Are you ready for the ‘Big TV Switch Off’ in Spain?

LAST UPDATED: 19 May, 2014 @ 14:03
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Are you ready for the ‘Big TV Switch Off’ in Spain?

Internet TV specialist Michael Coard explains why and when you will be losing your British TV this year

WHEN Channel 5 disappeared in a puff of smoke before Christmas taking with it all those chestnuts such as CSI and Celebrity Big Brother, there was – perhaps understandably – little more than a minor ripple of concern

That was until the million or so British expats in Spain learnt that ITV and BBC might be next.

The horror of losing Coronation Street and Eastenders, not to mention X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, was too much to bear for some people, with one even commenting in a recent article that his wife would ‘force him to move back to Blighty if she lost her British TV’.

Action stations then for many, rushing out to find the best value solution to the upcoming problem… but do they really need to worry?

Well the short answer is ‘yes’, but it is not imminent and nobody knows exactly which parts of Spain will be affected.

What is pretty certain though is Andalucia is in for the chop. And even if you live in Gibraltar you will almost certainly lose your Freesat channels this summer.

It all stems back to the launch of the SES Astra Satellite fleet some 13 years ago since when expats on the Costa del Sol could enjoy their favourite television programs via this satellite with little interruption.

However the recent and planned improvements to the Astra Satellite fleet will change all this.

Let me explain.

Our television is provided by several individual satellites positioned in geo-stationary orbit at an approximate height of 22.000 miles above the earth at 28.2deg east of south.

The individual satellites are placed several miles apart from each other and they all help to create a strong and reliable TV signal for their clients; the TV networks, such as Canal Plus, Rai Uno and ITV.

The problem is that the life of a satellite is around 12 years and as most of the present fleet were launched around 13 years ago they need to be replaced.

This was demonstrated by the rapid decline in performance of the satellite Astra 2D.

Although launched in late 2000, its performance declined so quickly that a quick fix was required and all channels were transferred to Astra 1N, a satellite intended for the use of German and Spanish channels at a slot of 19 degrees, but moved to 28.2 to assist the failing 2D.

All of the popular British channels were moved from 2D to 1N early last year and reception throughout Spain improved especially in Gibraltar and the Balearic Islands, with Andalucia also faring well.

However this is certainly all about to change this summer when 1N will be moved back to its original slot of 19deg as originally planned and all British channels will be moved to the new ‘big birds’ called Astra 2E and 2F.

Astra 2F was put into service in December 2012 and Astra 2E has a predicted launch date at the end of May.
These two satellites are of similar build and specification and have two main broadcast beams.

These are a ‘UK spot beam’ concentrated entirely on a UK domestic client base and a pan European beam.

And that is the problem as the UK spot beam will not be received on the Costa Del Sol even with a whopping three metre dish and therefore all channels will be lost.

How do we know this?

Well it has, in fact, already been proved when Channel Five moved to the UK spot beam in December and disappeared from our screens (apart from Five HD (High Definition) which is a part of the Sky package).

The date for the major ‘switch off’, as it has come to be known, is being estimated to be at some point this summer when all the UK public service channels will move to the spot beam.

It is likely to happen around two months after the satellite has been launched, positioned in the correct place and tested properly, so at a guess I would say late July.

This is already backed up by missives from the BBC (see end) where they explain about the changes being due to the need to improve services for all UK based viewers, particularly in places like northern Scotland.

Ultimately it seems certain that there will be a loss of channels in Andalucia, as well as Portugal and the Canary Islands.

Sky channels are less likely to be affected as it is probable that they will be broadcast via the pan European beam that can be received in Southern Spain without problem.

They’ve got plenty of clients down here, after all. But nothing is certain.

Luckily there are alternatives to continue getting UK TV using your internet connection.

Some free services, such as Filmon, already exist but you view on your PC or connect a cable to your main TV, however the image quality isn’t so good, and you have to pay if you want it in HD.

Another, better alternative is to subscribe to a professional streaming service and connect an IPTV set top box to your main television.

You will need a stable internet connection of at least 2M and will be able to enjoy many advanced features such as ‘never miss a program’ catch up TV, programme-recording, up-to-date movies in English and live Premier League football.

And to boot, you will be able to use the IPTV set top box to access YouTube, Google and everything else…

My advice, don’t hang around… get prepared for the ‘big switch off’ whoever you choose.

For more information visit www.smartsat-tv.com

1200 COMMENTS

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  1. In Gibraltar, we can access BBC iPlayer but not the ITV and Channel 4 equivalents.

    Perhaps HM Goverment of Gibraltar can negotiate a deal whereby computers with Gibraltar IP addresses would be allowed to access these ‘players’ on account of Gibraltar being sovereign British territory. This would be entirely justified on the basis of close cultural links, our schools following the UK national curriculum, etc.

  2. This is the first expert who has come out and said we will definitely lose our British TV channels, others have said lets wait and see what happens when the satellites are in position and all the channel moving has taken place, they have suggested it may be just a case of shifting your dish. I am taking the optimistic view that if SKY is going onto a pan European satellite their package includes the free to air channels (unless they are going to encrypt even those). I think I will keep my money in my pocket fr now.

  3. ‘Satelite Plus’ pretty much fits the need, as long as you remember to switch the ‘language’ button on films and serials to English. Those programs in Spanish, plus the various sport and news channels, might even become useful for other reasons…

  4. It’s been known for some time that we were going to lose these programmes. What needs to be cleared up is why have SES have managed to set their ‘new’ footprint to exclude Gibraltar but manages to cover the Canary Islands. It makes you wonder how much influence of the Spanish Government manages to exclude Gibraltar?
    “http://www.ses.com/fleet-coverage”

  5. People like to watch their tv abroad, what’s wrong with that?! But turn it all off for me. It turns you into an unproductive unhealthy zombie. Dog The Bounty Hunter’s ok though! actually no.. all off please!!.. oh and Masterchef…

  6. I’m in the canary islands and have always had a 2.7m dish. This size of dish was required to receive UK TV off the old satellite (2D). Then along came N1 (to temporarily replace an old and failing 2D) and everyone got a much better, stronger, signal and was able to get UK TV on smaller dishes. Now 2F is in place and some channels (like channel 5) have already moved from 1N to the new 2F (which has a very tight UK spot beam). However, I can still get channel 5 today so I also expect to get all of the other channels when they finally migrate to 2F (and the other 2 new birds later this year and next year). So, in reality, my experience in the canary islands is that things have gone back to more or less how it was when 2D was around. The real issue here is the unscrupulous satellite installers who sold small dishes to unsuspecting buyers when they new full well that 1N was a temporary solution for ASTRA and that, come the day 1N was replaced, these small dish’s would prove ineffective. Well, that day has come.

  7. I agree with Peter saying he will keep his money is his pocket for now. It is probably better to wait and see what happens rather than panic. There are other alternatives such as TV over internet provided by some phone/broadband providers who advertise in the ex-pat press, and presumably these services will be unaffected. Only thing is you need a proper land line for those. Streaming TV over your own internet connection is possible provided you have a UK IP address, which we do have via a legitimate pan-European satellite internet provider – some of you will know what company that is, otherwise you can search on the internet and you will find it easily!

    We noticed Channel 5 disappearing a while back but frankly thought ‘so what’. We rely on the BBC for things like the news and Casualty (each to their own…) and radio, but my real fear is losing ITV2/3/4 if the free to air channels were to go. We subscribe to Sky so Sky channels may be OK and the FTA ones might even be included if you subscribe, but we will need to upgrade the internet to a larger monthly quota to watch TV over internet all the time so don’t feel like paying extra for that while still paying for Sky as well.

    Re. Ray’s remarks, I wondered how recent installations managed with such a small dish even in mainland Spain, now I’m glad we stuck with a 1.35m dish which we moved when we moved house!

    To Pedro I understand your sentiment but I have no objection to Spanish people watching Spanish satellite TV in the UK and I know for a fact that most of the Eastern Europeans in Britain watch their own TV as well as UK TV, why shouldn’t they? You don’t see The Guardian slating them the way they call British ex-pats in Spain the ‘baked bean brigade’, so why shouldn’t we watch UK TV here? We have a Spanish aerial as well.

  8. If anybody is still reading this article BEWARE do not buy a box and pay for your British TV to be broadcast over the internet. The good old EU that bastion of democracy and freedom has ruled that it is illegal to re broadcast TV channels over the internet except for a very basic service. They are also discussing a pan European ban on pornography (doesn’t bother me) but what next will be banned and how long before the EU gives itself the right to shut down the internet as and when it sees fit such as a civil uprising in one of the countries gripped by austerity.

  9. I get BritishTV over the Internet. The difference with me and everyone else is, I don’t watch very much TV, so it doesn’t bother me. There will always be ways to access British TV stations. Like others have said, wait and see and then find a way round it!

  10. Another alternative satellite provider is Canal Digital Plus. Lots of English content and news (inc BBC World) can be found there. Also, it supports version original (VO) so you get English audio track on films. InternetTV is now very cheap, there are now suppliers for just 5 euros a month in Spain.

  11. you cant say were going to loose them nobody knows unless there is some inside leak from astra in valencia were still getting channel 5 and theres a lot of companys saying this and that its all speculation you just have to sit tight and wait till august september.

  12. @Louise, I was referring to an Internet TV (IPTV) provider, who does not provide Internet access, just the TV. I saw a 5 euro (+IVA) a month service in one of the expat magazines. I will have a look and try to find it again.

  13. Aron,

    Miraríamos tu tele encantados su tuviera una calidad media-apta para seres inteligentes. Pero como la tele española da vergüenza y solo hacéis tele para imbéciles, no nos queda otra opción que mirar la nuestra (que por cierto es la mejor del mundo).

  14. ***Mike***. Perhaps you should improve your skills in written Spanish before offering your opinions in that language. Perhaps next, find out how to select the language on digital transmissions. You will find that the original soundtrack of English language productions is available. And it won’t cost you a cent!. What do you pay in the UK??. Well over a hundred pounds a year I would think. And for what?. repeats and telebasura.

  15. Amparo,

    Gracias por tus consejos y perdona si trato a tu idioma de forma abusiva. Sabes a lo que me refiero y sabes que tengo razón. Me ofenden comentarios de necios como el tio ese – no es mi intención ofender a los demás.

    No quiero entrar en un debate de “mi tele es mejor que la tuya” – cosa que parece más apta para un plató de ‘famosos’ aquellos que se trasmiten diariamente y durante horas en la mayoría de vuestros canales. Hay que decirlo: la tele español da auténtica pena y cualquier español(a) con medio cerebro opina exactamente lo mismo.

    ¿Lo sabe(s) o no lo sabe(s)?

  16. Un punto más Amparo: ¿no lo ves curioso que a pesar de tu excelente control del inglés has tenido que recurrir al castellano para poder definir exactamente lo que es “telebasura”? Sociolinguísticamente hablando, creo que eso lo dice todo.

  17. It’s quite possible that there is little difference between the two. However, before condemning all of Spanish tv as exclusive viewing for ‘los imbéciles’, perhaps you should explore what IS available just a little more, not only the good quality Spanish productions but also excellent imports transmitted with their original soundtrack as an option.

    Mantén tu mente abierta y puedes lograrlo si verdad estás empeñado en ello. ¡Aquí, estamos en España, no en una colonia britanica!. ¿Sabes?.

  18. Sabía que llegaría la conversación a lo de siempre Amparo. Estamos hablando de diferentes culturas televisivas, nada más. Llevo más años de mi vida viviendo en España que en Inglaterra y creo que me he integrado muy bien, gracias. Todos los paises tienen sus puntos buenos y malos y el hecho que he escogido España para vivir y tener mi família en vez de mi pais natal lo dice todo (mi mujer es de Salmanca – odia la tele española por cierto – y mi hija sevillana). Hasta cogería yo la nacionalidad española pero los mismos funcionarios me dicen que no vale la pena entrar en ese túnel particular de burocracia (pero eso ya es otra cosa).

    Si quisiera vivir en una colónia británica, tengo uno justo al lado, pero nunca me lo plantearía. Pareces una persona bastante inteligente, y él ‘Estamos en España’ no parece muy propio de tí.

  19. Some comments on here seem to suggest that there will be ‘no problem’ in maintaining access to UK TV channels as all that is required is to subscribe to a VPN provider for about a fiver a month. Not quite as simple as that, I’m afraid, as your ability to stream telly to your PC or onwards to your TV set is limited by what UPLOAD speed you are getting from your provider. A bare minimum of around 1Mb is required for even grainy standard definition, and anything halfway decent requires around 2Mb or more. At time of writing, in Portugal, where I am, the national average is only 1.2Mb, so there are a lot of people with speeds much lower than that. To access a VPN you can’t just use any old Modem/router,either.
    There are plenty of sites on which you can check your speed. I find testmy.net quite useful for that. So if you’re fortunate enough to have a cable connection or even fast ADSL, i.e. in most major cities, well lucky you, VPN ia a viable option, but still shop around. There are a number of potential providers out there who will give you the impression that all will be OK if you pay for their service, but some of them become rather coy when you start talking about slow download speeds. Beware.

  20. We have taken the plunge and purchased a internet tv box, i was recommended to them via a friend. I placed my order on Tuesday and the box arrived “opened” yesterday, I specifically requested that the box be “ready to go” so all of the channels are loaded up, the only thing i needed a hand with was connecting the box to the router at home as the router is by the door so my local spark run another cat5 cable from the router to behind the telly. I am very impressed with the box as I can use it as a satellite receiver and a iptv box, have now got channel 5 back! The Mrs is a big neighbours fan (i know, i know) so we had to find a solution. Best bit is that there is no monthly fees and I in a couple of weeks I can insert my sky card.

    I think divorce lawyers in Marbella will be rushed off there feet if we loose bbc & itv.

  21. Hi Mike, If you go on google search for mr sky tv they sent me a demo video but I cannot find it, I dealt with Jason. if you get stuck will dig out the factura. I am using the basic telefonica package, we only use it for the odd e-mail and skype, I did the speed test and we have 3GB.

  22. Re. Mr Sky TV – they are satellite TV engineers, so unless they’re moving into internet/VPN connections, they won’t be able to help if all other channels follow Channel 5 to a new satellite this Summer. Even a 3 metre dish won’t help, as the signal footprint just won’t be there in Southern Spain/Portugal. As for VPN providers, there are many out there in addition to Expattelly. TVwhenaway/Hidemynet/My privatenetwork/Britishtvanywhere/TVabroad to name but a few. But do check your UPLOAD speed before you sign up to anything, as its vital you have minimum 1Mb and ideally 2Mb, otherwise buffering will make a mess of your viewing.

  23. Hi micme,

    We tried expatv and vpn etc etc but Mrs Gold got fed up having to use a PC what we wanted was something that had a remote control like we are used to and all the BBC ITV CH5 etc that would work via the internet as it looks like we would require a 6M dish to get BBC ITV etc and our El Presidente would have a heart attack if we asked him for one that big.

    A friend of ours in Hong Kong recommended mr sky tv as they purchased a box from them 3/4 years ago. We spend 6 months a year in Spain so not having any TV would be a real issue for us. I did my homework (as with any purchase), there first iptv demo video on youtube was in 2008, so not a quick start up looking to cash in. I am just waiting to get an additional piece of software so that I can insert my card from UK to watch sports etc

    I think you will find that UPLOAD is irrelivent, it is DOWNLOAD speed that is of IMPORTANCE.

  24. Upload speed is the more critical for live streaming, particularly as its usually about a tenth of the download speed from any given ISP. You’ll need at least 0.7 to 1.0 for anything watchable, and up to 2.0 for HD. Loads of info on the net to that effect.

  25. Hi Mike, I have eventually found that video link on youtube, my inbox dissapear on my samsung, think I need to stick to old fashioned “green” and “red” button mobile in future ha ha i still miss my old nokia, its all touch screens and apps now.

    “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXy9_cGk3j0”

    Good luck

    James

  26. Hi micmc

    I think you are getting confused with “slingbox” you do not need to upload anything with this iptv box that I purchased you just “download” I have nothing to “upload”.

    What system or way are you going to use once the signals disappear in a “puff of smoke” ???

    Mrs Gold is Happy, and I am happily surfing web at same time and no picture break up.

    Hopefully BBC & ITV will come to there senses.

    God bless

    James

  27. This box appears to merely stream filmon.com which you can do with your own laptop and a decent connection. filmon.com is unstable and channels can disappear as quickly as they appear. I think I will wait until all migration has taken place and see what I can get on the pan european satellite.

  28. Thanks very much for the the info James. When work allows I will check it out some more. I must say I’m also struggling to get my head around exactly how it works as putting your UK sky card in is all news for me and doesn’t stack up with what I know right now about IPTV. Anyway, it’s clearly working, which is not only a relief, but a challenge to find out how.

    What’s the picture like? When I’ve watched IPTV it’s been PC-style CGI graphics, which look particuarly bad on a 55″ plasma. I hope it doesn’t all completely go as Mrs. Mike isn’t going to be happy if I insist on moving back to Barcelona just to be able to watch civilised telly!

  29. My ‘last post’ on upload speed. See .ehow.com/info_12184321_upload-speed-affect-netflix-streaming.html
    The same applies to any other ‘streamer’, e.g. iplayer, itvplayer etc. I’m not making it up… honest.. The same limitation will apply to IPTV as to PC routed VPN, PS3, Xbox or anything else. It all depends on the speeds which your ISP is providing. Personally, I’m waiting to see what happens later this year before I decide which way to go.

  30. Hi Mike, in order to use card from UK I will connect the box to my dish in addition to the internet connection, so I will be able to switch between IPTV & SATELLITE. I am also confused and will put my hands up to being rather clueless on internet stuff, but I am getting a good crisp picture on my Panasonic LED TV. Once I have the card bit working will let you know as they are yet to provide the software update. At the minute I use my sky box from UK and this IPTV box, my sky box is on HDMI 1 and the IPTV is on HDMI 2 so just need to press one button to flick between both, Mrs Gold is a Animal Planet fan on SKY so that is usually on after Neighbours.

  31. It is no secret that IPTV is the way forward, especially if this is going to be the only way we will be able to get our TV here. I believe that it is therefore also just as important to carefully pick out the service because at the end of the day, this is a whole load of data that is constantly being streamed over an Internet connection. Bandwidth is key, and it needs to be fast, reliable and constant so it is therefore just as important to pick the right ISP. Make sure that your ISP will not penalise you for consuming over “X” GB/month, or that the speed is not restricted after certain limits etc.
    I believe that the relationship between the ISP and the IPTV service is crucial, because the ISP is able to set the QoS and specify preferential bandwidth to make sure that the IPTV service is not interrupted. Providers such as Direct Telecom and Europa Network have been at it for a while, but from what I have heard, DT have got a lot further by being able to even control the bandwidth prioritisation through the Router as well as the ADSL network.

    This makes sense to me, because you want to have an ADSL with an ISP that will be opening all the doors and setting no limits to the bandwidth needed for your IPTV to work well. The business is going to be in the hands of the ISP’s and only the IPTV services offered by them will work best for logical reasons. I have tried and used all of the above and was pleased with europa until I tried the dtmedia.tv service from DT. Took them ages to get it right but for me it is now spot on and would certainly recommend them,. They control their adsl network and they provide their own uktv channels, 14 days catchup, and even a Video Club kind of section with movies. I warn you that the “Movies” Video Club is not a real movies data base, they are just being smart and they have only made a video club style representation of the movies that are already in catchup but hey…makes it easier to find i must admit. For me, what does it is that it is 1. its for free if you have their ADSL, and 2. it works on ipads, smart phones and you can watch different channels on each. Their Set Top box is lacking a good remote control, but does its job once you get used to it. Yes…..i am paying an extra 10€ for the “MORE” bundle, but for me it is worth it until I find something better to test out ;-)
    here’s the link: http://dtmedia.tv

  32. (laughing) Just got call from supplier that I purchased my IPTV box from. He just read this string, appreciated me posting his link on youtube and has told me I will get the software update next week so I can also insert my sky card.
    My system is still working, have spoken to Telefonica & told them we where worried about usage as the box is on from 8am until 11pm every day, have switched to a different package 34.95 a month and been told that we will have no issues & get FREE calls to UK after 6pm. I do not pay any monthly fees for our iptv service its free, oh also there are free movies on the box via movie2k and its all free no monthly charegs.

    Mrs Gold still happy, got channel 5

    Best

    James

  33. Got one of these Internet Boxes, get over 60 UK Channels including all the Sky & Setanta. Is a steal for €390! I pay €125 every 3 months, but hey..still half price of that what Id normally pay! Great Service!Highly Recommend this to anybody.

  34. Agree with Peter’s post on March 14th, 2013 5:53 pm

    “If anybody is still reading this article BEWARE do not buy a box and pay for your British TV to be broadcast over the internet”.

    This refers to providers of UK TV over the internet that advertise that there is no requirement for a proxy or VPN. They normally provide a set-top box, also called an IPTV box. The box connects to your TV with an HDMI cable and to your broadband, either via wireless (WiFi) or an ethernet cable.

    The problem is that those providers who re-transmit the TV streams from their own servers, possibly situated in Spain, fall foul of EU law. This internet re-transmission is now illegal (breach of copyright law) according to the European Court of Justice ruling in early March.

    The problem for customers who subsribe to re-transmitted UK TV is that those companies may be forced stop the transmission and face significant penalties.

  35. IPTV boxes seem a rather expensive solution to me. You’re still only getting streamed, internet TV via this box, just as you are with a VPN. OK, you may have a remote with your IPTV box, but you can also use a remote with a PS3 for example, which is perfectly cable of streaming programmes to your telly via a VPN or proxy server. You can get a decent VPN for around 5 Euros per month on an annual deal – so much cheaper than an expensive IPTV box plus heavy monthly charges – for essentially the same programmes. I also have reservations about the legality of some of these IPTV services, and suspect that someone may rein them in before too long. I’m spending the next few months shopping around the various VPN providers to see what quality stream I’m getting with my average download speed of about 12Mbps and upload 0.8Mbps. Great results so far with my first test provider. If I do decide to go that route, my local Telecom company will only charge me an extra 9 Euros or so per month for unlimited download, so no limits on how much I could watch. So basically, I’m still playing the waiting game, and who knows, we may end up not losing the satellite signal after all, particularly if Sky get in on the act.

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