NORDIC MEDIA NEWS
Swedish public television, or SVT, has had a hard time this millennium. More than a year ago, veteran journalist Lars Weiss, who was expected to take over as head of the company was forced to withdraw because of concern over income tax deductions that were perfectly legal, but were thought to damage the squeaky-clean reputation that goes with the job. Instead a team took over with adminstrator Maria Curman as CEO and journalist Mikael Olsson as Program Director. But before the year was out the Program Director had been fired, because of his failure to pay income taxes and private use of his company credit card.
And more recently CEO Curman has come under fire. Three of Sweden’s most popular novelists have condemned her for their shabby treatment when she was head of drama. And after a union-commissioned report concluded that planned staff cutbacks were unmotivated, Maria Curman claimed improbably in an interview that the report supported her position.
Much of the recent criticism has been directed at the controversial leadership duo’s major project, revamping the formats of the two national public service TV channels, SVT 1 and SVT2. They’ve always had the same broad programming, but to meet commercial competition, that’s changed now. In theory, the shift seems to reflect the format at the BBC, with a more general appeal to SVT1 and niche programs on SVT2. But so far the only obvious change is that the two long-standing evening newscasts have switched channels.
In today’s program I called up the Head of Presentation for SVT, Håkan Sandberg, and asked the reasoning behind the controversial format change.
According to a new survey, three of four Swedes want to keep public television here commercial-free. And there’s been a major outcry over plans by the company to put advertising on its website. Mass Media Professor Karl-Erik Gustsafsson says opening up part of the non-commercial broadcaster to advertising opens the door to future unholy alliances. Goran Greider, editor-in-chief of a major Social Democratic newspaper, says the move would undermine the broadcaster’s independence. (TT)
One of the most outspoken critics is the editor of the weekly Information Technology newspaper, “Dagens IT”, Peter Pettersson. I’ve got him on the line now intoday’s program, and ask about his objections.
In the next edition of MediaScan we’ll be exploring the ongoing controversy
over whether a public broadcaster should carry the same programming as
CHILDREN AND TELEVISION
The regulations for commercial TV here are stricter than in many other countries, although several broadcasters avoid the restrictions by uplinking their signals by satellite from London. Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and according to a report presented at a media expert seminar here in Stockholm last week, violence, including violence in children’s programming, is greater on the satellite channels than on public broadcaster SVT, and the situation is the same in the rest of Europe.
At the seminar the Swedish government tried to find support among other EU members for its ban on TV advertising aimed at children. While a few countries, such as Denmark, Belgium, Italy, and Greece, reportedly support the Swedish position, others are more negative, as is the European Commission. (TT, “Dagens Nyheter”, “Svenska Dagbladet”) Swedish broadcast journalist Ulf Wickbom mediated one of the workshops at the seminar, and in today’s program briefly summarizes the situation.
TV3, operated by Sweden’s MTG/Viasat media empire, has been granted a licence for a national terrestrial TV channel in Latvia. TV3 was granted a licence for a regional licence in Latvia in 1998. The new allocation would increase its reach from 75 percent of households in the Baltic country to more than 95 percent. (TT)
Nickelodeon Scandinavia and Sweden’s TV6 have left Sirius 3 (5 degrees East) 11.881 GHz. (“LyngSat Weekly Updates”)
Simaye Azadi Iran National TV has started on Sirius 2 (5 degrees East) on 12.111 GHz. (“LyngSat Weekly Updates”)
Rupert Murdoch’s long-term ambition is to bring the whole of British Sky Broadcasting under his Sky Global satellite TV umbrella but such a move would be impossible for the next couple of years, industry sources said on February 13. Murdoch, whose News Corp Ltd owns 37.5 percent of BSkyB, wants a firmer grip on the British pay-TV operator which he sees as a perfect template for his global satellite TV ambitions. But Murdoch’s move to take control of the largest U.S. satellite TV operator, DirecTV, from auto giant General Motors, would put a stop to such a move for at least two years, sources said.
News Corp and BSkyB declined to comment.
Under the terms of a complex deal, News Corp will initially hold 35 percent of the Sky Global Hughes combination but will eventually emerge as the largest, single shareholder. However, Hughes cannot see its stake fall below 51 percent over the next two years for tax reasons — putting a stop to any share issue which would significantly dilute Hughes’ stake.
Murdoch, who is chairman of BSkyB, is eager to exploit BSkyB’s interactive TV arm Open across his satellite platform and needs control of 100 percent to achieve that, sources noted. They added that BSkyB would be a great cash generator that could fund the rest of Sky Global’s largely loss-making operations. Murdoch set up Sky Global Networks last year to pool his satellite television assets which stretch across Europe, Asia and Latin America, reaching 85 million households. (Reuters)
Former offshore pirate Radio Caroline may be forced off the air again at the end of next month, due to the mass migration from analog to digital satellite reception in the UK. Currently the station broadcasts at weekends using an analog transponder on the Astra satellite at 19.2 degrees East. But Challenge TV, on whose uplink Radio Caroline depends, will move to digital after March 31. Radio Caroline¦s Mark Stafford says that the station has been quoted a price to continue using an analog transponder this is more than three times what it presently pays. But in the UK, most of the potential audience has now migrated to the digital platform at 28 degrees East. This, too, looks as if it will prove too expensive for the beleaguered station. (Radio Netherlands Media Network via Mike Terry)
Astra 2D has replaced Astra 1D at 28.2 degrees East. Astra 1D is moving back towards the initial Astra position at 19 degrees East. (“LyngSat Weekly Updates”)
Stream Verde has started on Hot Bird 2 (13 degrees East) on 11.977 GHz. (“LyngSat Weekly Updates”)
LBC Sat has started on Nilesat 101 (70 degrees West) on 12.054 GHz. (“LyngSat Weekly Updates”)
Japan’s telecoms ministry wants to shift to digital transmissions for television broadcasts, ending terrestrial analog broadcasting within 2011, a ministry official said on February 8. The cabinet was to be asked to approve the change the following day. Frequencies allocated for analog broadcasts will cease to be used within 10 years after allocations for digital terrestrial broadcasts are made, which could be as early as this summer. Japan’s overall demand for digital television sets and set-top boxes is estimated at two million units in the year beginning on April 1, up from an estimated 700,000 this year, said a spokesman for home appliance giant Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd
Home appliances makers introduced satellite-based digital TV sets last year, and Japan started broadcasting satellite-based digital services on December 1. Digital terrestrial broadcasts are scheduled to start in the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya areas by 2003, and nationwide by 2006. Public broadcaster NHK and five Tokyo-based commercial stations are teaming up in a project to build a 600 metre (1,968 ft) television transmission tower in central Tokyo. (Reuters)
PBS You has started on EchoStar 3 (61.5 degrees West) on 12.384 GHz (transponder 3). (“LyngSat Weekly Updates”)
On EchoStar 1 (148 degrees West) the DISH Network has started a package on
12.224, (transponder 1), 12.282 (transponder 5), and 12.341 GHz (transponder
9), encoded in MPEG-2 Nagavision. (“LyngSat Weekly Updates”)
Shares in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Ltd jumped five percent on February 14 after Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen upgraded her near-term stock rating on a possible merger involving its satellite television assets. The world’s fifth-largest media conglomerate is in talks with General Motors and its Hughes Electronics Corp unit over merging its satellite TV vehicle Sky Global Networks Inc into Hughes, which houses DirecTV.
A Sky Global-Hughes marriage would create the largest global satellite TV network in the world and expand Murdoch’s satellite TV interests in Asia and Europe to North America via DirecTV’s 9.5 million customers. Reif Cohen said the possible merger was reminiscent of the merger of Sky and British Satellite Broadcasting in the early 1990s to create BSkyB, in which Murdoch owns 37.5 percent and has management control of the day-to-day operations. She said a Sky Global-Hughes marriage would reduce costs.
General Motors has denied a deal is close to settlement. On February 9 Reuters reported industry sources as saying that the deal has received an initial thumbs up from General Motors’ board but a final deal would take at least another two weeks to wrap up. (Reuters)
Canada’s Anik F1 has moved from 118.7 degrees West to 107.3 degrees West, where it will replace Anik E2. (“LyngSat Weekly Updates”)
OpenTV, the market-leading maker of software for interactive television, said on February 13 it expects to announce new contracts soon with cable networks and upgrade its software for satellite clients to handle high-speed Internet service. OpenTV President James Ackerman told Reuters the company is not content with dominating the satellite market. The software company aims to grow its share of the cable market and sell more sophisticated software to its existing customers, he said. Both moves are necessary, analysts say, in order to ramp up OpenTV’s revenues. Industry sources estimate that interactive software for cable produces about four times as much revenue per user than software for satellite networks.
OpenTV, which offers electronic programming guides, e-mail and e-commerce via set-top boxes, is seen by competitors and some hardware makers as having software ill-suited for running on cable systems, which want more Internet services and have more complex systems. Critics say OpenTV is likely to be eclipsed by rivals Microsoft TV and Liberate as cable deployments increase.
Ackerman said that OpenTV now has a lead in satellite, simply because the satellite companies have been quick to deploy interactive TV and so far account for most interactive connections. The company has inked one contract so far to upgrade existing Motorola cable boxes with interactive ability. OpenTV said that there are currently 13.9 million set-top boxes running its software worldwide, the vast majority of which are on satellite networks. Most satellite systems provide a broadband, or high-speed broadcast connection to the customer, but the client then responds through a slower-speed connection over the phone line.
As satellite networks switch to high-speed DSL (digital subscriber line) return connections for their subscribers, OpenTV’s detractors say the company will be outmanoeuvred by its competitors, whose technology comes from Internet sector players, rather than from broadcast systems. Ackerman said OpenTV would have no problem integrating its software with DSL modems. (Reuters)