SKY, BBC & ITV IN SPAIN & PORTUGAL

Things your installer didn't want to tell you
Dish Secrets
Five things your installer didn't want to tell you
Ten ways to improve your reception
Get the BBC back
Ten ways to improve your reception
Alternatives to satellite
Lost the BBC?
Alternatives to satellite

Useful Information

Stuff you ought to know about receiving UK satellite TV
BBC, ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five terrestrial TV channels are also broadcast to the UK from the Astra 2 group of satellites. 'Sky' has always been a satellite service only and carries BBC & ITV, C4 and Five alongside its pay TV offering. If you cancel your Sky subscription, you will continue to receive BBC, ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five SD. There are currently three active satellites in the same position, Astra 2E, Astra 2F and Astra 2G. The Freesat service uses the same frequencies as Sky. Reception of BBC & ITV is identical on both Sky and Freesat, and switching to Sky will not bring the BBC back if you lost it in February 2014.
An active Sky viewing card and subscription are needed to view Channel Five HD.
Don't get confused between 'Freeview' and 'Freesat'
Freesat logo Freesat is a free digital service broadcast from the Astra 2 satellite. It needs a dish mounted on the outside of your house to receive the service, and a digital set-top box or a TV with an integrated satelliter receiver.
Freeview is the name of the free domestic digital terrestrial service in the UK, broadcast from a network of land-based masts, and is received on a normal aerial, as found on most homes. It needs a digital set-top box or an integrated TV. Most modern TVs have digital terrestrial built in. A UK digital TV or Freeview box will work in Spain but will receive Spanish digital services in place of UK ones. The programme guide may not work completely as expected.
In the past, UK TVs and VCRs would not work properly in mainland Europe
They worked on a different sound system. Typically, there would be picture but no sound. Modern TVs do not have this limitation. The UK uses PAL system 'I'. Spain and most of Europe use system Pal system B/G. France uses SECAM. A Sky box outputs UK system 'I' from its aerial outputs (labelled RF1, RF2). If you connect a B/G TV to the output, you will get a picture but no sound. If your TV allows it, change the country setting to UK for the channel you are trying to get the Sky signal on. Many people use the RF2 output to send a signal to a TV in another part of the house, in conjunction with a 'Magic Eye', which allows the Sky box to be controlled remotely. A Sky box needs to have RF2 power switched on for this to work. If set up correctly, a red light will appear on the Magic Eye unit. If you are feeding terrestrial TV though the same cable, you may find there is a poor picture. This is caused by interference from the terresrial channels received by the aerial. You can feed terrestrial channels through the system by connecting a normal aerial to the 'Aerial In' socket on the back of the Sky box. Choose a different channel on the Sky box RF setup if this happens. If you replace your Sky box, the RF channel on the replacement will be set to the default of 68. In some urban areas, it can be difficult to find a clear channel if the Sky box signal is mixed with terrestrial signals. Now most TV sets have HDMI, and this problem has largely disappeared. In newer Sky boxes, this "RF" facility has been removed.
Most satellite dishes in Spain point to the wrong satellite for UK TV
Spanish Satellite TV is provided by Digital+, features Canal+ and a number of international entertainment channels such as Discovery, Disney and Cartoon Network. It is broadcast from Astra 1 (19º east) and Hispasat (30º west), and carries only a few channels in English, Sky News and BBC World, though there are optional English soundtracks on some channels. If you move into a house in Spain with a satellite dish, it is virtually certain to be pointing to Astra 1 or Hispasat and will not work with the UK satellite service. If connect a Sky box to an Astra 1 dish, it wil show a 'no satellite signal' messager. The dish can be moved by an engineer to the right satellite. Make sure you hire someone with proven experience of BBC installation, as many say they know how to get Sky, but fail to understand that the UK spot beams are much weaker. Typically, an engineer will tune a dish for the strongest signals only.
In 2003, for copyright reasons, the service from the BBC was moved to Astra 2D, a satellite aimed very tightly at the UK, which Astra 2D footprintmeant many expats in continental Europe lost their service. The 'footprint' (see right) extended out into the rest of Europe, but dropped off dramatically in strength further out. The reason for this was that the channels became 'free to air' (not scrambled). ITV joined the 2D satellite and went free-to-air in 2005, Channel Four joined in 2008. Astra 2D was taken out of service in March 2012.
In February 2014, BBC, ITV and C4 were moved to Astra 2E, and expats lost services again, after a 2-year period when they were easy to receive on 60cm dishes from Astra 1N.
In the UK, all channels can be received in England on a 55cm Sky minidish. In some parts of Europe, such as southern Italy and The Canary Islands, dishes as large as four metres wide have to be used. In the Costa Del Sol, Spain and The Algarve, Portugal, reception of BBC & ITV is not possible on any size dish. Sky paid-for services, and a few non-BBC free channels on Astra 2 Europe beams, can be received in North Africa, Egypt and Jordan.
In Spain, the problematic BBC 2D signal was fairly weak in most parts of the country, with pockets of good reception around Barcelona and the Costa del Sol. Barcelona is now in a BBC and ITV dead spot. The Astra 2D satellite is now out of service after it apparently failed before the end of its mission. All channels were transferred to Astra 1N as a temporary fix, which was ended in February 2014 with the opening of Astra 2E. All free channels, including those from the BBC, ITV Channel Four and Five, have been moved to the new satellites Astra 2E, Astra 2F and Astra 2G, as well as some paid-for encoded channels, such as BT Sports HD.
'Rain Fade'and 'Rain Margin'
Rain reduces the weak channels. 'Rain Margin' means having a dish large enough to have something in reserve when the signal drops in rainy weather. Once rain drops are above a certain size, the satellite signal will be absorbed by them. It's similar to what happens when you put a cup of water in a microwave oven. Much of the mircrowave energy is absorbed by the water. Satellite transmissions are in the microwave band of frequencies.
High definition (HD) channels are available on Sky and Freesat. Sky has a large number of HD services, most of them subscription-only. Picture quality is about four to five times better than standard definition, with improved colour and sound (Dolby Digital 5.1) HD adds another dimension to your viewing. Upgrading is comparable to the previous move from black and white to colour. The BBC added five new HD services in late 2013, BBC Three HD (to close in 2016), BBC Four HD, BBC News HD, CBBC HD and CBeebies HD .
No More Sky+ or standard Sky boxes
All new boxes are Sky+ HD. You can choose not to subscribe to the HD pack, which adds HD versions of the channels you have subscribed to.
All blue Sky viewing cards have been deactivated.
They no longer work at all. You need a white viewing card. Keep the old one, however, as your Sky box may be using the last four digits on the viewing card as a PIN. Current white cards will probably be re-issued in the next year or so.
Keep your PIN handy
See the item above. A PIN is required to view Sky Movies before 9pm, and to use the 'other channels' feature. The PIN is normally the last four digits of your viewing card. It may have been the last four digits of your OLD viewing card. (Did you throw yours away?) The PIN is now required to view 'other channels' if parental control is enabled.
You can change your PIN by logging in to 'My Sky' on Sky.com.
Don't disconnect your Sky box
If you switch off the power to your Sky box when you go away on holiday, not only might it lose an important software update, your viewing card may 'sleep' after one month. The card needs to receive 'stay alive' signals from the satellite. Cards which have been put to sleep will re- activate after about 24 hours of the box being re- connected to mains power. There is an exception to this rule (see below)
Temporarily disconnect your Sky box from the mains supply If there is a thunderstorm nearby. If lightning strikes the power network in your neighbourhood, it could ruin your Sky box and dish LNB with a power surge. Such damage is usually unrepairable. You can prevent this by installing a surge protector or UPS (Unterruptible Power Supply). In addition, install earthing to your satellite dish. A UPS is strongly recommended to prevent power cuts and surges affecting your Sky box.
Rebuild Sky Planner A Sky+ and Sky+HD receiver is just like a computer, with a hard drive and operating software. After repeated use, the Sky box can start to lose track of data on its hard drive. The symptoms are odd behaviour such as 'no signal' on some channels and being unable to delete recordings. Rebuilding the planner is similar to performing maintenance on a PC. Instructions are HERE (opens in new window)
To check out which channels are where see http://www.flysat.com/28east.php Channels frequently change and recent moves are indicated in the last column. Check this first if a channel suddenly disappears.