NORDIC MEDIA NEWS
Digital Audio Broadcasting, or DAB, was supposed to be the radio system of the future, taking over from FM, as FM has largely taken over from AM. Regular broadcasts were introduced in Britain and Sweden in 1995. But after 6 years, DAB is still below the horizon here. Swedish Public Radio’s DAB-only channel, the Finnish language Sisu Radio, recently began streaming live over the Internet, probably increasing its audience many times over.
And in the last few days the Swedish media magazine “Vision” has published several articles critical of DAB, with one commentor suggesting the entire system here will be closed by this Summer.
In today’s program I was joined in the studio by Ragner Schnell, who is in charge of DAB for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation. My first question was if DAB will be closed down here by this Summer, and rather than the expected “Absolutely not”, his answer was “Hopefully not”.
Last time we talked about some of the problems facing Swedish public television, or SVT, which had a broadcast monopoly here for many years, and like many Western European public broadcasters, is non-commercial and funded by manditory licence fees levied against anyone in the country who owns a TV set.
There’s an ongoing controversy over whether the public’s free network should provide broad programming for the entire licence-paying community, or whether it should concentrate on niches that the commercial channels can’t fill?
For example if SVT spends millions of dollars for the rights to expensive sports events like the Olympics, that means less money for other programming. If a commercial channel buys the rights, they get their investment back, and more, through commercials.
Consistent with their critical position towards public broadcasting, the Swedish Conservative party says SVT should become a complement to the commercial channels, rather than competing with similar programming. Conservative MP Ola Karlsson says the tax-payers should not be paying for production that someone else can make just as well, just as quiz shows. He also wants the current licence system replaced by funding from taxes. (TT)
Another of those who suggesting that public television should not carry the
same programming as commercial channels is the editor of the weekly
Information Technology newspaper, “Dagens IT”, Peter Pettersson. You can
hear his comments in today’s program, along with those of SVT’s Head of
Presentation for SVT, Håkan Sandberg, who defends the broad approach to
public television programming.
There seems to be good news for Sweden’s terrestrial private television channel, TV4. Under Swedish law, it’s now allowed to insert commercial breaks inside programs, while London-based cable and satellite stations TV3 and Channel 5 are exempt from those rules.
Minister of Culture Marita Ulvskog has suggested that new regulations for commercial TV here will allow breaks within programs for commercials, bringing Sweden into line with much of the rest of the European Union. Such a change would also clear up problems over the participation of several London-based channels in the national terrestrial digital TV network. (“Vision” and TT)
BYE BYE ANALOG
Viasat is pulling the plug on all of its analog relays, except for TV3 and ZTV, on Sirius (5 degrees East) and Thor (1 degree West) on April 1. Rival Canal Digital is closing its analog services from 1 degree West on September 3. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet)
Canal Digital has cancelled its contract with the Travel Channel, which disappeared from the line-up on March 1. Some subscribers have complained they might not have signed up if they had known. (Richard Karlsson and Frank Oestergren in “Aftonbladet)
Beginning next year, Canal Digital will include in its line-up the interactive channel eTV, which allows viewers to order records, films, and charter travel vacations, with the help of their remote controls. (TT)
In the beginning of 2002, Astra 3A is to replace Kopernikus 3 (operated by major SES owner Deutsche Telekom) at 23.5 degrees East, creating Astra’s third orbital position. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet)
SES has moved Astra 1D to 24.5 degrees East, where there are PAL test signals on 10.744 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet)
Analog isn’t dead yet. RTL has started a new German shopping channel (RTL Shop) which broadcasts in PAL on the frequency abandoned by Granada Plus, 11.244 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet)
Rupert Murdoch’s US news network Fox News is coming to the Sky Digital lineup this year. According to Sky’s teletext service, the channel will launch during the next few months. The news comes just days after Fox News began broadcasting in France’s Canal Satellite package and Spain’s Canal Satelite Digital lineup. No firm UK launch date has yet been announced. (“What Satellite TV”)
British Sky Broadcasting is planning to start a soccer-only sports channel. Scheduled to start in August, it will include both domestic British and international matches. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “What Satellite TV”)
A new youth culture channel called Where It’s At will launch shortly in the Sky Digital package. The station will be on air seven days a week and will screen a wide range of programming, varying from fashion and sport to sex and music. It has already begun test transmissions on Astra 2A at 12.402 GHz and has launched a website showcasing the best of its material. (“What Satellite TV”)
Fox Kids Europe has confirmed it is developing new interactive TV games channels. The channels will be branded Fox Kids Play are a joint venture with Paris-based interactive TV company Visiware. The channels will feature four to six games and already 10 games have been produced with the intent to change the channel’s games content periodically. Revenue will be generated through advertising and subscription. (“What Satellite TV”)
The Baby Channel, a 24 hour channel with programs on fertility, pregnancy, early learning, exercise, beauty, adnd family finance will launch on Sky Digital this Spring. (“What Satellite TV”)
On Eutelsat W2 (16 degrees East), RTK has switched analog (PAL) transponders, and is now on 11.431 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet)
Eurosport has announced that it will close down its analog service on Hot Bird (13 degrees East) on March 12. An onscreen message telling viewers how to watch the channel in digital will be broadcast on the transponder until March 17. (“What Satellite TV”)
The analog pop music and soft porn channel 123 Sat/69 X TV has launched on a digital transponder on Hot Bird. The channel is available in the clear on 11.623 GHz, as well as its original Hot Bird PAL analog transponder on 11.585 GHz. The channel carries 123 Sat’s format of pop videos during the afternoon and evening, with 69 X TV’s soft porno telephone sex line advertisements overnight. (“What Satellite TV”)
Das Webradio has closed down on Hot Bird 3 12.476 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in
The contemporary music network Radio Voyager, the only commercial English-language service to broadcast around-the-clock from the USA to Europe, has extended its contract with World Radio Network for stereo transmission via WRN’s new DVB channel on the Eutelsat Hot Bird 5 satellite.
Radio Voyager, like WRN, converges Internet broadcasting with traditional radio for global reach. The English-language service – with its contemporary adult music, live news and socially conscious informational programming – reaches its audience via FM stations and Hot Bird 5 in the USA, Europe, Africa and beyond.
WRN’s digital radio multiplex on 12,597 GHz on Hot Bird 5, launched in September 2000, will eventually carry up to forty national and international stations broadcasting a wide range of news, current affairs, magazine, commercial, classical and specialist music programming in digital quality audio aimed at a potential audience of 81 million homes across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. (WRN)
Digital tests have begun from Eurasiasat 1 at 42 degrees east, on 12.612 GHz. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet)
Public service broadcasting’s role isn’t just been questioned in Sweden. In Britain, commercial satellite broadcasters such as British Sky Broadcasting, Telewest, and Turner Broadcasting have warned that the BBC’s plans for new digital channels would have a “wide-reaching and long-term impact” on commercial TV. Nickelodeon has hit out at the BBC’s plans to launch a new children’s channel this Autumn, adding that its claim that the channel will boost the takeup of digital TV is not true. (“What Satellite TV”)
Television par Satellite (TPS), France’s second digital satellite television company, said on Tuesday it expects to have 1.15 million subscribers in the bag by the end of the year, taking the operator closer to profit. TPS, which is number two in France to digital satellite service CanalSatellite, also said its churn rate, or the number of people cancelling its service, had stabilised at a manageable 10 percent. (Reuters)
The Phillipines is having trouble disposing of its geo-stationary orbital slot at 147 degrees East. If no satellite appears there by 2003, the International Telecommunications Union will void the country’s allocation. However, no suitable bidders have yet come forward. (“What Satellite TV”)
Luxembourg satellite operator SES has emerged as the leading suitor for General Electric Co.’s satellite unit, although several rivals could ultimately scuttle the deal, people familiar with the discussions said. SES has entered advanced talks with GE to acquire GE American Communications (GE Americom), which would achieve SES’s goal of significantly expanding its U.S. presence, the sources told Reuters.
Word of talks between SES and GE surprised analysts, who in recent weeks had focused on SES acquiring either PanAmSat, the world’s largest private communications satellite operator, or Loral Space & Communications. Adding GE Americom instead would still provide SES with the significant North American presence it desires, without added financial troubles, analysts said. It also would transform SES into one of the world’s largest satellite-services providers, rivaled only by Loral, PanAmSat and Lockheed Martin Corp. (Reuters)
SETBACK FOR RUPERT
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Ltd slumped five percent on March 2 on a report it had stopped talks and due diligence on the DirecTV merger, recovering only partly after the media giant said the talks were still on. The world’s fifth-largest media conglomerate said it remained in due diligence with General Motors and its Hughes Electronics Corp unit over merging its Sky Global Networks into Hughes, which houses DirecTV. Murdoch told a conference in New York February 28 that negotiations on the possible merger of its satellite television arm into Hughes, which would create the world’s largest satellite TV provider worth about US$70 billion, were “progressing slowly”. (Reuters)
The World Radio Network will once again provide transmission services for Radio Voix Sans Frontières, the global 24-hour anti-racism campaign co-produced by community radio broadcasters on March 21st.
Under the auspices of AMARC – the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – more than 500 radio stations throughout the world join forces annually to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, declared by the United Nations in commemoration of the Sharpeville Massacre, South Africa, when 70 peaceful demonstrators against apartheid were killed in 1960.
An international production team will co-ordinate Radio Voix Sans Frontières which goes on air for 24 hours from midnight CET on March 20th. The multi-lingual programme will look critically at prevailing violations of human rights in the form of racial discrimination in different parts of the world, as well as celebrating the richness and diversity of multicultural communities.
From its London headquarters, WRN will transmit the broadcast to a potential world-wide audience in excess of one billion listeners via the Galaxy 5 satellite to North America; WRN’s digital multiplex on Eutelsat Hot Bird 5 covering Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; Intelsat 707 over Africa; and AsiaSat2 to audiences in the Far East. WRN will also provide 100 live streams of the broadcast on its North American server (www.wrn.org) as well as technical advice and support in linking from the broadcast hubs around Europe to WRN’s London studios. (WRN)
Canal Plus Technologies and Sun Microsystems, Inc. have announced a worldwide relationship to accelerate Java technology-based open standards for interactive digital television. The two partners will work together to promote industry acceptance and rapid deployment of Java technology in advanced digital set top boxes.
In addition, Canal Plus Technologies will license Sun’s PersonalJava platform for integration with its Mediahighway middleware solution and port its cable headend infrastructure products to Sun’s Solaris Operating Environment and Sun Cluster 3.0 software. iTV application servers for capabilities such as real-time interactive gaming or chat applications intend to be ported to the Sun platform.
In support of Canal Plus Technologies’ innovative interactive television solutions, Sun is joining other investors including SONY, Thomson multimedia/RCA and Sogecable. (“satelitv”)
On March 6 a US Federal Court judge in San Francisco ordered Napster to remove songs from its online service within three days of receiving notice by their copyright holders, but she also gave the controversial song-swapping service a little breathing room. While the long-awaited injunction underscored a victory for the music industry in its crusade to protect its intellectual property, it was narrower than record companies had sought at a hearing on Friday.
Experts said the ruling by San Francisco District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel gave Napster, which had been facing a corporate death sentence, time to launch a service that will pay royalties to artists and record companies. Patel said the record labels — which first sued Napster in December 1999 for copyright infringement — must share the burden of identifying infringed material ranging from songs by the Beatles to Beethoven traded on the vast online directory.
Napster’s service lets users swap songs for free by trading MP3 files, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small digital files. Given the nature of the service, which has attracted over 60 million fans, it will be difficult to identify all the material as users figure out new ways to list songs and music files. At any one time up to two million songs can be traded on any of Napster’s estimated 160 servers. Patel’s ruling makes the record companies responsible for finding out if their copyrights are being infringed and notifying Napster. (Reuters)
Eutelsat’s Eurobird which will join the Astra 2 series satellites at 28.5 degrees, is scheduled to lift off from French Guiana on Thursday March 8. The satellite will feature 18 transponders in the frequency range 11.200 MHz-11.700 MHz and six between 12.500-12.750 MHz. It replaces Eutelsat II F4 and due to its proximity to the Astra 2 series satellites, its channels will be receivable through Sky Digiboxes using the ‘Add Channels’ function. (“What Satellite TV” and “satelitv”)
On February 28, Eutelsat signed a contract at its Paris headquarters with Boeing Satellite Systems Inc. (BSS) for fast delivery of e-BIRD, a new satellite optimized for IP access networks with satellite return link capabilities. Due for launch in the second quarter of 2002, e-BIRD will be positioned in geostationary orbit at 25.5 degrees East and will provide 20 active Ku-band transponders connected to four spot beams over the European region. Breaking with traditional design, the satellite’s payload has been designed to accommodate the essentially asymmetric nature of Internet access. The satellite will have a contracted service life of 10 years and is a spin-stabilized Boeing 376 HP. (“satelitv”)
Eutelsat has also ordered Hot Birds 8 and 9, which will complete the existing capacity at 13 degrees East with high-powered satellites carrying Ku-band and Ka-band capacity, with almost 100 transponders in orbit. (“What Satellite TV”)
A former government minister wants to use Australia’s wide open spaces and old Russian missiles to launch Western satellites at cut rates. Former Defence Minister Ian McLachlan said March 7 that Australia can be a success in the competitive satellite launching business by using its vast empty interior to build a rocket base. Australia can also be a bridge between the United States and Russia, he said. McLachlan said he and a group of backers are looking at using the old rocket test range at Woomera in South Australia. Previous proposals to establish rocket bases in Australia to launch satellites have yet to come to anything. (AP)