The proposed bill for satellite regulation in Spain was approved by the Senate commission Thursday. Parliament is expected to pass it without a hitch by the end of the year, and that will greenlight Spanish DBS satellite Hispasat to transmit as of Jan. 1.

But even though the law will be in place, official bidding for transponders will not take place until January, which probably delays start-up dates for commercial channel transmissions until spring, at the earliest.

The approved satellite bill calls for three channels for pubcaster TVE–an increase from the previously proposed two–and at least three commercial DBS channels, as well as a possible additional eight transponders that could be used for commercial webs.

It is difficult to predict the outcome of the January bid for commercial channels, since pay service Canal Plus has already firmed up four pay theme channels on rival Astra–two of which will start up in January–and Silvio Berlusconi-backed Tele Cinco also is negotiating for two transponders on Astra.

Nonetheless, all the existing Spanish terrestrial channels– Canal Plus, Tele Cinco, and Rupert Murdoch-backed Antena 3– have reaffirmed their interest in transponders on Hispasat. Canal Plus director Juan Cueto said, “Our activities on Astra don’t mean we won’t go on Hispasat, but we were ready to go now, and Hispasat wasn’t.”

Even if legislation and channels were set to go in January, it seems Hispasat itself has been a bit off beam, with a footprint that was not properly covering the southern part of Spain. Hispasat authorities now say they have basically corrected the orientation problem, although it is probable that larger dishes than originally calculated will be required for reception in certain southern peninsula areas to compensate for the error.

Hispasat has decided to create an investigative commission to check into parties responsible for the error, with an eye to eliminating future problems with Hispasat 2, scheduled for an early summer launching.

The first big test for Hispasat beaming came Saturday with the Iberoamerican Music Festival, which was transmitted live in Spain and Latin America. This year the fest was held in Valencia, hosted by RTVE.

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