Today marks the 30th anniversary of the first Moon landing, one of the major media events in history. Amidst the celebrations:
NASA was due to start a new space shuttle mission today. But the launch of Columbia was aborted just 6 seconds before lift-off. The problem turned out to be a false sensor reading. The launch has been moved to Thursday, which is the last day Columba can take off, before other scheduled launches and a major overhaul scheduled for the shuttle’s system would postpone the mission for about one year. The historic mission includes NASA’s first woman shuttle commander, Air Force Colonel Eileen Collins, and is intended to put an X-ray telescope into orbit. (Reuters, AP, NPR)
Former U.S. astronauts including the first moon-walker, Neil Armstrong, were among friends and family members who paid their final respects on July 19 to Apollo astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. Conrad, the third person to walk on the moon, was laid to rest with full military honours at Arlington Cemetery, final resting place of many of the nation’s heroes. Conrad, who went into space four times, died after crashing his motorcycle on a California highway on July 9. He was 69. (Reuters)
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary, former CNN Financial News boss Lou
Dobbs has launched SPACE.COM, a website devoted to all things space. (“Wired
ARTHUR C. CLARKE
In Sri Lanka, the mobile satellite transmission system will be officially declared open Tuesday evening, marking another significant development in the application of information technology in that country. This news system will provide direct satellite transmission facilities to be used to a considerable extent in the island. Science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke (who first proposed artificial satellites) is expected to deliver a special message over the satellite transmission system, Tuesday evening (13:45 to 14:15 UTC) which marks the 30th anniversary of the landing of the first man on Moon. Dr. Clarke’s message will be transmitted worldwide through the AsiaSat satellite. (EV1)
Russia’s Mir space station, once a high-tech monument, is slowly falling apart in orbit. It’s life in space will be extended a bit after the launch of a supply rocket Friday, two days after Russia finally reached agreement with Kazakstan to reopen its launch site. Mir’s current crew is supposed to be its last, and the equipment on the Progress supply ship will make it possible to keep Mir in orbit by remote control after the crew leaves on August 23. It is due to be discarded early next year. (AP) (See William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s short story “Red Star, Winter Orbit”.)
On July 12 the last American ship-to-shore telegraph station closed down. California communications company Global Wireless sent out the last commercial maritime Morse Code message from North America from its KFS Maine station at Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, repeating the first words transmitted by the telegraph’s inventor, Samuel Morse 155 years ago: “What hath God wrought?” (Reuters and VOA “Communications World”)
NORDIC MEDIA NEWS
This past week has seen press criticism here of public service broadcaster Swedish Radio, which includes Radio Sweden, and our transition to digital production and digital broadcasting.
The respected Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter has run a several part series, alleging that the switch to digital has meant major budget cuts for the talk and news channel P1. The newspaper also says the cutbacks mean a decrease in the number of freelancers, in violation of public radio’s licence with the state, which mandates a continued level of outside participation, in the interests of democracy and representing the entire community.
The articles also criticise Swedish Radio’s early adoption of digital audio broadcasting, or DAB, because there are so very few receivers on the market yet. In a related interview with the company’s head, Lisa Söderberg, she is strongly critical of the receiver manufacturers for not bringing the promised digital receivers to the market.
In today’s program I talk to Swedish Radio’s Director of Finance, Tomas Roxström, who says the cutbacks facing the entire company, not just P1, are not because of the digital upgrade, but rather, he says, because of a decision three years ago by the government and parliament. We talk about digital production and digital broadcasting, and hopes that the DAB-only Finnish language channel P7 can get on cable and find a few listeners.
Tomas disputes the internal critics that Swedish Radio is investing too much in developing DAB. While there are only an estimated 200 DAB receivers in Sweden, some 2.5 million Swedes regularly surf the Internet, many of whom presumeably have access to Internet radio, along with millions and millions of people in other countries. Yet many who try to access Swedish Radio’s and Radio Sweden’s RealAudio programming are getting error messages that we have reached our server capacity.
We can tell our listeners that a decision has now been made to expand our
bandwidth towards the Internet. The upgrade should happen sometime during
August, and hopefully some of those pesky error messages should disappear
The Finnish government has announced the awarding of digital terrestrial TV licences in three packages. The first was, as expected, granted to public broadcaster YLE, which is to create a channel combining the existing analog TV1D and TV2D, and a new Swedish language channel called FST. YLE will also start a new round-the-clock news channel called YLE24, and a channel with cultural, educational, and science programs.
The second package includes Finnish commercial broadcaster MTV3, Canada’s ChumCity International, Helsinki Media, and Wellnet. MTV3 is working with ChumCity, and they plan to launch separate local channels in three Finnish cities. MTV3 has a licence for a national City-TV channel, which could be a cimbination of these local feeds. The American-based MTV (which is not related to the Finnish MTV3) is involved in a joint venture with Helsinki Media for a sports channel. Newcomer Wellnet plans a “feel-good service network”. This and the MTV sports channel will be pay channels.
The third package includes commercial broadcaster TV4, France’s Canal Plus, and the educational channel WSOY. TV4 (half owned by Helsinki Media) will relay its existing analog channel. Canal Plus will relay its existing film and sports pay channel. There will also be a locally-based pay film channel.
Among the unsuccessful bidders were Eurosport, Sweden’s Modern Times Group, Sonera (the former Telecom Finland), Helsinki Telephone Corp., and another Finnish company called A4. The licence is for 10 years, beginning September 1, 2000. (“Multichannel News International” via Curt Swinehart)
The Christian Channel Europe has started on Sweden’s Sirius 2 (5 degrees East) on 12.328 GHz, in clear MPEG-2. Nasza TV has left 12.683 GHz (MPEG-2). (“LyngSat Updates”)
Norwegian radio and TV stations have begun digital broadcasts on Thor 3 on 12.322 GHz. These include: NRK 1, NRK To, TV2 Norge 1, TV Norge (the only one in the clear); and radio stations NRK P1, NRK P2, NRP Petre, NRK Alltid Nyheter, NRK Alltid Klassisk, and NRK Sameradion. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Radio Melodia has begun digital broadcasts on Thor 3 on 12.456 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
A year after Star-TV closed down on 11.389 GHz on Thor 2, it has been replaced on the transponder by the shopping channel Quantum 24, in D2-MAC. (Christian Lyngemark in “Aftonbladet”)
On Intelsat 707 (which shares 1 degree West with the Thor satellites), Estonia’s Raadio Kuku is now broadacasting regularly in MPEG-2 on 11.665 GHz. It will be encrypted while Raadio Kuku waits to permission to broadcast by satellite in the clear, which is expected in the Fall. (Christian Lyngemark in “Aftonbladet”)
Tom McAlevy, founder of the English-language Bandit Radio in Stockholm, a
hard rock station which attracted a cult following (and provided Radio
Sweden with an injection of new young staffers when RTL bought it and
switched to Swedish), is making some big changes in his Radio Lappland
venture. A 24 hour Radio Lappland which McAlevey recently launched in
southern Stockholm (on 102.4 MHz) has changed its name to Right On Radio and
has switched to English. Right On Radio has also begun broadcasts from
Gotland on 89.2 MHz. Expansion plans call for new stations in Enköping west
of Stockholm and Kalmar on the south east coast. Tom McAlevy has told the
magazine “Dagens Media” that he is considering expanding as well to the
Baltic republics and Eastern Europe. (“Dagens Industri” and “On Air Sweden”
Barry Fox writes in “Production Solutions” that Ireland is launching a new interactive approach to digital terrestrial television, avoiding the problem faced by ordinary DTT and digital satellite systems, which are forced to provide a return path over the telephone. Called WINDS (Wireless Interactive Network for Digital Services), it lets home receivers work as low power transmitters, to send digital signals back, using GSM digital telephone technology to keep transmission power at a minimum. Because Ireland is an island, it has more frequencies available for digital TV than countries that share borders. The Irish government has allocated 1 MHz slices of the UHF spectrum for the return path signals, each split into 1000 very narrow channels, which receivers can hop between until they find a clear channel. Up to 20,000 receivers can transmit back to one broadcast mast at the same time. State broadcaster RTE is spinning off a private company called Digico, due to launch in September 2000. That gives Sky Digital 18 months to capture the market first. (“Production Solutions”)
After a six month UK trial of Microsoft’s WebTV, the software giant says Internet access and e-mail could be the “killer applications” that drive British viewers to switch to digital TV. More than 90 percent of the people who took part in the tests cited the two features as its main attractions. Microsoft has taken minority stakes in British cable operators NTL and Telewest, which plan to offer Internet access on their new digital systems. (Reuters)
The British digital terrestrial television operator ONdigital says it has signed up more than a quarter of a million subscribers in its first six months, chasing hard its satellite-based rival, Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting. Ondigital, a joint venture by Carlton Communications and Granada, says it had 247,000 digital TV subscribers by the end of June, topping analysts’ forecasts of 200,000-240,000. (Reuters)
Astra 1H has been reported testing at around 22 degrees East. (“LyngSat
Updates”) It will join the other satellites at Astra’s primary position at
19 degrees East.
Video Italia has started on 12.610 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Updates”)
The German news channel Hundert, 6 (100,6 apparently a radio station) which
has been broadcasting digitally on Astra, is now available in analog form,
on DSF’s transponder 21 (11.523 GHz), sound 7.74 and 7.92 MHz. (Richard
Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Flextech, the owner of several pay TV channels such as Bravo and Living, is set to buy British Sky Broadcasting’s 9.5 percent stake in Granada Sky Broadcasting, the joint venture between Sky and Granada, for GBP 15 million. The deal would value GSkyB, which broadcasts three pay-TV channels, at GBP 160 million. If it goes ahead, it is possible that UK Gold will merge with Granada Plus, Bravo will merge with Granada Men and Motors, and Living will merge with Granada Breeze. Flextech (owned by TCI) is also interested in buying Granada’s 90.5 percent of GSkyB, but no deal has been reached. (“What Satellite TV” and “The Independent” via Reuters)
Gaylord Entertainments in Nashville, Tennessee says it negotiating with British Sky Broadcasting for a return of Country Music Television to Europe. Gaylord has asked for as many people as possible to write to BSkyB asking for CMT to return. (Mike Harker)
Regarding the report last time that Sky Radio is planning to broadcast to Germany using cable, satellite, and shortwave, David de Jong offers the following explanation:
“Sky Radio (the Dutch station in which Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, has a 71 percent stake) is applying for a terrestrial frequency in Berlin (101.3 MHz). This is for a classical music format under the name ‘Sky Klassik 101,3 — Lust auf Kultur’. But there are 14 other applicants for this frequency. Sky Radio says here in the Netherlands they do not intend to broadcast on satellite with this signal, nor in other regions, although if terrestrial frequencies would become available they might be interested.” (David de Jong, DutchMedia)
Discovery is considering adding another channel, Discovery Health, to the Sky Digital line-up this Fall. (“What Satellite TV”)
Eutelsat and France Telecom have reached a partnership agreement under which the Telecom 2 satellite currently at 8 degrees West will be incorporated into Eutelsat’s fleet. Eutelsat will take over the 11 Ku-band transponders on the satellite until the end of its expected life in 2004. By then a new satellite will be deployed at 7/8 degrees West. (Eutelsat and “satelitv”) All France Telecom test cards on Telecom 2A have ceased. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Nasza TV has started on Hot Bird 1 on 11.331 GHz in clear MPEG-2. Worldhaus TV has started on Hot Bird 3 on 12.476 GHz in clear MPEG-2. RTP Internacional has started on Hot Bird 4 on 12.654 GHz in clear MPEG-2. Apna TV and Babylon Blue have left 10.723 GHz (MPEG-2). MBC has started on Hot Bird 5 on 12.597 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Updates”)
RAISat 1, 2, and 3 went off the air on Hot Bird 2 on 11.804 GHz (clear MPEG-2) on June 30. They were replaced on July 1 by RAISat Ragazzi, Cinema, Show, Gambero Rosso Channel, Album, and Art. All are encrypted. (Christian Lyngemark in “Aftonbladet”)
A new TV channel covering multimedia entertainment, the Game Network, has launched in clear MPEG-2 on Hot Bird 4 on 12.673 GHz. (“What Satellite TV”)
Zagreb-based Nova TV received a licence on July 12, becoming Croatia’s first private nationwide television broadcaster. One major shareholder is “Vecernji list”, which is close to the governing Croatian Democratic Community Party (HDZ). The state-run television, which until now was the only nationalwide TV broadcaster in Croatia, is widely regarded as a mouthpiece of the HDZ. (“satelitv”)
We reported last time that Serbia’s RTS Sat, removed from Eutelsat on May 26, had returned via Israel’s Amos 1. On July 5 RTS Sat disappeared from Amos as well. It may try to return via Eutelsat (Christian Lyngemark and “satelitv”)
On Nilesat 101 (7 degrees West), TV5 Europe has started on 11.823 Ghz in clear MPEG-2. BBC World has moved from 11.843 to 11.766 GHz in clear MPEG-2. The ART package has left 11.881 GHz (MPEG-2). Al-Andalus TV has started on 11.823 GHz in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Asianet has started on Insat 2E (83 degrees East) on 3.654 GHz, in PAL. Vijay TV has started on 3.574 GHz in PAL. (“LyngSat Updates”)
North Korea’s KCTV has now begun broadcasts on Thaicom 3 (78.5 degrees East) on 3.423 GHz, in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Updates”) Thailand’s Shinawatra Satellite PCL has denied South Korean news reports that the North Korean transponder could be used for military purposes. The South Korean news agency Yonhap had claimed that Thaicom was equipped with a global positioning system that would allow the North Koreans to precisely locate a missile’s point of impact. Shinawatra says the report is “absolutely false”. (AP)
Bloomberg TV Asia has started on PAS 22 (60 degrees West) on 3.760 GHz and Galaxy 6 (99 degrees West) on 3.980 GHz. Both are in clear MPEG-2. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Echostar 4 has now reached 110 degrees West, where it will be used to relay DISH Network programming until Echostar 5 is launched and takes over at that position. (Christian Lygemark) Several channels that were on Echostar 4 when it was at 148 degrees West are now on Echostar 1 and 2 at 119 degrees West. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Turner Broadcasting is looking at launching a spin-off of its 24-hour
channels, Cartoon Network 1 and 2. Industry watchers in the US say the
station is tentatively named ‘Boomerang,’ and that it will air vintage
cartoons from Turner’s Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros cartoon libraries.
According to the reports, the new channel could launch in Europe within the
next 18 months.
(“What Satellite TV”)
Hughes Electronics Corp.’s DirecTV and broadcasters have agreed on general guidelines for transmitting local programs via satellite in an attempt to influence the final form of a new satellite TV law pending in Congress. Copies of the agreement were sent this week to members of Congress trying to iron out the differences between House and Senate bills to permit satellite vendors such as DirecTV to carry the signals of local stations.
DirecTV, EchoStar Technologies Corp. and other satellite companies are blocked under existing federal law from carrying the local signals — a handicap that has limited their appeal to many consumers.
One key aspect of the agreement would prohibit DirecTV and other satellite companies from offering programs from several network affiliates in a single market. Los Angeles viewers, for example, would only see Los Angeles stations. The agreement also would require satellite companies to get a local station’s permission to use its signal.
EchoStar, which did not take part in talks between DirecTV and NAB, has been pushing Congress to require local stations to provide their signals for satellite uplink. EchoStar has argued that stations could charge exorbitant rates if permission is required. In a prepared release, EchoStar criticized the agreement between DirecTV and the association, saying it could undermine competitiveness. DirecTV is the nation’s largest satellite TV system, with 7 million subscribers. EchoStar has 2.1 million subscribers. (AP, via Maryanne Kehoe)
Telephone company SBC Communications says it has made a deal with DirecTV to
make its satellite television service available to 18 million SBC
(Southwestern Bell, Nevada Bell, and Pacific Bell) customers. The deal
builds on a 1998 alliance that added DirecTV to the range of telephone and
Internet services offered by SBC to apartment buildings and condominiums,
adding access into individual homes. It is also another step by the
companies to fight the growing reach of cable and AT&T, which is spending
tens of billions of dollars to buy cable networks that will allow it to
offer super fast Internet services. (Reuters)
The first listener-supported non-commercial radio station in the United States, KPFA in Berkeley, California, now faces major demonstrations from listeners. Hundreds of people showed up last week to protest the Pacifica Foundation’s decision to fire another KPFA staff member for discussing management decisions on the air. Fearing a station takeover, Pacifica has padlocked the station door and is airing archival programs. Protesters object to what they consider to be the sell-out of Pacifica’s mission to corporate money, as well as the removal of their representation on the Pacifica Foundation board, which they fear may intend to sell the station. (NPR)
The Pacifica Foundation has denied that it has any plans to sell KPFA or any
of its outher four stations. It’s blamed the report on an e-mail sent by
mistake to the wrong person by the single board member who has suggested
selling a frequency. (Pacifica Foundation)
A quickly organized benefit concert in support of the station employees (and against Pacifica) on July 19 was attended by 3500 supporters. Featuring folk singer Joan Baez, the concert raised USD 70,000, which will be used for an advertising campaign in Washington, DC, Houston, and Los Angeles, where Pacifica board members live, along with the legal campaign mounted on behalf of listeners, and staff support. (“San Jose Mercury News”)
The two sides (the committee representing the station and the Pacifica
Foundation) have now agreed to Federal mediation. (“San Francisco
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has asked its inspector general to investigate whether WGBH-TV in Boston broke the law by swapping the names of donors with the Democratic Party. The CPB, which distributes federal funds for public broadcasting to stations and groups such as National Public Radio and PBS, also will begin asking stations it funds to certify that they are in compliance with IRS regulations, said Robert Coonrod, the corporation’s president.
After the practice was revealed in May by the Boston Globe, WGBH officials said the station had mistakenly gave a few thousand names to the Democratic National Committee in exchange for an equal number of names. The deal was made by new employees who weren’t aware of station policy, WGBH said. But this week, DNC officials said that more than 32,000 names had changed hands since 1993.
The move announced by CPB on July 15 comes as two other public television stations — WNET in New York and WETA in Washington, D.C. — acknowledged to the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe that they have shared donor lists with Democrats and Republicans.
After the Globe story, Republicans in Congress demanded a review of funding for public broadcasting. (AP via CNN)
A Russian state commission has been established to investigate the Proton failure on July 5. A preliminary report was due on July 19. (SatcoDX “Weekly Satellite News”)
Eutelsat Sesat is being launched with Proton on July 30. It will be positioned at 36 degrees East, Eutelsat’s most easterly position, and its 18 tranponders will be used to beam channels into Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as well as provide news feeds for Western and Central Europe. It will replace Eutelsat II-F3, one of three satellites to be positioned at 36 degrees East. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Eutelsat’s Atlantic Bird 1 is due to be in operation during the second quarter of 2001. It will be positioned at 12.5 degrees West, for reception in both Europe and the Americas, and will carry 20 Ku-band transponders. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)