Satellite news 13.09.05


ITV's goes free and launches Freesat service

ITV's digital channels will start broadcasting "in the clear" during the next few months. As part of the new inititative, ITV and the BBC are to launch a free digital satellite service in a long-anticipated move to take on Sky. The broadcasters said today they were working together to develop a Freesat service that would "complement" Freeview. Freesat will be aimed at the 25 per cent of UK households that cannot receive Freeview. It is aiming to launch in the first half of next year and will compete with Sky's own Freesat service, which launched in October offering 120 TV channels and 80 radio stations for a one-off installation charge of Ł150.

Virgin Radio to launch new TV channel

SMG, the owner of Virgin Radio, has announced that it is considering the launch of a national digital TV channel. The company already owns radio, cinema and outdoor advertising outlets, with TV being the only medium where it lacks national coverage. Andrew Flanagan, SMG's chief executive, said plans were being drawn up to plug that gap: "I would like to have a national channel sat alongside my other national businesses. We are comfortable with our position in each of our marketplaces but I would like to protect our position in TV." A City analyst added that a Virgin-branded TV channel would be the most obvious choice if SMG were allowed to extend the brand by its ultimate owner, Sir Richard Branson.

Al Jazeera to launch new children's channel

Al Jazeera is launching a pan-Arabic, free-to-air children's channel with plans to distribute it to the UK, Europe and the Arab world. Al Jazeera Children's Channel will broadcast 18 hours of programming on weekdays and 19.5 hours at weekends. The channel will broadcast a daily debate magazine show, an educational game show, weekly sports and news magazines, as well as monthly science, health, multimedia and current affairs programmes. European-acquired programming will be dubbed into Arabic. Also, a UK version of US-based Muslim television channel Bridges TV is set to launch on Sky, featuring Islamic equivalents of programmes such as 'Sesame Street'. It will launch by the end of the year.

New religious channel to launch on Sky

A new Christian TV channel says it will launch on Sky Digital later this month. Called Gospel Channel Europe, the station intends to launch on September 26, and will provide talks shows, Gospel music and programs from international TV ministries.

New big-name presenters join Sky News

Sky News has announced that two well-known faces are joining the channel as part of its new-look presenting line-up. Former US State Department Spokesman James Rubin and BBC News presenter Gillian Joseph are joinining the 24-hour news station in time for the start of its new programming schedule and fresh on air look, which is expected to debut during the next few weeks. James Rubin will anchor Sky News' international new show, World News Tonight with James Rubin, to be broadcast from 8pm-9pm each week day. And Gillian Joseph, currently a presenter on BBC Breakfast and BBC London, will join the channel to anchor its evening output from 9pm-12am alongside Sky News' Chris Roberts.

Sky renews four transponders at 28.2° East

Satellite company Astra has signed a major long term renewal agreement with Sky on four of its 28.2° East transponders. Richard Freudenstein, Sky’s Chief Operating Officer, said: "We are pleased to have agreed this extension to our long-running and co-operative relationship with Astra and we look forward to further broadcasting innovation when we start delivering a High-Definition television service from next year."

Gay entertainment channel cancels launch

Gay entertainment channel Faze TV will not be launching on Sky after all, according to an announcement from the station. Faze was due to become the UK's first entertainment gay channel and go on air later in September, but in an email sent to interested viewers, the broadcaster said a license to launch the channel on Sky was refused. The statement said: "Despite an exhausting last eight months working to secure funding and an agreement with Sky for the channel, we have been forced this week to admit defeat. We heard last Wednesday that Sky would not offer a licence fee for the channel which would have enabled us to launch. We needed at least some payment from Sky, as advertising revenue alone will not generate enough income to pay for a programming budget of sufficient quality and we could not secure funding for a subscription channel. We really wanted to deliver the quality channel which you deserve reflecting the lives and interests of gay men today in the UK. Anything less would be a mistake, and this is why with considerable sadness we have decided not to go ahead."

New time-shifted FX channel launches on Sky

A two-hour delayed version of entertainment channel FX UK has launched on the Sky Digital EPG. FX+2 on channel 271 shows the schedule of FX two hours behind the existing output and carries identical programming and advertising.

TV ratings company to start tracking Sky+ users

TV audience research organisation BARB is employing new technology to allow them to measure audiences for programmes captured using the Sky+ receiver for the first time. Previously, measuring viewing figures of played back programming on Sky+ was not possible, but after a long period of development, the new reporting system will be activated in stages this month to close a major gap in the company's TV research. Sky has developed a means of extracting Service Information codes to identify the stored content from the hard disc PVR and output these so that a BARB meter can identify them.

Sky One commissions new Hollywood doc

Sky One has commissioned production company September Films to make a feature-length documentary narrated by Richard E Grant that will reveal on- and off-screen stories behind the Hollywood vices of sex, violence, drugs and excess.

News in brief...

Teletext has confirmed it is axing up to 70 posts from its sport, racing and finance departments or nearly half of its entire editorial team... All of the UK main terrestrial networks have signed up for the Oxford mobile TV trial that starts later this month, adding to the Sky, Discovery and Turner networks that are already onboard... Birmingham based Raj TV has commenced full testing ahead of its official launch on Sky Digital later this month... Several channels were removed from the Sky line-up this week, including You TV3 (180) and the Sky Box Office channels from 753 to 761... Action!241 has replaced the Soundtrack Channel on Sky channel 241.

Regards Satdude.