BBC 'satellite switch' leaves expats in the dark

Steve Tallantyre
Steve Tallantyre - [email protected]
BBC 'satellite switch' leaves expats in the dark
The move to SES's new Astra 2E satellite means better reception in the UK but blank screens across Europe. Photo: SES

People in Spain and across Europe who use satellite dishes to receive the BBC's Sky and Freesat transmissions from the UK woke up to blank screens on Thursday morning after the broadcaster migrated its TV and radio channels to a new satellite with a smaller transmission 'footprint'.


British expats and others interested in watching BBC TV programmes could do so until this morning by using a satellite dish to receive the free-to-air Sky and Freesat transmissions carried on the Astra 1N satellite operated by SES in orbit at 28.2º East.

But after months of planning and rumours, they confirmed in a statement on their website last week that transmission would switch to the new Astra 2E satellite, which focuses its beam more tightly on the British Isles.

Viewers in fringe areas of the UK will get improved signal reception but the new satellite's tighter 'footprint' -- the area covered by its signal -- means that most viewers in Europe can no longer pick up most BBC channels.

The only channels unaffected are BBC ONE Scotland HD, BBC ONE Wales HD, BBC FOUR HD, BBC NEWS HD, and CBeebies HD.

The move has left many viewers furious, but the BBC has shrugged off their complaints.

Alix Pryde, Director of BBC Distribution showed little sympathy, saying: "The overspill of the BBC’s services will be reduced so viewers outside the UK will find it even harder to receive them. I know that this causes unhappiness to some of you living outside the UK. However, it is entirely appropriate because the BBC domestic services are for people living in the UK only."

A number of companies have sprung up offering web-based access to BBC channels, but these rely on Spain's often less-than-reliable internet service providers.

BBC radio channels are, however, legally available in Spain via the broadcaster's online iPlayer service.

ITV and Channel 4 have yet to make official statements but they are widely expected to join the BBC on the new satellite soon.

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