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How NOT to get English TV in Spain

By Mr Grumpy - Mon 14th Jun 2010

If you scour the various on-line forums, or read the countless free expat newspapers over here in Spain - even listen in on the hundreds of conversations going on in the bars up and down the Costa's and inland, sooner or later one topic is sure to come up. Television. Not necesarily what's been on telly, but actually how and how not ot get it.

When I first arrived in Spain, I naturally wanted and needed my English TV as a comfort blanket and so we looked into how we could best recieve it.

The one that a lot of people (mainly property owners as opposed to renters) seemed to opt for was the Sky TV system. Namely registering the Sky subscription to a UK address and then getting the card posted over here to use in a Sky box exactly as you would in the UK, with the exception of requiring a 2.1/2 mt dish in order to recieve the signal. This is usually a reliable method if you are prepared to pay for the monthly subscription to Sky, have the space and inclination to have a dish the size of a child's paddling pool in your garden, and can afford the 1'000 euros plus to buy the dish and have the base prepared. It also needs to be said that although Sky turn a blind eye to this method, it is still essentially an illegal set up.

Blocking our IP address on our computer to download BBC or ITV's i-Player was ruled out due to the fact that hiding our IP address would obviously draw attention to what we were doing and sooner or later we would get caught, stopped and more than likely, heavily fined.

So like many unsuspecting expats we looked at the old 're-broadcasters'. In our experience these so-called service providers fell into 2 categories :

1.) Some of these re-broadcasters are actually legal companies, however what they are doing is essentially illegal - they are selling a product that they have no right to sell. They are essentially taking a satellite signal, scrambling it and then broadcasting it the the set top box where it is unscambled. All for a monthly fee. It has been rumoured that many of these such companies are backed by Mafia money and are easy targets as the Guardia are marching up and down the Costa's closing them down one by one.

2.) You will also find a few people here and then that have the technical nounce to be able to understand how to 'work around' the above system. Usually just freiends or neighbours who have worked out from experience how to scramble the system themselves and set a system up for you for the cost of the box and a few pints.

To be fair I have tried both systems in the past. I found that going through the re-broadcasters was not 100% reliable as the signal strength kept changing, or my box was often recalled for calibrating. It also stuck in my throat a little that I was essentially paying (quite a bit of) good money for an unreliable service that was illegal. It didn't feel wrong in any way in asking a mate to cobble something together for me - if anything it felt that the little man was getting one over on an organised crime syndicate.

However, this too is not a reliable set up - there are often long periods when the signal is scrambled and nothing is recieved, but obviously paying nothing for the service, there is nothing that I can do.

A relitavley new concept is streaming Free British TV through the Internet. I saw this at a friends house recently and was amazed at the quality - and equally amazed to find out that it was both Free and Legal (it seems that the legality issue is basically down to people not being able to profit from legally selling a service that they are not entitled to - no law against giving it away though !) - the only requirement was to have an ADSL contract with the provider of at least 3meg.

I only had a 1meg connection and was gutted that living in the campo, I would be unable to upgrade.

so that 'solution', although perfect for many, was out of the question for me.

It is only recently that I looked into another option : Spanish Digital TV - Legal, Free to use, easy to install, no unsightly radar station in the back garden.

For 99 Euros the Engineer basically wires the set top box into the A4 sized mesh that is already in place from my previous system. Granted, the programs are in Spanish, which will be great for my daughter. At 3 I think it is important that she can be exposed to as much Spanish language and culture as possible (not to mention her parents!) - but here's the good part... The programs that are shown which were originally produced in the English Language ( Almost all films, 24, CSI Miami etc...) are dubbed from English Into Spanish, but the 'dubbing' can be nutralised with one flick of the remote.

For 99 quid I have decided to have a punt, just in time for the world cup - I will let you know how we get on (with the system I mean, it's a given that England will crash out on penalties in the quarter finals.)

Comment on this Blog

It is not "illegal" to watch TV from another Country in Spain, there are no Spanish Law's relating to this. There have been certain EU directives that discuss borderless TV. If SKY find out you are watching SKY in Spain they will cut your card off. FACT If you get a card through an agent who will be your contact with SKY you will not have any problems. When Telmicro had an issue sometime ago a reporter from the local press asked one of the Investigators if people would be loosing SKY and was told that providing they had a legitimate card and box & had there own dish that they are doing nothing wrong, if you google "Telmicro raided" you can find the story. YES - SKY states very clearly in all paperwork that by using its equipment outside of the UK that you are in breach of contract as using outside of UK is against the "Customer agreement" Nobody has ever been prosecuted for watching SKY SPORTS or any SKY channels in Spain. The demand for SKY in Spain has really increased paticularily as people that have spent a lot of money on the latest HD Televisions realise that they need a SKY HD or FREESAT HD box to get a "true" High definition picture.
Mr Skytv - Mon, 6th Dec 2010
Hi Mr. Grumpy Yes of course you have a point, but is,t TDT available in ´The Campo´ certainly in the family house in the mountains we are able to receive it, I know, I have just set it up. Well I am off to watch The Final at my Brother in Laws (Spanish) with Egg and chips for Supper and a few wines, I had better not cheer for Holland :) though. Have a good evening
David Keyte - Sun, 11th Jul 2010
David, that sounds like a really interesting deal. Unfortunately myself, and many others that live in rural areas (ie more than 100 mts away from the main road) can not get 3mb ! Unfortunately that means that as I don't (yet) have TV of any description, in the next hour I will be forced into watching the World Cup final in my local bar. ( I think I bear the pressure well, and rarely complain)
Mr Grumpy - Sun, 11th Jul 2010
I have been with Movistar (Telefonica), since moving here some 8 years ago, the service has always been first class, although I only opt for the Trio Familiar 3mb, this includes over 70 TV channels, many of which can be heard in English by using the change audio channel button, also I get free Calls within Spain, as well as a good reliable internet connection. Total cost around 89 Euros, this includes reduced rate calls to the UK for 10 Euros a month, 15 minutes a day plus free calls to Mobiles at weekends I live away from the Costas in The north Western city of León and really cannot fault Movistar. By the way TDT can also receive the second audio, so many documentarys and Films can be heard in there original language
David Keyte - Sun, 11th Jul 2010
we rang telefonica today; to increase from 3Mb to 10Mb will cost €1 per month more, so i said yes; currently the monthly bill for what they call "duo" ( which appears to be the ADSL line) is €40.90, so it'll increase to €41.90!! I really cannot understand why they're so expensive.
Paul Attard - Thu, 17th Jun 2010
"We're reliably informed that a 90cm dish receiver will suffice to get BBC channels. True?" Yes sounds about right. Re ADSL: i am on 10m (and TV!) with telefonica and bill is still less than yours!! Call them and see what deal they can do for you - if you dont ask you never get!!
Sid James - Thu, 17th Jun 2010
many thanks. Am looking at Europa ADSL.
Paul Attard - Thu, 17th Jun 2010
70-80 Euros sounds a lot for 3meg ADSL and calls every month ! - I know there are a lot of companies offering very attratcive deals at the moment and it might be worth shopping around for a few quotes - you may also wish to Click here to read A Blog about getting an ADSL Connection.
Tumbit - Admin - Thu, 17th Jun 2010
we're one of the few British couples that do not live on any of the Costas. We're in Bizkaia, the Basque country. We're reliably informed that a 90cm dish receiver will suffice to get BBC channels. True? one other thing........ we use Telefonica for internet connection/phone, on a low tarriff of 3Mb download. Our average monthly bill is a massive €70-80 of which phone calls amount to a paltry €20, or less . Is ADSL connection so expensive in this country, or are we with the wrong company??
Paul Attard - Thu, 17th Jun 2010
Best of luck! You should know however, pretty much all the World Cup games shown in Spain, with the exception of the Spanish games, are all on Digital Canal+ !! Another system for you to contend with me thinks!
Dan Brammall - Wed, 16th Jun 2010
Cheers Sid ! appreciate the input - I'm a self-confessed technophobe and am pretty clueless when it comes to anything like this. What I DO know is that whoever and whenever I have sought advise on the matter of TV in Spain I seem to get a rake of different answers back in reply. And with regards to the 'Legality' issue, as long as I'm not breaking the law recieving a signal I couldn't care less about who is breaking the law in delivering it to me !
Mr Grumpy - Mon, 14th Jun 2010
"with the exception of requiring a 2.1/2 mt dish in order to recieve the signal". Not true. Many of the UK TV signals used for Sky TV can be easily received on small satellite dishes - from 80cm to 1m. Its only the free to air channels like BBC and ITV, that are nothing to do with Sky TV, that you may require a big dish - in many areas of Spain a smaller 1.45mt satellite dish will suffice, others a 1.9 mt, others a 2.4m. "Free and Legal"free as long as you pay for one of their services! Legal - If it was legal then dont you think the UK broadcasters would do it them selves rather than let others (who dont pay the UK broadcsaters for the right to use their channels!) profit from their service??
Sid James - Mon, 14th Jun 2010

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