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Guide Retiring to Spain - Watch TV from SPAIN TV, BBC news and sport

Bill Hayles, billnot@billnot.com

Bill Hayes has given permission for this article to be published here, for which I thank him very much. The article is copyright to Bill Hayles, and his permission should be sought before it is reproduced elsewhere; this article is presented here in HTML form, and may either be read on-line or downloaded for later perusal.

From 30th May 2003, it is expected that the six BBC channels, BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC5, CBBC and BBC Parliament, will be moved from their present position on the southern beam of Astra 2A to the "narrow" beam of Astra 2D. At the same time, they will no longer be encrypted. This has serious consequences for those living on the Costa Blanca. This emergency FAQ attempts to explain the situation.

The programming itself is broadcast in one of three ways - Free to air, not requiring a viewing card of any sort, Free to view, requiring a free "BBC" card, or as part of the Sky Digital package for which, of course, you need to pay. Only the first category, Free to air, are supposed to be watched outside of the UK. BBC and Sky cards are only issued to UK and Irish addresses. The situation is then compounded by the signals being sent on three completely distinct beams, each with its own footprint. The southern beam is receivable on the Costa Blanca with an 80cm dish (or maybe even smaller). The northern beam needs at least a 1.2m dish, and even then reception can be "iffy". The narrow beam, from Astra 2D, is barely receivable at all. At least a 2m dish is required, even bigger if possible, and even then reception is again patchy.

Currently, the BBC channels are broadcast on the southern beam, and reception is easy (as long as you have a card, which isn't hard to get). ITV is on the narrow beam, and most people have simply accepted that they can't get it.

From 30th May, the BBC channels will (probably) move to the narrow beam. This means that effectively that they will be lost to us unless you invest in a very large dish, which is horribly expensive.

Until a few months ago, our Spanish digital service, ViaDigital, carried BBC Prime as one of its subscription channels, and many people were happy with that as a low(ish) cost option. However, ViaDigital has dropped BBC Prime (and many people have cancelled their subscriptions as a result). ViaDigital uses its own form of digibox, which is rented, so when you cancel the box gets collected

This leaves us with the problem of finding a way of watching BBC without spending thousands of Euros come June. One answer lies in the service from the Hotbird satellite at 13ºE. BBC Prime and BBC World are both broadcast on this satellite, which has a footprint such that reception in Spain is easy with an average sized dish (80cm to 1m). BBC World is broadcast Free to Air, whilst BBC Prime is a subscription service costing GBP75 per year, plus GBP12 in the first year for the card, plus VAT. Yo receive this you'll need any conventional digital receiver and a Viaccess Conditional Access Module (CAM). Receivers with the necessary CAM incorporated are available at a cost of roughly EUR300.

The BBC Prime website is at http://www.bbcprime.co.uk , which contains details of how to apply for a card.

Version History.

First Version 15th March 2003

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