Digital Audio Broadcast System Launches in Africa

GABORONE, BOTSWANA (01/31/2000) - Following the launch in October of its digital audio broadcasting system in Africa, Washington-based WorldSpace Corp. last week debuted its WorldScape multimedia service, which it said will be offered to audiences in Africa within a few months.

WorldSpace's AfriStar satellite is currently supplying 25 channels of news, entertainment and educational programming, according to the company, which inaugurated the broadcasting service at a ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The WorldScape multimedia service allows programmers to link their existing content to a WorldSpace satellite where it is down-linked to transportable receivers containing built-in 4-inch dish antennas, the company said in a statement. The receivers contain data ports that enable the programming to be transmitted to computers.

The receivers that work with the WorldSpace digital broadcasts are being manufactured by JVC Company of America, Hitachi Ltd., Panasonic Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. Over 30,000 receivers have been shipped to retail outlets in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, and an additional 100,000 will be delivered to Africa by the end of the year, according to the company. Last year, the company estimated that the receivers would be priced between $250 and $350.

The project aims to "turn the current dearth of information in Africa into an affluence of information," said Noah Samara, chairman and chief executive officer of WorldSpace Corp.

The AfriStar satellite's signal can be heard anywhere in Africa and the Middle East, according to the company, and includes programming such as Cable News Network International, Bloomberg L.P., Kenya Broadcasting Corp., Radio Sud of Dakar, Egyptian Radio and Television and Kosmos Digital Radio of South Africa, among others. WorldSpace is concentrating its initial sales and distribution efforts in Sough Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal.

The multimedia service could have a large impact on education here, as the receivers, connected to PCs, can be used in remote villages to deliver training or lectures, according to WorldSpace.

WorldSpace plans to launch its AsiaStar satellite next month, and yet another to cover Latin America and Caribbean later in the year.

Worldspace can be found on the Web at http://www.worldspace.com.

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