NEW YORK (Sep. 20)
The satellite television dishes being installed atop two dozen of the largest Jewish federations across North America indicate they are the pioneer participants in the Council of Jewish Federations Satellite Net-work (CJFSN), an interactive television system scheduled to debut next month.
CJFSN will allow the federations and the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF), their umbrella organization, to create and broadcast programs — most likely training sessions, briefings, meetings and press conferences — for one another.
Not only will viewers view, they will be able to dial a toll-free telephone number to talk to participants on the live programs and be heard by the entire audience.
“It’s really a vehicle for eliminating a lot of travel and time spent in travel, and bridging the communications gap that exists between CJF and federations and between federations themselves.” CJF communications director Frank Strauss told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
THE PROCESS INVOLVED
Programs can originate in any television studio. The signal will be transmitted to a satellite, G-Star II, in orbit above the U.S. G-Star II will retransmit a scrambled signal back to earth. Receiving stations with a TV tuned to the proper channel code can view the unscrambled signal.
CJF is coordinator of its network. Strauss, whose many duties will henceforth include CJFSN program director, envisioned perhaps two hour-long programs in each of the network’s first six months.
Beyond that, who knows? He said CJF will offer use of the facilities to other Jewish non-profit organizations and agencies as well as to non-Jewish agencies in the United Way charitable program.
THE START-UP COST
The start-up cost to a federation is $4,000 for the receiving dish and installation. CJFSN programming will cost $5,000 per hour, with the fee divided among the viewers. That means 25 federations could view an hour of programming for $200 each.
CJFSN is the first in-house network to be established within the Jewish Satellite Network (JSN), a wholly owned subsidiary of the International Satellite Networks Corp. (ISN), with offices in Tel Aviv, Paris and New York. Principals in the firm include Meir Amit, former Israeli Minister of Communications; and brothers Edward and Lee Hanna, who said they have spent their careers in network television production.
ISN can provide programming created in Israel by the World Zionist Organization Information Department, which is a charter member of JSN.
The Hannas will serve as consultants to CJFSN. Lee Hanna said CJFSN has been in formation for about four months. Its impetus, he thought, was the ISN satellite broadcast last November from Jerusalem to the CJF General Assembly in Chicago featuring former refusenik Natan Sharansky. JSN hopes to expand its clientele to include other local and national Jewish institutions, and figures the debut of the network will help. “Once they see that I think they will instantly recognize the possibilities,” he said. He predicted that the U.S. Jewish community would be fully linked via satellite television within two years.
Local federations will be informed of program schedules in advance, and Strauss said a parallel network of facsimile machines — photocopiers that work over telephone lines — will be established for emergencies. According to Hanna, ISN can air a program within hours in case of crisis.
But won’t the programming itself constitute its own crisis by showing no more than hours of “talking heads?” Hanna thought not, reiterating the viewer” participation.
He also noted that Strauss’ tentative schedule included a variety of programs, from a training session for new federation employes to a broadcast from the next General Assembly.
“Sometimes,” he added, “talking heads are necessary and accomplish their purpose.”