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By | November 29, 2000

      • The Israeli cabinet approved on November 20 the launching of five thematic commercial channels – Russian/Amharic, Arabic, Israeli heritage, news, and Israeli/Middle Eastern music. The free-to-air channels, which will be financed by commercials, will also be allowed to resell their locally produced programmes to bolster their income. The decision retroactively approved the all-news channel, for which a tender was opened last week.
      • Star TV has confirmed it will launch Star News and Star Plus as part of the BSkyB digital bouquet (from 28.2 degrees East) in mid January. Peter Mukerjea, chief executive of Star’s India operation, said, “We are enabling Asian communities in the UK to enjoy the entertainment and news that their fellow countrymen see everyday back home.”
      • According to local reports, Rupert Murdoch is reportedly in talks with Indian state broadcaster Doordarshan about taking an active role on a direct-to-home (DTH) satellite platform, following the Indian government’s decision to open its doors to such services earlier this month. Doordarshan is seeking partners to launch the DTH services. However, under current legislation Murdoch would only be able to take a direct stake of 20 per cent in the venture. In addition, total foreign equity in DTH broadcasting in India has been capped at 49 per cent. The Indian government blocked Murdoch’s plans to launch DTH services three years ago, and it is reported that News Corp has been investing heavily in the country’s media since the collapse of his joint venture with local broadcaster Zee Telefilms at the end of last year.
      • India will have its first official DTH service in January. Sterling Infotech and Zee TV (20 per cent stake) will launch a 60 channel package comprising 19 channels from Indian pubcaster Doordarshan, 12 channels from Zee and a bouquet of independent channels including BBC World, Sun TV, Broadcast Worldwide’s four Tara-branded channels. Service plans to uplink from Singapore pending establishment of India-based ground facilities.
      • Croatia’s Nova TV has a new ownership structure following the establishment of a new government earlier this year. Miroslav Lilic, former HTV (Croatian Television), is editor in chief and now a Nova TV director and shareholder. He is also a director of music company Croatia Records. Continental Film, Croatia Film, Gama Studio and Tomislav Marcinko are also shareholders. A further 25 per cent of shares have been allocated for ‘foreign owners’ (using stakes previously held by Europapress Holdings and Sportske Novosti, which are to be compensated for their loss. Lilic says IM London “has invested the most in Nova TV programming so far.”
      • A delegation of French broadcasters visited Belgrade last week to discuss co-operation projects with the Serbian media. Representatives of Radio France Internationale (RFI) and of the Arte and TV5 television channels met Yugoslav ministers and Serbian media executives.
      • Egypt’s Information Minister Safwat al-Sharif said last week that the Syrian space channel will transmit its programmes on the Egyptian satellite Nilesat “so that it may reach every home in Egypt and the Arab nation and the outside world.”
      • London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi has called on the Iraq government in Baghdad to lift its self-imposed satellite ban (and also to lift prohibitions on Internet and fax access), saying, “About a year ago, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein presided over a meeting of the cabinet during which the cabinet discussed the question of allowing citizens access to satellite channels. The cabinet decided to form a committee to study this thorny question. A few days later, the committee came with the good news to the people who were awaiting the decision. The committee said it would soon obtain free of charge ‘some’, not all, of the foreign channels.” The newspaper, which is widely read in the region, says, “All it will take is to issue a statement allowing people to install satellite dishes on the rooftops of their homes.”
      • Europe*Star has leased two transponders on its new Europe*Star 1 craft (at 45 degrees East) to Communications & Banking Equipment SA (CBE) of Luxembourg. CBL intends using the transponders for broadband internet delivery for European and Middle East business-to-business and consumer markets.
      • The Russian government says it will repair the Ostankino TV tower in Moscow, damaged by fire in late August 2000. The cost has been estimated at more than $60 million, made up of about $41m to restore the structure and another $20m to restore technological equipment. The tower is operational with temporary antenna operating 150-200 metres up the tower and transmitting at some 10 per cent of maximum power.
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