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French Free to Air channels

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We have just acquired a free to Air satellite receiver and wonder which would be the best satellite to aim the dish at to get the most French channels. We are really just looking for news and weather forecasts at the moment when we are visiting our little place in Nievre (58).

Any suggestions, polite of course, gratefully received.


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but bear in mind that the France Televisions digital channels on AB3 , ie France 2/3/5/Arte/Parl,  may not be broadcast in the clear for ever, and there is a distinct possibilty that your screen will go blank when the sixth digital terrestrial multiplex is activated.

Still we're safe for a few months it seems.

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They will carry on until analogue switch off is complete in France,  probably at least until 2010.  

The transmissions to which you refer are not actually primarily intended for the general public (but are widely viewed by at least 1.2 M households);   their main function is to back up the terrestrial microwave distribution  network (les faisceaux hertziennes) so that the French TV network has a reserve feed in the event of failure of the main feeds.

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Well at the moment it looks as if the only publically accessible satellite source of French programmes after 2010 will be via Canalsat/Canal +;   they have just (in the last two weeks) launched a service very similar to the "old" BBC digital satellite set up (1998 - 2003) where you obtain a free-to-view card for a one off payment which allows access to the 18 TNT channels via Astra 1.   (All that's happening in reality is that Canalsat are granting access to channels they already broadcast on Astra 1).

The down side is that the govt had fully intended the necessary FTV card to be sold separately to the box,  but so far Canalsat are flouting this by insisting you take one of their boxes as well (currently €229 for an over-specified box,  others at a lower price should become available).   Canalsat have more or less said they have no plans to sell the card separately.

The France Televisions digital channels currently viewable on AB3 are planned to disappear when the sixth TNT multiplex is activated.   This is because the sixth TNT programmes will be shoehorned onto the same transponder which currently carries France Televisions using a transmission system (Newtech) not on sale to the public.   What one sees at the moment is simply a transmitter feed for the UHF digital terrestrial TV network, and is not really intended to be watched at home.   It is possible that there will be a hue and cry if and when the public channels disappear,   but the official response is likely to be "go and get a Canalsat box and FTV card".

It's - in my view - a mess and a sad indication of France failing to get its message out to the rest of Europe.   It's common (and right) to blame over-greedy rights-holders for the need for encryption on the FTV Canalsat TNT bouquet,   but other European broadcasters such as the BBC and ARD and RAI have shown that you CAN show programmes Europe wide.   It's also got a lot to do with the toothless and directionless Conseil Superior Audiovisuel,  an organisation about which I'm not the only one to wonder what they're there for.

It seems reasonable to assume that TV5 and France 24 will remain FTA,  but for those of us who want the whole range of programmes it looks as though we're going to have to talk to Canalsat.   I fully intend to get a card (and if necessary a box,  even though I already have a suitable box with Viacess card reader) and take it straight back to Devon!

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Depending on where you are, the UHF TNT situation should improve by 2010.   Like in the UK,  we're in a transitional phase at the moment,  and there are numerous power restrictions on the current TNT services to prevent their interfering with existing analogue transmissions.   However,  when analogue is switched off many of the TNT powers will be increased,  often seven or eight fold.  In addition,  some important analogue UHF sites which at present cannot carry digital (for the interference reasons above) will be equipped,  pretty much at the last minute.  

It looks as though France may be edging towards the UK scenario,  which is that analogue will be switched off region by region.   However,  the last I heard there was no final decision as to whether to have one big switch over in 2010 or 2011 or whether to do it in stages.  We shall see.....

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