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BBC Engineering Information Sheet 5001:
The BBC's Future Satellite Broadcasting Services (1984)

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In 1977 the Geneva World Broadcasting Satellite Administrative Radio Conference (WARC '77) established, it was thought, the shape of satellite TV in Europe and beyond. At the time their plans seemed far-sighted and futuristic. Now they seem absurdly limited, with each country having a total allocation of only five channels. The European nations each started to consider how they would make use of this allocation, and in March 1982 the UK Government approved in principle a two channel satellite TV service.

A year later the BBC published an Engineering Information Sheet giving technical details of the UK satellite television system that would, it was supposed, commence in 1986. Although the document is mainly concerned with technicalities, reading it twenty years later is a rather depressing and thought-provoking experience for anyone who feels, as I do, that the history of UK television broadcasting since the mid-1980s has been largely one of opportunist free enterprise riding roughshod over the wider public interest. Different governments have, at the least, simply allowed this to happen. Things could have been so different, and so much better.
The Information Sheet starts with an explanation of the whole concept of satellite broadcasting, and then goes on to give details of the proposed service. There were to be two channels, DBS1 and DBS2. DBS1 was to be a film channel. DBS2 sounds, if you read between the lines, like a cross between UK Gold and Sky Sport 3. Both channels would have digital stereo.

At the receiving end, a 'parabolic aerial' of 2 to 3 ft in diameter would be required. This would have to be fixed rigidly, because it was more directional than a normal aerial. Indoors, a 'converter' would be required, although very soon TV sets would appear that would receive the satellite signals directly. The cost of the 'aerial' and 'converter' would be £400, plus installation. Transmissions would not be in PAL but in MAC (see footnote). This would provide better picture quality on a TV set or monitor with RGB input. There would probably be a monthly charge for the two channels, or they might be 'pay per view'. If necessary transmissions would be 'scrambled'.
During the spring and autumn equinoxes the satellite would be in shadow, so the solar cells would not provide power and transmissions would be interrupted for up to 72 minutes. This wouldn't be a problem, however, because it would occur after midnight when the channels would be shut down anyway!

The transmission details - orbital position, frequencies, polarisation, and so forth - are, of course, the WARC '77 allocations that became familiar to us during British Satellite Broadcasting's brief existence.

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