January & February 2006

Welcome to 2006! December and January have been very busy months on the satellite scene and this month we focus on the many new channels being received across Australia and New Zealand. We also take a detailed look at one of the most interesting new channels to become available in the Asia-Pacific region, Ishtar TV which broadcasts from Northern Iraq. Just a reminder, all television and radio mentioned on these pages is received free-to-air in the DVB digital format unless otherwise noted.

Panamsat 8 - 169.0 degrees east

Panamsat 8 has seen quite a number of changes and new channels appear in recent weeks.

VTV Uruguaya from Montevideo, Uruguay has joined TV Chile on the SelecTV bouquet Ku-band transponder at 12286 Horizontal, 28800 3/4. The signal is easily received on small dishes (from 60cm) right across Australia.

Five channels from India's popular Zee Network are currently free-to-air and able to be received on small dishes in Australia on 12606 Horizontal, 28066 3/4. Zee Action features Hindi Action Movies, Zee Premier presents Hindi blockbuster movies, Zee TV is the network's flagship variety channel, Zee Music covers both Hindi pop and film music while Zee Punjabi presents Punjabi drama and rap.

TV Centr (Centre TV) from Moscow is only one of the many Russian channels that have appeared on various satellites in our region recently. TV Centra's coverage until recently was primarily restricted to around half of the Russia and a few Baltic states. The station has now commenced broadcasting on a wider range of satellites that allow the station to now be received across Western Europe, the USA and Australia. TV Centr can be found along with two Russian radio channels, Radio Arsenal and Kanal Melodia on 12726 Horizontal, 28066 3/4.

Antenna the very popular Greek channel had a free-to-air spell in January on 12526 Horizontal, 28800, 3/4, it has since returned to it's usual encrypted signal. 

One of the most interesting newcomers to Panamsat 8 is Ishtar TV from Iraq, which this month is our feature channel …

Ishtar - TV from Iraq's northern minorities

Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan has been throughout history a centre for the worship of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar. Ishtar, the goddess of love and beauty is now also the name of a television station that aims to promote the heritage and culture of Iraq's northern minorities. Ishtar TV transmitting from studios in Ankawa, a town near Erbil, broadcasts in Assyrian, Arabic and Kurdish. Future plans include the expansion of it's services to also include Turkish and English programs.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq lacked an independent media. The media in Iraq has experienced dramatic revival in recent years with the post-Saddam era seeing a media free-for-all emerge. Indeed, due to the lack of consistent law and order, Iraq for the time being, has the freest media in the entire Middle East and North Africa region. Ishtar now intends to allow the people of Northern Iraq to have an opportunity to voice their views on the future of Iraq. George Mansour, the General Director of Ishtar TV explains the rapid growth of the satellite television media in Iraq. "I believe it is a healthy phenomenon. The good [channels] will remain... In the first year after the fall of the regime [of Saddam Hussein], more than 100 newspapers appeared, and the number has now decreased. But the space is open for everyone... I think that it is good if someone can establish a satellite TV channel but, in the end, every channel must have its viewers. So programming must be structured to benefit the viewer."

Mansour, interviewed on Radio Free Europe highlighted the focus of Ishtar TV saying "I think the main issue is that the Arab and partly also Iraqi media have been focusing on the negative events happening in Iraq, on explosions, killing, looting, and so on. But they have not paid attention so far to the positive events that are really going on today in Iraq. I believe that now, in new Iraq we must all work together for its benefit, for the benefit of this Iraq that we were dreaming of and fighting for." Asked about the profile of the broadcast, Mansour described it as a "miscellaneous channel", elaborating: "there will be news; programs on arts, culture, and heritage; sports programs; family programs; emissions for children; as well as political programs."

The Globe, Erbil's English language magazine, also quotes Mansour. "We are trying to build the bridges between the nations in Iraq. And we are specifically trying to be a part of the civil society. Iraq was first built by all Iraqinnations living here. These people were ignored for many years. We focus on the rights of the minorities like Chaldeans and Assyrians. They have their history, and they made history. I believe that people will like us, because this is going to be professional. We are doing something different and are trying to cover all aspects we can. We know what the public wants to watch, and we are going to show them that".

The station features a highly automated production system incorporating the latest studio technologies. Cameras, mixers and lighting are all motorized or automated. There are no human camera operators inside the studio with the cameras controlled by the production staff via a joystick. Ishtar TV aims to be the leading television outlet in the Kurdistan Region and believes that high quality programing together with a superior technical quality will allow the station to realise that goal.

Discussions on the internet have raised the question whether Ishtar TV is a true independent media outlet or simply a propaganda machine of the ruling Kurdish parties in the north of Iraq. Although many television channels in Iraq are financed by political parties, Ishtar claims to be independent. Mansour states that Ishtar TV enjoys the financial support of "a few of our good people who believe that it is necessary to have a democratic and objective dialogue based on the people's legal right to disagree. We believe that the station is an obligation towards our country and people and that it is going to be distant from everything that obstructs our work that is moving towards the unity of our great nation."

Ishtar TV commenced regular programming in December on Panamsat 8 12575 Horizontal, 13845, 3/4.

Sinosat 1 - 100.5 degrees east

2.4 and 3 meter dish users in Melbourne are reporting DX reception from Sinosat 1. The satellite's footprint is not designed to cover Australia and most reception reports have been restricted to southern Victoria. To date 3 meter dishes in Sydney, Brisbane and Nth Queensland haven't been able to lock onto a useable signal. In most cases only one transponder is being received in Melbourne, 4067 Vertical, 5990, 1/2. The transponder carries studio quality feeds of services from China National Radio including CRN1 - Voice of China, CRN2 Voice of Fortune, CRN5 Taiwan Service 1, CRN6 Taiwan Service 2, CRN7 Voice of Huaxia FM 104.9, CRN8 Minorities Service, CRN9 Voice of Huaxia FM 87.8, CRI Easy FM, CRI Hit FM 88.7 and CRI Zhujiang Delta.

Asiasat 3 - 105.5 degrees east

DW-TV (Deutsche Welle TV), nine DW radio services, TV5 Paris and the 2 RFI radio services have now completed their move from Asiasat 2 to their new home on Asiasat 3. You will now find the channels within the Pacific Century Matrix transponder on 3760 Horizontal, 26000, 7/8.

The death of Dubai's Sheikh Maktoum in January saw media in the Emirates canceling regular programing during the mourning period. The Emirates Channel (3660, Vertical, 27500, 3/4) presented a black and white still photograph of the Sheikh with Arabic prayer audio.

Asiasat 2 - 100.5 degrees east

January has seen two Russian channels, another from the Ukraine and two Israeli channels join the services available on Asiasat 2.
RTR Planeta (RTR Planet) is new on 4000 Horizontal, 28125, 3/4. The service is an international Russian-language channel which was created for the promotion of Russian culture worldwide by Russia's largest broadcasting company, RTR. RTR, operates two national television channels ("Russia  and "Kultura"), 89 regional television stations, in addition to RTR Planeta. RTR Planeta commenced broadcasts in 2002 and rebroadcasts to an international audience programmes produced by the RTR and 'Kultura' national channels. Other programs include general entertainment including Russian drama, soap operas and music television. 4000 Horizontal, 28125, 3/4.

Also new from Moscow on Asiasat 2 is NTV on 3834 Vertical, 7272, 3/4. NTV features Russian news and entertainment programs. Highlights of NTV's programming includes nine live daily newscasts from Moscow, talk shows, game shows, and live Russian soccer. NTV also features performances of Russian musicians and documentaries showcasing Russian culture. Two Russian radio channels Russkoe and Russkoe 2 are also received on the same transponder.

Inter+ from Kiev Ukraine is also found in the bouquet on 3834 Vertical, 7272, 3/4.  Inter TV was established as the Ukrainian national broadcaster in 1996. Inter's international channel Inter+ was is available domestically in Ukraine as well as via satellite to Europe, New Zealand, Africa, USA, Canada and Australia. The channel aims to keep ethnic Ukrainians in constant contact with their homeland as well as  providing factual information concerning events in Ukraine. Inter+ broadcasts the most popular programing from various Ukrainian TV networks.

Two Israeli channels have appeared during January on 3834, Vertical 7272, 3/4. The Israeli Network and Israel Plus both broadcast in Hebrew. 


To close off the month just a reminder that the "MediaExplorer" DVDs remain available at a special member price available through the club's publications store. By purchasing MediaExplorer through the club you will receive almost 50% off the regular bookshop retail price. MediaExplorer is a full multimedia catalogue of free-to-air signals available from major regional satellites to backyards in Australia and New Zealand. With six DVD video disks and the companion DVD-ROM content, MediaExplorer features over eleven hours of world television and fourteen hours of radio from hundreds of broadcasters around the planet. It's the equivalent of both the "World Radio TV Handbook" and the "Passport" book for satellite dish users. Even if you don't intend to put up a dish it's a great way to glimpse into what the whole digital satellite revolution is about. Further details on MediaExplorer are at www.mediaexplorer.org.

The Year of the Dog

Chinese celebrate the New Year in the last few days of January. 2006 is the Year of the Dog. There will be plenty of spectacular programming to be found on the various Chinese channels, particularly on Apstar VI and Asiasat 3. Tune on in to any of the provincial stations as well as the CCTV outlets and join the festivities!

Antenna - occasionally free-to-air on Panamsat 8
January features programing celebrating the Chinese New Year
Zee Punjabi - Panamsat 8
RTR Planeta - Asiasat 2
Inter+ - Asiasat 2
NTV - Asiasat 2
Sheiikh Maktoum's death interrupted regular programing in the UAE
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