World Space Fading into Darkness

January 20, 2010


The last program stream still originating from the remnants of World Space Satellite radio may fall silent on Jan. 31, Rapid TV News' Chris Forrester reports. If true, the shutdown will punctuate a final chapter in satellite radio's pioneer multi-continental service, as the company's Afristar satellite joins its twin, Asiastar, in darkness.

Forrester says he's received communication from employees of World Space Southern Africa that indicate all its operations will cease as of Jan. 31. The African service subsidiary has continued to uplink programming from its facility in South Africa throughout the troubled parent company's lengthy bankruptcy proceeding.

A published copy of a letter intended for subscribers indicates all services will terminate at the end of January, and also suggests that subscribers who've prepaid beyond that date file are eligible to file claims with the bankruptcy court. The text is very similar to a notice posted to World Space India subscribers who heard their service go dark on Dec. 31, 2009, after staffers were informed that a purchase of World Space assets in the Delaware Bankruptcy Court did not include maintaining operations there.

According to a report at radioandmusic.com, World Space employees and managers in India are filing suit to collect back wages owed from their U.S.-based parent and have requested diplomatic assistance from their government in dealing with what's been termed an improper closure. Stories from former World Space employees in the United States and abroad suggest that many worked on for months without paychecks in the hope that the firm would find new investors. But rescue financing never materialized, and even as the firm floundered through bankruptcy, World Space India spokespersons claim no clear instruction to close down their subsidiary was ever received.

Picking up the bulk of World Space assets through the bankruptcy court is Liberty Media, a well-capitalized U.S. media firm that tendered a highly publicized bailout of Sirius/XM satellite radio last year. A new subsidiary called Liberty Satellite Radio has been created to take charge of the assets, but World Space India and Africa have been excluded from the ongoing acquisition process.

Two of Liberty's top executives now sit on the Sirius/XM board of directors, leading some industry observers to speculate that Liberty is focused on establishing a European satellite service, using licenses granted to World Space in several EU countries in a bid to extend the Sirius/XM brands there.



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