SKY, BBC & ITV IN SPAIN & PORTUGAL
The third and final replacement satellite for the UK market, Astra 2G, will now be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome some time between July and the end of September. Originally scheduled for this month, Astra 2G was one of the satellites delayed by US State Department sanctions against Russian interests, following Russia's invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
In a conference call with investors, SES Chief Executive Karim Michel Sabbagh said Astra 2G now has the necessary permit to be moved to the Kazakhstan launch facility.
Astra 2G will broadcast to the UK using Europe-wide and UK-only spot beams.
ITV's new pay-tv drama channel, Encore, launches exclusively on Sky channel 123 at 7pm. The full series of Broadchurch will be shown at 9pm over four nights from today.
ITV Encore is on the UK-only Astra 2E spot beam.
BISS keys to de-encrypt transmissions from Intelsat 907 are reported to have changed towards the end of last week. The satellite, at 27.5ºW, is used by Arqiva to feed terrestrial TV transmitters in the UK. The channels are not for public use. (See our 13 Feb story, below).
Reception, formerly easy throughout western Europe, is also reported to have steeply declined in strength. The changes have been expected for some time and are probably intended to reduce anticipated widespread piracy of BBC & ITV World Cup coverage.
New keys have already been posted on websites.
ITV's new breakfast show Good Morning Britain has suffered a humiliating ratings collapse. Since it launched at the end of April, ITV's new morning show, fronted by highly-paid Susanna Reid, has seen its audience figures fall below its predecessor Daybreak. For the past fortnight the programme has won less than 15 per cent of the audience, with the majority of viewers tuning in to Reid's former show BBC Breakfast. Industry pundits are speculating that the show may be axed after just a few months, but are puzzled as to the reasons. One factor may be the odd four-abreast lineup behind a glass table, which many viewers find disconcerting.
A couple of readers have written in lately complaining of unobtainable Sky Box Office channels.
Sky runs Pay Per View for both Sports and Movies. Some, but not all are on the UK beam, which can't be received in many parts of Europe.
The best advice is to check you can receive the channel the event is scheduled on before you order a Box Office programme.
Our Madrid dish was performing so poorly it became obvious the problem was more than a cracked LNB. I had foolishly planted a couple of trees to one side of the garden seven years ago. When small, they caused no problems, but in past years branches have grown into the path of the signal.
Foliage is as effective as lead sheet or brick in blocking weak satellite broadcasts.
To analyse this, I loaded an iPhone App from dishpointer.com, Dishpointer AR.
This clever App combines data from the website with the iPhone's compass, to give an indication of the Clarke belt with its constellation of satellites. The app is not perfect: the position of 28.2 east is different in the two pictures, though both were from the same spot. (The left picture is more accurate.)
After some tree surgery (right), signals were hugely increased, giving good results on even the weakest BBC HD channels and plenty of rain margin.
On a visit last week to our base in Madrid, I was dismayed to find poor BBC and ITV reception on our 1.8 metre dish, in the sierra to the north of the city.
BBC HD was the worst: nothing in the morning and break-up in the evenings. SD was less affected.
The culprits proved to be overhanging branches (more later) and a cracked LNB. This reveals the principal weakness of the otherwise excellent Inverto Black Ultra: it is much less robust and durable than LNBs from main rivals Invacom.
The LNB (Low Noise Block) is the device at the ends of the arms on your dish which converts weak microwave-band signals from space into intermediate signals which can be passed down the cable to a satellite receiver.
These devices have to be regarded as consumables, as they rarely last more than 5 years in hot countries.
The combined effects of heat and ultra-violet light degrade the plastics, breaking down the front cover of an LNB. (see image above right)
Excessive heat is also bad for the internal electronic circuits.
Heat and UV will degrade cables where they pass over a roof. Initially flexible, after a few years the PVC sheath will become rigid and brittle, causing it to crack and fall off. After this point there will be complete loss of all signals in heavy rain.
The photo right shows the characteristic yellowing from UV damage.
The Inverto LNB is new: I returned to dish installation for a Madrid client. He previously had a poorly performing 60 cm, which was only receiving some Sky channels, with many missing. An upgrade to a Skyware/ChannelMaster 1.2 metre increased signals enough for 24/7 BBC and ITV reception.
This dish is the best on the market: more expensive than the mediocre dishes most installers like to fit, but well worth the money.
I have to make a return visit later this year to replace the cables before they fall to pieces.
We have received many reports of weaker signals from the Astra 2E UK spot beam, which carries BBC & ITV.
In S.E. France, a local English language radio station was "swamped with complaints" according to our correspondent in Frejus.
The deterioration has affected southern France and Spain. It's likely that the satellite has been the subject of "station keeping", which can result in a slight movement of the beam. This happens every 4-6 weeks, resulting in loss of signal if the receiving dish is right at the margin of a viewable signal. All geostationary satellites need to be kept on station, which is achieved by firing tiny jets on the spacecraft.
Digital broadcasting is normally either received perfectly or not at all. Analogue systems in the past would just become more grainy.
Hot weather and humidity can also weaken faint satellite signals.
The solutions to push the signal back over the threshold for breakup are:
adjustment of the dish
more sensitive receiver.
The signal should improve again in June or July.
Sky's online streaming service Now TV has been unavailable to many of its users for most of today, forcing Sky to apologise and to offer refunds.
Sky "will contacting all sports pass customers automatically to provide a refund or a replacement pass"
The problems have come to a head on the last day of the football season, after servers became overloaded. A glance at Now TV's Twitter feed reveals that the problems are not new. A typical response on the feed reads".@nowtvhelp you are like a full time apology service that runs a bad streaming tv service on the side."
Sky has a history of failures of its online services. Early versions of the Sky Go app were unreliable and crash-prone. Sky has also released satellite operating systems blighted with major software bugs, and been forced to recall tens of thousands of faulty set-top boxes on more than one occasion.
BSkyB recently announced a 9% rise in full-year operating profit to £1.33 billion.
BBC Sport has announced BBC World Cup Rewind, which will deliver ‘live’ digital coverage of the home nations’ greatest World Cup matches in the run-up to the 2014 tournament. Complete matches will be presented as though they are happening for the first time, with their with original commentary. Included are 1966 World Cup final, Archie Gemmill’s wonder goal in 1978, the ‘Hand of God’ in 1986, Gazza’s tears in 1990, and Gerry Armstrong stunning Spain in 1982.
The full schedule includes:
Friday 30 May, 12pm: England v West Germany, 1966 final
Saturday 31 May, 3pm: Scotland v The Netherlands, 1978 group match
Wednesday 4 June, 12pm: England v Argentina, 1986 quarter-final
Saturday 7 June, 3pm: England v Germany, 1990 semi-final
Sunday 8 June, 3pm: Spain v Northern Ireland, 1982 group match
BBC World Cup Rewind is available on PC, tablet, mobile and connected TV though iPlayer.
The BBC's line-up for its coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil (12 June-13 July) has Gary Lineker leading the TV coverage. He will be joined by former England captain Rio Ferdinand, France World Cup winner Thierry Henry, and former Dutch midfielder and current AC Milan coach Clarence Seedorf. There will also be programmes across TV and radio about Brazil and its football culture, with contributions from David Beckham.
Sky News has been added to Sky’s On Demand platform, and is available to 5 million Sky customers with a connected Sky+HD set-top box. Content will include key bulletins, specially commissioned programmes in the form of documentaries and the Sky News archive. As well as being able to access current stories, news, features and analysis, the news service will offer special programming such as Week in Review, a look back at the week’s news, chaired by Jayne Secker, featuring paper review regulars Andrew Pierce (Columnist and Consulting Editor – The Mail) and Kevin Maguire (Associate Editor – Daily Mirror).
The BBC has begun testing a new channel in preparation for the Commonwealth Games, which begin in Glasgow on 23rd. July. The test broadcast is on 11.469 H, 22.000, 5/6, Astra 2E/2F UK beam, a previously unused frequency in the band occupied up to now by Eutelsat's Eurobird. It may be the first move in the transfer of Eutelsat's previously disputed frequencies to SES's satellites, and may signal the end of Eurobird at 28.2º east.
Sky have opened a test HD channel on 10864H 23000 ⅔ DVB-S2/8PSK, Astra 2E UK beam today, labelled 4035, currently carrying no picture. Sky Sports 1 HD Ireland was moved to this transponder a couple of months ago. There's no indication yet on which Sky channel will be carried.
Sky's internet service Now TV will increase its prices at the end of this month, with the Entertainment Pass rising from £4.99 to £6.99 per month.
The Sky Movies pass rises by £1 to £9.99, the same price as the Sports pass, which is unchanged.
The service, with its Now TV-branded Roku box, is Sky's answer to competition from internet streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube and Apple's iTunes store.
Richard Desmond has sold Channel Five to the US media giant for £450m, reportedly half the original asking price.
Viacom, which broadcasts MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon in Britain, has pledged to increase the quality of programming on Five.
Viacom also owns the major film studio Paramount, leading to speculation that at least one of Five's free-to-air channels will be converted into a premium subscription service.
Numbers of new subscribers to Sky are expected to have fallen for the first time in 15 years when figures are released in the next week, reflecting the success BT has made in capturing a slice of the pay TV market, particularly in Sport coverage.
The offer of free BT Sport for UK BT Broadband subscribers has been extended for another season. It has helped BT to regain the initiative from Sky, which had been steadily eroding BT's broadband market share over the previous years.
Since its launch last summer, 170,000 new customers have signed up to receive BT Sport through the free offer, which includes Premier League coverage, giving Sky real competition for the first time. BT Sport customers now number five million in total. Sky charges £12 per month for BT Sport, though it is free if a customer is a BT Broadband subscriber.
On big fixtures, viewing figures for BT Sport Premier League matches are now similar to those of Sky Sports.
Sky has hit back with cheap broadband offers and its low-cost Now TV internet set-top box.
From next year, BT will show Champions League football exclusively in a three-year deal. The company's sport channels are unlikely to remain free after autumn 2015, following the huge sum paid (£900m) for the rights to the tournament.
BT, through its subsidiary OpenReach, provides the infrastructure over which Sky and most other ISPs operate.
Following the unrest in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, the United States has tightened sanctions against Russia, by restricting export licences for US-made components in forthcoming satellites launches at Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome
A permit is required even if the satellite was manufactured in another country, and the lack of one will prevent a satellite being shipped to the launch site. The State Department first made its move in March, with a further tightening yesterday, revoking licences already granted. The restrictions prevent the shipment of any component which could "contribute to Russia's military capabilities", and will have a widespread effect on the satellite industry worldwide.
The British company Inmarsat will be badly hit, as will Luxembourg's SES, who were planning to launch Astra 2G in June.
Each proposed licence will be dealt with by the State Department on a "case by case" basis, which will lead to urgent lobbying in Washington by the satellite industry to quickly lift the ban.
Political tension in the region shows no sign of easing, with alternative launch facilities in other parts of the world fully booked for some time to come. The Americans are also trying to stop ArianeSpace using Russian Proton rockets at its French Guiana launch site.
Baikonur is run by an American company, International Launch Services (ILS), and in a further twist of irony, sanctions do not apply to the International Space Station, as the Americans are completely dependent on Russia launchers to re-supply the mission.
From today STV HD (Scottish Television) will be available for Sky HD viewers in Scotland on channel 103. Scottish Freesat HD viewers will be able to access STV HD on channel 119.
For viewers with ITV regions other than Scotland, the channel will appear at Sky guide 178 on Sky HD boxes.
For non-Scottish Freesat viewers, STV HD needs to be added manually.
The channel is on the Astra 2F UK beam, 10994 H, 22000, 5/6. If you are adding STV HD using "manual tuning" on a Freesat HD receiver, you might like to add Ulster TV HD on 11053 H, 22000, 5/6, which is also on Astra 2F's UK beam, for alternative ITV programming and movies.
Both channels are free to air and don't need a viewing card, subscription or sign-up to Sky's HD pack.
Astra 2F's UK beam is weak in many parts of mainland Europe.
"Hi, You recently advised me on satellite dish sizes for here in Berlin. Just to let you know I have installed my new dish which is a 2.3 meter Famaval and it is receiving all channels including HD loud and clear. Thanks again for your help. Regards, Iain"
Less than a month after its launch, London Live, the capital's 24-hour news and entertainment TV channel, has suffered dismal initial audience ratings. An average of just 2,400 people have been watching Wake Up London, the station's breakfast show, out of a potential audience of 9 million. The figures were so bad that editorial director Stefano Hatfield resigned at the end of last week. The early evening show on Easter Monday had only 200 viewers. Some programmes had no measurable audience at all.
For broadcasting rights reasons, London Live is carried on Freeview and Sky only in the London area. It is not available on Freesat owing to the signal being encrypted, which may have cost London London Live dearly, both in terms of audience share and carriage fees from Sky.
The low numbers are despite a £15m annual budget and intense in-house promotion from The Evening Standard and The Independent newspapers.
Hamid, from Casablanca, Morocco, reports the return of BT Sport HD1, BT Sport HD2 and ESPN with a 1.4m Motorised Dish, inverto LNB, VU+ Solo2 receiver. Location co-ordinates: 33.35 N / 7.38. W. He can also receive ITV2, 3, 4, Channel 4 & +1,(Irish versions?) E4 & +1, More 4 HD, FILM 4 HD.
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) have arrested a Nottingham man on suspicion of selling set-top boxes that allow pubs to illegally broadcast Premier League football matches during the "closed period" on Saturday afternoons, when no live broadcasting is allowed. The arrest was instigated by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
Since last September, PIPCU has become much more active against intellectual property (IP) theft, following an increase in the unit's funding.
In October, another man received a two-year prison sentence for running an website which illegally re-broadcast Sky Sports. The man, Kevin Broughton, had taken out a number of Sky subscriptions, which he then re-sold to around 10,000 customers from his home in Sheffield.
Formed to combat an increasing amount of online crime and copyright theft, PIPCU is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and run by the City of London Police.
After four years serving mainland Europe at 19.2º east, Astra 2C is returning to the UK satellite position. It is currently moving eastwards towards 28.2º at half a degree a day.
Astra 2C is very similar to the end-of-life Astra 2A. Both are Boeing 601 spacecraft, but with different footprints. 2C has just one pan-European beam, 2A has two: 2A North and 2A South.
It's probable some of Astra 2A's channels will be transferred to 2C, which still has two years of its planned life remaining. 2A should have been retired in 2013.
The third of the new satellites for the UK, Astra 2G, is still scheduled for a June 2014 launch.
We take Google's new streaming HDMI dongle for a test drive and are thoroughly impressed.
Competing against Roku/NowTV from Sky and Apple's Apple TV box, Chromecast undercuts both on price. At £30, it is less than one third of Apple's device, to which it bears a strong similarity in function if not form... Read the full review
BBC Three controller Zai Bennett is leaving the BBC, following last month's decision to scrap his channel. From next June, he will be director of Sky Atlantic.
Whilst at BBC Three, Bennett has commissioned some of BBC Three's biggest hits, including The Call Centre and Bad Education.
BBC Three is to close as an on-air channel in autumn 2015, saving the BBC £60m. Bennett's BBC salary as controller was £219,900
US TV networks Fox, NBC, CBS Studios, Disney and Universal return to the American Supreme court next Tuesday, 22nd April to resume a landmark legal action against internet streaming service Aereo, which has been accused of copyright theft and piracy. The outcome of the case could determine the fate of FilmOn, which since September 2013 has been under threat of closure, after a judge issued an injunction ordering FilmOn to cease broadcasts in most US states, with the exception of New York.
Fines of $20,000 a day and further court hearings have been put on hold pending the Aereo ruling. FilmOn has maintained its worldwide operations in defiance of the US injunction.
It re-broadcasts BBC, ITV and C4 from its website and App using United States servers and a technical team based in Ukraine.
FilmOn asked permission to present evidence in favour of Aereo next week but was denied access. Aereo and FilmOn are competitors but have common ground in their fight against the major US broadcasters, arguing consumers have a right to inexpensive personal streaming.
Aereo thought it had found a loophole in copyright law by setting up "aerial farms", providing each subscriber a unique mini TV antenna, the size of a coin. The studios have argued Aereo and FilmOn pay no copyright fees and are pirating their content.
The TV networks could lose huge sums in retransmission fees from cable companies if the court decides in favour of Aereo.
A decision is expected by July this year.
"I have been having very good reception on 85cm horizontal dimension with inverto ultra twin in Bayonne southern landes despite all the doom & gloom spread around by everyone. It is necessary to aim the dish carefully. Rain margin is fairly good even in torrential rain. Only problem was weekend 29-30 march when virtually everyone lost signal regardless, put down to solar flare/sahara sand. Despite general predictions that reception would be impossible with anything less than 1.2m which would need a trip to the mayor for permission which has already been refused to some in exposed positions. I hope this may be of some help to many who have lost hope."
PS All channel 5s back & strong as well.
Colin, southern Landes, France
BT Sport has joined BBC's iPlayer on Google's streaming device Chromecast.
The low-cost dongle is causing a great deal of interest even though it has only been on sale in the UK for a few weeks. The main attraction of Chromecast is its cost: at £30, it is considerably cheaper than comparable devices on the market.
The App is restricted to BT Broadband customers with a BT ID.
Delia Bushell, formerly chief commercial officer at Sky Italia, has defected to BT. She replaces Marc Watson, who recently resigned after five years as head of BT TV and Sport.
Industry-watchers speculate that Bushell's arrival will result in BT offering original drama, to better compete with Sky, which is now spending £600m annually on premium, original programming.
In the past, Sky was happy to import most of its non-sport content, whilst spending a sum on marketing equal to the BBC's entire programme budget.
The new director may have different opinions on the recent low profile of the BT Vision brand, now largely eclipsed by YouView, in which BT has a stake. YouView is a UK terrestrial service, offering an integrated programme guide, catchup TV and HD streaming.
The BBC, ITV C4, C5 and Arqiva recently reduced their funding of the YouView joint venture by 85%, fearing that it had become a marketing vehicle for BT and TalkTalk at the expense of the other partners.
The celebrity boss of bailiff company JBW Group, Jamie Waller, failed to stop the BBC's Panorama airing an investigation into alleged unlawful practices by his company.
Journalist John Sweeney presented "Don't Take My Car: Bailiffs Undercover", an undercover exposé of the highly lucrative activities of a number of firms who are contracted by local authorities to collect fines for unpaid parking tickets.
In most cases, the fines can multiply tenfold if unpaid or disputed. The bailiffs were shown intimidating debtors, confiscating vehicles and threatening to seize property.
Invoices from the firms to local authorities were obtained under freedom of Information legislation showed the huge sums charged once a case had been outsourced for bailiff enforcement.
Mr Waller, who appears in a the BBC's The Enforcers failed in a last-minute High Court bid to stop the programme.
If your Sky box won't allow you to play back or make new recordings, try rebuilding the planner. This is a form of housekeeping similar to running a disk utility on a computer.
A Sky receiver suffers the same problems with directories and folders as a PC, particularly when the hard disc is nearly full and in heavy daily use. Follow these instructions on Sky's help website.
In an internal memo, BSkyB's director of corporate affairs, Graham McWilliam, has said that the satellite broadcaster will remain in Scotland whether or not the country votes for independence on 18 September 2014.
Sky has around 6,400 staff in Livingstone, making it one of the country's largest private employers.
The memo didn't answer some potentially awkward questions raised by the independence debate, however. If Scotland were an independent country, it's unlikely the FA would allow Sky and BT to continue to show Premiership football under the current rights deal. Rights would also probably need to be re-negotiated for other sports, films and imported American series.
The Republic of Ireland is regarded by Sky as a separate broadcasting market, a distinction that would certainly also apply to an independent Scotland.
Thanks to all those who have recently sent in reception reports, which have confirmed a deterioration in signal from Astra 2E and 2F. Messages in the past week from Salies de Bearn, SW France, Verona, Italy, Cannes, France, The Landes, France, northern Catalunya, and Marmande, France, all report much worse BBC reception.
ANALYSIS: BBC & ITV ON ASTRA 2E AND 2F SPOT BEAM From 25th. March 2012, until 6th. February 2014 Astra 1N replaced Astra 2D, carrying BBC channels, supposedly on its "UK spot", which was not really a spot beam, though SES pretended it was.
The BBC could be received on 80 cm dishes across most of Europe during this two-year period. Lazy installers could use the cheapest LNBs and dishes, not bother to point the dish well, and solid signals would still be received.
Signals didn't fall off in the evenings, as they do now with Astra 2E and 2F.
What we're seeing now looks to be very similar to Astra 2D, in service at 28.2º east from 2003 to 25th. March 2012, which many expats learned to hate.
In many fringe areas of Europe, Astra 2D horizontal signals were strong in the mornings and weak in the evenings. Vertical channels were the opposite. This is probably caused by the acute angle of the satellite relative to the earth, and the fact that the earth is not a perfect sphere.
Some parts of Europe saw this swap at different times of day.
2D's annual pattern was: strong from September to February, with a peak around Christmas. After the satellite's equinox around 10th march, signals dropped off steadily during the spring, reaching a low point in the summer.
The same seems to be happening to 2E and 2F now. There are other reasons why signal is poor during hot weather.
Background noise in the surroundings of the dish and in the electronics of the LNB increases with temperature, causing a poorer signal-to-noise ratio. The result for the viewer is a blocked picture or no picture at all.
On top of the annual pattern, every four to six weeks, the signal may get worse or improve for no known reason.
Atmospheric pollution, high humidity, high-level atmospheric dust, thick cloud and rain can all reduce satellite signals, which are very weak: a satellite transponder carrying a number of channels has about the power of two light bulbs, broadcasting from space at a distance of 22,236 miles (35,786km).
The eastern half of Germany, Denmark, Austria, southern France and northern Spain, which previously enjoyed relatively easy and stable Astra 2D reception up to 2012, are now suffering the same problems which plague expat BBC viewers further out from the main UK footprint.
This result is exactly what the BBC intended in its blog statement in December 2012.
The conclusion is: BBC, ITV, C4 and Five may get worse before they recover later in the year. And if they do, the same thing will happen every year.
This morning a reader has written with a correction to yesterday's item on Chromecast.
..."according to various reviews of Chromecast that I have read, the device will not be recognised by a VPN, therefore unusable." Remo
We said a VPN service is needed to view iPlayer in mainland Europe with Chromecast. What we meant was that a VPN service can be used on iPad or other iOS device to send iPlayer to Chromecast, when used out of the UK. iPad, iPhone, most Android devices and all recent PCs and Macs have native (built in) VPN software, which can enable iPlayer, ITV Player and other catch up TV services in mainland Europe.
Chromecast looks like an interesting device, so we'll get hold of one and publish a review.
Google's tiny Chromecast device now works with BBC iPlayer on iPad. Version 3.2.0 of the iPlayer, released on 13th.March, will allow a programme being shown on the app to be "cast" to a Chromecast dongle plugged into an HDMI socket on a TV. A Chrome browser on a laptop or other mobile device can also send a video stream to Google's device.
Chromecast is competing against the Roku box and Apple TV, but is much less expensive than either, at £30.
The final satellite launch in the SES satellite replacement programme is now scheduled for June this year. Astra 2G will be nearly identical to Astra 2E and 2F, now in service.
When 2G goes into service, channels will be moved from Astra 2A, which is now near the end of its planned life. The new satellite will have a UK narrow beam with much the same reception pattern as 2E and 2F.
It looks as though the BBC is waiting for the extra capacity 2G will bring to add more regional HD services to BBC One HD.
The addition of frequencies from this summer may have an effect on reception in fringe areas, where strong channels are next to weak ones. Poor quality LNBs have problems sorting out wanted signals from unwanted ones when this happens, an effect known as cross-channel interference. Channels are broadcast in alternate polarities to try to minimise this effect.
The closure of Astra 2A and the move to Astra 2G is likely to spell the end of all Sky reception in Cyprus.
A new 24-hour TV news and entertainment channel for London comes to air tomorrow, offering original programmes and more than five hours of news a day. London Live is run by the wealthy owners of The Independent and The London Evening Standard, Russians Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, who have pledged to invest £15m a year into the station.
The channel's largely unknown presenters are young, reflecting the age of its target market. London Live may be trying to attract viewers who may also watch BBC Three or E4. Shows such as Twenty Twelve, Misfits, Peep Show and The Shadow Line will be in the schedules. There will be heavy cross-promotion from the groups's newspapers, especially the Evening Standard, which has seen a huge increase in its circulation in the capital since becoming a free evening paper. It will be increasing its print run further, to 900,000 a day, to help promote London Live.
London Live is on the Europe beam of Astra 2F (12610 V, 22000, FEC 5/6. Service:"50892"), free to view but encrypted on satellite, needing a valid Sky viewing card and a postcode within the station's reception area. It won't be available on Freesat.
Sky guide: channel 117 from 31st. March
"Re your news item of March 15th where you recommended Invacom LNB's.
As Astra 2E came into service I re-cabled my 1.2 meter dish and bought a new Sedea LNB. However I was still losing my 'local' BBC1 and all BBC HD channels from tea-time onwards. Following your recommendation I bought an Invacom twin LNB from Amazon France for €43, and the difference is remarkable.
I can now get ALL channels both SD and HD at all times of day and night, the signal strength on my weaker feed has gone from 40% at best time of day, to 70% for Quality, and 85% for strength. I live in a forested area in South Eastern France."
Gordon, Frejus, France.
We've received similar reports from others who have upgraded from a mediocre LNB. Just about any LNB will work when there are strong signals, but now, in many parts of Europe, this is no longer the case.
Marc Watson has announced he is leaving British Telecom after five years in the post as head of the TV division. In 2013, he was instrumental in securing the near-£2bn deal for BT to show Premier League and Champions League football, which caught Sky by surprise.
Sky will be fighting back in the next round of negotiations for the right to show the English Premiership in the UK, which may start within the year.
The intense competition between the two companies is likely to drive up the price paid for rights to show games. The matches are divided up into seven packs, with Sky currently having five of the packs, compared to BT's two. ITV also lost Champions League, its rights being won by BT.
BT's aggressive expansion into what was the near-exclusive preserve of Sky was largely driven by BT's need to prevent Sky from capturing an ever-larger share of the broadband, phone and pay TV market, which presented a significant threat to BT. Many industry observers, including Sky, considered the price BT paid for the football deal to be excessive.
BT is currently giving away BT Sports free with its broadband service, a deal which is likely to end at some point, with broadband consumers likely paying £12 per month. (£15 for the HD streaming service).
Despite calls for more competition in the pay TV market, BT's move will result in football fans spending more than ever if they wish to watch all Premiership games shown by the two broadcasters. Sky increases its prices every September, an apparently unstoppable event, which has steadily pushed up the cost of subscribing.
Four HD channels have been moved to the UK-only beam this week. Dave HD, Watch HD Alibi HD and Star Plus HD were moved to Astra 2E two days ago.
The former Labour Home Secretary, David Blunkett, who has been blind since birth, has called for foreign films and drama to be dubbed rather than subtitled when shown on UK television.
He also complained of the lack of accuracy of automatic subtitles, which are often full of mistakes. He claimed blind and deaf people are being let down by broadcasters.
In recent decades, dubbing of foreign programmes has virtually disappeared from UK TV, but remains almost universal in mainland Europe.
In Spain, a strike by 250 voiceover artists has entered its third week. The actors dub voices of foreign films and dramas for TV, and are in dispute over pay. Many current shows, such as The Big Bang Theory and Grey's Anatomy are being postponed as a result.
Poor quality dubbing is one of the reasons why many Expats resort to the dual soundtrack feature on their TV or set top box. Frequently the original English soundtrack is broadcast simultaneously with the dubbed version, complete with the sound effects and background atmosphere which are usually lost in the voiceover process.
HD channels from the BBC moved numbers in the guide as expected this week. Owing to the lack of full BBC regional HD variations, channel 101 on Freesat remains in standard definition, with BBC One HD on 108.
BBC 2HD is on 102. As before, the position of HD channels on Sky depends on whether you subscribe to the HD pack.
From Monday April 28, 2014, STV HD (Scottish TV) will be available for Sky HD subscribers in Glasgow and the west on channel 103, and Sky channel 178 in other areas. Freesat viewers will be able to access STV HD on channel 119.
STV HD has been testing on satellite for more than a year.
The BBC will reshuffle its slots on the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) on Sky and Freesat tomorrow.
The most notable change is the move of BBC One HD and BBC Two HD to numbers 101 and 102 of the guide. Standard definition versions swap to 141 and 142. BBC One regional HD channels will appear for the first time to English viewers: BBC One Scotland to 977, BBC One Wales HD to 978 and BBC One Northern Ireland HD to 979. At times, alternative programming is shown on these channels.
What you receive, and where in the guide, is dependent on postcode if you are using Freesat, or if you are a Sky viewer, where your viewing card is registered.
The numbering changes affect Sky and Freesat. Viewers using Sky boxes without a viewing card or HD subscription will see no change in BBC ONE SD/HD positions.
This EPG shuffle will make no difference to signal strength.
Reports have been arriving this week from Italy, Germany and Spain of a further reduction in Astra 2E signals.
As these are geographically distant and over a period of days, the change is unlikely to be a result of poorer weather. For reasons unknown, Astra 2E, which carries most BBC channels, is slightly to the east and slightly higher in the sky than the other satellites at the UK position of 28.2º east.
This week, 2E is at 28.35º E AND 0.07º N, which is 0.17º further east and just over 0.07º further north than Astra 2A. Generally the satellites are close enough in the sky for it not to be worth adjusting a dish. Dishes in excess of 1.2 metres can differentiate between the three satellites.
The arrival of Astra 2G later this year may mean signals change yet again, as Astra 2A is likely to be retired.
There are conflicting predictions of 2G's launch, some saying May and others September. SES are still improbably saying it will be in the first quarter of 2014.
Sky+HD customers will from today start to receive a rebuilt Sky Guide, the biggest overhaul in many years. All HD boxes will be updated by May, starting this week with Amstrad DRX890 and 895 models. Pace and Samsung Sky+HD boxes will follow.
The main change is the introduction of a new home page, with icon areas for Catch Up TV, Boxed Sets, New Series, On Demand, Sky Store and a new search facility.
It's not clear if searching with a 10-key remote control will be any easier.
The broadcaster is shifting its main focus in the EPG(Electronic Programme Guide) towards Sky's On-Demand content.
Also announced today is a change to the Sky Store to enable "purchase to keep". Currently rented programmes delete themselves after a set period. The move is to allow Sky to better compete with Netflix and the Apple Store. A start date hasn't been announced.
As the DVD rental market has contracted, the online rental and purchase market has steadily grown, helped by the closure of high street outlets such as Blockbuster and the steady rise of internet speeds.
If you've visited BBC's iPlayer in the last week or so, you may have noticed a new look. The re-design is branded as "responsive", meaning it adapts itself to the device on which it's being used. It's easier to navigate, logically laid out, with a clearer design. iPlayer now has an live TV instant rewind feature, enabling the viewer to jump back to the start of a programme.
Soon there will be exclusive programming: Frankie Boyle, the foul-mouthed but often brilliant former Mock The Week panellist, has been commissioned to produce original comedy shorts for iPlayer. The BBC now feels obliged to compete with YouTube's original content channels, in addition to rival TV broadcasters.
iPlayer now feels fully mature, six years after it was introduced, on Christmas day, 2007.
iPlayer's radio channels are available worldwide.
Reports have been arriving of significant problems with internet speeds following Telfónica's relaunch of its Movistar Fusión product on 6th. March. Fusión packages include mobile, fixed line rental, ADSL or fibre internet and television services over the internet, including Canal+ channels.
Telefónica was reported as being close to acquiring a controlling stake in loss-making Canal+, but decided to remain a minority shareholder. There had been calls for the purchase to be investigated by the European Commission.
Canal+ losses have increased in the past year to EUR 648.7 million.
In the cities, Movistar has a fast fibre optic network, but in other areas relies on regular copper wires. Increased demand for internet TV following the BBC switch, combined with extra numbers of Fusión subscribers has led to near-collapse of internet speeds in large urbanisations and rural populations, which rely on ageing copper ADSL infrastructure.
It's not just Telefónica's subscribers who have been suffering slower internet, companies which share the same trunk cables and cabinets, such as Orange, Telitec and Jazztel have also been affected.
Ken in Ulldecona, Catalunya, has the BBC back with a dish upgrade to 1.5 metres, fitted with an Inverto Black Ultra LNB. Sadly no-one has been able to achieve the same in Barcelona, about 130 km to the north-east.
Until there is a positive report from Barcelona, few are prepared to risk money. It's possible that 2.4 m or 3.0 m may work, but top quality dishes larger than 1.8 metres are very expensive, in the region of thousands of euros for a 2.4 m or 3.0 m.
An additional problem is the level of skill needed, which many installers in Spain lack. It's common for antenistas to attempt a "Sky" installation, only to fail to achieve much more than the strong Europe beams.
A recurring theme in positive reports in difficult areas is that a good quality, fibreglass-based, SkyWare (also known as ChannelMaster) or Prodelin dish is used. These perform better than the more common, easier to obtain, steel Portuguese (Famaval) dishes. Many reports also cite returned channels after fitting an Inverto Black Ultra LNB. In the past, Invacom C120 LNBs were regarded as the ultimate in performance. They are now equalled by Inverto's best LNBs. However, quality control is poor. There's a chance you may get a mediocre Inverto.
A number of readers have responded to yesterday's news update with reports of a reduction in BBC and ITV signals over the past few days.
Weaker signals have been reported in from Montpelier, Cannes, Toulouse and Salies De Bearn, (50 Km east of Bayonne) in France.
Weaker also in Lindau, Lake Constance, Germany (100Km east of Zürich) and near Parma, Italy.
These are in addition to reports from eastern Spain seen on satellite forums.
Send us a report if you've noticed changes.
There have been reports of weaker signals from the UK beams in the past couple of days, after three weeks of improvement. This may be due to periodic "station keeping" (movement of the satellite within its 100 km "virtual cube" in space).
If you have noticed weaker signals, send us a report from the contact page.
The BBC's Director or Strategy, James Purnell, has signalled the start of a campaign to preserve the BBC licence fee in its current form. Some form of subscription system is often proposed by rival broadcasters and some sections of the press with a vested interest in weakening the BBC. The BBC chief claims that a subscription would be more expensive to administer and would incur an huge setup cost.
He points out that large numbers of Britain's 40 million Freeview and Freesat receivers would have to be modified or replaced, as most don't have a conditional access facility, necessary for a subscription system.
He also argued against a change in the law to de-criminalise non-payment of the licence fee, arguing that the lost revenue through lighter penalties would cause the fee to rise for all payers. About one-tenth of Magistrates' court time is occupied with criminal cases for licence fee non-payment, a burden which some in government wish to change.
One of the outcomes of the BBC and ITV loss in Spain and Portugal a month ago has been the rush to view online, resulting in problems in areas with low broadband speeds.
With huge numbers of people watching TV on the internet, speeds in the evenings have taken a hit, often up to a tenth of those achieved in the mornings.
For some, this has meant that the internet is not the solution to BBC loss. Instead, they have suffered blocky pictures, disconnections and errors.
Many viewers who have switched to the internet and have reasonable speeds may soon be receiving over-use warnings, having exceeded download limits.
In the UK, OFCOM surprised many with its claim that the UK now leads Europe in overall broadband speeds and take-up of fast services, including 4G.
Prior to last month, it was often necessary to change the "default transponder" on a Sky receiver. This is the frequency which carries the Sky guide. All Sky boxes are programmed to look for this frequency, 11778, to load programme and channel information. Formerly on Astra 2B's north beam, it was difficult to receive in southern Europe, being particularly weak in the afternoon in Spain. Sky boxes would often complain of "no satellite signal" following one of Spain's frequent power cuts. This problem has vanished now that the default transponder is on Astra 2E's much more powerful Europe beam.
It's no longer necessary, and unwise, to attempt to change the default transponder, as a Sky box will always default to 11778 V if this frequency can be received.
A post on the satellites.co.uk forum indicates the depth of the Astra 2E and 2F dead spot in Portugal.
In Lisbon, a 3.1 metre dish owned by an enthusiast is receiving no signal at all on the UK spot beams. A spectrum analyser, an advanced kind of meter with a graphic display, can reveal signals that are too weak for a receiver to "lock". In this case, nothing can be seen at all. Flatline results have also been reported near to Barcelona.
Elsewhere, in Germany, signals can be received in the "dead zone", indicating that in some parts of Europe things are not as bad as had been feared.
If you can receive the BBC for part of the day, this is good news. Your signal is just below the threshold of stable reception. It's the nature of digital broadcasting that a small increase in signal can turn a broken-up picture into a perfect one. A tune-up, new LNB or a larger dish can bring the signals back 24 hours a day.
HBO Go, the US-based cable and streaming channel, suffered a major crash on Sunday, when demand for the final episode of True Detective overwhelmed the capacity of HBO's server.
The online channel was forced to apologise this morning. HBO restricts availability to its US-based subscribers. It can be accessed in the rest of the world buy using a VPN with a server in the United States.
This isn't the first time that online broadcasts have crashed. ITV, BT Sport and Sky have all failed to keep up with demand for popular online programmes at peak times.
A Petition to save BBC Three, organised by Change.org, has almost reached 200,000 signatures, just a week after it was created.
The online petition aims to persuade the BBC trust to reject BBC management's plans to make BBC Three online-only.
From Northern Landes, France.
"An English technician has just repointed our 80cm dish and obtained an 98/99 signal strength on all lost channels. (we have high pressure and cloudless sky today). He said the local french installer had done a poor job originally and as a result when satellite strength dropped the dish could not cope. This information may be useful for people who just need a more careful installer"
From La Spezia, Italy.
"Signal and reception of BBC 1 etc including ITV Channels 4 & 5 returned Saturday 8 March by installing; · Gibertini OP150 offset dish , · Digital LNB 0.1dB, Humax Foxsat HDR, freesat box, Location 10 km south east of La Spezia Italy. The technician told me the signal strength is 70 dB The Humax Information bar shows Strength 85% - Quality 65% Clear blue sky Before the satellite change my dish was a Gibertini 125 Offset with an Invacom universal LNB 0.3dB I hope this will help others Thank you for your very helpful information on your website."
In statements released to the press, the BBC left the door open to further closures after the next licence fee settlement in 2016.
Whilst they were not specific, it's known that BBC Four is the most likely candidate for the axe. The channel is known for quality programming but small audiences.
The threat to BBC Four may be an early negotiating ploy ahead of the next licence fee battle in two years' time. In 2010, the licence fee was frozen at £145.50, but the BBC had to commit to fund the World Service, some of S4C and pay £150m to support broadband rollout in Britain.
After the planned BBC Three closure in autumn 2015, its slots on Satellite and Freeview will be filled by a BBC1+1 channel. (broadcast with a one hour time delay) and an extension to CBBC's hours to 8pm.
BBC One will show BBC Three original programming after 11pm, offering a chance for new ideas to gain exposure on a major channel. It may come as a surprise that despite an £85m budget, BBC Three only produces one hour of original programming a night, to be cut to 30 minutes after 2015. The rest of its schedule is imported.
The BBC has persuaded BARB, the body which measures numbers of viewers, to include iPlayer ratings for the first time, which will help bolster the BBC's audience share.
BBC Three's programmes will receive additional airtime on BBC One and Two after the change, enabling viewers unwilling or unable to watch iPlayer to view.
These changes, and the closure of BBC Three as a linear channel, require the approval of the BBC Trust, likely to take a number of months.
We reported yesterday on the The Daily Mail's claim that BBC Three was due to be axed.
Clearly, the Mail had some inside information, as the BBC's Director-General, Tony Hall, revealed to Martha Carney on BBC Radio Four's World At One this lunchtime that the axe is indeed to fall on the youth-oriented channel BBC Three.
The channel will not close completely. In the future, it will be online only, with its budget cut by more than half to £30m.
The BBC will has taken this step following a number of studies showing that young viewers watch very little TV on traditional sets in the living room, preferring mostly to view on laptops and tablets, part of an increasing trend to watch online among all ages.
The BBC announced the plan on its own website this afternoon.
An unconfirmed report suggests that one IPTV server for Spain is located in Odessa, Ukraine, just 200km across the Black Sea from now-occupied Crimea.
A user has carried out a "trace route" which shows the IPTV streams are being sent from a server in Odessa. Head end equipment to feed pirated TV to IPTV boxes across the world is openly available in Russia.
A trace route uses the IP address system to identify the servers used and the hops between them. The reported end-quality suggests that BBC, ITV, C4 and C5 channels are re-encoded in Odessa, then sent to subscribers in Spain.
Weather presenter Carol Kirkwood had to talk herself out of an embarrassing situation on BBC Breakfast when the prediction for last Wednesday was 99ºC in six unnamed British towns.
Digital weather forecasting is no longer prone to magnetic letters falling off, but still depends on presenters being able to spell and enter data without mistakes.
Channel Five, which was put up for sale by its current owner Richard Desmond, has attracted bids from US cable networks Viacom and Discovery Communications, owners of the Discovery Channel. Viacom is looking to expand its UK operations. It already runs MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.
Discovery is thought to be front runner, but it is unlikely to pay the reported £700 million that Desmond has been asking.
ITV was once thought to be interested in buying C5 but has recently ruled itself out.
Channel Five has recently been gaining viewers, some weeks rising above Channel Four, which has seen a fall in audiences.
Sky Sports 1 HD Ireland has opened on Astra 2E's UK beam, confounding all expectations that Sky would retain all its channels on the Europe beams. It is the only channel on a transponder formerly used by Disney.
It looks as though it may be joined by other Sky HD channels, as it's unusual for an HD transponder to have a single service, most have between two and six.
Viewers with Sky Ireland viewing cards, in areas which have lost the BBC, will be unable to receive this HD channel.
Satellite viewers in many parts of Europe will lose some UK channels at around 11 am CET today, for up to 14 minutes.
Twice a year at the equinox, the satellites pass close to the sun, which temporarily overwhelms transmissions. (If they are being received weakly on the ground).
Strong channels aren’t affected. Viewers in the British Isles see a slight reduction in signal but no practical effects.
Sun outage lasts until 10th. March in southern Europe and 4th. March in northern Europe. It returns in the autumn and is an annual event.
If you are suffering sun outage and it is sunny, you can check for anything obscuring your dish’s view of the satellites. Any shadows on the face of your dish at this time indicates it is being obscured. This can have a drastic effect on signal.
It's also useful to determine a good location for a new dish. Any potential site in full sun at 11am Central Europe Time will have an unobstructed view of the UK satellites at 28.2º east.
The last of the three replacement satellites for the UK will be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan this May.
Astra 2G's beams will be almost identical to those of Astra 2E and 2F, which are now in service. The 2G addition is likely to be the last major shakeup of services at 28.2º, and will mark the closure of the elderly Astra 2A, which can be received in Cyprus and the Middle East. Its channels will move to the newer satellites.
Though it's unlikely that Sky will move any of its pay package to the UK beam, some brands such as Disney are known to be sensitive about overspill to mainland Europe.
The extra capacity 2G will bring may finally allow the BBC to introduce HD to all its BBC One regional variants.
No BBC channels will be broadcast on the Europe beams.
Catching up with previously-broadcast programmes on BBC iPlayer will become easier when the current 7-day time limit is increased to 30 days. The BBC Trust has also approved proposals for the new BBC Store. International users will be able to purchase BBC DVDs and to download programmes to keep permanently. The new store, to be run by BBC Worldwide, will be the replacement for the Global iPlayer. No dates for these changes have been announced.
"Many thanks for your reply by return mail and the sound advice.
Our local firm suggested a step-up to 110cm for a good rain margin. The Triax dish and a new LNB were installed yesterday.
All the lost channels have been back on a strong signal of 75 to 80% and a picture quality of around 90%, even with light to medium rainfall last night and this morning. We are living some 40 km southeast of Cuxhaven, a few miles away from the river Elbe on the southern bank of the river.
Best wishes, Jürgen"
This report is from the area of Germany close to the dead zone. Jürgen perviously had an 80cm dish. It's no compensation to those living directly under it, but it appears the "null" area is quite narrow.
The Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, outlined his vision for the future of the BBC in a speech at the Oxford Media Convention.
One part of this was a vigorous defence of the universal licence fee system, currently £145.50 annually for every household in Britain watching live TV. BBC research apparently showed that many would be prepared to pay more to support an advertising-free BBC.
This is another way of saying that The Corporation wants an increase from the current £12 a month, to perhaps £15 or £20.
The research also showed that the fee is supported by 53% of the population, way ahead of support for subscription or advertising methods of funding. 90% of all viewing is of live TV, which unlike on-demand, currently needs a TV licence.
The BBC wants to end this distinction and make the licence fee also payable for on-demand, non-live content.
The Director-General revealed that up to £100 million of further efficiency saving will be made, on top of the £700 million annual target already announced, but that more money will be spent on drama and improvements to iPlayer.
He admitted that the BBC had "made mistakes" but claimed that it is still "great value for money".
As part of the savings, red button streams on satellite have been reduced, including the closure of the red button HD channel.
Sorry to anyone who tried to access the website this morning. There was a major fault in a fibre optic cable between London and our server in Cheltenham. We're taking steps to prevent this happening again.
ITV's chief executive, Adam Crozier, has announced that a new pay TV channel, Encore, will be launching this summer. Showing original, newly-commissioned drama series such as Vera and Lucan, Encore is a joint venture with Sky. It will only be available to paying subscribers on Sky, NOW TV, Sky Go and Sky Store. Live streaming will be available on NOW TV and Sky GO.
It will show episodes from Downton Abbey and Broadchurch.
ITV is making a deliberate move away from heavy reliance on advertising towards a subscription-funded, Sky-dependent model.
In recent years, ITV has suffered badly from downturns in advertising. Encore is part of the plan to counter this. Additionally, there is a new deal to keep high definition versions of ITV 2, ITV 3 and ITV 4 in Sky's premium HD pack.
This means these three channels will not appear on Freesat for a number of years, if ever.
There were rumours that ITV 3 would close, but now it is intended to be a "gold" style drama re-run channel.
Premium Encore programmes will be available for rental on the Sky Store.
ITV Encore is likely to be on the Europe beam, in common with ITV's other encrypted HD channels, meaning easy reception all over Europe for those willing to pay.
Map of all ITV Regions If you've lost ITV in the recent channel switch, there's an outside chance you may be able to get it back with a re-tune.
Recently we wrote about being able to tune an alternate Channel Four. These ITV One alternate frequencies are much less sure of success, but it's worth a try.
If your ITV One region is London, Granada, Anglia West, Central West, Wales, West, Westcountry South, Border Scotland, Tyne Tees, Meridian South and SE, Central West, Anglia South, Channel, Scottish or Ulster, follow this re-tune:
Go to "Services" then "System Setup" or the "Tools" icon. Choose "Add channels". In the next box enter "10994", then "H", then "22000", then "5/6" in "FEC". Press "Find Channels". In the list that appears, select the channels you want, then press "Save"
You can view them in "Services" then "Other Channels".
Repeat this, only with "11053", then "H", then "22000", then "5/6" in "FEC".
You may be able to see sub-regions of Meridian, Anglia, Yorkshire, Central, Wales, Tyne Tees, Westcountry SW and Ulster on the slightly stronger Astra 2F beam. If you have an HD receiver you may also see Granada ITV One HD. All channels are free-to-air.
Owners of Freesat receivers can try entering an alternate postcode in one of the favoured ITV areas in the Initial Setup procedure, or tuning these frequencies manually in "Setup" then "Manual Tuning". Be warned, however, that this switches the box to "Non-Freesat" mode, though it doesn't delete your normal channels. Go back to Freesat in "Menu" > "Settings" > "STB Mode" > "Freesat."
Global iPlayer, the international version of its iPlayer, has failed to live up to the BBC's expectations and is to close.
BBC Worldwide, the division charged with selling BBC content internationally, plans to phase out the service. Instead, content for international download will be integrated into an improved BBC.com website.
Promotion of the player has been low-key to the point of invisibility. Visitors to the domestic iPlayer from outside of the UK are not told there is a global version. Instead, they are merely advised that iPlayer is not available in their country. The current version, available in 16 countries, is a trial that has never been fully launched.
Alix Pryde, who was the public face of the BBC team which decided to restrict the footprint of BBC services in mainland Europe from 2014, thought that Global iPlayer would be a substitute for the lost BBC services.
In order to view Global iPlayer, an app must first be downloaded from the iTunes store. This can't be from the UK version, it has to be from an iTunes store in one of the countries in the trial. In Europe, these are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg , Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The iTunes stores in these countries need a registered payment card from a bank in the country of residence to download the app and pay the subscription. This rules out many of those in places such as Spain and Portugal who are on holiday, overwintering, don't have the right bank account, don't have an Apple ID, and don't have compatible devices.
Global iPlayer offers no live TV, no catch-up of popular shows, no sport and no radio. The 2000 hours on offer each week are mostly archive material, such as Doctor Who, Michael Palin's Himalaya and Only Fools and Horses, plus a mix of current comedy and factual programming.
The BBC plans to expand the BBC Shop and rebrand some of its international operations. BBC Earth (Factual) and BBC First (original, first-run drama) will be major brands.
The current Global iPlayer closely resembles the BBC Entertainment channel, which is available for £138 annually on subscription throughout Europe on Eurobird 9 at 9º east.
A data sheet is available, as well as an application form.
BBC Entertainment is the successor the the widely-derided BBC Prime channel, which closed in 2009.
How can you tell if an offering to replace your lost BBC and ITV is genuine and not a scam?(See our 13 Feb story, below).
Follow this checklist:
You are offered a Technomate TM5402 HD receiver
Your dish will be "re-aligned"
The dish will be 80-90 cm
You won't be able to receive Sky channels and the Sky guide
The dish will be pointing in the opposite direction to a normal Sky dish
If your dealer or installer offers you all of the above in an area which has lost the BBC, then it's an installation to receive the private Arqiva feed from Intelsat 907 at 27.5º west.
Arquiva are aware that their feed is being pirated but have yet to take action or make any public comment. At the very least, the codes will be changed soon, resulting in a complete loss of all channels until new hacked keys are posted on the internet.
At worst, the encryption system will be changed, rendering all current equipment useless.
Some areas of Europe are in "nulls" or areas where there is virtually no signal. This month saw some drastic reversals: from 2003 to 2012, Barcelona needed 80 cm dishes, now BBC & ITV is virtually impossible with any dish of any size. The null line runs right through the city.
See the map
All of Sky’s 10 million viewing cards are likely to be replaced this year.
The last time this happened was in 2009, when six-year-old "yellow house" cards were replaced. Some who had bought Sky cards through grey market suppliers in mainland Europe didn’t receive their new cards, and were cut off.
This time, Sky will introduce new security measures to counter growing piracy. BBC London recently exposed a network of retailers and installers selling hacked receivers, which enable thousands in the UK to view Sky illegally.
Sky have steadily increased security over the past few years. HD channels are now locked to the receiver a viewing card is paired to and the activation process has moved online for new installs.
Related to the above, older Thomson Sky+ HD boxes with active subscriptions are being replaced by Sky free of charge.
These first-generation HD receivers were larger than the current models, extremely noisy, and prone to failure. So prone, in fact, that it was almost as though they were programmed to self-destruct. Their cheaply-built internal power supplies were made with defective capacitors, which overheated and failed after a couple of years' use.
You can tell if you have a first-gen box if it has red, green and blue RCA-type connectors on the back.
It's thought the boxes will be unable to decode subscription HD channels after the viewing card swaps, and future software updates. Current receivers are made in-house by Sky's wholly-owned subsidiary Amstrad.
Yet more Algarve residents have told us of installers' claims that the BBC can be restored from an alternative satellite. (See our 13 Feb story, below).
Many have concerns that the elderly and vulnerable will lose money they can ill afford, yet still end up with no British TV.
If you can't install a larger dish, there is no way to receive lost BBC & ITV satellite channels legally. The services from Intelsat 907 are private satellite feeds, not intended for public use.
Once Arqiva, which manages the transponders, realises the scale of piracy, it's only a matter of time before stronger encryption methods are applied, causing screens to go permanently blank.
Partial loss of signal is one of the main frustrations of receiving BBC & ITV abroad, but why does this happen?
From its geostationary position 22,000 above the earth, a TV satellite may appear stationary , but there is a slight movement as it orbits the earth. The main reason is that the earth is not perfectly round, causing tiny shifts in the beam. This, and variations in the angle and output power of the transmit antenna, creates a daily cycle.
You may only receive the BBC in the mornings and late evenings, briefly mid-day, and not at all if it rains, if your dish is just at the borderline of good and bad reception.
Partial reception is actually good news, as it means an upgrade to the next biggest size should lift your signal above the threshold for 24/7 reception.
A number of people have written saying they can't receive Channel Four Ireland by manual tuning (see item below from yesterday)
The channels are on the Astra 2A north beam, which is weaker in Spain than the south beam. Most people should be able to receive it, but can be prevented by a poorly tuned dish. A dish may be out of alignment, too small, or have an LNB which is rotated to the wrong angle. ("LNB" stands for Low Noise Block, the device which receives the signals at the focus of the dish)
LNB rotation is a vital adjustment, and has to be exactly right within a very small tolerance. This affects north beam signals particularly. An LNB should be rotated by exactly -24.2° from vertical in south-east Spain, facing the dish.
Other areas can use this calculator
A failing LNB can also be the cause, as they don't survive well in hot countries. After five years, most LNBs are thoroughly "cooked" and should be replaced.
Irish channels RTÉ One, RTÉ TWO, TG4 TV3 RTÉ Jr and RTÉ Two HD are on the UK spot beam alongside the BBC and ITV. They can't be tuned manually in areas where the BBC has been lost.
Many correspondents have reported BBC & ITV returning over the past few days. There was a marked improvement towards the end of last week. One expert suggested it may have been because the satellite's travelling wave amplifiers need time to "burn in". Another possibility is that 2E developed a problem during tests, that it has never been able to develop full power, and that this is the best we can expect. This may have been the reason it spent two months longer than expected parked at its test position. It should not be discounted that power has been deliberately reduced.
If the BBC has returned with slight breakup in the past few days, you are only likely to lose it completely in rain from now on. An upgrade to the next dish size up should cure this problem, but to be sure, move up two sizes.
If you can only receive BBC & ITV in the mornings and late evenings, the same applies.
If BBC & ITV have not returned by now they may never come back.
There are further channel changes coming over the next few months, with the likely closure of Astra 2A, the addition of Astra 2G, and new HD services for ITV One.
Channel Four, E4, More4 and 4Music are available in most of mainland Europe to viewers with Sky subscriptions. The encrypted channels are the Irish versions of the channels. The Channel Four group produces a separate version with ROI advertising.
To tune, go to "Services" then "System Setup" or the "Tools" icon. Choose "Add channels". In the next box enter "12480", then "V", then "27500", then "2/3" in "FEC". Press "Find Channels". In the list that appears, select the channels you want, then press "Save"
You can view them in "Services" then "Other Channels".
Only Sky boxes with active subscriptions can view, with Freesat viewers excluded. No BBC or ITV channels are available with this method.
"Just wanted to report that contrary to popular rumours we have not lost all our channels of BBC and ITV in this part of Portugal although many are suffering from investing in only a 1.2m antenna. I have a 1.8m dish and use a Humax freesat decoder. Initially we suffered signal losses across the board but as of three days ago ALL channels are now working including BBC and ITV HD although BBC is not so good during the day. There is no doubt signals are weaker but unless the rain is extremely heavy it does not impact on picture quality. Reports therefore of the demise of English TV here are exaggerated"
Ken Smith, Tomar, Portugal
Expats in Cyprus will soon be fondly recalling the days when they could receive BBC & ITV, even if huge 4.4 metre dishes were needed. There have been no reports of anyone on the island receiving any Astra 2E signal.
For the moment, it's possible to get Astra 2A, but when all remaining channels are moved to the new Astra 2G, as expected, no Sky channels will be receivable in Cyprus either, even on the Europe beam.
Astra 2E is been moved slightly further west. A few days ago, it was at 28.44º east, a small distance (seen from earth) from the other satellites broadcasting to the UK, which are at 28.2º east. According to positioning data published by SES it will be slightly further west by tomorrow, at 28.34º, closer to the main group.
The small movement may account for an improvement in signals in mainland Europe. Wait a day or two before attempting to adjust your dish. Smaller dishes can't see the difference in position, but larger ones can.
The loss of BBC services in Spain and Portugal has provoked a flurry of interest in finding alternatives. Intelsat 907, a satellite at 27.5º west, carries BBC, ITV and C4. It can be received on relatively modest-sized dishes in Europe. Receivers to pick up the broadcasts have been seen on sale in Southern Portugal and Spain. Installers are even offering to "re-tune" dishes to 27.5º W (which renders them useless for Sky). Protected by BISS encryption, the codes are regularly broken by hackers. When codes change, new hacks are posted on the internet within days. There is anecdotal evidence of engineers feeding Intelsat's signals into communal systems in Gibraltar, following the loss of the BBC.
This private system for Freeview transmitters in Britain is run by Arqiva.
Making use of it may sound like harmless fun, but here's a message we received a few days ago:
"I was approached by a Sky supplier in Spain last year with a product that would get you back BBC/ITV etc.
It was for dishes and STB for Eutelsat 907. Being naive I invested in a stock of this system as they seemed an ideal solution. That was of course until the BISS code was changed and my Opticum boxes became useless. I soon realised that I entered into an investment without knowing the potential hazards..."
In Britain, under section 126, "Unauthorised decoders for encrypted services", the 2003 Communications Act states that it's a criminal offence to manufacture, import or distribute unauthorised decoders of encrypted transmissions.
It's too early to say whether signal strength on the new satellite has increased, it may just be drier weather.
More reports of improved 2E reception have arrived today. In Fredrikstad, Norway, a 1m Nokia dish has the BBC again, as does a 120cm in Mazarrón, Spain, a 125cm in Modena, Northern Italy, and 1 metre dishes in Horadada, South Costa Blanca and Lake Garda in northern Italy.
Signals are better in the mornings and late evenings after 11pm, following a daily pattern
Browsing through nearly 1,000 of your reception reports, it's clear that the new satellite Astra 2E is transmitting at lower power than its twin, Astra 2F.
Both Eurostar E3000 satellites have identical specifications: launch mass 6 tonnes, wingspan 40m, output power of 13kW. For some reason, the received signals are up to 2.5 dB lower across most of Europe, including SE England (right).
We were led to believe that the new satellites would have a stronger signal in the centre of footprint, but this only happened with Astra 2F, which went into service a year ago.
2.5dB doesn't sound like much, but the dB scale is logarithmic. A drop of 3dB is a reduction of 50%.
On both satellites, HD channels are transmitted at slightly higher power, as the DVB-S2 8PSK HD format is much harder to receive. This is reason why many people can receive SD but not HD.
The suspicion has to be that 2E's power has been reduced to make it harder to receive BBC, ITV and Channel Four in mainland Europe.
A large number of correspondents have said that their BBC services have returned in southern France and Italy. Dish sizes vary from 60 cm to 120 cm. The weather is probably responsible. In wet weather, satellite reception deteriorates, in proportion to the size and quantity of the raindrops. Conversely, signals are best on dry, clear days with little moisture in the atmosphere. If a dish is only just big enough, a very small drop of signal can cause blocking or complete loss of picture. An upgrade to one dish size larger, for example 90cm to 100 cm, will return reception to normal in most cases.
A number of people have taken DIY measures, either by adjusting their dishes or the LNBs.
...If you are Irish. Irish Sky cards receive a different version of these channels, which are encrypted on Astra 2A South beam (12480, V, 27500, ⅔, DVB-S/MPEG-2)
All remaining ITV One channels and Channel 4 were moved to Astra 2E at around 2am GMT. ITV ONE (all regions not already on Astra 2F), CITV, ITV 2, ITV2+1, ITV 3, ITV3+1, ITV 4, Channel Four (all regions), Film Four, Film Four+1, E4, More 4 are now on the UK spot beam. They had been easy to receive over most of the continent for the past two years.
Two glimmers of hope: we have had an unconfirmed report from Gibraltar of very weak BBC reception on a 3 metre dish.
All remaining ITV One channels are expected to move from Astra 1N to Astra 2E's UK spot beam in the early hours of Tuesday morning, 11th. February.
SES Astra, normally one of the most secretive of companies, publishes weekly ephemeris data predicting the exact orbital position of all its satellites. Position data for Astra 1N is only given till Wednesday, 12th. February, indicating that it will be emptied of channels and will start to move to its new home at 19º east. At the latest, it looks as though all free public service channels will be moved within the next 72 hours. The switch, likely to include all of Channel 4, will add to the misery of thousands of UK expatriates in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Germany, soon after losing all BBC services last Thursday.
There is no guarantee that Sky's pay channels, such as Sports and Movies, will continue on wide beam. Sky may come under political, OFCOM or Hollywood pressure to send everything on narrow beam. BSkyB will be very reluctant to give up a huge source of revenue from mainland Europe. It is estimated that in excess of 5% of Sky's £3,751 million revenue, from its total of 10,536,000 customers, comes from expats living out of the UK. Expect more of the same easy reception for the time being.
The expected ITV and Channel Four move to Astra 2E didn't happen last night. It's likely to take place early next week. SES Astra don't normally make changes at weekends.
Positioning data for the current satellite, Astra 1N, indicates it will close and start moving by Wednesday.
Thank you for the literally hundreds of reception reports. It will take some time to digest the information and reply to all. The biggest surprise is the number of people in southern France who have lost BBC services. For more than 15 years, dishes of around 80-90cm have easily received BBC signals. The change came as a shock to many.
Reports from the Algarve region, near Faro, indicate that a dish of 3 metres in size will receive no BBC. There is no hope at all for the majority of expats there with 1.2 and 1.5 metre dishes. About 100km north of Lisbon, a 2.3 metre dish is just about receiving the new 2E broadcasts.
In Spain, the previous hotspot/coldspot areas have been inverted. The Costa Blanca region between Alicante and Valencia is especially favoured: the BBC is received on 1.0 and 1.2 metre dishes. Conversely, Catalunya, The Costa Del Sol and all of Andalucia have seen their BBC signal dramatically weakened, to the point where no signal is received at all, even on huge dishes.
More to follow.
Positive reports are extremely useful, and will help others in the same position determine the dish size now needed. You can send an e-mail here. In a day or two, we'll be able to bring you a much fuller picture of new minimum dish sizes for each country. It will take a week or two to reply to everyone.
What has emerged in some cases that a repair or adjustment to a dish may restore lost channels. One example is in Madrid. Someone has lost the BBC on a 1.8 metre dish, when on this size, reception should be 24/7 perfect. There are some DIY steps you can try.
Some ITV regions and Channel Four are still broadcasting from the old satellite Astra 1N. These remaining services are likely to be migrated to the UK spot beam tonight. If you have already lost the BBC, you will also lose all ITV variants and regions, and the Channel Four group.
The channels which are likely to be switched tonight include: ITV ONE (all regions not already on Astra 2F), CITV, ITV 2, ITV2+1, ITV 3, ITV3+1, ITV 4, Channel Four (all regions), Film Four, Film Four+1, E4, More 4.
The loss of BBC, ITV and C4 will affect Freesat and Sky boxes equally. People often ask if subscribing to Sky will bring them back. Sadly, it won't.
10.30AM GMT: Astra 2E Reception Reports
Very many thanks to all of you who have sent in reception reports. We hope to respond to each one individually.
Areas which have seen complete loss of BBC channels are: Costa Del Sol, Andalucia, Southern Portugal, much of Catalunya and the Canaries. Italy is badly affected as well. Many areas have seen reduced signals.
The UK spot beam pattern on Astra 2F has been almost exactly replicated on Astra 2E.
Many viewers with 3 metre dishes in the Canaries have severe BBC problems, though reports indicate that a well-tuned ChannelMaster 2.4 dish can receive the signals.
It seems that Astra 2E's UK beam has been made deliberately weaker than Astra 2F's. Here in the south-east of the UK, signal strength is lower than we expected.
Winners include Madrid (no change) Benidorm, Valencia, Javea, Gandia. No apparent change in Pontevedra, southern Galicia.
Avignon in France can receive BBC on a 78cm dish.
Signal in Sweden is weaker north of Stockholm. Southern Norway has seen no change.
Slovenia, Poland, Czech Republic appear to be receiving no or little BBC. A 2.5m prime focus is reportedly pulling in BBC in Slovakia.
Early reports from night owls and insomniacs across Europe indicate big losses of signal in the BBC and ITV Astra 2E narrow beam migration, which appears to have started at 1.30am GMT. One report from just west of Lisbon tells of a number of BBC & ITV channels disappearing. In Madrid and Southern Germany, signals are a fraction of what they were, probably not watchable on their owners' current dishes.
Channel Five+24 was added to Freesat's EPG at 3.00am GMT. Boxes should have automatically re-tuned to receive the new channel.
The planned BBC channel migration will be around 2am. (The so-called "BBC Switch-Off")
It will, most likely, be as big an event for British expats since the move to Astra 2D.
In 2003, the BBC freed itself from Sky's encryption contract. It began to broadcast free to air, with a much tighter Astra 2D footprint, badly affecting viewers in Spain. The removal of Sky's encryption reportedly saved the BBC £85 million. The BBC, along with other UK broadcasters, has repeatedly stated its intention to restrict the overspill of satellite signals into mainland Europe.
Further changes in satellite transmissions to the UK were made last night. In preparation for the move of Astra 1N to its permanent home, serving mainland Europe's TV networks at 19.2º east. Some channels were moved to the ageing Astra 2A in the small hours of the morning. Beneficiaries are areas such as The Canaries and north Africa, which could not receive the 1N Pan-european beam. Channels which can now be received in these areas include: Sky Sports 1 and 3, Sky Sports 3 HD, Sky Arts 2 HD, Sky Sports 2 Ireland, History Channel, At The Races, Sky News, Cartoon Network HD, Disney Channel HD, TCM HD, Film Four HD
More reception reports: Astra 2E's Pan european beam cannot be received in Ukraine and is very weak in southern Finland. Hungary has seen a huge drop. In southern Sweden signal levels are more or less the same.Astra 2A is likely to stay in place until Astra 2G goes into service mid-year. Astra 1N will close at 28.2 east. Astra 2A will remain in position. By 2015, it will be joined by Astra 2C.
Astra 2D, which is dark and mothballed, is still nearby at 27.9º east, possibly in reserve as a backup should disaster strike. SES Astra will have five satellites in place at 28.2º by 2015.(see right, above)
In an official announcement, the BBC confirmed tonight that the migration of channels to the new Astra 2E satellite will be carried out around 2am on Thursday, 6th. February 2014. Bringing an end to much uncertainty, the move will see improved signal for the British Isles but considerably reduced signal in mainland Europe. For the past two years, BBC services have been broadcast from Astra 1N's "narrow" UK beam, which turned out to be much wider than admitted. The BBC has been easily receivable on dishes as small as 60 cm over most of Europe. A wildly inaccurate 1N footprint map was tonight re-published on the BBC page. There is as yet no information on when ITV and C4 will migrate to 2E, though this is also clearly imminent.
Astra 2E's Europe beam has confounded those who predicted it would be identical to Astra 2F's. In Portugal, Spain, Crete, Western Greece, Malta, Italy, Slovakia, The Canaries and Tunisia, signals are stronger than when Astra 2A was broadcasting the same group of channels. This may mean that 2E's UK spot may be quite different to Astra 2F's. Celebrations in the areas to gain from the Europe beam ought to be muted, though. SES Astra have the capacity to carry out tweaks and adjustments to the new satellite's beams in the light of reception reports.
The migration of channels to the new Astra 2E European beam began last night at 2am. The first to be switched were those on the near-end-of-life 2A satellite. Reports across Europe indicate much improved reception in Spain, The Canaries and Italy. The losers appear to be eastern Europe, Romania, SE Germany, Cyprus, northern Finland and the eastern Mediterranean. An unexpected bonus is that the default transponder 11778, which all Sky boxes measure when a "signal test" is carried out, is much stronger in Spain. This means an end to special measures to enter an alternative transponder, and episodes of "no signal" after a power cut, common in Costa Blanca and Madrid. Expect more changes tonight and over coming nights. Sky viewers in The Canaries will soon be able to receive channels which were lost when transmissions moved to Astra 1N. Astra 2E has a special side lobe covering the islands.
Notable is the fact that Sky paid-for channels, including ITV 2 HD, ITV 3 HD and ITV 4 HD, are stronger in Spain than before, putting to an end the rumour started by IPTV sellers that "Sky will be lost in all of Spain".
You still need a subscription and a Sky box to view ITV 2,3,4 HD, as before. ITV ONE HD will be on the UK spot beam, yet to be activated, as will all other BBC & ITV services.
A provisional list of channels moved last night:
MTV Live HD, Lifetime HD, Sky Sports 2/1/3/4 in Pubs
Sky Movies Box Office, Disney XD UK HD, Animal Planet Europe HD
ITV 2/3/4 HD
Sky Movies Action & Adventure, Sky Movies Comedy, Sky Movies Sci-Fi & Horror, Sky Select UK, Sky Disney, Sky Movies Family, Sky Movies Premiere/Sky Anytime, Sky Movies Premiere
Sky Movies Crime & Thriller, Sky Movies Drama & Romance, Sky Movies 007, British Eurosport HD
Fox UK HD, Sky Arts 2 HD, British Eurosport 2 HD
Sky Atlantic HD UK +1, Sky Movies Family HD, Sky Movies Premiere HD, Sky Movies Crime & Thriller HD
Sky Movies Select HD, Universal Channel UK, Sky On Demand HD 3
Dave UK HD, Alibi HD, E! UK HD, Sky 3DTV, Sky Arts 1 HD, Sky News HD
There are no reports yet of any transmissions from Astra 2E. The new satellite cannot be switched on until broadcasts from Astra 1N, on the same frequencies, have stopped.
A new BBC Winter Olympics channel has begun in standard definition on Astra 2F's Europe beam. It's probable that an HD version will be added shortly before the games begin this Friday. The lack so far of an HD Winter Olympics channel, and the 4th. February addition of Channel Five +24, tends to indicate some additions and switch of channels to Astra 2E starting in the early hours of 4th. February. The switch is likely to take a few days, and will be carried out in the middle of the night.
In a press release, SES Astra announced that Astra 2E has arrived at 28.2º east, the position in space used for UK satellite broadcasts.
All dishes receiving UK satellite TV point to 28.2º.
The transfer of BBC, ITV, C4 and Sky channels is likely to begin in the next week. No tests have been received yet.
The move will bring to an end to the long period of easy reception of BBC and ITV over a wide area of Europe. The change to much weaker UK spot beam signals in outlying areas of the continent will expose any weakness in an existing satellite dish installation. Dishes in the Costa Del Sol were typically installed in the days of the retired Astra 2D satellite, usually 120 cm in width. The current BBC & ITV satellite, to be turned off soon, needs only 60 cm dishes.
Channel 5+24, Channel 5's new +24 hour catch-up channel, will launch on 4th February 2014. Between 7pm and midnight, the channel will broadcast whatever Channel 5 was showing the previous day. The concept is new on British TV. Until now, broadcasters have offered one hour time-shift channels. The BBC is the only major broadcaster yet to have +1. Channel 5+24 will be available on: Freesat 132 and Sky 175
SES has revealed in a press release today that all Eutelsat's Eurobird satellite channels will be transferred to SES Astra's fleet. This follows a long-running dispute between the two rivals over who had the right to operate a section of the satellite spectrum at 28.2 east. Eutelsat will still carry the current package of channels, except they will be broadcast from Astra 2E, 2F and 2G.
What does this mean for viewers? In the British Isles, Eurobird is weaker than in mainland Europe. Its frequencies are often affected by rain and interference. Transmissions from the new generation of Astra satellites will be more powerful within the UK than at present.
In the east of Europe, Scandinavia and eastern Mediterranean, expats may well lose Sky completely. (see beam maps below) Astra 2A will close. Its south and north beam channels will be moved to the new satellites. This may mean weaker signals for most paid-for Sky channels in Southern Spain, such as Sky Movies and Sports. However, it's highly unlikely Sky will want to cut off the many thousands of subscribers who break Sky's T&Cs by using boxes out of the UK.
On the UK narrow beam of Astra 2F, six new HD channels are in tests, showing picture with out-of-sync sound. It looks probable that all twelve ITV One regions will have simulcast HD channels very soon. Currently, only ITV One London, Meridian SE, West Country, Granda, STV West and Central West have HD. It remains to be seen how soon the BBC will catch up with ITV by bringing HD to all of BBC One. Until then, viewers will have to endure the pointless red looped animation with sound effects when regional news is being broadcast.
Astra 2E is moving westwards at 0.86º per day, according to satellite-calculations.com . It will be at 28.2º east in ten to eleven days. We hope to bring you the first test results as soon as possible. It's probable the switch of BBC & ITV channels will be carried out by the middle of February.
The new satellite for UK TV services, Astra 2E, has finally begun its move westwards to its final broadcasting position. When it goes into service next month there is likely to be partial or total loss of BBC, ITV and other public service channels to large parts of southern Europe. At its current rate of movement, just under one degree a day, it will take around two weeks to reach 28 degrees east. There will be a few days of final testing, at which point channels will be switched to Astra 2E from Astra 1N. Astra 1N has a very strong signal over most of Europe, but 2E's is much more concentrated on the British Isles. In February, expats will find out whether they have to upgrade their dishes, or abandon satellite altogether for BBC & ITV.
Some additional HD services for ITV One are currently testing on Astra 2F, showing ITV London HD and Granada HD. London and Granada already have HD services, so it's likely these new channels will be allocated to an ITV One region not currently being served.
HD adds better colour, sound and up to five times the detail, compared to standard definition. You need an HD Satellite receiver and an HD-ready TV, connected via HDMI cable. Many people still have their Sky HD boxes connected via an old fashioned Scart cable, which won't show pictures in HD. If you are using a Scart with an HD box, it is time to upgrade your cables.
Following extensive speculation, SES Astra finally took to Facebook today to quash the rumour that their new satellite, Astra 2E, had suffered some kind of failure. The switch of channels to Astra 2E's UK-only narrow beam (and the loss of signals in southern Spain) will begin in February. The switchover will take a number of weeks.
See SES statement
BBC News HD, CBBC HD and CBBC HD started broadcasting this morning. CBBC HD is on Astra 1N, not Astra 2F as stated below. Similarly, BBC Three HD will be on Astra 1N when it opens at 7pm. Astra 1N is easily receivable in most of western Europe on small to medium dishes. In the new year, all BBC services are likely to move to a UK-only beam similar to Astra 2F's UK spot beam. If you can't receive BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD, and have a Sky or Freesat HD satellite receiver, you are likely to lose all BBC services in 2014.
Read the BBC announcement
In an unexpected Christmas gesture, the BBC is launching its five new HD services tomorrow, 10th. December. Up to now, the start date had officially been "early 2014"
BBC News HD, BBC Four HD, BBC Three HD, CBBC HD and CBeebies HD will be delivered on satellite from Astra 2F, and will be available on both Sky and Freesat. 2F's signal is weak in parts of Spain and Portugal, and potentially unreceivable in the far south of both countries.
For reasons unknown (and SES Astra aren't telling) the new satellite Astra 2E, which has been predicted to cause viewing disaster in the far south of Spain and Portugal, has still not gone into service. There is no sign of movement from its current position of 43º east.
Luxembourg - based SES are operators of most of the satellites serving the UK, contracted to deliver Sky, the BBC and ITV. They rarely make public announcements..
It now appears that expats in Spain can at least enjoy BBC & ITV over the holiday period. January 2014 looks a more likely month for the big switch of channels.
The only major change soon is the launch of five new HD services from the BBC, which are in advanced stages of testing. BBC News HD, BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD are currently in tests on Astra 2F, and can be tuned manually on a Freesat box (but not a Sky receiver).
Sky have announced that stability problems in their last release of Sky+HD software have meant that affected boxes will have their systems rolled back to the previous version, beginning this Tuesday, 3rd. December. Issues have apparently included very slow responses to remote control commands, Sky On-Demand sections missing, erroneous recording clash messages, freezing, and loss of channels, which can be temporarily cured by rebooting the box. (Turn off the power at the socket, but beware, recordings and default transponder settings may be lost)
Software version R008.063.49.09P will revert to R008.063.49.08P on Sky/Amstrad HD boxes DRX-9890, DRX-890-W, DRX895 and DRX895-W. Samsung and Pace HD boxes will go to version R008.063.71.00P. Sky/Amstrad DRX 780 will have R008.063.68.00P.
Read Sky's announcement
This is nothing new: there have been numerous bugs, at times serious, with Sky software for most of the past decade, affecting all of Sky's boxes. A rollback like this is rare.
We have received many emails with questions about Sky & BBC in southern Spain and Portugal. Many ask whether they will lose Sky TV when the new satellite goes into service. The short answer is no. Sky's pay TV services will continue to be received much as before, for some time to come. There is a question mark though, as in the long term another new satellite, Astra 2G, is due in 2014.
Not so happy will be the many hundreds of thousands of people currently receiving BBC & ITV in the far south of Spain & Portugal, who will most likely lose these services soon.
One frequent question is whether subscribing to Sky will prevent loss of the BBC. The answer to this is also no. Sky carries the same signal from the BBC as other satellite services such as Freesat.
A correspondent pointed out that Channel Five can be received in northern Almeria, an indicator that this region will be OK after the BBC & ITV channel switch. The signals drop off very markedly in the south of the province, however. There is currently a hot spot of good reception to the north, in Murcia.
After more than a month , the new satellite Astra 2E is still in its testing position, confounding many (including us) who speculated that SES Astra was in a real hurry to get it into service before Christmas. The move could still happen, depending on how fast SES Astra are prepared to move the spacecraft.
Meanwhile, the campaign of misinformation continues from those selling illegal IPTV boxes:
"All BBC ITV Ch4 Ch5 TV channels etc will disappear from the SKY platform at end of October beginning November. None of these channels will physically reach Europe mainland via Satellite."
False. These services will not disappear from the Sky platform, and signals will continue to reach mainland Europe via satellite after Astra 2E goes into service. The signals will, however, be very weak in southern Spain.
"Sky Channels (Pay TV) will only be available on SKY Digi set-top boxes with fixed card, however after end of October no BBC or ITV channels etc will be viewable on your SKY Box, or Free to Air box."
Almost wholly false, designed to cause panic amongst UK expats living in all parts of Spain. Only areas in the far south are likely to be affected, such as the Costa Del Sol, Gibraltar and the Algarve.
We are receiving e-mails every single day from British people in Spain, many worrying unnecessarily.
No more free C5HD
Channel Five HD, available free to view until this week (with a Sky viewing card), is now part of the Entertainment Extra+ Pack, costing £32.00 per month. This pack also includes HD versions of channels available free in standard definition. These are: ITV 2HD, ITV 3HD, ITV 4HD, More 4HD, Film FourHD and E4HD. EE+ doesn't include any BBC HD channels, or ITV One HD, which will be lost to viewers in Southern Spain soon. The channels in the EE+ pack are likely to be unaffected by the switch of satellites this autumn. Sky boxes will show an 'upgrade' message if the Sky subscription doesn't cover Entertainment Extra+. No explanation has been given by Sky or Five for the move.
Testing continues unabated at 43º east. Almost all frequencies have been lit up briefly. It appears the satellite is working as expected. The probable service date is still looking like late November or early December. Speculation that reception will be the same as Astra 2F, is just that, speculation. It is hard to believe that Astrium and SES Astra won't have made small adjustments to Astra 2E's antennas since Astra 2F went into service, with the aim of reducing spillover of the UK beam into mainland Europe.
In a separate but related development, the BBC has added placeholders for CBBC HD and BBC Three HD on the Freeview platform. The probability is that these HD channels will launch on satellite at the same time as terrestrial Freeview. Astra 2E will bring badly needed extra capacity.
See the BBC press release
The new Astra 2E satellite arrived at its testing position of 43.5º east yesterday. Test broadcasts have begun on the frequency of 10.806 MHz, which have been picked up in various parts of Europe. This frequency is in the part of the band usually occupied by Freesat channels such as the BBC and ITV. However, not too much should be read into these reports, as the satellite is broadcasting from much further east than its final position, meaning the eastern side of Europe is favoured. Currently only satellite enthusiasts with steerable dishes are able to get the tests, which consist only of empty channels with no pictures. The speed with which these have commenced indicates that the satellite is likely to go into full service before Christmas. The most likely time is the last week of November. It won't be long before we know if southern Spain will lose all BBC broadcasts. At present, Astra 2E is 22,000 miles above Somalia, in a geostationary orbit.
There is an unconfirmed report tonight that BT Sport channels have returned to southern Spain. They were previously carried on Eutelsat's pan-European beam, which was switched off on Thursday night into Friday morning, 3rd/4th. October. Tonight is the deadline for satellite switches for the former Eutelsat channels. Many channels were temporarily moved a week ago.
Update: 11.10.13. It appears BT Sport has indeed moved to the Pan European beam. This beam is stronger in the Canary Islands than the previous Eutelsat transmissions. There is a report of BT Sport being received on a 100cm dish in Tenerife.
One of the biggest changes in satellite TV delivery to the UK and Ireland for many years is under way.
Dishes pointing towards 28.2º east receive UK satellite channels from two operators: SES Astra and Eutelsat.
Up to now, bands of frequencies have been distributed between the two rivals.
SES claimed that Eutelsat's licence to use some of the these expires on 4th. October 2013.
SES went to the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris to try to prove it had a right to use the bands in place of Eutelsat. After a year's legal battle, and following a court ruling in Germany, SES announced it would take over the disputed frequencies of 11459 - 11700 MHz and 12500 - 12750 MHz after 4th. October. This claim has been hotly disputed by Eutelsat, which has operated the bands since 1999, though it appears to have now conceded defeat.
Channels broadcast in the contested 500Mz of spectrum will change frequency over the next ten days, with some 300 channels moving to Astra's satellites.
The switch will be in two phases. Some channels are moving temporarily to Astra 1N's Europe beam by 3rd. October, then moved in phases to Astra 2F's European beam (footprint map right, with dish sizes in cm) over the following seven days.
Principal channels affected by the change include:
BT Sport 1 & 2, BT Sport 1HD & 2HD, TCM, The History Channel, National Geographic, Fox News, Sky Living It, Comedy Central, Nick Jr, Al Jazeera English, Kiss 100 Radio, Magic 105.4FM Radio, Jazz FM, Absolute Radio, XFM, Capital FM.
Viewers with Sky and Freesat receivers need take no action, these boxes will update automatically.
Free to air receivers have no way to auto update and will need retuning.
Some in fringe areas will see better reception, some in eastern Europe will lose channels completely.
It's probable SES Astra anticipated that they would win the battle some time ago: this may be the reason Astra 2F has been kept largely empty of channels until now.
Astra 2E's launch last night went exactly to plan. The satellite is now in orbit, having separated from its launch vehicle nine hours after liftoff. Over the next two months, it will be tested, then moved to its final destination of 28.2º east, where it will broadcast to the UK. It's highly likely that the switch of channels from Astra 1N will be carried out before the end of the year. It's this move that will result in the loss of BBC, ITV and Channel Four broadcasts in southern Spain.
The Astra 2E satellite has been made ready on the pad at Baikonur, on top of a Proton rocket, ready for its launch on Sunday evening at 23:38 CET, 22:38 British Summer Time. (Not Monday as stated earlier, but it will be Monday in Kazakhstan) The launch was postponed from its earlier date of 17th. September at the insistence of the Kazakhstan authorities. The government demanded that the area around the Baikonur site be cleaned up, as a large amount of contamination was released in the Proton crash last July.
The amended date for the Proton M/ Breeze M launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan is next week, the 17th. of September. The rocket will propel the much-awaited Astra 2E satellite into orbit. If successful, the satellite is likely to go into service about 2 months later.
BBC & ITV services will then be switched over to the new narrow beam.
The launch services website is http://www.ilslaunch.com/mission-control/mission-astra-2e.
The Twitter tag is #ASTRA2E.
A national newspaper and a large number of worried people have contacted this site after reading that Sky will be cut off in Spain this summer, or that soon no British Television will be available anywhere in the country. Many of these rumours seem to have been started by companies selling illegal IPTV re-streaming boxes (see below). Articles have appeared on news websites, comments have been planted on forums. The intention seems to be to frighten British residents in all parts of Spain into thinking their only option is an IPTV box. For some in the far south, wanting BBC & ITV, this is a half truth at best. In communities, a very large dish could be installed which could be shared. Alternatively, viewers could choose a VPN service, which can enable BBC iPlayer and ITV Player in Spain.
The facts (and a few guesses):
All re-streaming services such as these are illegal and are likely to be forcibly closed down at some point. Broadcasters and Spanish authorities have taken action before on illegal re-broadcasting. A number of re-streaming services such as TV Catchup, Zattoo and FilmOn have faced legal action. Previously, illegal re-broadcasting was made by microwave from masts on Spanish mountain-tops. Now, it has moved to the internet.
The report confirmed earlier speculation that three angular rate sensors were improperly installed on the ill-fated 2 July Proton-M rocket, causing it to plummet to earth seconds after launch. Flights from Baikonur resumed on 28th. July with a mission to send supplies to the International Space Station, though this was a Soyuz-U space transport vehicle, not a Proton-M.
A Proton-M Rocket carrying three Glonass-M navigation satellites crashed soon after launch at the Baikonur Space Center today. Seconds after launch, the Proton veered off course and crashed into the ground nearby. No-one was reported injured. The launch pad was evacuated shortly afterwards owing to fears of contamination from the toxic cloud which enveloped the site. The disaster threw into question the quality of the Proton launcher and its future. Later launches, including Astra 2E for SES, were postponed pending an investigation. Speculation arose that guidance sensors had been installed upside down. A design fault had allowed more than one position for installation. The Proton which crashed had been assembled more than a year previously.
A professional Italian satellite engineer has claimed that SES Astra are deliberately trying to reduce the overspill of UK channels into mainland Europe by as much as possible, for broadcasting rights issues. He also claims that the footprint of Astra 2F has been moved up and down, and from east to west, in a period of testing , which ended around a month ago. This would explain changes noticed by some satellite viewers in Denmark, Germany and Nordic countries. Some viewers reported weaker signals, others stronger.
See the original thread on the Astra 2 satellite forum: http://www.astra2forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=80&t=35&p=74#p74
(2013) SKY CHANNELS MOVED
A number of Sky channels were moved over the past few nights from Astra 2A/B to the Astra 1N pan European beam. Others appear to have been moved from Astra 2B to 2A. There are a number of reports of loss of channels in Scandinavia and the Canaries. Amongst the channels which have been affected are: Channel 5 HD, Dave HD, Watch HD, Gold Comedy Central HD, Pick TV, Pick TV+1, Sky News SD, Discovery HD, Sky Sports 3 HD, Sky Sports News HD, F1 HD, Animal Planet HD, Nat Geo HD, Eden HD, SyFy HD. ( to be updated ). Most viewers in western Europe will have noticed no change.
The reason for the move is unknown. The current speculation is that Astra 2B will be taken out of service or moved to 19º east.
(2013) OFFICIAL BBC ANNOUNCEMENT: ALL BBC SERVICES TO MOVE TO ASTRA 2E AND 2F IN 2013
The BBC has confirmed what most of us here suspected: all its existing services will be moved to Astra 2E and Astra 2F next summer. Viewers who lost Channel Five last week will lose all BBC services in the second quarter of 2013. The signal will be slightly stronger in the UK but weaker in mainland Europe.
The only services to go to 2F in the meantime will be BBC One HD for the regions, likely in early 2013.
(2012) RECEPTION REPORTS LOOK BAD FOR SOUTHERN SPAIN, ALL BBC & ITV TO MOVE SOON
More reports have emerged of loss of channels in southern Spain, in the Costa Del Sol and Almeria regions. Previously, all of the UK channels could be received on 1.2 metre dishes in this Astra 2D hotspot.The new reception pattern is a sign of things to come. If you have lost C5, then you will also lose all BBC, ITV channels, and the remaining Channel Four group, including Film Four and E4. These channels could move at any time between now and next summer. It seems dishes around 3 metres and up may be needed for reliable reception in rain. Further up the coast, a number of viewers have also reported losses. This may be partly due to sub-standard installations. In the past few years, many installers have cut corners in the Costas of Spain, by using cheap dishes, even cheaper LNBs, and by not aligning dishes properly. The much weaker signal has exposed such deficiencies in a cruel way.
Anyone who has a good quality dish, such as the former ChannelMaster ( Now Raven ) Prodelin, and to a lesser extent Gibertini, will have been experiencing fewer problems.
Good LNBs for these areas are Inverto Black Ultra ( only this model) and Invacom QDF-031 with feedhorn.
Receivers also influence reception. A number of customers have told us that they have lost reception on Pace 440 and Pace 445 Sky boxes ( the standard model, check the label underneath )
If you can, borrow a Sky box of another make and try this before calling in the installer. Newer Amstrad HD boxes have generally good tuners.
Take no notice of the signal display on a Sky box if you want to monitor Astra 2F. It shows the signal strength on the north beam, which is not broadcast from the new satellite. Sky + and Sky+ HD boxes show the north beam AND the current channel being watched in the signal strength display.
(2012) CHANNELS TRANSFERRED TO ASTRA 2F
This morning at 02.30 GMT a number of UK channels were transferred to the new satellite at 28.2º east, Astra 2F. Exactly why so few have made the transition is unclear.
The channels which have moved are:
Channel Five (regions 1-5) 5 USA, 5 USA+1, 5*, 5*+1 and Channel Five +1
ITV One regions: Meridian North, Anglia West, Yorkshire East, Central South West, Yorkshire East +1
ITV One London HD, ITV One regions: Central South, Central East, Wales +1, Tyne Tees North +1, West Country South West +1
Channel Four HD and 4 Seven
Other Channel Four and BBC & ITV services are still on Astra 1N, which can be easily received on small dishes in much of Europe. Astra 1N will close at 28.2º east within six to nine months and be moved to 19º east to serve mainland Europe.
Reception reports across Iberia are mixed. A few regions: Madrid, Alicate, Murcia are better than they were a year ago under the old Astra 2D, but other places have much
weaker signal. Areas with poor reception include: Costa Del Sol, Barcelona, most of Portugal.
There is a report from the Costa Del Sol which indicates dramatically lower signals. This is in an area which previously could receive BBC & ITV on a 1.2 metre dish a year ago.
The remaining free channels which are still on Astra 1N are likely to move either in the new year or in early summer.
(2012) Astra 2F GOES INTO SERVICE TUESDAY 4TH. DECEMBER 2012
Following days of rumours and misleading reception reports, at last there is some news directly from SES Astra, owners of the 2F satellite. Posted this afternoon on the SES Facebook page:
"SES Services are currently being transferred to ASTRA 2F. BBC (Trp 2.061) has been migrated to Astra 2F whereas Channel 5 (Tp 2.057), ITV (2.059 & 2.063) and Channel 4 (Tp 2.068) will move to Astra 2F next Tuesday. This will then mark the completion of the transfer".
Transponder 61 is new: 11023 H, 23000 2/3, DVB-S2/8PSK, currently testing on 2F
The other 1N transponders due to be transferred by next Tuesday:
Transponder 57, 10964 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, currently carries Channel Five (regions 1-5) 5 USA, 5 USA+1, 5*, 5*+1 and Channel Five +1
Transponder 59, 10994 H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, carries ITV One regions
Transponder 63, 11053H, 22000, 5/6, DVB-S/MPEG-2, carries the other ITV One regions and ITV One London HD.
Transponder 68, 11126 V, 22000, 5/6 DVB-S/QPSK carries Channel Four HD and 4 Seven
BBC One HD for the regions is still awaiting launch.
Blog by Alix Pryde, Director, BBC Distribution:-
"Over the next few months we will be launching BBC One HD for the nations of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. They will each be available on terrestrial, satellite and cable platforms. In order to carry these services on satellite we’ll be opening a new transponder (Astra 1N tp 61) which we will be referring to as DSat8."
What will reception be like?
The most reliable reception reports indicate that 2F reception in mainland Europe is similar to the old Astra 2D. In Spain, reception is worse in the south but almost identical to Astra 2D in Madrid. Small dishes which could easily get Astra 1N will no longer receive some BBC and ITV services after they have switched. This applies equally to Freesat and Sky receivers. Exactly which BBC services will switch to 2F is unclear, as are the reasons why so few 2F transponders will be going live next week. It's possible SES Astra are keeping quiet about the real reasons. These could include technical or legal problems, perhaps related to the dispute between SES Astra and Eutelsat ( see story below from Nov. 2)
(2012) Astra 2F ARRIVES AT 28.2º EAST
Astra 2F has arrived in position and is expected to begin broadcasting with a few days. The predictions that all channels would be transferred from 1N to 2F by this coming Monday, 26th. November have turned out to be wrong. There is a test frequency of 11.023 H, SR 23.000, FEC 2/3, DVB-S2 8PSK currently active, which is assumed to be from 2F. This test can be received in many parts of Western Europe, including Spain, Portugal and Scandinavia. Countries further east are reporting no reception, however. It remains to be seen if the antennas on 2F will be adjusted further, and which channels will be on the UK beam. As soon as there are confirmed reports of 2F reception, they will be posted here.
(2012) Astra 2F FINISHES TESTING, MOVING TO FINAL POSITION
The replacement for Astra 1N, the new Eurostar E3000 satellite Astra 2F, has finished its testing phase and is currently moving westwards in space towards 28.2º east, where it will be used to broadcast to the UK and mainland Europe. Current projections indicate it will be on station next week, on 20th. November. It is virtually certain to go into full service before the Christmas season. British expats in mainland Europe will learn shortly whether their old Astra 2D dishes will be big enough to receive the new signals.
(2012) BBC HD SIMULCAST WITH BBC2, NO DOGS.
Following the move of the BBC's flagship news programme 'Newsnight' to new HD studios, BBC HD is now simulcast with BBC2 each weekday evening, bringing the BBC's promise of a BBC2 HD channel a little closer. BBC One HD is now free of the 'DOG'. A 'DOG' is a Digital Onscreen Graphic- a small logo in the corner of the screen, irritating to many. Many UK channels have either dropped the DOG, or made it less prominent. Some question the need for a DOG at all. The usual defence of the DOG is the need to reinforce channel branding. Some broadcasters such as Sky have realised that a large number of viewers hate them. Sky has removed DOGs from Sky One, Sky Atlantic and Sky Arts.
(2012) BBC TO LAUNCH BBC ONE HD FOR THE NATIONS
The BBC will be launching BBC One HD for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland shortly, across all of its broadcast platforms, so the channels will be available subscription-free on Sky HD, Freeview HD, Virgin Media and Freesat HD at the same position in the EPG where BBC One HD is currently found. Recently there was a technical change to a more efficient encoding standard to enable more channels to be broadcast using the same bandwidth. BBC HD channels currently broadcast in DVB S2, 8PSK.
(2012) ASTRA ATTEMPTS TO TAKE OVER EUTELSAT FREQUENCIES, LEGAL BATTLE UNDERWAY
Though subject to a legal challenge, it is likely that SES Astra will take over the slot previously reserved for Eutelsat at 28.2º east. The dispute between the two companies is over rights to 500 megahertz of satellite bandwidth over Europe. Eutelsat has requested arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce. The frequencies are currenty in use by Eurobird, carrying many low-cost (and low-audience) channels. Exactly what will become of the many specialist channels on the Freesat and Sky platforms when their current carrier closes is unknown. The probably end result is that some will go out of business, if, as expected, it becomes more expensive to broadcast using SES Astra's satellites.
All BBC Radio services are now on the UK spot beam at 28.2º east. Previously they were on the pan-European beam, and could be received over a wide area of Europe. The rationale for this move, according to the BBC, is cost. Only when Astra 2F is in service will it become known just how restricted in terms of geographical area BBC Radio has become. The old BBC frequency of 11954 horizontal has now been switched off. See this BBC article
The replacement for the old Astra 2D, Astra 2F was launched on 28th. September 2012, and is currently being tested at 43 degrees east. The signals from both the pan-european beam and the UK spot beam have apparently been received as far east as Israel. Not too much can be read into any of the test reports so far, as the satellite is broadcasting from a position some way away from its final location. Astra 2F is likely to be moved to its broadcast position in the next couple of weeks, with services opening before Christmas. Only then will expats around Europe be able to tell whether their dishes will receive the new signals or become redundant.
Most free to air services on the Freesat platform are currently being broadcast from Astra 1N at 28.2º east. Asta 1N will be moved to 19 degrees east to serve its originally intended areas.
(2012) ITV Transponder closes
The ITV transponder on 12402V closed on 30th. May. All ITV channels are now on Astra 1N, which is not receiveable in most parts of eastern Europe and Mediterranean.
That most difficult of satellites for British expats, Astra 2D, has met its end at 28.2º east. All channels on the UK beam were tranferred to Astra 1N on 24th. March, using the same frequencly plan.
There has been speculation that 2D had developed a fault. The evidence for this is that many UK-based viewers ( including us ) noticed picture breakup in the week prior to the move on transponder 47, 10803 H, indicative of a developing problem. It could have been that the spacecraft was damaged by the recent intense solar activity. This is the solar storm which produced strong Aurora Borealis ( Northern Lights) over the past month. 10803 has declined in strength markedly in recent years. The move could have been planned, of course, and the picture problems coincidental.
What does this mean?
Signal strength is markedly higher in many parts of Europe, especially Spain. Indications are that good reception can be achieved in most of Iberia on a 80 cm dish. Previously, 1.8m and upwards was needed. Viewers in eastern Euroe have not fared as well. Countries such as Finland have lost all Freesat channels. It appears that Cyprus is now in the dark as well, only Astra 2A and B likely to be received there. 4.2 metre dishes were formerly able to pull in BBC signals in the eastern Mediterranean.
Astra 1N was originally intended for the 19º east orbital position, serving mainland European countries. For this reason, 1N has a large side lobe of good reception, covering the Canaries, in order to serve the Spanish - ruled islands (as required by local broadcasting law).
Starting in about a year, the replacements for Astra 2D, 2A and 2B will be launched. These new satellites wil be of the same design as 1N (Eurostar 3000) but will most likely have beams tightly focussed on the UK.
It seems probable that BBC channels will be viewable out of the UK from 2013 onwards, but only in places within around 1000 miles of London. (Astra 2D was centred on the home counties). Signal strength will be higher than the old 2D within this zone, but there will be a sharp falling off towards the east and south.
06.12.2011: CHANNEL FIVE CHANNELS ADDED TO FREESAT
Channel Five's group of channels, FIVE, FIVE USA and FIVE* were added to the Freesat platform today, 6 th. December. They are transmitted on Astra 1N. Channel Five, 5 +1, 5USA, 5USA +1, 5* and 5* +1 are now available free to air and can be viewed on any FTA receiver, not just Freesat. This also means a SKy viewing card is no longer needed when viewing using a Sky box.
Reception will be vastly improved for those viewers in mainland Europe whose Sky cards are currently set for region one, which was previously carried on Astra 2D. Reception is now worse
or non-existent for those further out into central Europe and beyond, who previously got the 2A south beam versions of the FIVE group of channels. Most people in mainland Europe will see no change,
apart from the added Five +1 channel.
Frequencies now active:-
10964 H 22000 5/6 QPSK DVB-S: Now showing the FIVE group of channels, FIVE, FIVE USA and FIVE*. Encrypted (Sky viewing card needed).
Channel Five +1 likely to be added soon, launches 6th. December.
11053 H 22000 5/6 QPSK DVB-S: Two ITV One regions on this frequency, free to air.
For the first time, it's likely that Freesat ITV One regions will correctly match UK postcodes when all ITV and ITV+1 channels are opened on Astra 1N. This frequency from 1N can be received on relatively small dishes (80-90 cm) in Spain. Previously, a Sky box and active viewing card were needed to receive ITV One on the European south beam as these versions are currently encrypted in NDS.
11127 V 22000 2/3 8PSK DVB-S2 Channel 4 HD: UK Spot beam.
11127 V is on the UK 'spot' beam, some other 1N channels have been received further east and are likely to be the Europe-wide beam.
The suspected reasons the 'spot' beam is so well received over western Europe are:
•Astra 1N was designed for the 19 east slot, to be utilised by mainland European broadcasters. Amongst these are the services for Spain, which apparently have to cover the Canary Islands. This explains the relative ease of reception of the spot beam in Spain, as small as 80 cm in the costa Blanca.
•Astra 1N has three times the power of Astra 2D
•It is a new satellite, compared to Astra 2D, which is eleven years old this December.
•The spacecraft has a completely different design, it is a Eurostar E3000, compared to the Hughes HS-376HP spinner stabilised Astra 2D.
•There appears to be little daily variation in signal, compared to the marked daily drop off in some polarities on Astra 2D, particularly in spain, where horizontal polarities are very weak in the evenings, and all channels are hard to receive late evening.
There is currently no channel in active service on Astra 1N .
There is speculation that the FIVE channel group will be added to Freesat at the time of the launch of Five+1 (6th. Deember 2011)
The new satellite at 28.2º east, Astra 1N, opened its first working channel yesterday, 27th. October. Channel Four HD is broadcasting on 11127 V 22000 8PSK 2/3 Now showing Channel Four HD.
The switch from the current transmission on Eurobird is expected shortly, and the europe-wide service will cease.
Initial reports suggest the new spot UK beam is not so tight as feared. The signal is much stronger than from Astra 2D, and can be received over most of western Europe, as far east as Budapest, Norway, Sweden and Portugal. It's expected that ITV will move some channels next week. It remains to be seen whether the BBC will take up some space on 1N.
The signal has been reported as having been received on a 90cm dish is the Costa Blanca in Spain. It's likely that an 80 cm dish will get the 1N transmission in Madrid. Note that this is a test transmission. It's possible that the signal strength may be reduced before Astra 1N goes into service fully next month.
Press release from SES Astra:
"Luxembourg, 24 October 2011 - SES S.A. today announced that its new ASTRA 1N satellite has entered commercial service at the orbital position of 28.2 degrees East. ASTRA 1N was built by Astrium on the Eurostar E3000 platform and is equipped with 52 transponders in the Ku frequency band. The satellite was successfully launched on board an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, on 6 August 2011. It had a launch mass of 5,325 kg and is the fourth Eurostar satellite in the 49 satellite-strong SES fleet. ASTRA 1N greatly enhances the flexibility of the SES satellite fleet at the orbital slot 28.2 degrees East over Europe. ASTRA 1N is notably being used by Channel 4 and ITV. The new satellite will also allow SES to offer its satellite-based broadband service ASTRA2Connect via 28.2 degrees East and thus complement its service offer from the 23.5 degrees East position. ASTRA2Connect is Europe's largest satellite broadband network with more than 80,000 end users."
ASTRA 1N IN POSITION- WAITING FOR SERVICE
Astra 1N , the new satellite for the UK and ROI, arrived at its service position yesterday, after testing finished at 1.8º east. The transit took three weeks. Expats across Europe are anxiously awaiting news of how tight the UK spot beam will be. It's likely that a number of services currently available on Europe-wide beams will be moved in the next few weeks. It seems likely that FIVE USA and 5• will be amongst them and be added to the Freesat platform before the end of the year. Channel Four HD's move has already been announced (see below). This is the first major change in UK satellite configuration since Astra 2D went into service in 2003.
BBC TO CLOSE BBC HD CHANNEL
Amongst the announcements made by the BBC consultation review published on 7th. October were some planned changes to BBC services. The BBC HD channel will close, to be replaced by BBC Two
HD, simulcast with the main
standard definition channel. Budgets and programming will be cut back across almost all channels. BBC Two will show more repeats during the daytime. See the whole press release:-
Changes to the BBC's TV channels:
Protecting BBC One and Two in peak time, albeit with small reductions in entertainment programming and acquisitions;
Making BBC One the channel for all new general daytime programmes;
Changing BBC Two's daytime schedule to feature international news and current affairs programmes at lunchtime. Other parts of the daytime schedule would be repeats of mainly factual programmes, including science, history, natural history and arts, as well as live sport;
Re-focusing BBC Three and BBC Four to play supporting roles to the two bigger channels; and
Replacing the HD channel with an HD version of BBC Two to broadcast alongside the existing BBC One HD channel.
Changes to the BBC's radio stations:
Protecting Radio 4 by keeping its underlying budget stable, excluding the impact of productivity savings;
Greater sharing of news bulletins between Radio 2 and 6 Music, Radio 1 and 1Xtra, and Radio 3 and 4;
Reducing the amount of original drama, live music and specially recorded concerts at lunchtime on Radio 3, and reviewing the BBC's orchestras and singers;
Reinvestment in the Proms to maintain quality;
Focusing Radio 5 Live on core output of news and sport;
A new more focused Asian Network with a 34 per cent reduction in its content spend; and
Making savings in radio distribution costs through long term changes to Medium Wave and Long Wave.
CHANNEL FOUR HD TO MOVE TO ASTRA 1N
Channel Four HD is likely to move to Astra 1N when the new satelite opens for service in a few weeks' time. Currently C4HD is available europe- wide. Additional services from the Channel Four stable will appear in the next few years. These are likely to include Film Four HD and an HD version of More Four. E4 HD is currently available subscription - only on the Sky platform.
BBC NEWS MOVES TO ASTRA 2D
The BBC has moved its news channel to a weak beam on Astra 2D today on the Sky platform. Previously, it was available all over Europe on wide beam. Technical details: ew frequency: transponder 47, Astra 2D, 10803 H, 22000, 5/ 6. The change is intended to restrict programming to the UK and near continent only. Large dishes are needed to receive this channel elsewhere.
BBC ANNOUNCES SATELLITE CHANGES
The BBC has announced some cost-saving measures in line with recommendations from the BBC Trust.
The BBC transponder known as Dsat3, transponder 38, 12441 V 2B south, will close on 7th. October 2011.
This currently carries BBC red button streams, 0-6. BBC News will move to transponder 47, 10803 H, Astra 2D, in the week beginning 19th. September. BBC Parliament will move to transponder 46 10788V, Astra 2D, at the same time. BBC Alba moves to transponder 48 10818V, Astra 2D.
In the week beginning 26th. September, the seven ETV streams ('Enhanced TV') will be reduced to five and move from Astra 2D to transponder 13 11954 H 2A south to take the slot vacated by
BBC News, Parliament and Alba.
No mention is made of BBC Radio but it seems certain that this will remain on 2A south pan-European beam.
What does this all mean? BBC News, currently on a pan-european beam, will be narrowly restricted to the UK. 10803H is one of the more difficult TP's and needs large dishes in many parts of Spain. The 'red button' hack will cease. With this you can view the interactive streams of football, Wimbledon etc, without receiving Astra 2D, by pressing the red button on BBC News.
You should still be able to receive these occasional interactive red button streams on a Free to Air receiver by tuning the stream directly.
On the other hand the ETV streams on Astra 2D currently simulcast the main BBC channels. If this is unchanged, it will enable viewing of BBC One etc on a pan-European basis.
The ETV streams are not currently the same as the red button streams. It's not clear exactly what the content of the ETV streams will be after the change..
Astra 1N TESTING
The Astra 1N satellite, which is due to provide extra capacity at the UK slot at 28.2º east, was successfully launched and has achieved a stable orbit. Tests are being carried out at 1.8º east, prior to the spacecraft being moved into position for the UK. It is expected to go into service sometime between late September 2011 and mid-October.
Projected footprint for Astra 1N
An early projected footprint for the new Astra 1N satellite has been published on the SES Astra blog. Astra 1N is due to be launched on 26th. July this year and is being used to expand capacity for UK broadcasters. It's likely that a number of free channels on Freesat and Sky will be moved there. It's not yet known how this will affect reception in other parts of Europe, but it is possible that some expats will lose channels they can currently receive. The beam from the new satellite may be more tightly focussed on the British Isles than the current spot beam from Astra 2D. This will be the second launch attempt this month. The first was aborted at literally the last minute in early July, owing to a faulty valve.
Problems after BBC converts to DVB-S2 on Astra 2 satellite
Some Sky boxes have been unable to receive the two changed BBC HD channels following the conversion to the DVB S2 standard. Affected models are early Thomson HD boxes with compnent video
output. It has also been reported that some Amstrad HD boxes have also been unable to tune BBC HD and BBC ONE HD.
A possible solution is to delete BBC HD in 'other channels' if it has been stored there. It has also been recommended to re-boot the receiver and to carry out a 'new install' via the engineer's menu. (Services > 0,1, Select)
BBC converts to DVB-S2 on Astra 2 satellite
BBC channels BBC One HD, BBC HD and ITV One HD this morning converted their signals on the Astra 2D satellite to the more recent format DVB-S2. They were formerly DVB-S. Most recent
receivers will be able to continue to tune these channels, but there will be a few HD Free to Air receivers and PC cards which can't. In most cases,
your receiver will have updated itself, but in a few cases, owners of Freesat boxes may have to carry out a re-scan.
DVB-S2 allows more efficient use of bandwidth, and, in theory, higher quality. It remains to be seen whether the BBC will improve the much-criticised picture quality on its HD channels. The amended frequency is 10847 V, with a symbol rate of 23000, FEC 8/9 on transponder 50.
NHK WORLD HD LAUNCHES ON SKY AND FREESAT
Japanese news channel NHK has launched its new HD service, NHK World. It can be found on Freesat channel 209 and Sky 518 (507 if you have the HD pack)
In Spain, this channel can be received on a 60-80 cm dish, depending on location.
CHANNEL FOUR HD ON FREESAT
C4HD has launched on the subscription-free satellite TV service. C4HD becomes the fourth HD channel on Freesat, joining BBC ONE HD, BBC HD and ITV1 HD.
C4HD will be available from today on channel 126 following an automatic update on your Freesat receiver or television with built-in Freesat.
Freesat also confirmed last month that NHK World HD will be launching in May, bringing the total number of HD channels on Freesat to five.
Freesat currently offers over 150 TV, radio and interactive channels to its 1.6 million customers.
Sky Atlantic arrives on Sky channel 108
Programmes from leading US provider HBO arrive today on Sky, with the launch of Sky Atlantic. The channel is available at no extra cost, for the next year, to all Sky customers with an active subscription.
Following Sky and HBO's multi-year output deal announced in July 2010, Sky Atlantic HD will air all of HBO's new series exclusively in the UK and Ireland, including the already critically acclaimed 'Boardwalk Empire', which features an all-star cast including Steve Buscemi , Michael Pitt and Kelly Macdonald.
Other upcoming HBO productions to be broadcast by Sky Atlantic HD include the fantasy drama 'Game of Thrones', based on the series of books 'A Song of Ice and Fire' by George R.R. Martin, 'Luck', starring two time Oscar® winner Dustin Hoffman, 'Mildred Pierce' starring Oscar® winner Kate Winslet and the new series from David Simon ( The Wire ).
Some of the most critically lauded series of recent times including 'The Sopranos' , 'The Wire' , 'Six Feet Under' and Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' 'The Pacific' will also air on the channel.
In a separate deal announced today with Lionsgate Television, Sky Atlantic HD will also be the exclusive UK home to the new series 5 of Mad Men. Mad Men has become one of the most talked about series on television. Set in 1960s New York, Mad Men follows the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising.
Sky HD channel EPG swap out
Sky today made a major change to the programme guide for HD customers. Where a Sky channel has two simulcast versions: standard definition and high definition, they will swap places in the guide. Sky One standard definition on 106 will swap places with SKy One HD on channel 171. The change does not affect standard definition Sky and Sky+ boxes. BBC HD channels and Channel Four HD do not move.
Vat rise hits Sky sub prices
UK VAT rose to 20% on 4th. January, causing some Sky subscription prices to rise. Others rose last September and have not gone up this time. The HD pack is now £10.25 a month.
The HD pack now reflects the actual channel packs enabled on the viewing card, instead of all HD channels, as previously. For example, to view Sky Arts HD, it's now necessary to subscribe to the Style & Culture pack.
Sky screens La Liga in HD
Spain's La liga can now been seen in HD on Sky Sports. This season, there are matches 6-7 times a week on Sky's four HD channels. For the first time, the big match of the season, 'El Classico', Real Madrid v. Barcelona, was screened in 3D.
BBC 1 HD LAUNCHES 3rd. NOVEMBER
BBC One HD, which will simulcast a network version of the BBC One schedule for the first time, will see some of the BBC's most loved programmes including EastEnders, Holby City, The One Show, The Apprentice, The Weakest Link and QI move to HD by the end of the year. They will be broadcast alongside Autumn schedule highlights including Strictly Come Dancing, Human Planet and Waterloo Road. Plans are also underway for HD moves for Songs Of Praise and Casualty, as well as Match Of The Day, A Question Of Sport, and Blue Peter.
Some viewers with 1.2 metre dishes will lose BBC 1 on Sky channel 101. The regions are listed below. Use an alternate region from the Sky guide.
Freesat viewers should choose an alternative default BBC 1 region using the receiver's menu.
Many people in Spain will get a reliable BBC 2 signal for the first time since 2003. In the Madrid area, this means a 1.2 metre dish will pick up BBC2 Northern Ireland and Wales in the evenings. Sky and Freesat boxes will update automatically. Free to air receivers will have to be re-scanned on Astra 2. If you viewed BBC 1 Channel Islands on Sky channel 988 because your BBC 1 region on 101 was weak, you will have to choose another from the Sky guide.
BBC Four and CBeebies will get slightly worse in the Madrid region, and both need a 1.8 metre dish.
The following changes have been made:-
BBC 1 South East, Yorks, North West move from 10817 V to 10802 H (1.2 metre to 1.8 metre dish)
BBC 1 West, East and Channel Islands move to 10773 H (1.2 m to 1.8 m dish)
BBC 2 Wales, Northern Ireland move to 10817 and 10788 V (1.8m dish to 1.2 m dish)
BBC 1 Wales moves to 10788 V (1.8m dish to 1.2 m dish)
BBC Four and CBeebies move from TP45 10773 H to TP47, 10802 H
ITV 2, ITV 3, ITV 4 IN HD ON SKY THIS AUTUMN
ITV today announced that it has reached a deal with Sky to launch 3 new HD services this autumn, exclusively on the pay-tv platform.
ITV 2HD, ITV 3HD and ITV 4HD will be additional HD channels, starting in October with ITV2 HD.
Following the precedent for encryption deals with Sky ( ITV One is encrypted on 2A south), it's virtually certain that the new services will not be on Astra 2D.
The move is a stab in the back for Freesat, the consortium of which ITV is a member.
Those familiar with the industry should not be surprised, as it follows the arrival of Adam Crozier as ITV chief executive, who has no previous experience of TV. Taking unsentimental decisions such as weakening Freesat will have lost him no sleep at all. His previous jobs at the Post Office and The Football Association were both characterised by taking unpopular decisions. ITV chairman Archie Norman comes from a similar non- TV background: Asda's Chief Executive, then Chairman and former Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells.
Pictures: Media Guardian
The broadcaster has made this move in the light of a long-term decline in advertising revenue, in the hope that diversifying its income will protect it from the huge changes in the way
media are delivered and consumed. Retreating behind paywalls is becoming a trend amongst media organisations. (News Corp is hoping their wall and Apple's iPad and will save them from oblivion)
Expect to see more charging for previously free content, not less.
Sky have said that there will be 50 HD services by this autumn, and it looks likely this target will be reached. Less clear is whether the £10 HD surcharge will be dropped. Subscribers recently received e-mails informing of a change in the way the HD pack is allocated. An HD channel will now only be available if the pack it belongs to is part of the viewer's package. Previously, the HD pack allowed access to all HD channels on Sky. To receive Sky One HD, for example, it's necessary to subscribe to the entertainment pack.
With Sky making so much money (subscriber numbers and revenue up) it's hard to see this charge being
dropped in the way that the Sky+ fee was removed a few years ago.
There will be 3-4 HD services in each Sky entertainment pack, enough to justify the HD surcharge.
Source: Media Guardian
FIVE HD LAUNCHED on Sky channel 171
Channel Five HD launched as expected on Sky on 13th. July. Five struck a deal with Sky earlier in the year, following its failure to agree a schedule with OFCOM for C5 on Terrestrial HD via Freeview. The channel is a simulcast with the standard definition channel on 105 in the Sky guide. As the new channel is on the south beam, it can be received easily in Spain with a 60 cm dish. Those who have had difficulty in receiving Five for the past year are recommended to tune to channel 171. It is 'Free To View', needing an active viewing card but it is not part of the pay packages on Sky. There are no plans yet to add Five HD to Freesat, but this is likely at some point in the future.
SES Astra, which provides satellite delivery for all UK broadcasters, has announced replacements for the ageing fleet at 28.2 degrees east. Astra 2F will be the first to launch, with an expected date of Q4 2012, followed by 2E (Q1 2013) and 2G (Q1 2014). The Eurostar E3000 spacecraft, currently under construction by EADS Astrium, will provide much-needed extra capacity to the the UK and Ireland. The existing satellites, Astra 2A, 2B and 2D, are nearing the end of their projected lives. A number of E3000 satelites have been ordered by SES Astra. The first to be deployed was Astra 1M at 19 degrees east, serving mainland Europe customers. A key feature is the complete control of configuration in software rather than relying on hardware changes to adapt the satellite for different roles. The exact coverage of the UK spot beams will not be known until the new satellites are operating, starting in early 2013. What is uncertain is whether larger dishes will be needed in fringe reception areas such as Spain. Power output will be no lower than present, (there is only just enough now to guarantee reliable reception on 60 cm dishes in the UK), but the beam may have a sharper focus.
See SES ASTRA press release.
News HD channels launch
ITV1 HD (Central)
ITV1 HD (Granada/Border)
ITV1 HD (London/LWT)
ITV1 HD (Meridian/Anglia)
ITV1 HD (Wales/West)
ITV1 HD (Yorkshire/Tyne Tees).
STV HD (Scottish TV in HD) is already on air on Astra 2D. All will be on channel 178 in the Sky Guide, 119 on Freesat. The region you receive will vary by postcode.
At least one of the regions is currently on the south beam, encrypted (needs Sky viewing card).
Bad weather affects reception
Torrential rain affects Madrid. See BBC News video story
Why does it happen? Water droplets in weather systems absorb the satellite signals. The more numerous and heavier the drops are, the more signal is stopped. Astra 2D's signals in the microwave range of frequencies are very weak in Spain, only 39 watts in power (less than a normal lighbulb) and very easily stopped by moderate to heavy rain.
The absorbtion effect can be seen by placing a glass of water in a microwave oven. The water heats up to boiling point very quickly, showing that a large amount of microwave energy is easily absorbed.
If there is a large area of rain near to you, in the line of sight to the satellite, signal can be lost, even if it is not raining at your location. The classic example of this is a large thundercloud with heavy rain and hail rising to the south-east.
How to prevent it? Thre's very little you can do apart from wait till the weather improves. If you have a 1.2 metre dish, consider upgrading to a 1.8 metre, as the larger size will be much more resistant to rain fade (but not completely immune). Our installers can fit an "LNB umbrella' which will keep rain off the face of the most important part of the dish. If there is snow covering the dish, carefully brush it off with a soft broom.
Sky 3D service starts in April
The ground-breaking new 3D channel is scheduled to begin next month. In a test in January this year, Sky carried live 3D coverage of a Premier League game between Manchester United and Arsenal, which the first of its kind anywhere in the world. The new service will be rolled out to pubs initially, then to home viewers later in 2010. 3D will work on any existing Sky HD receiver, but needs a new televison to view the pictures. LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic have all announced 3D - ready TVs to go on sale in 2010, all of which will be compatible with Sky 3D. The system uses IMAX polarising 3D technology similar to that used in cinemas and requires the viewer to wear glasses. The early LG LD920 3D TV, which was used in the January test, will not be available to the general public. Sony's Signature models KDL-40LX903 and KDL-60LX903 will go on sale soon in the UK, both of which are 3D ready.
See also BBC News story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8558152.stm
TT on 4 removed
One of the last ways Channel four viewers with small dishes could watch the channel without a Sky card and box has been removed. The free channel TT on 4 using frequency 12480 V was unencrypted and could be seen in Madrid with a 1.0m dish. It's still possible to see the Irish version of C4 but this requires an active Sky card. Completely free versions of Channel four now need a 1.8 metre dish in Madrid and some other parts of Spain.
BBC to start testing iPlayer on Freesat
CLOSED BETA THEN ROLLOUT TO HUMAX HD RECEIVERS The BBC has announced that testing of iPlayer on the Freesat platform will begin on December 7th, followed by a slow rollout to high definition users, if successful. The service will be available via the red button at first, but that could change in the future. The service will be in standard definition, despite being only available on HD receivers. HD will be added at some point in the future. The service requires the Humax box to be connected by cable to an ethernet port on an external router for internet access. Humax HD receivers have had this faciility since the start of Freesat, but it has been disabled until now. There is no Wi-Fi. The bitrate (amount of data- higher bitrates are better) will be 800 kb/sec and 1.5mbit/sec. This higher figure is similar to many digital channels currently broadcasting, such as ITV 2 & 3, but is about half that used by normal BBC channels. Intergrated Freesat HD TVs will also be able to access iPlayer but standard definition boxes, such as those made by Grundig and Goodmans, will not.
New Invacom Optical LNB
LONG AWAITED FIBRE OPTIC LNB DISAPPOINTS The new LNB from leading maker Invacom is not suitable for fringe reception, we have discovered after tests. Performance was so poor we decided we returned the unit to the distributor. The LNB uses fibre-optic cable to connect to the receiver instead of traditional copper cable. The new technology enables it to be used in community installations with no loss of signal even on very long runs of cable, up to a 10 km radius. There is no C120 version with a separate feedhorn as yet.
Bush, goodmans and Grundig Freesat boxes fixed, new firmware issued.
Harvard fixes broken Freesat receivers The automatic software update of October 13th, version 1.7.48, which was sent over the air to Bush, Goodmans and Grundig HD boxes (from the same manufacturer, Harvard International) has been acknowledged to have caused severe problems for some Freesat viewers. In many cases the box re-booted itself every few minutes, with loss of channels and audio, and inability to change channel. Harvard initially denied there was a problem, then embarked on a damage limitation excercise after reports appeared in the press. An update to 1.8.1 has now been sent OTA (over the air), which seemed to have cured the issues. The manufacturer had to replace a number of receivers under warranty. The fiasco has been extremely damaging both to Harvard International and the Freesat brand. It's hard to understand why the software went out to users without first being fully tested. Humax Freesat boxes were not affected.
Sky card security upgraded
No more card sharing : In the past it was possible to use a Sky viewing card in a CAM (common access module) inserted into a free-to-air receiver, sharing one Sky card amongst a group of people. These options have been closed off by the recent Sky card re- issue. Card chip security (provided by NDS) has been tightened to such an extent that it is no longer worth the hackers' time to try to break. This was one of the intentions of the white Sky card swap-out. NDS have had almost six years to improve security and almost certainly have at least one reserve system waiting in the wings should the current one be hacked.
Software Update for Humax Foxsat HD and HDR
Foxsat HD: goes to version1.00.23
Support for BBC iPlayer service (when launched-UK only)
Resolved lip-sync issue resetting after a power cycle
Improvements for HD subtitles
EPG Genre screen now appears in two columns
Aspect Ratio resolved when exiting the Guide on a 16:9 programme
Resolves issue when right arrow has to be pressed twice to view the next programme on the i-plate
Resolves issues during the Installation Wizard when using a DiSEqC switch.
Humax Foxsat HDR: goes to version 1.00.11
Support for BBC iPlayer service (when launched- UK only)
Ability to delete recorded programmes from the Media List while recording or playing back.
Auto delete function included
Series folders will be removed when the last recording in the folder is removed
User created folders will be removed when the last recording in the folder is removed if the folder was created prior to the software update. User created folders after the update will not be removed
Resolved ITV HD Schedules disappearing after a freesat channel scan
Freesat schedules no longer removed after a manual tune
RGB output available via the TV Scart connection on HD content (live TV and recordings)
Resolved issues playing back encrypted HD content from an external device
Resolved issue with subtitles appearing when use time shift recording. Resolved issues with series schedules failing to record
Now able to access the Guide while playing back a recording or viewing Live TV without the programme continuing to play
Diagnostic Menu now displays the signal levels for both tuners correctly
NEW icon now appears in the Media List (Simple view) on folders with new recordings
Resolved Lip-Sync issue resetting after a power cycle
EPG Genre screen now appears in two columns
Resolved incorrect character appearing on postcode in the Diagnostic menu
Resolved lockup issue when recording 2 TV channels and changing to a radio channel
Resolved intermittent lip-sync issue when accessing ITV-HD
Changes made to some on screen messages regarding conflicts
A small number of users have reported loss of channels after the upgrade. It appears a factory re-set will mostly cure the issues. It's possible the Humax HD boxes may be 'allergic' to some LNBs. This is an issue which used to affect older Panasonic Sky boxes some years ago, so it is surptising to to see this re- appear on a modern design such as the Humax HD.
There are still problems with green screen on some displays after the upgrade.The affected models include some Sony and Pioneer models. It is caused by HDMI 'handshake' incompatibility (falure to recognise the display by the Humax receiver)
Rollout of new SKY HD EPG nearly complete
EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) gets mixed reception.
New software for Sky HD receivers has now been sent to nearly all users. The update was sent much later to Samsung and Amstrad Sky HD boxes owing to bugs which emerged in the earlier roll out to Thomson and Pace receivers. That's not to say this version is bug- free, however. There is a problem with the front display on Samsung Sky HD receivers which causes the indicator to keep rolling around at all times. It can be disabled in the settings menu. Also on Samsung, the red button is inoperative on some models. After pressing red, the screen goes blank, then the channel re- appears without entering the interactive service. The new EPG has been subject of much adverse criticism on user forums. The biggest complaint seems to be the increased number of button presses to move around the menu system. Other issues have been allegations that Sky boxes have been 'bricked' by the new software, and general slowness. The colour scheme seems to be based on the road signs around London's M25.
Top Gear in HD on the BBC
Top Gear speeds onto screens in top quality
BBC motoring programme Top Gear gets an upgrade to high definition. Series began on Sunday 15th November at 21:00 on BBC HD (and BBC2).
See the Top Gear website: http://transmission.blogs.topgear.com/2009/11/05/the-new-series/
See what's on in the BBC HD schedule.
BBC HD extends hours
More and more HD
BBC HD is now broadcasting more hours per day. Weekday schedules now begin at 4pm with children's programmes. One of the few UK channels wholly in HD, BBC HD is a mix of programmes from the whole of the BBC's output. Drama and films have recently dropped the on-screen logo, the so-called "DOG" following protests from viewers. The DOG is still in place on many documentaries, ostensibly to reinforce brand identity, but in reality it is a piracy prevention measure. See what's on in the BBC HD schedule.
ITV HD now can be received on Sky
Available on updated Sky HD boxes
Previously exclusive to Freesat, ITV HD can be added manually to Sky HD receivers. This new facility is limited to the few HD boxes which received the new EPG this week (see below). It can't be added unless you have a receiver with the new programme guide. Recording is not available, nor are there any programme details. ITV HD is currently only showing programmes for a few hours per week, the rest of the time a test card. It's not known if this technical update has been done with the agreement of ITV, or whether it is part of a plan to destablise Freesat. The £49 HD box offer may be part of the same strategy to undermine the emerging rival to Sky. ITV HD may be oficially added to Sky's line up at some point in the future.
To add ITV HD manually, go to the 'Add Channels' menu in 'Services' and use the following settings: Frequency: 11.427 Polarity: H FEC: 2/3 Symbol rate: 27500, add channel '10510'. View via the 'Other Channels' menu.
New Sky HD Electronic Programme Guide
Major update to the EPG
This week, 38,000 Sky HD subscribers received the re-designed EPG. Amongst the many new features are an optional mini-TV screen on the TV Guide and the ability to view "now, next and later" programme information for shows on any channel for the next 12 hours without needing to interrupt the programme being watched. Recordings may be set up without visiting the Planner screen and episodes of recorded series are "stacked" to make finding them easier. The software was delivered automatically to more recent Thomson HD Sky boxes overnight on 10th. March. Only receivers with version number 4E300E were updated. Remaining HD boxes will have the new EPG over the coming weeks. Standard Sky receivers and non- HD Sky boxes will probably not receive the new guide, owing to memory limitations.
New French Film Channel on Sky
A new French film channel Cinémoi is now available on Sky, broadcasting classic and contemporary subtitled French films and documentaries. Cinémoi will be available for free every night until April 6 on Sky channel 839. After this date, the channel will be available for a subscription fee of £7.99 a month or £100 GBP/year.
Sky HD receivers recalled
90,000 Pace Sky+ HD boxes faulty.
A fault has been identified in a large number of Pace Sky+ HD receivers sold in the last few months. Neither Sky nor Pace will not reveal exactly what is wrong, but have embarked on a phased recall and replacement. The affected models are 9F3001, 9F3002, 9F3003 and 9F3004. To see if you have one of these models, go to the 'services' menu on your Sky handset, press 'system setup', then 'system details' . Look under 'version number'. Contact your installer if you have one of these versions. There is an indication that affected models show 'no signal' when changing channel and have intermittent loss of response to handset commands. Sky will give all affected customers three months’ free subscription to the HD pack (worth £29.25) when the box is replaced.
Sky card swap out this April
Sky cards will be replaced from April 2009 onwards. The new-look cards (white in colour) will be sent out to Sky subscription customers. The swap-over process is easy, just replace the new card and the process will be automatic. There will be an on-screen prompt. Old cards will cease to work after a period of time, presently unknown. Existing Freesat From Sky cards (those that just unlock C5, Sky Three, Five US and Fiver) have an uncertain future. It's not clear whether Sky will continue selling and supporting them. Many Britons in Spain who bought from mainland European Sky agents will lose their channels when their existing cards are switched off, even if the agent is still in business. Many agents have been closed down in the past 24 months. Our business is securely UK- based and will not be affected.