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Thursday, May 21, 2009

British UK English TV In Costa Blanca Spain (Freeview Freesat TV Freesatfromsky Sky TV UKTV)

English / British / UK Television in Costa Blanca Spain

This page gives a summary of all the details within my main website ( with respect to receiving UK Television within Spain, and the various other services available, such as TDT - Spain's version of Freeview.

"Freeview" is the brand name of a UK Digital TV service ONLY AVAILABLE IN THE UK. It is available via TV aerials on the houses, and is only transmitted from TV transmitters in the UK. You will need either a Freeview "set top box" or a TV with Freeview built in. Again, Freeview is not available in Spain.
There are channels on the Freeview system that you have to pay for on via satellite - like Dave, UK History.

Spain has its own version of "Freeview" called Television Digital Terrestrial (TDT). There are approximately 30 digital Spanish TV channels via a TV aerial...many channels / programmes you can change the programmes into their original audio...not always English as a few German programmes have cropped will need a TDT "set top box" or a TV with TDT built in. Your existing television aerial may be ok for this but it may need to be reconfigured, and you may also require some signal amplifiers.
You can use a UK Freeview set top box to get TDT, but there are some limitations - language change options may be limited to English, Welsh and Gaelic, TDT uses frequency 69, UK Freeview set top boxes ma not be able to scan this frequency.
see or for more information

Freesat, a satellite version of Freeview, was launched in May 2008. Using an official Freesat receiver, you can watch the about 100 free satellite TV channels. All BBC channels, ITV1,2,3,4, C4, E4, More4, Film4 and FIVE are all free to watch on satellite. But some free channels the availability is limited due to signal strengths - so for example Five on Freesat will only be available at the same times as BBC2 as they share a frequency. FIVE with a Sky card (see below) is available 24/7 as this Sky FIVE is transmitted on a different frequency.
Official "Freesat" receivers currently only have about 100 TV channels on their EPG at the moment - but on some Freesat receivers you can manually add other channels not on the EPG using a "non-Freesat mode". They can only receive "free to air" channels. Freesat receivers will have the Freesat logo on them.
Some Freesat boxes have two modes. In Freesat mode the Freesat channels are in the Freesat EPG - the ones that have been officially added to the EPG and where new channels are updated automatically. In nonfreesatmode you can manually add other free channels into an other channel list - the nonfreesatmode channels list- by manually scanning the individual frequencies. To scan for channels, go to the menu and select Setup > Manual Tune. To switch back to Freesat mode after playing with the other channels, go to: Menu > STB Mode > Freesat It's handy being able to switch between Freesat and Non-Freesat channels, for situations where a channel is not yet part of Freesat, or is a Freesat-only channel. Note that when scanning for non-Freesat channels, the numbering sequence will be a bit odd, and also they can't be accessed via the Freesat Electronic Programme Guide.
There are basic Freesat receivers - Grundigs, Bush and Humax have had good reports for reception on the Costa Blanca.
HD Freesat receivers - the best being the Humax Foxsat Freesat HD receiver Freesat+ - Humax Foxsat HDR+ with inbuilt hard disk Freesat HD receivers will get you BBC HD channel and ITV HD Red button service. C4HD has not yet confirmed if or when it will be available on Freesat. Most come with a HDMI cable so that you can connect it directly to your HD TV - as long as it has a HDMI connection - and start watching HD TV straight away.
The Humax Freesat+ receiver is available December 2008 for around £300 It will have a 320GB hard drive that can store up to 80 hours of HD programming, or up to 200 hours of standard definition shows.

Freesatfromsky uses official Sky receivers and allows the viewing of many more free channels than Freesat. With a "Freesatfromsky" viewing card you can receive the FTA channels and Five, Five US and Fiver, Sky Three, Setanta Sports News.
The "Freesatfromsky" viewing cards are available in the UK for £20 (and some dealers may still be supplying them), and are subject to the same terms and conditions as a Sky subscription contract - including the "must not be used outside the uk". your viewing card can be disabled if Sky find out that you are using it outside the UK but if they don't know you are using one here in Spain....

If you have a Sky receiver and want to pay monthly used for Free to air, free to view and subscription channels...Again the viewing cards are subject to the same terms and conditions as a Sky subscription contract - including the "must not be used outside the uk". your viewing card can be disabled if Sky find out that you are using it outside the UK but if they don't know you are using one here in Spain.....
The best Sky receivers for Spain is the Pace 2600, followed by the Pace 430N. These ceased production about 5 years ago, and can only be bought as "reconditioned" units - or from Ebay. The best of the latest batch of Sky receivers is the Thomson, followed by the Amstrad. Avoid the Pace 440 and 445 - I have found these to be very poor performers.

Sky's award winning PVR. Pause Live TV, recording with no tapes, watch one channel whilst recording another channel, series linking. Available with ANY sky TV subscription package (from £17per month), or with no Sky TV subscription package for £10 per month - for the extra 7 quid best get at least 1 sky mix!

A Sky HD receiver will incorporate all the recording functions of the Sky+, but with the added ability to watch HD channels. BBC HD and C4 HD are available to watch without any subscription. For the other 30ish HD channels, you will need to pay an extra £10 per month for Skys HD Channels. Sky HD does not, at the moment, have access to ITV HD.
On any HD box you will get BBCHD
On a Freesat HD box you will get BBCHD and ITVHD
On a sky hd box you will get BBCHD and, with a freesatfromskycard, C4HD
On a sky hd box you will get BBCHD and, with a sky card with hd sub, C4HD and the other subscription HD channels depending on what sky mix you are on.

Note that many installers are using generic receivers (sometimes called Free To Air receivers) and calling them Freesat or Freeview receivers which may be confusing people. Official Freesat and sky receivers have a full 7 day programme guide...generic FTA receivers only have now and next programme information. Some generic receivers can also be modified with software to read Sky cards.

D+ is the Spanish satellite service. It is broadcast from two satellites - Astra 19E and Hispasat 30W. There is a variety of channels, from entertainment, movies and Sports. Many channels and programmes on the UK Sky system are also available on D+, and in most cases the language of the programmes can be changed into English. D+ can be received on a small satellite dish, approx 80cm. You will need an official D+ viewing card to watch these channels. Some, not all, TDT channels are also on D+.

BBC Prime
BBC Prime is a BBC pay channels for expats. It does not show movies or sport, but just home-grown programmes. It does show eastenders, and a variety of BBC and C4 programmes. The standalone version of BBC Prime that was on Hotbird will, by March 2009, only be available on Eurobird at 9 degrees east - so you may need your dish realigning. You will need an official BBC Prime subscription card available from BBC Prime is also available as part of some subscription packages. Some generic receivers have been able to access BBC Prime by software that removes the encryption. It now appears that BBC Prime has moved to version Viaccess 2.6. Therefore for those who were watching BBC Prime without paying for it, your screen will have gone blank.

MBC / Dubai One / Fox Movies / Arabic
You could always point a dish to badr / Arabsat at 26 degrees and look at the MBC 2,4,Action channels, the Fox Movie Channel, the Fox Series channel and Dubai One. These channels show various movies dramas and action series such as Once upon a time in Mexico, One Hour Photo ,The Rookie ,TRAINING DAY ,Taxi, Ghost Whisperer , Smallville , Grey's Anatomy , Hustle, Knight Rider, and older series of TOP GEAR!!! The channels and programmes are all mainly in English but with Arabic subtitles. All these channels are currently free to air, requiring a generic digital satellite receiver and at least an 80cm dish

The main BBC, ITV and C4 channels are free and do not require any Sky card or form of subscription (note some ITV regions do require a freesatfromsky or sky card) to view these channels.
All channels on Freesat (apart from ITV HD) are available on a sky receiver, and were also available for free before the launch of Freesat using a sky or generic receiver. Five, Five US, Five US+1, Fiver, Fiver+1 are all only available with a freesatfromsky or sky card at the moment. No monthly payments are required.

EU Television Without Frontiers
In 1989 the EU created the TVwF, as directive as to how it would like to see TV reception between member states. Various amendments have subsequently deemed the original proposals as unworkable (especially with PAY TV operations) but the directive is still alive and well and in use to level the playing field with broadcasters with rules on advertising, racial content, violence and protection of minors. One area that people quote me on is Article 2a 1. "Member States shall ensure freedom of reception and shall not restrict retransmissions on their territory of television broadcasts from other Member States for reasons which fall within the fields coordinated by this Directive." I refer them to Article 7 Member States shall ensure that broadcasters under their jurisdiction do not broadcast cinematographic works outside periods agreed with the rights holders.
Its all about copyright holders and the contracts signed between broadcasters and programme makers. So for example Sky cannot sign a deal with D+ in Spain to show Sky Sports without consulting all of the providers of their sport programmes (almost all are from third party programme makers) or the Governing bodies (like the FA), as these providers may have already signed deals with broadcasters in Spain who may object to the programmes they have paid for to be made available on another service (like TVE and the FA for Premier League TV rights)
The Freedom of Information Act (Various EU Directives) is covered by channels like BBC World News, the BBC World Service and Sky News - the UK Foreign Office partially fund the World Service and BBC World! These allow UK expats access to UK news and events and covers the requirements of the directive - it does not mean you should be allowed to receiver all the national channels!! Similarly all other European countries have at least one channels in their own language that offers similar services. For example TVEi is the international version of TVE for Spain which is available for free on various satellites.

UK TV channels are mainly broadcast from the Astra 2,a,b,c,and d and Eurobird 1 satellites located at 28.2 to 28.5 degrees east of south. There are other Astra satellites around also - which tend to do more European channels (Spain D+ is on Astra's at 19.2). Many channels are available with a small 80cm dish, but to get the BBC and ITV and C4's, which are on the weaker Astra 2D satellite you will require a "big dish". Note that reception of channels depends on your location and dish size.
As a rough guide: 80cm will get you some channels - approx 50% of what is available 1.4m will get more channels (including bbc1 and itv1,2,3,4) 1.8/2.4 will get even more channels (including bbc2 and c4) not all channels will be available all day.

There are two companies, both from Portugal, which produce what are regarded as the best quality and performing (for their price) satellite dishes for the Costa Blanca. Personally I have found that there is very little difference in the performance of both the Portuguese made 1.8m dishes (despite the propaganda!)
Famaval produce a 2.4m prime focus dishes which is identifiable with the holes around the rim of the dish, allowing extension panels to be added if required, to make the dish a 3.1m! For whatever reason I have found this Famaval 2.4m dish not to be as prone to rusting as the Famaval 1,8m counterpart!
Other 1.8 and 2.4m prime focus dishes are available and can be cheaper, like the Fortecstar Petal Dishes. Myself and some other installers do not recommend these "petal" dishes, as we have found them not to perform as good as their equivalent Famaval dishes. I have found that dishes made in Turkey generally perform poorer than those made in Portugal. They are made from spun steel, and can be identified by the "spin circles" on the back of the dish.
Some models of big dishes area actually two parts welded together - you can sometimes see the join along the dish!
Some other makes of dish, like Channel Masters, do perform much better than the Portuguese dishes, and their cost reflects this (around 2000euros).
For reference Famaval dish sizes are
1.4 prime focus Outside diameter: 1440mm x 1440mm Reflector diameter: 1330mm x 1330mm
1.8 prime focus Outside diameter: 1940mm x 1940mm Reflector diameter: 1790mm x 1790mm
2.4 prime focus Outside diameter: 2470mm x 2470mm Reflector diameter: 2290mm x 2290mm

Community Installs
It is possible for one dish to serve a number of receivers at different houses. If less than 4 connections are required then a 4 output LNB should be OK, with a cable from the dish to each location. If more than 4 connections are required, then the system will require a special signal distribution unit - called multiswitches.
These multiswicthes are strategically placed around the community to serve, and individual connections are made from these points. I personally run new cable in these systems, as you cannot rely on the condition of the existing cable. Ideally, the community will pay for the infrastructure required (dish, LNB, cables from LNB to multiswicthes, multiswicthes and amplifiers) and individuals will pay for the connection from the multiswitch to their house, and any receivers they require.
Permission must be sought for dishes to be installed on community areas, including apartment blocks. In privately owned houses, dish rules are fairly relaxed, but generally make sure it is installed in an area that wont upset your neighbours. You may also be required to ask your local town hall for permission to install a big dish.

Under the Rome Convention broadcasters have the right to authorize or prohibit the re-broadcasting of their broadcasts. "Re-broadcasting" is defined under the Rome Convention as the simultaneous broadcasting by one broadcasting organization of the broadcast of another broadcast organization. Broadcasters also have the right to authorize or prohibit the fixation of their broadcasts; the reproduction of unauthorized original fixations of their broadcasts; the reproduction for purposes other than those authorized fixations of their broadcasts.
Basically it says you need authorisation from the "Broadcasting organisations" like BBC and ITV to rebroadcast their transmission in the EU.
You may be using a rebroadcaster if your TV company:
is offering bbc and itv on a small dish or mesh aerial - these channels can only be legitimately received for free via a minimum of 1.4mdish (some areas 1.8m)
offers bbc and itv for a monthly subscription - bbc and itv are free on satellite and do not need a subscription
offers "freesat" with only 20 or 64 channels - by satellite you will receive over 100 free tv channels, not 20 or 64. the bbc have over 15 regional variations on satellite alone.
offers sky sports for less than £36 per month or setanta sports for less than £14 per month - the costs of legitimate subscriptions to these channels.
offers channels from other countries - channels like Showtime Sports for example.
says they get BBC and ITV from a satellite other than Astra 2, like Hotbird - bbc and itv are only broadcast on one "satellite constellation (those satellites at 28.3 to 28.5 degrees)
as these companies will more than likely be a rebroadcasting services who's signal may be terminated just like Telemicro.

Advantages of Satellite
With a sky or freesat receiver you can get bbc interactive, sky active and a full 7 day programme guide. you may need a big dish, you may pay more for the installation, but at least the signal is pretty much guaranteed as it it direct from the satellite and is not reliant on a third party. pure digital broadcasting (with some channels in full Dolby Digital sound), not reliant on second or third or fourth generation signals as the signals gets past from one rebroadcast transmitter to another.
Many ex rebroadcasting clients have commented on how good the signal direct from the satellite is compared to that of a rebroadcasted signal.
if you are in doubt as to whether or not it is OK to view free satellite tv channels (like BBC and ITV) in Spain via satellite see which says that "it may be possible outside the UK to use a satellite receiver to pick up channels available on freesat" - nothing about it being illegal - the technical term is "satellite signal overspill".
A final thought on this: if it was illegal to watch TV channels that were broadcasted for free, then all shops selling free to air receivers would be in trouble, as would Canal Digital + (the Spanish satellite service) as their receivers can also pick up free tv satellite channels from other countries.

Default Transponder Settings for Spain or Resetting your Sky Receiver after powercut
When a Sky receiver is first booted up, like after a power cut, then the first thing it requires to function is at least 6 hours of EPG information. It looks for this data on the Default transponder frequency of 11778. this frequency can be poor in Spain, and therefore the receiver will not be able to find the information is required and therefore will not work - giving the message "No satellite Signal is Being Received". Changing the default transponder to another frequency (i use 12129) allow the receiver to get the information it requires to function. No matter what people tell you changing this default transponder does not increase how long channels are available. It is only used to “assist” the receiver to boot up. It is normal for the Default Transponder to revert back to 11778 once the receiver is functioning.
See the link in the menu on the left hand side of the screen to help reset your sky digibox.

Auto Standby
Sky has been deploying new receiver software, and incorporated in to this is a new feature designed to help save energy when the Sky receiver is not being used. If the box hasn't been used for a period of two hours after 11pm, or for four hours during the day time, an ‘Auto Standby' message will pop up on screen for three minutes. If there's no further use the box will go into Standby mode automatically, until the user turns it back on. This can be an issue if you are using a VCR to record things from the Sky receivers as when the receiver goes into Autostandby mode you will record a blank (or blue!) screen if the box has shut down.... You can turn it off by using the option in Services (Sky+ Setup for + and HD users!)

Electronic Programme Guide (EPGs)
Sky's Electronic Programme Guide is used on Sky receivers. Although all the frequencies used by Sky transmit limited EPG information, the main EPG data is transmitted on one frequency - 11778. You may notice that this frequency is also the main Default Transponder - and the same frequency that is measured in the Sky receivers Signal Test screen. This frequency's reception varies greatly during the day and may not be available 24/7 - especially during the afternoon, and also certain Sky receivers really do not like this frequency. Hence why you may only get a limited (6 hours or so, EPG information in the EPG.
The Freesat EPG is transmitted from a different frequency to Sky (in fact it is on a different satellite!), whose reception is widely available over Europe - hence why you do not have to change the Freesat receiver "default transponder". It was the fact that the Freesat EPG would be easily available over Europe on a small dish that lead many, including installers, into thinking that all channels on Freesat would be available all over Europe in a small dish. Where as in fact both Sky and Freesat EPGs point to the same frequencies for the channels they use (apart from FIVE!)
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