NORDIC MEDIA NEWS
This hasn’t been a good year for Swedish public television, or SVT. Twelve months ago the man expected to take over as the new Managing Director had to step aside because of a controversy over business affairs and tax deductions that were perfectly legal, but were thought to taint the highly respected position. A new team took over SVT instead, with a more administrative-focused Managing Director Maria Curman and a new Program Director, Mikael Olsson.
The year has been turbulent, as they brought the company more into the digital age, elevating the 24 hour news channel SVT24, merging it with the news departments of the two analog SVT channels, with a number of pending lay-offs as the result.
Then last week came revelations that Program Director Mikael Olsson had major tax debts, hadn’t filed an income return in several years, and had used his company credit card improperly. He was fired at a quickly called meeting of the company board of directors on Saturday. The firing came just before he was about to unveil a reorganization of the two national channels, sharpening their format focus.
All that has drawn attention from another setback for the public
broadcaster. Earlier last week SVT announced it is reducing its until now
ambitious digital output. SVT currently uses digital technology to
rebroadcast both its two analog national channels, along with the
digital-only news channel, and several regional stations. But for the first
8 months of next year, SVT now says, the digital spigot will be turned off
for several hours during the day.
Digital technology is replacing analog, but the pace varies. Sweden was a pioneer in digital television in all three modes: by cable, satellite, and over the air, which is called digital terrestrial television, or DTT. The SVT transmissions have served as the core for the DTT network.
All three systems require households to buy new set-top decoder or receiver boxes, but digital satellite and cable have far outpaced DTT. No more than 40,000 Swedish households have bought or rented terrestrial digital boxes. That’s about half the figure for digital cable and one-third the number of of digital satellite subscribers.
One of the drawbacks is that DTT has so many less channels than the other two forms, less than 20 compared to at least twice than number, and a potential for hundreds of satellite or cable channels. And a controversy has broken out here over a handful of those 20 channels, those owned by Viasat, part of a media and IT empire than includes major Swedish networks for cable TV, mobile telephone, Internet access, a web portal, as well as TV channels.
Viasat has uplinked its satellite channels from London, so it’s covered by Britain’s much more liberal TV regulations. And that’s where the controversy lies. Will inclusion in the digital net mean those channels will have to follow the stricter Swedish law, which outlaws commercials within programs? In the press, Viasat has claimed that the Ministry of Culture will not allow it to transmit any commercials on the DTT network. In response, Viasat says it will charge a subscription fee, which would make DTT cost at least twice as much as satellite or cable.
So what’s the truth here? In today’s program Lars Marén of the Swedish Ministry of Culture says the broadcast authorities have determined that Viasat can broadcast commercials in the Swedish DTT network under British legislation and any claims to the contrary are untrue.
To get Viasat’s side of the issue, we turned to the company’s Per Norman, who’s Chief Operating Officer for the Viasat Platform. His response was that the company is still waiting for a clarification. Meanwhile, negotiations continue with SVT over carrying the public broadcaster on Viasat’s own digital satellite platform. SVT wants Viasat (which in the long run means viewers) to pay, Per Norman says Viasat believes Swedes who already pay for a broadcast licence to finance SVT should not have to pay an additional fee to watch SVT on satellite.
The Swedish DTT decoder rental company Boxer has denied using taxpayers’ money to pay Viasat for carrying its channels in DTT. Viasat has demanded around 11 dollars per month (per subscriber) for digital distribution of TV3, ZTV, and TV8. Boxer says all the funds in question are coming from its marketing budget. (“Digital TV News”)
Skandia Media Invest, which holds 30 percent of the company, has warned that it will take Viasat’s owner, Modern Times Group, to court if the company doesn’t modify its policies. Boxer is also charging Viasat with abuse of its dominant market position to the Swedish competition authorities. (“Digital TV News”)
A veritable storm of customer complaints for Viasat Sweden’s digital services will not be duplicated in Norway, Viasat’s Norwegian head promises. Despite a massive advertising appeal for Swedish TV viewers to ”unleash the power in your TV”, Viasat only seems to have managed to unleash a barrage of customer complaints. The promised services and interactive applications are not up to the promises in the advertisements, Vision Media writes.The Swedish ombudsman for consumer affairs is investigating the advertising campaign, according to the Swedish media magazine.
The Norwegian arm of Viasat promises to tread more carefully when similar services will be rolled out in Norway, Digitoday.no writes. The Norwegian marketing will be far more modest in its claims, ViaSat CEO Einar Brustad says. (“Digital TV News”)
Astra 2B is now operating from 28.2 degrees East. Some transponders have switched from 2A to 2B. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “LyngSat Updates”) Correcting the report last time that Astra 2B is replacing Astra 1D, Christian Lyngemark writes to point out that while some transponders on Astra 1D will now switch to 2B, it’s Astra 2D that will replace 1D, after it is launched December 20-21, (Christian Lyngemark)
Total Rock has joined the BSkyB Sky Digital package. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Eutelsat has decided to move its Eutelsat II-F4 to 28.5 degrees East instead of the planned 25.5 degrees East. The reason is technical problems with Kopernikus 2, which will now be complemented by II-F4. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “LyngSat Updates”)
The travel channel Vacaciones TV has closed down on Hot Bird 2 (13 degrees East) on 12.092 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Quantum 24 has left Hot Bird 4 10.930 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
TV Romantica has started on Eutelsat W1 (10 degrees East) on 12.702 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Europe*Star 1 has reached 45 degrees East and has been testing. (“LyngSat
On November 27 the Rupert Murdoch-owned “Times” of London newspaper reported that British Sky Broadcasting is planning a big push into technology which will create “telephone television” and hopes to start its service early next year. BSkyB is already in talks with British Telecommunications Plc and a number of other potential partners on its planned service. The technology, ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line), enables broadcasters to offer films on demand down the telephone line as well as fast Internet access. (Reuters)
The UK government’s consumer watchdog said on December 5 it was launching a new inquiry into British Sky Broadcasting which will focus on the satellite broadcaster’s supply of wholesale pay television. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said in a statement it would examine whether BSkyB had infringed prohibitions in the new Competition Act which prohibits abuse of a dominant position and agreements which damage competition in Britain. (Reuters)
U.K. commercial broadcaster Carlton Communications has announced plans for a joint venture with the British grocery store chain J Sainsbury PLC to set up a digital television food and drink channel and Internet service. Carlton and Sainsbury’s will own the start-up service, billed as Britain’s first TV and Internet venture on food and drink, 50-50 under the banner “Taste Network.” Under the banner, the two companies will merge their existing websites, Carlton’s “SimplyFood” and Sainsbury’s food and drink elements from its “tasteforlife”, dedicated to food and drink. The “Taste Network” label will also bring together Carlton’s existing Food Network television channel to launch a digital television channel, “tasteTV” in Spring 2001 and has appointed veteran interactive television executive Anthony Ellis as chief executive of “Taste Network.” (“satelitv”)
France’s two commercial networks, TF1 and M6, have unveiled the content of their first channel collaboration TF6, which is due to bow on December 18 on satellite platforms. TF6 sets out to be a “mini-generalist” channel aimed at the under-50s and with a feminine slant. It has an annual budget of 150 million francs ($20 million), and is targeting break-even in 3-5 years. Backed by the combined clout of TF1 and M6, the channel is clearly aiming to become one of the leading cable and satellite stations. TF6 will broadcast exclusively in French, 24-hours a day, and will screen almost 200
feature films a year. The schedule is also heavily dominated by U.S. series. There is also a “Big Brother” style game played by three teams holed up in three separate flats for three weeks, whose only link with the outside world is the Web. TF6 will be available on digital platform Television Par Satellite, in which both TF1 and M6 have a 25 percent stake. (“satelitv”)
France’s broadcast industry authority said November 30 it had cleared the planned three-way merger of French conglomerate Vivendi SA, pay-television group Canal Plus SA and Canada’s Seagram Co. In a statement, France’s High Council on Audiovisual, or CSA, said Vivendi ensured that Canal Plus would have independent control over its pay-TV activity, budget, and commercial and marketing policy. The group also said that Canal Plus, which is 49-percent owned by Vivendi, would retain full control of its data base of subscribers. Vivendi and Canal Plus have promised to invest in the film industry, making a minimum contribution per subscriber, and Vivendi also agreed not to market a chain that could rival Canal Plus. The French broadcast authority had rejected Vivendi’s initial proposal over concerns that Canal Plus, Europe’s largest pay-television operator, would have sacrified too much independence and lost its identity in the merger. The deal can now be submitted for shareholders’ approval at a meeting Dec. 5. Once cleared, the merger would create a major media conglomerate called Vivendi Universal, linking French utilities and media conglomerate Vivendi with Canadian drinks and entertainment giant Seagram and Canal Plus. The deal brings together Vivendi’s European cable TV, satellite and Internet distribution systems and Seagram’s interests in Hollywood and music, Universal Studios and Universal Music Group. (AP)
The EU has pledged to step up the fight against counterfeiting and piracy which is costing European companies billion of euros’ worth of business each year. On November 30 the European Commission adopted a series of practical measures, including a proposal for new EU directive to harmonise national laws so as to make it easier to enforce intellectual property rights and also to extend the powers of Europol. Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said stepping up the fight against counterfeiting and piracy was essential to ensure the smooth running of the single market. It is estimated that EU businesses which operate internationally are losing between EUR 400 million and EUR 800 million in the single market and EUR 2 billion in non-member countries. (“satelitv”)
The head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency said in remarks published on November 28 it would be against Turkish interests to hang Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan, sentenced to death last year for treason. In an unprecedented briefing with selected national newspapers, Senkal Atasagun also said he was in favour of ending a ban on Kurdish language broadcasting and setting up a state-controlled television channel in Kurdish. Ending the Kurdish language broadcasting ban is among key conditions for Turkey to start European Union membership talks. Atasagun was quoted by the mainstream Hurriyet daily as saying Turkey should not allow Medya TV, a satellite channel echoing the views of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), to provide the only Kurdish language television in Turkey. (Reuters)
Kurdsat has moved from 12.476 to 11.604 GHz, switching from Hot Bird 3 to 5 at the same time. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “LyngSat Updates”)
Morocco’s 2M TV is to start broadcasts from Hot Bird on January 16, probably on 12.476 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
On LM1 (75 degrees East) IBA Channel 1 has started on 12.576 GHz in PAL. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Oman TV has started on Arabsat 2B (30.5 degrees East) on 12.740 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
International News Network has started on Arabsat 3A (26 degrees East) on 11.747 GHz. Al Mustakillah TV has replaced Tele Liban on 11.747 GHz. Saudi Channel 2 has replaced Al Mustakillah TV on 12.032 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
On Arabsat 2A (also 26 degrees East) the Palestinean Satellite Channel has moved from 12.735 to 12.536 GHz in PAL. ART Monajah has started on 12.605 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
ART Monajah has also started on Nilesat 101 (7 degrees West) on 12.073 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Iraq Satellite Channel and TV5 France/Belgique/Suisse have started on NSS 806 (40.5 degrees East) on 3.803 GHz. GEMS TV has started on 3.990 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Indonesia’s Palapa C1 has been renamed Anatolia 1, and is moving from 151 to 50 degrees East. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Worldspace India launched India’s first digital satellite broadcasting service on November 22. The multilingual service offers a wide variety of programming. Listeners can choose news from international broadcasters like the BBC, CNN, or Bloomberg, and global music formats and talk channels 24 hours a day. Currently they are offering 22 channels, including 8 specifically for India in Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam. (Alokesh Gupta)
Japan’s first digital satellite broadcasting services began on December 1, bringing high-quality pictures and interactive viewing, but analysts say providers should expect a bumpy road ahead. The service, which would allow viewers to take part in quiz shows and shop on TV, will be offered by eight Japanese companies, including five subsidiaries of major TV broadcasters. While the concept will undoubtedly be welcomed in a country known for its fascination with online communication, analysts expect demand will be tame as long as the costs for hooking up to the service remain high. (Reuters)
On PAS 2 (169 degrees East) the mux with Antenna Pacific, LBC Australia, ART Australia, and RAI International has moved from 3.778 to 3.836 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
CNBC Asia has started on Telkom 1 (108 degrees East) on 3.620 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Sharp-eyed Christian Lyngemark has found a rather important typo in the last edition. The sentence “GE 6 is not geostationary at 72 degrees West” should actually read “GE 6 is now geostationary at 72 degrees West”. Oops.
Fox News Channel has started on Galaxy 11 (91 degrees West) on 4.060 GHz in VC2+ encoded NTSC. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Galaxy 7 (125 degrees West) falled on November 22. It was mainly used as a back-up satellite. (“LyngSat Updates”)
The Albuquerque locals have started on EchoStar 5 (110 degrees West) on 12.632 GHz (transponder 29). (“LyngSat Updates”)
Interactive television service provider OpenTV Inc. on November 30 said it has signed a cable TV distribution deal with USA Media Group, marking the company’s first victory in the U.S. market. The deal is also the first time a U.S. cable company has agreed to upgrade its existing set-top boxes to interactive services with OpenTV software, instead of buying entirely new interactive boxes. OpenTV, based in Mountain View, Calif., did not disclose financial details of the deal. OpenTV is locked in a red-hot battle with other providers of operating systems for digital cable TV set-top boxes such as Liberate Technologies Inc.; Microsoft TV, which is part of Microsoft Corp., and PowerTV. At stake is a piece of what is expected to be a lucrative revenue stream from product sales and advertising generated by interactive television services, which range from ordering pizzas to movies on demand and shopping for household products, jewelry and even cars.
The OpenTV deployment will begin in the first quarter of 2001 and will offer consumers on-demand news, t-commerce (on-screen television shopping) and other interactive services. Internet access and e-mail will not immediately be included, according to a company representative. Under the deal, USA Media will begin deploying OpenTV’s systems to digital subscribers in the northern California community of Half Moon Bay, beginning in the first quarter of 2001. USA Media currently serves about 98,000 digital-equipped homes across six western states. (Reuters)
Correcting the report we carried last time:
“In a Nov. 17 story on digital moviemaking, The Associated Press erroneously reported that the Miramax movie “Bounce” was the first film ever sent to a theater via satellite. In 1998, a pair of independent filmmakers in Pennsylvania shot “The Last Broadcast” on digital video and sent the film by satellite to five theaters, where it was shown using digital projectors.” (AP)
Sky Mexico has moved from PAS 5 to PAS 9, both at 58 degrees West. Enlace TBN has started on PAS 9 on 3.926 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Canal 21 has started on Brasilsat B2 (65 degrees West) on 3.766 GHz. (“LyngSat Updates”)
Canada’s Anik F1 was successfully launched with Ariane on November 21. It will replace Anik E2 at 107.3 degrees West. (“LyngSat Updates”)
A Russian Proton rocket successfully delivered a U.S. commercial satellite into orbit on November 30. The Sirius 3 satellite, manufactured by Loral Space and Communications, was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the Central Asian nation of Kazakstan. The satellite will provide radio broadcasting for motorists in the United States. (AP)