners said they wanted to bolster their television alliance with at least a French partner, and held an olive branch out to Murdoch, after lengthy talks with the Australian-born media mogul broke down earlier this month.
Mediaset and Kirch said they would set up a company called European Television Network that would buy stakes in their existing television stations, including Kirch’s Sat 1 and their jointly-held Telecinco Spanish channel. The partners will also set up a venture to which Kirch will donate its Betafilm television and film rights library unit. In turn, Betafilm will set up BetaTV Production to acquire and produce content for the television market. (Reuters)
BRITAIN–Britain’s Independent Television Commission has rejected a complaint by Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting demanding that the channels ITV and ITV2 be made available to the Sky Digital service. The ITV wants to keep its existing over-the-air channel and the new digital ITV2 as part of the 30 channel terrestrial ONdigital platform, which competes with the satellite-based Sky Digital. (Reuters)
ONdigital has announced it will launch pay-per-view services later this year. The service will use up to five channels on SDN’s digital TV multiplex, for movies, sports, and other events. (Reuters)
ONdigital will reveal this week it needs two million subscribers to break even, the “Daily Telegraph” reports. The newspaper says the group has signed up 85,000 subscribers since it began in November – a far cry from Sky Digital’s 350,000 by late January. ONdigital expects to have 350,000 customers signed up by the end of the year, claims the report. (“What Satellite TV”)
The BBC’s fifth public service television channel will launch this summer, possibly in June, with the aim of offering “education in an entertaining and youthful format”. The channel has the working title BBC Knowledge, and will be available in the Sky Digital package. On the other hand, the BBC says that while it has an option to offer its radio channels on digital satellite, no date has yet been set. (“What Satellite TV”)
A 24 hour general entertainment channel for Asian viewers is to launch in the UK this summer, rivalling existing Asian channels Zee TV and Sony Entertainment. Channel East says its programming will be entirely in English. This follows the recent announcement by Zee TV that it will launch Music Asia in July, and later a news and documentaries channel. Both will be available in digital format at Astra’s original position at 19 degrees East. (“What Satellite TV”)
ASTRA–Sky News and Bloomberg TV Germany have started on Astra 1G on 12.552 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
British Sky Broadcasting has leased a further 9 transponders from SES for digital transmissions from 28.2 degrees East. Six of these transponders are on the existing Astra 2A satellite, the other 3 will be on Astra 2B, which is to be launched during the third quarter of this year. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Sky Digital continues to expand. MTV is to launch three new digital channels by July 1: VH-1 Classic, MTV Base (for dance, rap, and R&B), and MTV Extra (which will complement MTV’s existing UK programming). Granada is increasing the hours of its digital channels. The Digital Broadcasting Company is launching 12 PPV channels in early summer. It’s acquired the rights to more than 400 films, and will broadcast up to 10 a day at intervals of 30 minutes. Other channels expected to debut soon are The Nursery Channel and E! Entertainment. (“What Satellite TV”)
RADIO–The World Radio Network is using Astra transponder 27 (11.612 GHz) subcarrier 7.38 MHz. WRN is also now using 7.74 MHz on MED-TV’s transponder on 10.853 GHz on Hot Bird 4. (“Lyngsat” via Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
The Milosevic regime has silenced Serbia’s independent radio station B-92. On March 24th the station’s transmitter was shut-down by police, obstensibly for transmitting with too much power. B-92 managed to continue to broadcast by satellite and over the Internet. But on April 2 uniformed police burst into the station again with a court order replacing the station’s director with a former Communist Party student leader, removed all legal papers, told the staff to go home, and sealed the premises. A court order has put the formerly independent station under the control of an organization connected to strongman Slobadan Milosevic’s ruling party.
(AP and “LyngSat Weekly”)
With the capture of three NATO army members and the expulsion of western media groups from Kosovo, the world is watching Serbian satellite channel RTS Sat for the latest coverage. The station can be seen in clear PAL at 11.596 GHz on Eutelsat II-F2 at 10 degrees East. (“What Satellite TV”)
EUTELSAT–Eutelsat II-F4M (7 degrees East) was out of service for 5 and a half hours on March 30. The outage stopped EBU relays and feeds from Reuters and other news services. A Eutelsat spokesman says all 16 transponders are now working. (Reuters and “LyngSat”)
Euronews has closed down its transmissions on Hot Bird 3 on 12.111 GHz, and can now be seen on Hot Bird 5 on 12.597 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “LyngSat Weekly”)
American cable channel BET On Jazz has launched on Hot Bird 4 in free-to-air digital format. The channel, which is also on Sirius 2 at 5 degrees East, is available on the British Telecom transponder at 10.722 GHz. BET recently told What Satellite TV that it plans to launch in the Sky Digital package later this year – possibly as soon as this Spring – although no date has yet been set. (“What Satellite TV”)
Babylon Blue UK has started on Hot Bird 4 on 10.722 GHz in clear MPEG-2. Quantum 24 has left this frequency. Ring TV and Eros TV have left Hot Bird 5 (11.010 and 11.623 GHz) in PAL. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
Futa TV has started on Hot Bird 1 on 11.280 GHz in clear PAL. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
Syria Satellite Channel has started on Eutelsat W2 (16 degrees East) on 11.572 GHz in clear PAL. Al Jazeera Satellite Channel has left 11.489 GHz (PAL) and is now only on 11.449 GHz. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
Eutelsat W3 will replace Eutelsat II-F4 at 7 degrees East. (Scheduled for launch on April 12.) (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Armenia TV has started on Eutelsat II-F3 (36 degrees East) on 12.520 GHz) in clear MPEG-2. Armenia TV is also on Hot Bird 3 on 12.111 GHz in clear MPEG-2, along with Europe by Satellite. TVE Internacional has left this frequency, while TV Polonia has moved to 12.149 GHz. Eros-TV is back on 12.380 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
AMOS–Babylon Blue East Europe has left 11.351 GHz (MPEG-2) on Amos-1. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
RUSSIA–On TDF-2 at 36 degrees East, MTV Russia has left 11.881 GHz, while VH-1 Export has replaced NTV+ Detskij Mir and Fashion TV on 11.804 GHz in clear SECAM. NTV+ Detskij Mir have replaced NTV+Miro Kino on Gals 1 (same position) 11.919 GHz, in Syster-encoded SECAM. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
NILESAT–Kuwait Satellite Channel has replaced Ajman TV, while Jordan Satellite Channel has replaced Horus Space Channel, both on 11.823 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
The Iraq Satellite Channel is back on Nilesat 101 on 11.862 GHz in clear PAL, and on 11.823 GHz in clear MPEG-2. It is also on Eutelsat II-F3 (36 degrees East) on 10.984 GHz in clear PAL. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
Arabsat 3A has been testing at 23.7 degrees East. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
INDIA–On March 26 India eased state controls on broadcasting, by allowing all private domestic television companies to air satellite programs from Indian soil. The new rules, approved at a cabinet meeting, could spur foreign broadcasters to seek Indian partners or to launch domestic ventures. They end a mandatory requirement for television companies to uplink broadcast signals through a state-controlled company. The broadcast permission was restricted to signals acccessed through large-sized dish antennas, and not extended to enable direct-to-home broadcasting through small dishes. (Reuters)
PAS–CNN International has started on PAS-8 (166 degrees East) on 3.785 GHz in clear NTSC. NHK World Premium (encoded) and NHK World TV (clear) have started on 4.065 GHz in clear MPEG-2. BBC World has started on PAS-2 (169 degrees East) on 3.901 GHz, in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
DIRECTV–After earlier reaching agreement to make over the satellite interests of Rupert Murdoch’s American Sky Broadcasting, EchoStar announced on February 27 that it had made a 600 million dollar offer to buy some of PrimeStar’s satellite assets. PrimeStar is the DBS system set up by the giants of the American cable industry, and had earlier been blocked by the FCC in its plans to merge with ASkyB. The bid topped an earlier one from Hughes, operator of the DirecTV DBS service. Hughes, which is buying the other operator on the DirecTV satellites, USSB, has made a separate deal for PrimeStar’s subscription television business. This would make it America’s thrid largest multi-channel provider, after the cable services of TCI and Time-Warner. EchoStar, operator of the 2 million subscriber DISH Network, will use the PrimeStar assets to provide local programming, HDTV, and data services to US marketws it does not already serve. (Reuters)
On February 26 DirecTV announced it would immediately start disconnecting CBS and Fox programming to comply with a federal court order. But it encouraged all affected subscribers to contact their local affiliates and request waivers to continue receiving their network programming by satellite. The ruling upheld a 1988 law allowing satellite TV services to only offer network programming to customers who cannot receive adequate over-the-air reception. (Reuters) This bizarre law, which gives the cable systems a huge advantage over satellite operators, goes against the ideology of choice professed by Congress and the FCC, and new legislation is being considered by Congress.
GE–A gyroscope problem knocked out GE Americom’s GE-3 satellite for five hours on March 12. The problem disrupted service to media organizations, including PBS, AP, CNN, NBC, Dow Jones, and the Fox Network, as well as national distribution of several TV stations, including KTLA in Los Angeles and WPIX in New York. During the disruption, GE moved programming to other satellites, which meant that PBS was shifted to GE-1, interupting the NBC Newschannel feed to affiliates. (CNN)
SEA LAUNCH–An international consortium headed by Boeing was successful in launching a dummy test satellite on a Zenit rocket from a floating platform in the Pacific on March 29. Boeing has a 40 pecent stake in the Sea Launch project, along with Kvaerner Maritime of Norway, Russia’s RSC Energia, and KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash of Ukraine. (AP and Reuters)
ATLAS–Japan’s JCSAT 6 was launched on an Atlas rocket on February 16. It carried 32 Ku-band transponders and will replace JCSAT 4 at 124 degrees East. (“LyngSat”)
Atlas is scheduled to launch Eutelsat W3 on April 12. It carries 18 transponders in the 10.950-11.700 GHz and 12.250 and 12.750 GHz ranges. (“LyngSat”)
PROTON–Asiasat 3S was successfully launched with Proton on March 21. It will replace Asiasat 1 at 105.5 degrees East, and carries 16 Ku-band and 20 C-band transponders. Asiasat 1 will move to 122 degrees East. (“LyngSat Weekly”)
ARIANE–Western Europe’s Ariane rocket placed into orbit two satellites from French Guiana on February 26. Initially scheduled for February 3, Ariane’s first launch of the year was delayed after technical anomalies aboard the rocket were detected during prelaunch tests in late January. Arabsat 3A, which will be placed along with Arabsat 2A at 26 degrees East, will provide DTH TV, telephone, and data services through the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Europe. It carries 20 Ku-band transponders in the 11.700-12.100 GHz range. The other satellite was the British military communications satellite Skynet 4E. (Reuters)
On April 2, Ariane put India’s Insat 2E into orbit. Also called Intelsat APR 1, it carries 17 C-band transponders, and will be positioned at 83 degrees East. (“LyngSat” and Reuters)
DELTA–The April 6 launch of South Korea’s Dacom Orion 3 satellite has been delayed, because of strong winds at Cape Canaveral. Dacom is to provide 50 TV channels, using 8 of the 43 transponders on the satellite. There are 33 transponders in the 11.450-11.700 and 12.250-12.750 GHz ranges and 10 C-band transponders between 3.400 and 3.600 GHz. Orion 3 will be positioned at 139 degrees East. The launch has been postponed until 01:13 hrs on Wednesday, and coverage is to be carried on Telstar 5, 12.053 GHz. (Reuters and “LyngSat”)
YAHOO–The Internet directory/portal Yahoo! has announced it is buying Broadcast.com for 5.6 million dollars, the second-largest Internet marriage ever (the biggest was AOL’s purchase of Netscape). Known previously as Audionet, the Dallas-based Broadcast.com is the leading provider of radio and television stations over the Internet. This follow’s Yahoo!’s buy-out earlier this year of GeoCities, which provides free webspace to more than 3 million people. (AP and “Wired News”)
EUTELSAT–The Atlantic Gate, Eutelsat’s new orbital position at 12.5 degrees West, went into service on April 1, with the launch by Internet SkyWay of an Internet backbone link connecting North America with Europe. The German-based SkyWay has leased a 72 MHz transponder for the new transatlantic service via KPN Broadcast, Eutelsat’s Dutch shareholder. Called SkyWay-IP-Backbone, the new service will enable Internet SkyWay to offer ISPs in Europe a 45 Mbps connection, with full interconnectivity, to the North American IP backbone. Internet SkyWay is already providing Internet services within Europe using capacity on Eutelsat W2 at 16 degrees East. (Eutelsat) The satellite at 12.5 degrees West is Norway’s former TV-Sat 2, which has been taken over by Eutelsat.
POINT AND CLICK–With the disappearance of so many TV programs about computers and the Internet from European TV screens (“The Site”, the PCTV programs from NBC Europe, CNET’s program from Sci-Fi Channel, which then disappeared anyway), it might be worth tuning into the “Point and Click” program produced by the public radio station KZYX/KZYZ in Philo/Ukiah, California. Most people won’t be able to tune in when the program airs Wednesday evenings local time, but just about every other program is archived in RealAudio.
Another alternative is ZDTV, where many people from “The Site” ended up. Unfortunately, it seems as if virtually no cable networks are relaying this fine channel. During my stay in California I was in Campbell, in the heart of Silicon Valley, where the local cable system is listed at the ZDTV website. But a careful check of every single channel available revealed that ZDTV is not among them. ZDTV is available by satellite:
DISH Network channel 191, DirecTV channel 273, Satcom C4 (135 degrees West) transponder 12.