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UK TV in France

Satellite dishes and digiboxes

 

When you live or have a maison secondaire in France you will probably still want to keep up with events back home or follow your old favourites!  It isn’t hard to stay in touch, as all your usual UK channels are available throughout France.


To receive UK TV in France you will need a satellite receiver and its dish.

Digiboxes


To keep all your viewing options open as far as ‘pay-to-view’, you need to go for a Sky Digibox.  Newer models operate faster than older ones and tend to be more reliable with regard to signal quality.  Some models have more sensitive tuners than others to help with the Astra satellite footprint in Europe.

All the standard Free-To-Air (FTA) channels can be received with any decent non-Sky digital satellite receiver, regardless of whether it is bought in France or the UK.  These include all the BBC radio and TV channels (including children’s BBC for the younger ones!), ITV TV channels, Channel 4 and 5 and several news channels like BBC News 24, CNN, Sky News and Euronews.  However, if you want any of the additional subscription Sky channels, then a Sky Digibox is the only way forward.  A Sky or Freesat Digibox also includes a full 7-day Electronic Programme Guide or EPG and the ‘Red Button’ facility and these are well worth having.  For a full list of all TV and radio channels that are Free-To-Air see : What Channels Do I Get?

 

There are several ways of getting a Sky/Freesat Digibox.  You may already have one that you used in the UK, or you can find a used one – just be a bit wary and try and check it functions properly before bringing to France!  You can also buy them new from any UK satellite specialist store.  Expect to pay a little more if you buy in France as all Sky/Freesat boxes start off life in the UK and have to be imported anywhere else.

 

We can supply new Sky/Freesat Digiboxes (Our Products).  We’re sorry but we wont deal in second-hand or reconditioned boxes to avoid disappointment.  We are also happy to install your own equipment that you bring over to France.

 

Freesat, started by BBC/ITV, is the satellite version of the terrestrial Freeview service available in the UK for those not able to access via aerial due to the Analog-to-Digital switchover, and is receivable in France.  The Freesat Digiboxes (satellite receivers) give the full range of red button services (and HD content where applicable), and there is also a PVR version that offers ‘Sky+ type’ functionality for the Freesat channels.


Viewing cards


A Sky Digibox on its own will happily give you all the FTA channels without a card.  To get additional/subscription channels will need a Sky Viewing Card.


To subscribe to Sky you need to choose your package and explain that you already have a box and would just like to subscribe. You can find a list of the various packages and prices on Sky’s website.

Sky will only send cards to UK addresses and is not supposed to knowingly supply service to those outside the UK for copyright reasons.

In practice those who want to receive these channels outside of the official reception area tend to just take their card and box with them, if they already have one.  If they subscribe they use their UK address or "borrow" the contact address of a friend in the UK.  New cards need to be activated and this can only be done once the box has been set up with a dish and is working properly.  Subscription cards also have to be done in the box which is going to be used for reception: so you can't activate a card in someone else's box and expect it to always work correctly in yours.  ‘Premium’ channels are tied-in to their respective Card/Digibox combination.

Activating a card needs it to be inserted and noting of box and card details from the service menu.  The broadcaster will need to know the name, address, card number and box details and also the subscriber number for a subscriber card.  Those outside the UK sometimes get someone in the UK to ring the card provider (the phone number that comes with the viewing card) for activation, if they haven't done this prior to leaving.  The card should then be activated within a few hours but it should all be left connected and switched on until the card is working properly.

Dishes


Once you have your box and card you will need a dish.  This will need to be carefully installed with a clear view to the southeast.  If you live at the bottom of a cliff, are penned-in with higher buildings or behind very tall trees then you may have some trouble.  It is quite rare to be in a no-hope location however.
Astra 2 at 28° is the satellite carrying the required Sky channels.

Footprint – 2E

(As satellites are over the equator, all positions are always given in degrees from the Greenwich meridian at the equator, and not from

magnetic north).

In the main areas of France where we install a 60/65cm dish will be perfectly adequate.  Southerly locations will need a larger dish to be a more reliable option in bad weather.

A small black Sky mini-dish as is often seen in the UK is only really designed for UK use.  They can and will work out in France but will lend itself to lower signal quality and maybe more problematic in poor weather conditions.  Also, replacement parts for mini-dishes are harder to get in France, if ever you need them.

Generally the Sky grey elliptical/oval dishes that are so prolific in the UK are typically only seen on ‘UK owned’ properties out here – just an observation from living and working here – and whilst may not be too much of an issue for permanent residents, we would advise against these for a rarely occupied maison secondaire.  We would always fit a French supplied minimum 60cm dish unless specifically requested or you have your own existing kit.  Replacement components are also readily available in France.

General

 

The instruction manual supplied with your Digibox shows all the equipment connection details.  Basically these are all via Scart or HDMI leads (one is supplied with the box) for the connections between the VCR/DVD+/-RW, Digibox and TV.  Your UK TV will work perfectly well with a Digibox as will any TV bought in France as long as you use Scart (Péritel in French) or HDMI leads for the connections.

Furthermore, some Digiboxes can be connected to HiFi units with an available input to allow radio listening without the need for the TV to be switched on.

 

We can advise of the connections to your auxiliary equipment at time of installation.

 

France, has phased-out the old analogue services of both terrestrial and satellite transmission.  TNT is the French equivalent of the UK Freeview service via aerial.  TNTsat is the corresponding service available from the Astra 1 satellite for people in difficult terrestrial reception areas.  Fransat is also the other option for those who are migrating from the old French analogue satellite system on Atlantic Bird 3 satellite.

Click Here for a table outlining the French digital TV options.


A TV licence system exists in France and anyone with any sort of TV is supposed to pay the licence fee, regardless of whether they watch French TV or not.  Due to the high rate of TV licence evasion, some automation has been introduced to the system.  If you a buy a new television in France, the manufacturer has to ask you to complete a form which is sent off to the equivalent of the ‘TV licensing authority’ and is charged as Redevance Audiovisuelle with your Taxe d’Habitation.

Once everything is working well then you should generally leave the Digibox connected to the mains and the dish at all times.  The only exceptions are during nearby electrical storms or if you leave the property for more than a week or so.  If you do go away or during storms, then just disconnect from the mains.  It’s best to leave all the other plugs and leads alone.  For a Sky Digibox, leave the card in the slot also.  You may find after a long period of disconnection that the card no longer decodes the encrypted channels even if the free channels like the BBC and Sky News are working fine.  Don’t worry.  Just leave it all connected and on the ‘green’ light for a day or so and everything will come back to life.

If the Digibox stops working properly then before condemning anything just try unplugging it at the mains and reconnecting it again after a few seconds.  This solves most problems.  It can take probably half a minute to let it re-boot before allowing it to come out of standby after doing this however.



We are more than happy to discuss any issues you may be having with your system.

 

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