ABC managing director Mark Scott has challenged News Corporation to help the public broadcaster save millions of taxpayer dollars a year by slashing the costs of broadcasting its channels on Foxtel.

The Abbott government's efficiency study into the ABC and SBS, officially released on Monday, found the broadcasters could save $6 million a year by not paying to broadcast its content on Foxtel, which is co-owned by News Corporation.

Mr Scott's latest appearance before Senate estimates hearings came as Prime Minister Tony Abbott conceded that his government's ABC and SBS funding cuts were "at odds" with the Coalition's pre-election promises. Under repeated questioning last week, Mr Abbott denied that the $308 million funding cut to the public broadcasters amounted to a broken promise.

The ABC currently pays Optus to broadcast its channels via satellite on Foxtel. The ABC wants Foxtel instead to cover these costs – an outcome Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is understood to support.

All the major free-to-air television networks currently pay retransmission fees to Optus to enable Foxtel to broadcast their channels and many Foxtel viewers consume their free-to-air content via Foxtel.

News Corp newspapers such as The Australian have strongly criticised the ABC for wasting taxpayer money.

Foxtel is resisting the push because of fears that commercial broadcasters will also refuse to pay if the public broadcasters are allowed to broadcast for free.

"I would point out that News Corporation – that in effect has 50 per cent ownership of Foxtel and provides strong management there – around the world has argued that broadcasters like the ABC should be paid to have our services delivered on pay TV providers," Mr Scott told the Senate hearings.

"That's because they're providing content there. Here, where they manage a pay TV service, there is a cost the ABC has to pay to be up on Foxtel. It strikes me that there's an inconsistency there. Of course we would welcome not having to pay that money but there are costs involved.

"If Foxtel is unwilling to meet that cost itself and Foxtel cuts the ABC off Foxtel distribution to homes, it makes it that much harder for our audiences to find our services."

The efficiency study, led by former Seven West Media chief financial officer Peter Lewis, found: "The ABC and SBS could achieve a significant saving if they no longer bought satellite capacity to provide their services on Foxtel."

Mr Lewis notes that some Foxtel satellite subscribers would have to install a free-to-air aerial or buy a set top box to watch the ABC and SBS if Foxtel stops re-transmitting them.

A Foxtel spokesman said: "Foxtel is happy to provide viewers with a convenient way to watch ABC and SBS programs through its retransmission arrangements. However, we are not in a position to, and nor do we think it's appropriate to, meet the national broadcasters' transposer costs to deliver the signal to Foxtel satellite homes."

Mr Scott was also grilled by senators on Monday about the ABC's decision to close some regional radio outposts, abolish the state-based 7.30 programs and centralise television production in Sydney and Melbourne.

ABC news director Kate Torney said the ABC would use the resources freed up by axing the state-based 7.30 reports to give more coverage of local issues across high rating programs on television, radio and online.

Women's sport gutted by ABC cuts

Viewer figures for the ABC's coverage of the W-League national women's football competition have often surpassed Foxtel's viewer figures for the A-League male version.

“Amid swinging cuts to the nation’s largest public broadcaster came the news yesterday that coverage of both the W-League and Women’s National Basketball League will conclude in coming months,” The Guardian said on November 25, “ending thirty-five years of commitment to regular women’s sport coverage on the ABC.”

Australia’s peak women’s sporting body said it feared young female athletes will be left without role models due to the cuts.

Australian Womensport and Recreation Association executive officer Leanne Evans said: “You’d struggle to find much at all in terms of women’s sport on television.

“It’d be a massive disappointment for those athletes, teams and people who support it.”

Lauren Jackson, a star of Australian women's basketball team the Opals, described the ABC's move to axe coverage of the leagues as a “very dark day for women's sport”. The Age reported November 24 that Jackson insisted it could spark a sponsorship and player exodus.

Head of W-League club Canberra United, Heather Reid, said: “I think it's shameful, it's terrible, it's bad for women's sport, but it's also bad for regional and community sport, too.”

Evans said: “It begs the question why cut two women’s leagues when from what we can see so far there’s been no cuts to major national men’s competitions?

“The traditional views of Australian sport have been maintained; it’s very disappointing that women’s sport is still seen as an easy target.”

In a statement, the ABC blamed “declining audience interest” for the decision. But the W-League has recorded significant growth in ratings over the past few seasons.

The Guardian said: “The ABC’s coverage has on several occasions drawn more than 100,000 viewers, with its seasonal average not significantly below this (89,000) ― figures more often than not surpassing audiences for Foxtel’s A-League coverage.”

Spaceport Australia Brings Chew On Board


[SatNews] Spaceport Australia has announced that Mr. Ethan Chew, from Ansari Enterprises, joins Spaceport Australia as the organization's Chief Technical Advisor

Ethan has worked professionally as a NASA contract systems engineer as well as at XCOR and DARPA. His specialties are systems engineering, composites design and fabrication, UAV design-build-fly development, rocket propulsion, rocket engine design-build-test, the establishment and management of Makerspaces, business development, and networking and marketing. Mr Chew will assist Spaceport Australia and with the facilities' establishment.

Details regarding Spaceport Australia may be viewed at

Over 500m multichannel homes in Asia Pacific


According to CASBAA’s updated Asia Pacific Multichannel TV Advertising 2015 book, the Asia Pacific now boasts over 500 million multichannel homes across the region.

“Our latest report reinforces the fact that the Asia Pacific is truly the growth engine for the multichannel TV industry today,” said Christopher Slaughter, CEO, CASBAA. “When we look at non-terrestrial TV connections, 61 per cent of homes in Asia now receive multichannel TV and the region is poised to strengthen its leadership as the largest multichannel video market globally in terms of subscribers.”

The pay-TV advertising market also continues to grow in Asia Pacific with an estimated +9.4 per cent year-on-year increase for 2014.

Jonathan Barnard, Head of Forecasting, ZenithOptimedia adds: “Television is the dominant advertising medium in Asia Pacific, attracting 40 per cent of all ad expenditure this year, and ZenithOptimedia forecasts it to grow at an average of 5 per cent a year until at least 2016. Meanwhile online video offers high-quality content that viewers can watch whenever they want and – using smartphones and tablets – wherever they want. Video advertising as a whole will remain the best way to build brand awareness and engagement for many years to come.”

Additionally, data sourced from The Ericsson Consumer Insight Report 2014 illustrates the increasing importance of OTT services and digital delivery, with on demand content making up an increasing part of consumers viewing habits, especially streaming, and a greater acceptance of paying for non-linear TV content.

Their findings also showed a 25 per cent increase in consumer willingness to pay for anywhere access compared to 2012 and a general upward trend in the use of tablets and smartphones to view video content both in the home and elsewhere.

The Asia Pacific Multichannel TV Advertising 2015 book provides both a global overview and Asia Pacific focused look at multichannel TV data along a measurement guide and research on advertising revenue.

Soyuz 2-1B lofts GLONASS K-1 satellite


A Russian Soyuz 2-1B has launched the much-delayed GLONASS K-1 Global Navigation satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Launch from a chilly Pad 43/4 occurred at 21:52 UTC on Sunday, marking the second launch of this class of satellite, following on from the first that was lofted in 2011.

GLONASS K-1 Launch:

The Russian GLONASS Global Navigation Satellite System – operated by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces – is currently the only global alternative to the American GPS fleet in operation that has global coverage of comparable precision.

Europe is currently working towards its Galileo system, while other countries are building their own GPS systems – such as the Chinese BeiDou Navigation Satellite constellation.

Development of GLONASS began in the Soviet Union in 1976. By the turn of the this decade, GLONASS had achieved 100 percent coverage, with the full orbital constellation of 24 satellites operational in 2011.

The Russians are continually launching GLONASS satellites, with varying success. One of the biggest failures came when three GLONASS-M birds were lost when their Proton-M launch vehicle dramatically failed during launch.

GLONASS-K is the latest version of the satellite design. Developed by Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems, the first satellite in this range was launched on 26 February, 2011. This latest satellite was set to launch the following year, ahead of several major delays.

The K Series are an advanced improvement of the previous M second-generation satellites, with longer lifespans and better accuracy.

Based on the Ekspress-1000A bus, the satellite utilizes L-Band navigation signals.

These two satellites will be eventually replaced by operational K series satellites, known as GLONASS K-2.

A Soyuz-2-1B rocket was used to launch the satellite.

The Soyuz-2 is the latest in a long line of Russian rockets derived from the R-7 missile, which became the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile when it flew in 1957.

Payloads launched by R-7 rockets have included the first satellite, Sputnik 1; the first manned spacecraft, Vostok 1, and every subsequent Soviet or Russian manned mission; the first spacecraft to leave Earth orbit, Mechta (Luna 1), the first missions to impact and land on the Moon, Luna 2 and Luna 9, and many other significant missions.

The Soyuz is descended from the Voskhod rocket, an R-7 derivative which was developed to launch the Soviet Union’s second-generation manned spacecraft and reconnaissance satellites. Soyuz incorporated the Blok-I third stage originally developed for the Molniya rocket, but lacked the Molniya’s fourth stage.

Since its first flight in 1966, numerous modifications have been made. The original Soyuz was replaced by the Soyuz-U, which remains in service along with the Soyuz-FG, an improved derivative which is mostly used for manned launches of Soyuz-TMA spacecraft.

The Soyuz-2 is a more complete modernisation, and will eventually replace the Soyuz-U and FG.

Compared to the Soyuz-U, the Soyuz-2 has modernised first and second stage engines – the RD-107A and RD-108A respectively, which were introduced on the Soyuz-FG. It also includes modifications to the third stage, and a digital flight control system, features not present on the Soyuz-FG.

The third stage of the Soyuz-2-1A retains the RD-0110 engine used on previous variants, while the Soyuz-2-1B is propelled by an RD-0124.

A third Soyuz-2 variant, the Soyuz-2-1V, differs significantly from the rest of the R-7 family, consisting of only the second and third stages of the Soyuz-2-1B, without the first stage, and with an optional Volga upper stage.

For the 2-1V, the first stage (the 2-1B’s second stage) is powered by an NK-33 engine with an RD-0110R vernier. The 2-1v’s debut occurred at the end of 2013. Exclusive documentation on this vehicle was acquired by L2 (LINK).

The Soyuz-2-1B is a three-stage rocket by the numbering system used by Russia. Under the system more commonly used in the west, it would be regarded a two-stage rocket, with four strap-on boosters, however instead the strap-ons are numbered stage 1, the first core stage is numbered stage 2, and the second core stage is numbered stage 3.

The first and second stage engines ignited together, about 17 seconds ahead of launch, building up to full thrust before the four swing-arms holding the rocket down was released.

Following liftoff, the rocket flew for approximately 118 seconds before the first stage separated. The four strap-ons fell away from the rocket and back towards Earth, forming a pattern known as the Korolev Cross after Sergei Korolev, the designer of the R-7.

The second stage continued to burn for another 170 seconds, before separating from the third stage. The Upper Stage was then Fregate, providing the final thrust to place the satellite into it required orbit.

These missions usually launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Sites 16/2 and 43/4 at Plesetsk were originally not able to host the Soyuz 2. However, they have since been converted.

Raduga TV to close down


International entertainment group MTG has announced that Russian digital satellite TV platform Raduga TV will cease broadcasting on 5 December 2014, as it has not been granted the required broadcasting licence from the local media regulator. MTG will continue to enhance the content and technology of its Russian pay-TV channel business Viasat, and will launch five new HD channels in 2015.

MTG has owned 50 per cent of Raduga Holdings S. A., the principal owner of LLC DalGeoCom, which operates Raduga TV, since February 2010. Raduga TV launched in February 2009 and has offered a wide range of Russian and international channels all across Russia.

“This has been a very difficult decision taken with the other shareholder, given the impact it will have on employees, customers, suppliers, and all of the other stakeholders of the business. Over the past year Raduga has worked very hard exploring all options for obtaining the right licence, which despite their efforts has not been granted. We therefore have no choice but to close down the operations. We are working hard to move our subscribers to another satellite operator and will make an announcement by December 6,” advised Irina Gofman, EVP/CEO of Russia and CIS and Pay-TV Emerging Markets. “The decision does not affect our successful pay-TV channel business Viasat, were we will launch five new HD channels in 2015. Viasat offers 15 channels in Russia, five of which are among the country’s 20 most popular channels,” she added.

The value of MTG’s participation in Raduga Holdings S. A. was written down 100 per cent in February 2014, and accordingly MTG’s Q4 2013 results included a SEK 147 million non-cash and non-recurring impairment charge in the Group’s operating income. The decision was based on the ongoing uncertainty and lack of visibility surrounding the licensing status and requirements for Raduga TV. The adjustment in satellite subscriber numbers for Pay-TV Emerging Markets will be accounted for in MTG’s 2014 Q4 results.

Satellite sends image to Earth using laser beam


For the first time, an image taken by a satellite has been sent to Earth using a laser beam, paving the way for instant streaming of satellite images to Earth.

The image of Berlin taken by the Sentinel-1A satellite, was beamed to another satellite called Alphasat almost 36,000 km away and then beamed back to earth over the same distance.

“You can visualise today’s link as an optical fibre in the sky that can connect the Sentinels back home to Europe, from wherever they are on their orbit around Earth,” said Magali Vaissiere from the European Space Agency.

This link between the two kinds of satellites means that in future, information can be streamed to Earth, almost instantly and continuously.The access to images could have many applications such as maritime safety and timely responses to natural disasters.

The Sentinel-1A orbits the Earth from pole to pole, but only transmits data to Earth when it passes over ground stations in Europe.Geostationary satellites, which hover 36,000 km above the Earth, have their ground stations in permanent view and stream data to Earth constantly.

“The link is operated at 1.8 Gbit/s, with a design that could scale up to 7.2 Gbit/s in the future. Never has so much data travelled in space,” added Vaissiere.(IANS)

After wrangle, Europe set to approve Ariane 6 launcher


After a two-year debate sparked by the emergence of low-cost competition, European space nations on Tuesday are likely to back plans to build a new rocket, the Ariane 6, say sources.

Intended to be ready for 2020, the rocket will replace the Ariane 5, taking its place alongside the lightweight Vega and Russia's veteran Soyuz at the European Space Agency (ESA) base in Kourou, French Guiana.

A medium to heavy launcher that traces its roots to 1985, the Ariane 5 has 62 successful operations to its name and accounts for more than half of the world's commercial launch market.

According to ESA, it has generated "direct economic benefits" in Europe of 50 billion euros ($125 billion).

But the workhorse of space also carries hefty costs -- and now finds itself flanked by nimble US commercial competitors such as SpaceX.

With smaller launchers, these rivals are well placed to exploit a fast-growing market for lighter, electric-propulsion telecoms satellites.

What to do about the Ariane 5 has topped ministers' agendas since 2013, creating tensions between France and Germany, two of ESA's pillars.

But, say officials, there should be a happy end on Tuesday at the meeting in Luxembourg.

Its successor, Ariane 6, should get the green light for startup costs estimated at 3.8 billion euros.

All told, the meeting is expected to open the way to eight billion euros -- 800 million annually over 10 years -- to fund the agency's launchers and their infrastructure.

"A big debate has taken place about this project, and we are convinced that it's a good project," German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in Paris on Thursday.

The meeting culminates months of effort to find a compromise.

Germany had pushed for an intermediate model, the Ariane 5 ME, for Midlife Evolution.

A tweaked version of the 5, it would be ready by 2017 and yield early savings in operational costs.

France had lobbied for a transition to the Ariane 6, which would take flight from around 2021 or 2022.

It argued that, at a time of tighter belts, the ME would drain crucial resources and lead to duplicated effort and probable holdups.

What emerges is a compromise whereby the Ariane 6 will incorporate features from the ME and other projects.

It will culminate in two versions -- a two-booster or four-booster design -- able to take between five and 10 tonnes into orbit.

It will include a solid rocket motor, the P120C, which is being designed as an upgrade for ESA's Vega launcher, as well as a strap-on booster.

The wrangle has been marked in part by differences on engineering, driven by fears of cost overruns and delay when new technology is introduced in the high-risk environment of space.

But another undercurrent was how to share out the bounty within Europe's space industry.

- Quid pro quo -

In return for Germany's climbdown on the ME -- and for boosting its annual contribution to Ariane 6 from 115 to 175 million euros -- France and Italy are expected to beef up contributions to the International Space Station (ISS).

ESA wants ministers to approve a three-year 820 million-euro budget for the manned outpost in space.

"For the first time, there is a shared technical solution among space agencies and industrial corporations, with Airbus Defence and Space, the satellite operator Arianespace and customers such as Eutelsat the most closely involved," French Research Minister Genevieve Fioraso told AFP.

"There is continuity. We will be using many tried-and-trusted components from the Ariane 5 or which have already been designed for the Ariane 5 ME."

"The truth is that there are very few new parts" in the Ariane 6, she said.

Eutelsat more confident on UHD


Executives at Eutelsat have suggested that 2015 will be the year of 4K/Ultra-HD, driven by increased affordability of sets, greater availability of content and ongoing standardisation.

The comments, which mark the operator’s growing confidence in adoption of the technology, were made at an awards ceremony in Rome.

Italian state broadcaster RAI’s pioneering work in 4K/UHD was recognised for two original co-productions in the format – La Bohème, a co-production by RAI-COM/DBW Communication and Rossini, by Lina Wertmüller, a co-production by RAI Strategie Tecnologiche.

Eutelsat Deputy CEO and Chief Commercial Officer Michel Azibert said “2015 will be the year of this new technology” noting that compatible TV sets were available at sub- €1,000 prices, new channels were being launched and VoD services were emerging.

“All the standardisation is pretty much achieved. It will be a new technology where satellite will play a dominant role,” said Azibert.
Michel Chabrol, Eutelsat’s Innovation Marketing Director, said that the satellite operator wasn’t changing its strategy in term of 4K/UHD, but recognised a growing emphasis from its broadcast partners and customers in adopting the format.

Speaking at the IBC broadcast technology show in mid-September, Markus Fritz, Eutelsat’s Director of Commercial Development and Marketing, expressed a more cautious note, suggesting that any such launches were dependent on business models being developed.
“The content is waiting, but operators must consider their return on investment. We will continue to work with them on trials to gain insights,” he said, adding that to succeed, UHD needed pay-TV platforms to adopt it as a differentiator.

Netflix set for 17m international subs


Netflix is expected to achieve 17 million paying subscribers to its international operations by the end of 2014, following its announcement of 14.4 million international subs in September. Launches in six European countries during September will help to boost the total, according to Digital TV Research.

Simon Murray, Principal Analyst at Digital TV Research, said: “We have made several adjustments to our previous estimates [based on the June results]: subscriber numbers are now a lot higher in Latin America (and a little higher in Canada). Subscriber numbers are now a lot lower in the UK (and a little lower in the Nordic countries).”

“We underestimated Latin America last time due to the historic payment problems that Netflix encountered (low credit card ownership; little electronic banking; low broadband penetration etcetera). Netflix has introduced simpler payment methods (such as prepaid cards) which has boosted take up. However, economic slowdown is expected in the region, especially in Argentina and Venezuela, which could hit Netflix take-up,” he advised.

These international figures do not include subscribers to the US service who are based abroad (these homes are included in the US figures). It is relatively easy to do this by using unblocker software, VPNs and DNS proxies. This is more common in Latin America and Canada than in Europe. The US service provides more titles and more recent titles.

Netflix has announced plans to launch in Australia and New Zealand next March. However, more than 200,000 Australian homes already subscribe to the US service via VPNs.