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By | July 18, 2001
      • Star India, the Indian arm of the Murdoch controlled Star TV is scouting for strong Indian partners for its proposed forays into the DTH business, writes Radhakrishna Rao in Bangalore. Peter Mukherjea, CEO of Star India says the company has to get its act in place, especially about certain areas of the Indian government’s policy. Mukherjea says Star’s DTH plan will mean investment upwards of Rs.10,000-million. Star India is also focusing on shifting its audience away from the existing cable service to DTH platform. In May 2000 India issued a set of guidelines for satellite communications, broadcasting and DTH TV. Under this policy private sector service providers are encouraged to own and operate satellite systems.
      • Israel’s satellite broadcasting company YES is demanding access to the country’s cable system. YES is also demanding Antitrust Authority director general Dror Strum approves co-operation between YES and the cable companies in buying content from major overseas producers in order to lower content costs. YES raised its requests at the Knesset Economics Committee although the cable companies refused to agree. The Committee has now determined that its Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council will have the authority to decide whether such co-operation can work and how it will be arranged, in line with Antitrust Authority regulations. YES chairman David Brodet said that he believed merging the cable companies’ infrastructure was a necessary move. He also said YES wants to have the option of providing various communications services, for example the Internet, in order to position itself in the market.
      • Lawyers working on behalf of Los Angeles County in California have recently failed to prove that eight satellites previously owned by Hughes Electronics and currently in orbit, worth between GBP250 million and GBP500 million, are subject to the same tax laws as a firm’s company cars or computers. The lawyers argued that the DirecTV satellites, which were sold to PanAmSat, were state-taxable since they meet basic taxable property rules, were owned by a California company and are not taxable anywhere else. Hughes board member, Kathleen Connell, also a Californian State commissioner, called the effort to tax satellites an example of an ‘overzealous’ county looking for creative ways to increase its income. “It is a stretch of the imagination to say 22,000 miles above the atmosphere is California,” she commented.
      • One Briton and four Hungarians have been arrested in Hungary on charges of illegally manufacturing MediaGuard and Viaccess smart cards for sale on the country’s black market and throughout the EU. They face custodial sentences of up to eight years. The scam is estimated to have caused Hungarian digital platforms losses of some 64 billion Forints (E251.6 million), with the cards trading hands for around 80,000 Forints (E314.59) each. After discovering Hungarian websites openly selling digital smart cards without subscriptions, police raids at numerous Hungarian addresses uncovered over 800 counterfeit cards.
      • The Mean Fiddler Group, a UK-based pop-music promoter, say they will launch their own music channel “within the next two years”, adding “The directors believe that interactive TV represents the logical conclusion to the convergence of technologies and the future for digital broadcasts,” a statement July 13 said.
      • Personal video recorder firm Axcent has signed a memorandum of understanding with interactive TV applications company 4TV to develop and promote PVR products incorporating 4TV’s interactive video archiving technology, Video Browser, which was specifically designed to control and manage the recording of TV content onto hard disk or video tape. Axcent hopes to launch the first integrated PVR/VCR in early 2002.
      • German news channel n-tv has confirmed that the launch of an Austrian news channel was under consideration Managing director Helmut Brandstatter told the Austrian news magazine Format. that Austria’s public broadcaster ORF needed competition. “Depending on how ORF develops in the future an Austrian news channel might become interesting for us. CNN has already launched small channels in Spain and Turkey.” He explained that he would have a close look at the situation with a colleague from CNN, n-tv’s main shareholder, and then begin to calculate. According to Brandstatter, a final decision will be made next year.
      • Austrian public broadcaster ORF has scrapped plans to launch a thematic cultural TV channel. According to a spokesman, the reason for the decision is the new federal media law that allows ORF only to set up thematic channels if they are not financed through the TV licence fee. “We can’t create the channel under those conditions,” he explained. ORF had planned to launch the cultural channel at the beginning of next year to digital cable households and to DTH homes through Astra.
      • Nasa has started a series of tests flights of an experimental unmanned flying wing that is designed to run on solar power, cruise for days at a time at an altitude of 100,000 feet (30,000 metres) and could replace LEO satellites. The plane, Helios, has a wingspan greater than that of a Boeing 747 Jumbo at 247 feet (74 metres) yet is only 12 feet (3.6 meters) long, roughly the same length as a small car. The first 14-hour flight reached only 70,000 feet (21,000 metres), but the second and third will attempt to reach a the plane’s designed 19-mile high operational altitude, more than three times the altitude normally achieved by commercial flights. An attempt will be made to keep the plane flying for four days in 2003 and eventually Nasa hopes to keep the plane aloft for six months at a time.
      • New Skies Satellite has signed a minimum five-year contract with Ugra-Telecom of Russia for Ku-band capacity on NSS 703 at 57 degrees East for data and broadcasting in Siberia
      • AOL Time-Warner and Sony have confirmed they are in discussions about combining their TV channels in India. Kunal Dasgupta, Sony Entertainment’s CEO in India, says his company is also talking to other media groups including Disney and Viacom about launching a revised and encrypted DTH package.
      • Nigeria’s massively indebted government says it will spend US$94 million (Naira 10.5 billion) over the next three years on a satellite project. President Olusegun Obasanjo and his cabinet last week approved the forming of a National Space Council to oversee the project. Science and Technology Minister Turner Isoun reportedly said the venture would show benefits for Nigeria in science, weather plotting, agriculture and communications.

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