Television Technology – Everything you need to know about receiving TV in Spain
If you wish to stay in touch with television in the UK there is absolutely no problem whatsoever as SKY, BBC & ITV and over 200 free to air channels & radio stations can be received all over Spain.
These companies uses a local mast rebroadcasting out a signal to a 40-60 cm dish and a home receiver. Dishes of this size will not be able to receive ITV, SKY, BBC direct from a satellite in Spain. If you are offered Sky or similar through a small dish, be aware – It will be from this type of service.
Rebroadcasters offer a limited selection of the FTA channels available, at time of writing some of these companies are offering subscription channels from other service providers, with no legal permissions. A second rebroadcaster (Telmicro being the first) – Solaris, has been declared illegal on 17th March 2009 and had all equipment confiscated, with 7 arrests being made. This has left 15,000 people without any television as well losing their installation fees of up to â‚¬890. Since March this year two further incidents have occurred, reviewed at the bottom of this page.
Rebroadcasters Simulsat & Torresat have been in court earlier this year and have further hearings scheduled regarding the rebroadcasting of broadcasters channel content without permissions or licensing agreements. Potential outcome of this hearing may well affect other rebroadcasters – including Superbeam, Teleast and Surpris 07 all of which at time of writing are retransmitting premium subscription content they have no permissions for.
Using a rebroadcast service, you will be asked to pay an ongoing monthly subscription charge, usually around â‚¬20 per month for as long as you wish to use the service. As stated above, there is no guarantee of a long term service. Should this prove to be the case you are highly unlikely to get any refund of any system installation charges.
Statements made by the BBC, ITV and Sky have all mentioned that there are no rights to rebroadcast their content in Spain, as this is infringement of copyright and intellectual property theft. These companies are under review by the Ministry of communications in Spain. If you wish to view further information on this matter and the latest updates on the rebroadcast situation, please review the local newspaper articles at the bottom of the page.
Satellite & Dishes
To receive the widest channel selection, in the highest quality format, the satellite dish is widely recognised as the best option available. Aside from the larger channel selection and picture quality, one of the main benefits is you are receiving the signal direct from satellite, so are not beholdent to a third party to provide an uninterrupted service. When combined with the amount of channels now receivable on Freeview, a satellite dish will give you years of trouble free service with no need to pay ongoing subscription fees for free to view channels. Additional benefits include; HD compatibility, Dolby Digital and many new FTA channels being made available over the next 12 months.
You can feed as many end users off a single satellite dish as is required, by use of amplification – from direct neighbours, to an entire community. This reduces individual user costs considerably.
Dishes and LNB’s (receiving element) are High Definition compatible and should you require this service all you will need is an HD satellite receiver & HD TV.
SKY and English terrestrial programming is broadcast by the Astra 2 satellite group, located 28.2 degrees east. In the UK the beam for the Astra satellites has a strong signal strength, allowing those in the UK to receive a satellite signal using a 60cm or 80cm dish.
In Spain especially in the area of Costa Blanca South, the Astra satellite signal is considerably weaker than the UK and therefore requires a larger dish. Where possible many share a dish with neighbours to reduce costs.
If you require stable reception of BBC1. ITV & C4, some areas will allow reception using a dish of 1.45 metres. This will vary from area to area.
Be aware that many suppliers offer a 1.35 offset dish, but supply it as a 1.45 – whilst this may not sound a great deal of difference – there is considerable performance and cost differences between the two dishes, make sure you are getting the correct dish you are paying for. – the 1.45 prime focus dish is far more suitable for UK main channel reception, than the smaller dish, which is an offset dish of a lower performance rating and will struggle with certain channels. Offset dish is slightly oval with a single arm protruding, with the prime focus being perfectly round with three supporting arms for the LNB.
To receive good stability on the North Astra beam (weakest transponder) in South Costa Blanca, a 1.8 – 1.9 metre prime focus dish is accepted to offer the best cost vs performance option – however as stated above a well tuned 1.45 in certain locations will offer acceptable performance.
When combined with a digital satellite receiver, this will allow you to view all your favourite programs. There are over 200 free to air channels and even more radio stations. Further channel expansion options are available, by utilising a variety of viewing cards. In the next 12 months a further 60 free to air channels will come into service.
BBC1, ITV, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 Channel 4+1, More 4, E4 are available without viewing card.
BBC2 is one channel that is problematic, which is due to the weak transponder signal from the Astra satellite. Currently some of BBC2’s sporting events are being shown on BBC Sport & BBC streams. BBC3 & BBC4 are also currently on the same transponder. BBC’s sports streams- 6 of them generally show all the major sporting and summer events shown on BBC2 – such as Wimbledon, the Ashes etc and can be picked up on any generic non Sky satellite receiver.
With a Sky Freesat card you can also receive (at time of writing) – FIVE, Fiver US, Fiver US+1, Fiver, Fiver +1 & Sky Three. These channels cannot otherwise be received with stability on the Freesat north beam Astra transponder (Costa Blanca South). Broadcasting companies do change transponders and frequencies, so these channels may be receivable at a later stage on free to air, without Sky Freesat card.
If you wish to watch premiership football, premium sports events and SKY movie channels, you will be required to pay monthly subscription charges, as you would in the UK. Other digital viewing cards are also available showing a wide variety of general programming, film, sport and adult content.
A single dish well sited can feed an entire community. Choice of equipment and cable must be well chosen as long cable runs and cable placed underground in damp conditions can deteriorate rapidly. Good quality shielded subterranean cable must be used in these circumstances as cheaper basic cable may have a shelf life as little as 2 years before it starts to degrade. Many companies use the cheapest grade cable available, knowing full well just as the warranty expires’¦..
What dish size do I need?
80cm – 1 metre dish. Suitable for reception of most (not all) Eurobird & Astra south beam 2a/2b & 2c channels. If you have a Sky receiver and activated subscription card, you will be able to pick up Sky sports 1,2 & 3 with this dish size, as well as Sky movies Premiere +1. Most of the other Sky fim channels are on Astra’s North beam, which will not be receivable with a degree of stability with a dish size below 1.45 metres.
1.35 metre offset dish. Suitable for all channel reception of Astra 2 south beam & Eurobird.
1.45 metre prime focus dish. Suitable for north & south beam reception from Astra + Eurobird Astra + Eurobird. Allows the reception of BBC1, ITV1,2,3, & 4 & Channel 4’s. Please note in areas of Murcia this dish performs better than locations such as Torrevieja and surrounding.
1.8 – 1.9 metre prime focus dish. For high stability reception of Astra north & south beams + Eurobird. Best overall performance for the hard to receive channels over the Costa Blanca & Costa Calida.
2.4 metre prime focus dish. Suitable for the weaker areas of Costa Blanca North & large community installations.
The above dish size recommendations are for single panel design dishes. Segmented or multi panel dishes perform to a lower standard.
Choose your satellite dish carefully.
There are two main type of dishes – single panel & multi segmented panel. Multi panel dishes are considerably more difficult to set up and any movement on any of the panel joins at any point will cause reception loss. A movement of 0.5mm on any of the panel joins can render the dish unuseable and no amount of setting up will fix this. Additionally multi panel dishes have a lower reception gain, meaning you may need to use a bigger dish than if a good quality single panel unit is used.
Of the single panel dishes, there are two types – one is spun (generally of Turkish or Bulgarian origin) the other is pressed. The pressed dishes tend to be of a thicker construction and generally perform to an equal standard. Spun dishes are generally of of a thinner construction and in most instances have a lower signal gain. As most manufacturers do not put their name on the dishes, another way of checking is the quality of the mount and base. Budget dishes will have thinner metalwork which is not as strong as the larger diameter tubing on better quality dishes.
To utilise your satellite dish, you will need a suitable digital satellite receiver.
These vary in quality and a good receiver will be able to obtain considerably more channels by having higher internal tuner amplification thus obtaining better signal quality. Having the ability to use a selection of digital viewing cards (free to view, subscription, Sky etc) as well as a system that has the ability to upgrade the firmware, will give you a receiver which will avoid being obsolete for some considerable time.
Consider what features you require, as with all types of electrical equipment – the higher the specification, the higher the initial cost.
Most low to medium cost receivers offer a single tuner. Next step up is to have a receiver with a card slot – allowing you to use subscription cards.
Additional features are to have either an attached recording device (hard drive) or an internal one, following this twin or even triple tuners. Prices of basic – mid range receivers range from â‚¬100 – â‚¬300 with prices for mid to high end receivers costing â‚¬500 – â‚¬600 and over for twin tuner high definition models with inbuilt hard drive recorders.
Many people have a holiday home in Spain, can bring across their receivers from the UK, with certain Pace models being popular being sold as refurbished ex – Sky boxes. Whilst these are perfectly adequate, some of these models have been discontinued and are superceded by newer models with higher sensitivity tuners. Refurbished models generally have a warantee of 6 months, against that of 2 years on a new receiver.
All receivers have their pros & cons – Freesat branded receivers have the advantage of getting the full 8 day electronic programming guide – however they lose out on not being able to receive certain channels which are free to air on Astra – such as the 7 BBC sports streams.
High Definition? Whilst much fuss has been made of HD, the fact remains on Free to air programming only two channels are currently available, BBC HD, a mix of general BBC programming and ITV HD. Whilst this will change in the future, the additional expense of an HD receiver has to be put into context when under 1% of all FTA programming is currently in HD.
Sky subscription and box
Also quite common now seems to be to get a relative in the UK to subscribe to a second box, Sky is currently charging Â£10 per month for a multi room box. Both parties have the option of sharing the cost of the entire subscription. The second box can be registered then installed in Spain. Legally this is in breach of Skys contract. Whilst you are not going to get arrested for this, any contracted Sky box found to be operational in Spain (which is only likely to happen if they are contacted from a Spanish landline or mobile number) has a high probability of being switched off.
If you have an existing Sky box which has been registered in the UK, this will work, though you will not have expansion capability and will not be able to use certain other broadcasters viewing cards or have the option to utilise any other satellite other than Astra 28.2.
Q: Can I bring my Sky card over and use it in my old or another Sky box in Spain?
A: No – Sky cards are allied to individual Sky boxes, so one Sky card will only work on the box it is registered to?
Q: Can I use my Sky card on a different receiver?
A: Sky is currently changing over their encryption from NDS 2 – the blue & yellow cards to NDS 3 the new White cards. At this moment in time (Sept 09) the encryption is not fully switched over yet – so compatibility with any other non Sky receivers is inconclusive – until the new encryption system is switched over.
Q: Can I use my Sky receiver for free to air programming, with no subscription card ?
No room for a satellite dish?
For individuals who are unable to utilise a satellite dish and wish to legally receive English language television, a new digital system (not rebroadcasting) has recently been made available and will allow you to receive the full spectrum of English language channels. You will require broadband internet connection and a home computer for this service. This system will allow you to watch digital channels on your home computer and can be upgraded to work on your television.
Spanish Terrestrial Digital Television – TDT
Spanish TDT is similar to UK freeview. You will need a simple ariel combined with a set top receiver, which is available from 30 euros from most retail outlets. Many new television sets have TDT inbuilt. You will be able to receive between 25-40 channels depending on your location. Some channels / programs you can switch into the English language.
Communities by law should have the facility in place to receive Spanish TDT, so you should only need the receiver in your community. Many communities however do have the old analogue system in place, which may require updating.
Rebroadcast Television – Updates of English television in the press.
A satellite TV expert confirmed; ‘UK TV is only legally obtained by installing equipment that receives the TV transmission direct from the satellites (Astra2D and Eurobird). It is possible to purchase and install readily available consumer products and equipment designed to receive these satellite transmissions and when using a free to air ‘digi’ box the customer is not infringing any copyright laws or licenses by viewing channels received via satellite transmissions that are readily available in Spain. In summary, the use of a large dish and a free to air ‘digi’ box decriminalises the viewing of UK television in Spain.
Friday, 07 August 2009
“Sat TV Pirates Nicked”
By Dave Jamieson – Costa Blanca News Friday August 7th 2009.
A NUMBER of Britons are amongst 60 people arrested across Spain as part of a National Police crackdown on the redistribution of pirated television transmissions.
Hotel directors and community presidents have been allegedly involved in a fraud estimated to run into millions of euros.
Financial administrators and commercial operators have also been detained while two illegal cable television businesses which supplied pirated pay-TV signals for a monthly fee have been closed.
One in Sevilla had a client base of almost 1,300 while another in Tenerife serviced around 3,000 homes. Other similar businesses were identified along the Costas, while urbanisations and hotels which distributed signals illegally to residents and clients have also been targeted.
For the first time in Spain, the administrators of an Internet site have been arrested on charges of illegally rebroadcasting pay-TV channels on a website.
The programmes, mainly football matches, were taken from Spanish and Arab satellite broadcasters.
Of particular interest to investigators were the companies advertising to the British population in Spain and offering pay-TV channels from the UK. National Police say that thousands of fraudulent contracts have been issued by such companies to their customers and millions of euros have been taken in fees.
Hundreds of satellite television decoders and smart cards were seized during the operation, along with the equipment necessary to redistribute the illegal signals. The operation involved the National Police bases in 17 areas of Spain from Madrid to the Canary Islands and from Barcelona down to the Costa del Sol.
Latest from Valencian News 21 – 3 – 2009
Seven British people -four men and three women – have been detained in Los Montesinos and Orihuela-Costa for offering illegal TV services to over seven thousand clients – the majority of whom were fellow countrymen in the provinces of Alicante and Murcia, charging fifteen Euros monthly and an 890 Euros installation fee. Sources in the Guardia Civil have revealed that according to first estimates, the fraud committed by the group could be as high as thirty million Euros in unpaid rights and taxes.
After the arrests, police confiscated 90,000 Euros in cash, computer equipment, signal decoders and transmission equipment with a value of over half a million Euros. The investigations started last August, when members of the Corps noticed that near the home of the one of the detainees there was an extremely powerful set of parabolic antennas, allowing the capture of several British-based satellite TV channels, that were then decoded and distributed amongst clients on the coast between Torrevieja in Alicante Province and San Pedro del Pinatar in Murcia Province.
The police allege that the organization operated fraudulently, the company was not registered in Spain, no payments were made to Social Security as the law requires, whilst rights to the signal that was captured, decoded and re-broadcast to clients in fact was owned by other companies including Spain and UK.
“Still no Word from Telmicro” – Round Town News 19 – 8 – 2008
Not surprisingly, our open invitation to Telmicro Levante to speak to us regarding the dire situation that it has found itself in, went unanswered. Here at Round Town News we are still being inundated with e-mails and telephone calls from disgruntled customers and have spent the week getting various statements in order so that we can tell you, our readers, the best course of action; a legal way to get British TV here in Spain. As we told you last week, we have contacted many companies in both the UK and here in Spain so that we can determine exactly what is the best and legal way to receive TV and what isn’t. As we confirmed at the time, the crux of the whole issue is that Telmicro Levante S.L. were re-broadcasting British TV. Basically, they were using the mesh dishes to receive a signal that was itself being received via a larger dish. The signals were transmitted all over the Southern Costa Blanca and as this is illegal, the authorities shut them down. It is believed that they will be also targeting other companies doing this in the near future. Through our investigations, we have confirmed that the only legal way to get British TV is to buy a satellite dish that is large enough to receive the signal directly from the satellite that is in orbit. This has been confirmed by the Telecommuncations Ministry in Madrid.
Friday 12 – 9 – 2008 Costa Blanca News
DESPITE explicit statements from BBC, Sky and ITV, rebroadcasting of some of their channels continues in the northern Costa Blanca.
Following Guardia Civil action taken against Torrevieja-based Telmicro several weeks ago, nearly all rebroadcasting companies switched to free-to-air channels.
Costa Blanca News last week received public statements from BBC and Sky explaining that currently no company in Spain has been authorised to rebroadcast their channels, and that doing so without permission could lead to legal action.
This week, CBNews received a similar statement from a spokesman for ITV plc who said: ‘We do not have any sort of agreement in place. ‘If an operator in Spain wanted to broadcast our channels there they would have to enter into a contractual agreement with us.’
But despite these clear statements, some rebroadcasting companies have waited for the dust to settle and are rebroadcasting BBC, Sky and ITV stations once again.
CBNews contacted several of the rebroadcasting companies to clarify the situation, but nobody was available to comment and despite leaving several messages, no one has returned the calls.
Customers approached by CBN say they had received the same response.
Sources consulted by CBNews strongly recommend that, when subscribing to one of these services, customers demand to know exactly which channels the company has the right to rebroadcast and be aware of those that could be switched off without warning.
For more information on receiving UK & Spanish Television in the Costa Blanca please visit Television Technology or contact 966783944
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