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French digital satellite channels - can they be obtained free?


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We are in the process of buying a house in France and the vendor has just proudly shown us his satellite dish and demonstrated the large number of channels he can receive (270 apparently!) via his Canalsat subscription.

Unfortunately when he moves out he will be taking his satellite boxes (but not dish) with him, and so we are going to have to make our own arrangements.

All we really need to receive are the basic French channels (TF1, Ant 2, Fr3, Arte, M6) and ideally BBC World or BBC News 24.  However we would like to get the free French satellite channels as well, and any other English channels that are available without paying.

I see that Canalsat has an 11 euro per month package that provides access to a fair number of channels, and this would be one solution.

However I wondered whether it was possible to get the free French channels just by buying a digital satellite box by itself without taking out a subscription.  If so does anyone have any recommedations as to what to buy and where?  Would we also pick up any English channels?

I have seen lots of discussion of Sky boxes on the forum, but would be most interested to hear about people's experience with the French satellite system.

We'd be really grateful for any help or information anyone can provide!

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Unlike the UK where the BBC has ensured that its services are fairly easily available to the license fee payer via satellite (previously a free card,  now free to air) the French situation is not so benign.

Most people in France use the analogue feed from Atlantic Bird 3 (5 deg west) if they want to watch the six main channels via satellite.   This is useful for rural areas (mainly) where France 5/Arte and M6 have poor coverage.  However, your dish is pointing at 19 deg east,  and the analogue transmission is also in SECAM colour which can be a problem if you only have a UK purchased TV.

On this same satellite (AB3) there is (since March 2005) a digital duplicate of  the publicly funded channels (plus a couple more) but NOT TF1 and M6.  This transmission is currently free to air,  but there is no guarantee that it will remain so due to the quirky situation tied up with digital terrestrial TV transmission (I have covered this point in previous posts).   So this could be a risky route for the long term.   In addition a Murdoch Sky box is incapable of tuning the parameters used for this transmission,  although  bog standard free to air boxes would be fine.

As to Canalsatellite and TPS,   they encrypt (unjustifiably in my view) the terrestrial channels (except I think Arte on 19 deg east) so you pay again to watch something that is paid for by the license fee.

If there is a UHF aerial on the house you'd do best probably to buy a cheap French TV for the terrestrial analogues and move the existing dish to 28 deg east where all the BBC stuff is free to air digital (but not BBC world).   If not - personally - I'd move the existing dish round to 5 deg west and use it with a free to air digital receiver,  whilst putting up a second dish on 28 deg east and swapping the receiver between the two dishes as required.   If the French digital stuff on 5 deg west then encrypts I'd sigh and pay €45 odd for an analogue sat box if I still wanted to go on watching (but note the potential SECAM problem).

It makes one realise that for all its faults the BBC has always looked after the license fee payer a lot better than the French system,  where operators squabble to stop their competitors carrying programmes (absence of TF1 and M6 off canalsatellite).

Please post again if all that isn't clear - others may have alternative solutions.   Sorry it's so complicated!

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Praise indeed Will...  I'm blushing.

TNT would be worth a look.  I tend to forget to mention it because in 24 we're in a valley with next to no UHF signal and no date for TNT coverage (which still wouldn't get into our valley I suspect!).   But I use it in the UK and it's a good solution for many,  and the recent switch on of more French Tx sites means that 50% of the population can now get it.

Do we know where the original poster lives...?

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I have a French television and I also use two dishes and two separate boxes. It's probably the best setup for receiving French and UK channels.

Two points I would make are a) It is that it is far better to mount the dishes on the ground if you're able to. It makes maintenance and setup much easier. And b) ensure that there are no trees whatsoever in the path to the dish. Satellite to dish frequencies are easily absorbed by greenery and it is far better to ensure that you have none within close proximity to the dishes line of sight view.

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How right you are.  Our four dishes in France are all near the ground and it makes life much easier (particularly for an inveterate fiddler like me!).

But we do have a cotoneaster and a fig tree which compete with the dishes for clear access to the southern skies.  Every year I am sent out in the pouring rain when our BBC pictures fail as a result of branches weighed down by the droplets,  normally it seems to happen when my wife is trying to watch Gardeners World, so I prune for real in the wet while she watches the professionals doing it properly!.

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Hello everyone.  Thank you for the very comprehensive replies so far.  Will go through them carefully tonight and come back with any questions!

In terms of the terrestrial digital service, we are buying the the Gard (30) and according to the website, we won't be getting this service until 2007.  That's a pity, as we get Freeview in the UK and are very happy using the UK domestic terrestrial digital - sadly it seems it is not an option in the short term where we will be in France.

All the best!

Graham

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The TNT service will be extended a great deal in 2006 as stated on the link Bill posted http://www.tnt-gratuite.fr/ . Unfortunately it is widely innacurate on it's information on who can and who can't yet receive the service. I typed in my postcode and apparently I can get the service since March this year which, like most of the Mayenne is untrue. Martyn has as usual come up trumps with a very comprehensive  and informative reply. I was quite impressed with the number of free channels (18, I think) that are available from TNT, so I will probably wait until they arrive here ( maybe as early as 03/2006) and receive them through a standard aerial rather than pay the minimum subscription to one of the parabol providers of 11 euros.

 

 

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Have now read and it seems clear that in the short term I should probably use the UHF aerial for the French stations, and then switch to digital TNT when it becomes available.  I will buy a French TV set.

For the BBC stations, what exactly is involved in moving the dish to face another direction - I have never had a dish and so don't know.  Unfortunately it is on the chimney!

Thanks again for the very useful explanations above!

Graham

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Moving a dish:  in your case you'd be moving from a satellite "hovering" above the equator 19 degrees east of the Greenwich longditude (I hope I'm right and it is long not lat here!) to another one 28 degrees east of the Greenwich line.   In practice that means loosening the bolts and turning the dish (as viewed from behind) to the left so that the LNB moves about 8 cms.  You then tip the whole dish down a bit so that the LNB drops about 1 cm.

Easy?

Well no because you either need to get a signal meter up there with you or watch the signal meters in the menus on your receiver via a TV!   Not easy when you are already clinging on to the chimney.   And those measurements are very very rough as I've never had a ruler with me at the time!

The first time you do a dish it takes for ever,  after about five experiences you develop a sort of 6th sense as to how it should "look" and it can be aligned in a few minutes.

Personally - given what we now know about you - I'd go and buy a FTA digital receiver and dish as a package (often €99 in les grandes surfaces - you may need to buy the fixing bracket separately) and find somewhere to fix it near the ground,  then align it on Astra 2.   Watch out for trees though in a SSE direction.   Or if you can find a good installer get him to move the existing dish, explaining you want to receive Astra 2 at 28.2 deg east.

Please come back for more if necessary!

Incidentally let's hope your existing aerial is up to the job;  field strengths at UHF in France are often lower than what we're used to in the UK;  most of the original high power transmitters had their in-service powers halved or thereabouts in the 90's as the transmission authority decided that modern receivers could cope with the reduction - which obviously cut the electricity bill for transmission.   In a lot of areas the aerial really needs to be in tip top form to get decent pics;  we're amazed at what some of our French neighbours put up with in terms of picture degradation,  and how many mainly use analogue satellite as a result.   If you're in a good reception area there isn't a problem, but miles from a transmitter it may be worth being aware of the problem.

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Hi Graham

France 2, 3, 4 and 5 are available Digital FTA on Atlantic bird 3,  you will need to purchase a digital/numeric system, I would also recommend a motorised system, you will need a motor to move your dish, IMO better than multiple dishes (sorry Martyn) but get a decent motor about £70, I went for the STAB motor then set up your receiver to USALS and its all done for you.

If you need any more info just ask I will try and help 

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For a lot of folk a motorised dish is a good solution.

The reason we don't use them (and clutter our UK garden with 6 dishes and our French one with 4) is twofold:

We have 2 Sly boxes,  and they ideally should be parked on Astra 2 overnight in order to be kept updated.   Whilst you can do the updates manually it is somewhat annoying to find one morning that the box no longer works properly because the dish has been pointing the wrong way on the critical night.

We also often need to have access to two different satellites simultaneously.  We use Astra 2 a lot for radio listening,  both in France (obviously) and also in the UK (less obviously,  but I cannot abide the heavy dynamics compression and general "processing" on FM (including on BBC radio)).   It is a pain to have to choose one satellite in preference to another because there is only one direction in which you can point a motorised dish.   So we have several receivers, several cables,  and two rooms for viewing/listening.   By using dual LNB's it's possible to listen or view pretty much any major satellite in either room as the fancy takes either of us.    OK it's not ideal for the non-technical but it suits us.

But if a motorised system "spins your dish" then go for it.

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Martin

Could not agree with you more, if it suits you why not, and I agree with keeping the dish lowish normally no need to put it on the chimney ( maybe they think if its nearer to the sat it will work better lol!!) same as the Romans who built high spires on their high churches thinking they would be nearer to God, I just think a motorised dish gives you more options.

 

Regards

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