SKY, BBC & ITV SATELLITE NEWS FOR SPAIN, PORTUGAL & WESTERN EUROPE
NewsUpdated Friday, 28th November, 2014
NOVASTRA 2G LAUNCH POSTPONED TO MID DECEMBER AT THE EARLIEST
Russian space news agency federalspace.ru reports that faults were found in Astra 2G's launch vehicle, leading to Thursday's launch to be postponed. TASS now reports that the Yamal 401 mission scheduled for 12th. December will be the next launch from Baikonur. 2G will follow, assuming faults in the Briz-M booster can be fixed in the near future.
NOVASTRA 2G LAUNCH TOMORROW
SES managers in Luxembourg face an anxious 24 hours, awaiting the much-delayed launch of their communications satellite ASTRA 2G from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan at 21.24 GMT tomorrow. The hugely expensive satellite, designed to broadcast to the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, sits atop a Proton rocket, of a type that has suffered two disatrous failures in as many years. For the following 6-8 weeks, If things go according to plan, Astra 2G will be tested in an orbit some distance from its final destination at 28.2º east, from where it will carry BBC, ITV and Sky services, beginning in early 2015.
However, if there is a repeat of the previous failures, expect a fireworks show of a type you can't buy at the corner shop. An earlier disaster was caused by incorrectly-installed guidance components, which led the Proton to plunge to the ground shortly after blast-off (below). The parts had been installed upside down. Human error was blamed.
NOVINTELSAT 907 27.5W KEYS CHANGED
BISS keys which secure the Arqiva BBC and ITV feeds to UK land-based transmitters from intelsat 907 27.5w have again changed today.
The keys are normally easily broken by hackers and posted on key-sharing websites. There are indications that the new keys are already available online.
The encoded signals from Intelsat 907 are widely viewed across Europe by those who lost the BBC last February.
See story below
NOVASTRA 2A BEING PREPARED FOR CLOSEDOWN AND RELOCATION
Some Sky services have been switched from Astra 2A to Astra 2E over the past week, earlier than expected.
Though the elderly satellite is one year beyond its expected operating life, it will be relocated to a different orbital position, to serve other European markets. It has remained at 28.2º east since launch, unlike other Astra satellites, and will have unused fule reserves.
Viewers in most of Europe will have noticed little change from the switch, though in eastern Scandinavia, some channels have disappeared. Conversely, signals are stonger in south-west Europe and the Canary Islands. In Istanbul, reports indicate a 1.8 metre dish can continue to receive these services, which include The Box, Kiss TV and Channel Four's services for Ireland. There is no word yet if Cyprus has lost services, as many have predicted.
Transponders 6, 9, 10, 15, 17, 18 and 40 have moved from Astra 2A to Astra 2E's European beam. The remaining channels on Astra 2A are likely to be moved soon.
NOVSKY IN EUROPE RUMOURS CIRCULATE
We've received some email from expats worried that a new satellite will cause more services to be lost. Some have asked if Sky will return to Spain and Portugal when 2G is fired up.
No-one knows what SES has planned for the channels it carries for UK broadcasters. We know that the BBC intends to add HD to all BBC One regions, so this may happen next year. Less certain is whether Sky will move more services to the UK-only beam, resulting in the kind of loss which so upset many in mainland Europe last February. Sky turns a "blind eye" to the widespread use of Sky cards and boxes outside the UK. (Breaking its terms and conditions). So much money is made in mainland Europe from the grey market that Sky would find it very hard to cut off the estimated one million subscribers in mainland Europe, and then only if its hand is forced by rights owners. Premium services such as Sky Sports, Movies and first-run drama from the US are sold on a geographical basis. Sky maintains a charade that their channels can only be received in the UK, and pays a little less as a result. American studios know what's going on, but don't kick up a fuss, so long as the deal is lucrative. The pretence has grown thinner in recent years, and may one day be unsustainable.
As for the second rumour, Sky has always been available all over Europe. It's just the BBC and ITV which left.
NOVASTRA 2G ARRIVES AT LAUNCH SITE
Following an en-route forced landing of the transport plane carrying Astra 2G to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, SES must be relieved that their new multi-million pound satellite for the UK has arrived in one piece. A Proton-M launch vehicle will blast the satellite into space on the night of 27th. November, UK time, if the mission succeeds.
Only when 2G has been tested then moved onto its service position will we know its likely signal strength and beam pattern. In February 2014, Astra 2E surprised many by being distinctly weaker than its identical twin Astra 2F.
This could have been deliberate on the satellite's operator's part to restrict reception of the BBC and ITV to the British Isles only, or there was a problem with the spacecraft's solar panels, antennas or power generation.
The three satellites were built to almost identical specifications. Astra 2F and 2G have additional west Africa beams. 2E has a middle-east beam. Astra 2G will only be using part of its total capacity at the outset: 10 transponders will be lit up next year, fewer than a quarter of its total.
It seems likely that the ageing Astra 2A will be retired when 2G goes into service.
Owing to the importance of the UK market to SES, a number of satellites will be kept in reserve at 28.2º east to provide cover in case of emergency. Geostationary satellites are vulnerable to solar flares, X-ray damage and impact from space debris.
OCTNEW BBC TRUST CHAIR BACKS BBC THREE CLOSURE, MAY OR MAY NOT SUPPORT CHARGING FOR PREMUIM CONTENT
Giving evidence last week to MPs sitting in the Culture, Media and Sport select committee , new BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead appeared to support the BBC's decision to close BBC Three next year as a broadcast over-the air TV channel. The BBC earlier this year announced it would be available online-only through iPlayer, subject to the BBC Trust's approval.
Research indicates that most of its young target audience has stopped watching live TV, largely preferring to consume on-demand content on a computer or mobile devices.
Whether the BBC Trust Chair also told MPs she supported a move away from a universal licence fee after the next review is open to debate, and which news source you believe. The Daily Telegraph ran a story saying she was in favour of paying for some premuim content, in exchange for a lower licence fee, quoting her as saying "subscriptions could be an "intelligent way" to generate extra money for the Corporation." The Guardian concluded the exact opposite: that she is in favour of the current licence fee being set in stone for a further ten years.
OCTASTRA 2G LAUNCH DATE
The Russian Interfax news agency reports that the launch of Astra 2G from the Baikonur Cosmodrome will be on 28th. November 2014, many months later than scheduled.
If the new satellite goes into orbit without problems, it is likely to begin begin broadcasts to the UK in late February or March 2015. A Proton M missile will be used to blast Astra 2G into orbit following the resumption of the launch programme on 28th September. A Proton-M carring the communications satellite Express-AM4R failed to reach orbit on May 16th, the second costly failure of a rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the space of a year.
SEPUK SATELLITES WILL BE HIT BY SUN OUTAGE FROM 4TH OCTOBER
Satellites serving the UK will soon be passing directly in front of the sun in the mornings, starting around the 4th October (9th October in Scandinavia)
For about ten days, signals from the UK beams of Astra 2E and 2F will be completely lost for up to 14 minutes during every morning just after 10.30 am CET (GMT+1) in Spain, Portugal, southern France, Eastern Germany, Austria, Italy and Scandinavia.
Sun outage is a twice-yearly event, and happens when the sun, satellite and earth are in a straight line during the spring and autumn equinoxes. A satellite dish always has to point to the satellite 24 hours a day, even if this means the dish is pointing straight at the sun. Random electrical noise from the sun overwhelms signal in weak areas. Dramatically worse signal-to-noise ratio results in total loss of data. The British Isles are unaffected. Strong signals also weaken, but within normal margins.
At night, satellites pass through the umbra, or area of total eclipse, forcing operators to switch to built-in batteries, compensating for the absence of sunlight.
For some weeks either side of total eclipse, satellite reception in fringe areas is disrupted owing to the reduced amount of sun the satellite's solar panels receive as they pass through the penumbra, or outer shadow.
There is one compensation for the loss of signals. It's the perfect time to check whether there is anything shading your dish, such as trees or foliage. Any obstruction will cast a shadow on your dish at sun outage, revealing that signals will be reduced all year round. Green leaves are as effective as lead in blocking satellite signals.
Any site with full sun at this time is a good site for a new dish installation.
Of course, this only works if the sun is shining...
SEPINTELSAT 907 BISS KEYS CHANGE-AND ARE HACKED WITH 24 HOURS
The weak BISS encryption keys for Intelsat 907's BBC and ITV transmissions to UK Freeview masts were changed last weekend. Within 24 hours, hackers had broken the new codes and posted them online. Intelsat 907 is an illegal alternative for those who lost UK Public Service channels last February. Over most of Europe, all that's needed to receive the Arqiva-delivered backup broadcasts is a Technomate 5402 receiver, an 80cm dish and the technical ability to enter new 16-character codes every three months.
Just one code is needed to decrypt all BBC transmissions.
Publicly selling systems designed to receive Intelsat 907, cracking the codes and offering paid help are criminal offences, however, carrying the risk of arrest and prosecution in the UK.
Arquiva are well aware of the piracy, but have so far chosen not to make any public statement, let alone act to change the encryption system.
This may not be the case in the future. It's unwise to make any substantial financial outlay to receive this satellite.
In a probably-unrelated issue, Intelsat 907 went out of control last Sunday morning during a station-keeping routine. Signals were lost for a few minutes before engineers were able to stabilise the ageing 11-year old spacecraft.
SEPSOUND PROBLEMS HIT LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS
The BBC's live broadcast of The Last Night of The Proms from the Royal Albert Hall suffered sound problems in its first half on BBC2, forcing the BBC to apologise to viewers. Sound was affected by drop outs for the first half hour. Subsequently an alternate sound feed was used, but this was out of sync with the picture. The problem was particularly noticeable on BBC Two HD and BBC One HD, owing to the increased time taken to process and encode HD signals. Pictures lagged behind sound for the rest of the broadcast.
SEPTV LICENCE FEES "MAY RISE SUBSTANTIALLY" IN AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND
A internal study carried out by the BBC three years ago, leaked to the media but never published, reveals that the TV licence fee in Scotland after independence would rise by a large amount, should the referendum vote be in favour to break away from the UK next week.
Scottish TV licence fees raise £350 million annually for the BBC, but the costs involved in production, transmission and distribution in a large, mountainous, sparsely populated country are considerably higher than this.
The BBC has chosen not to comment, fearful of yet more accusations of bias from the proponents of independence, including the SNP's Alex Salmond.
SEPASTRA 2G LAUNCHED PLANNED FOR 11th DECEMBER
Reports suggest that the much delayed Astra 2G mission will lift off from Baikonur on 11th. December 2014. If this is correct, Astra 2G will go into service in February or March 2015. The satellite will have a similar mix of beams as Astra 2E and 2F, including a UK-only spot beam.
Speculation as to which channels will go to which beam is pointless at this stage, but one thing is certain: the move to Astra 2G and the switch-off of Astra 2A will signal the end of Sky reception in Cyprus.
Eutelsat's satellite at the same position, Eurobird E28A is likely to close at the same time, following agreement between SES and Eutelsat over a group of previously-disputed mid-band frequencies. In future, all satellites at the UK position of 28.2º east will be operated by SES.
SEPASTRA 2G'S LAUNCH DATE SLIPS TO FOURTH QUARTER 2014.
The third and final replacement SES Astra satellite for the UK 28.2º position, Astra 2G, has still not been allocated a date for its Proton rocket launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Sanctions imposed by the United States have caused the date to slip back repeatedly from the intended slot in May, causing a number of problems for International Launch Services (ILS), a joint Russian-US venture. The Astra 2G mission is not expected before October.
SEPTOP GEAR TO HAVE FRENCH EDITION
BBC Worldwide have agreed a deal with French broadcaster RMC Decouverte to produce a local version of the motoring TV show Top Gear, one of the BBC's most successful exports. France has often featured in filming for the UK version, once resulting in Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond receiving speeding fines from traffic police. A Chinese version is also to hit far east screens later this year.
AUGBBC iPLAYER "TO BE ENCRYPTED"
BBC Director-General Tony Hall confirmed last month that the corporation is looking to close the loophole of online viewers of the BBC not paying the Licence Fee, by introducing a form of encryption at some point in the future. At present, to view live TV on iPlayer, all a person has to do is to state that they have a licence, whether or not that is true (no check is made). Geo-blocking is enforced, however, meaning only users who have a UK IP address can have access. In the run-up to the next licence fee negotiations the government, BBC management is trying to preserve the licence fee in its current form, rather than move to a subscription model, often proposed by its competitors and media organisations with vested interests, such as those who own both newspapers and TV channels.
AUGSKY SPORTS 5 LAUNCHES
Sky have added a fifth sport channel to its line-up. Specialising in football coverage, broadcast in SD and HD, the channel is free to existing Sky Sports subscribers on satellite, Virgin Media, Talk Talk and UPC. Sky Sports 5 is in HD on 11720 V and in SD on 11914 H, both on Astra 2E's Europe beam.
AUGINDEPENDENT SCOTLAND COULD LOSE BBC SERVICES
In addition to uncertainty over what currency an independent Scotland would use, some BBC figures have suggested that a future Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS) would not have an automatic right to carry BBC programmes if Scots vote for independence next month.
£320 million of BBC licence fee revenue is generated in Scotland, a source of funds likely to be diverted after independence to a newly-created SBS. The BBC would be forced to sell its shows to the highest bidder, which could mean popular shows being sold to rival, commercial broadcasters, or not be broadcast in Scotland at all.
AUGBSKYB BUYS SKY ITALIA AND SKY DEUTSCHLAND
Sky last month announced it is buying its counterparts in Germany and Italy, in a deal worth £7.4 billion. Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland were owned by Rupert Murdoch's Fox network, which also has a large stake in BSkyB in the UK. A minority shareholder in Sky Deutschland, Crispin Odey, formerly son-in-law to Rupert Murdoch, rejected the deal, arguing it undervalued his stake. The takeover by BskyB is likely to go ahead regardless.
BskyB partly funded the deal by selling a stake in ITV to Vigin Media for £481 million.
The merger will create a pan-European pay-TV giant, and enable a newly-enlarged Sky to achieve economies of scale in programme acquisition, delivery and technology. It's likely that the internet-enabled Sky HD box currently seen on the UK market with be supplied all over Europe.
Pay TV has much lower market share in Italy and Germany, where a far smaller number of people are accustomed to paying for their TV by subscription.
It remains to be seen how a Pan-European Sky will work in practice. Currently, premium channels from Sky UK can be received all over Europe on satellite. An enlarged Sky Europe will want to boost subscriptions in Italy and Germany from their current modest numbers, which could place this pan-european delivery of one country's Sky channels in doubt.
AUGSKY ITALIA TO BE CARRIED ON FASTWEB INTERNET
In Italy, a deal has been reached between Sky Italia and media company Fastweb to deliver Sky on Demand and live TV over the internet, using Fastweb's new fibre-optic network. The deal puts Fastweb in a collision course with Mediaset, the media group owned by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, which had opposed the deal.
AUGFOX PULLS OUT OF $80bn TIME WARNER TAKEOVER BID
Rupert Murdoch's Fox has pulled out of its long battle to buy the Time Warner media empire after a protracted battle, despite being flush with cash following the sale of Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland (see above).
It would have been Murdoch's largest-ever corporate deal.
Some media commentators regard this retreat as a tactical move, and may not be the end of the story. If Time Warner fails to deliver on its promises to shareholders, Fox may be back to pick up a cheaper deal later.
JULSKY TO RAISE PRICES IN SEPTEMBER
Sky subscription prices will rise on 1st. September by up to 10%, the biggest rise for years. Sky Sports 1&2 increase by £2.50 per month.
Other packs will also see rises.
Sky has raised its prices almost every year since its digital service launched on Astra in 1998. For initially less than £10 per month, four channels could be received: The Sky Channel, Eurosport, Sky Movies and Sky News.
JULCBBC HD OFF AIR
BBC's HD service for young people, CBBC HD, is now off air for the duration of the Commonwealth Games, which start next week. It normally time-shares with BBC Three HD, which has had its hours extended into the daytime on satellite and terrestrial platforms to allow coverage of the Glasgow games. In addition, CBBC HD has now changed transponders, moving from 10.847 V 23.000 2/3 on Astra 2E to 11.464 H, 22.000, 5/6 on Astra 2F, making the channel easier to receive in areas of Europe which have difficulty receiving BBC channels.
CBBC will be shown as normal in standard definition (SD).
Following Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling, US-based streaming service Aereo announced it will cease its operations today.
In a related development, Fox has used the Aereo judgement to act against another streaming service, Dish, which uses a similar business model to Aereo.
For the moment, FilmOn carries on regardless. The free streaming service is used by thousands of expats in Spain and Portugal following the loss of BBC and ITV in February this year.
JUNAEREO LOSES SUPREME COURT BATTLE, EXPECTED TO CLOSE
North American streaming service Aereo was ruled illegal in the US Supreme Court today in a landmark ruling which may have far-reaching implications for online TV services.
US broadcasters, including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS, had sued Aereo, claiming breach of copyright. The start-up company, backed financially by billionaire Barry Diller, refused to pay the big networks the fees they had demanded for re-transmission of their signals over the internet.
One casualty may be another streaming service FilmOn, which has also been repeatedly sued for the same reasons. US Court action and fines of $20,000 a day against FilmOn have been suspended, pending the outcome of the Aereo case, allowing the company to continue live TV streaming around the world, including BBC and ITV channels in Europe.
JUNNEW FREEVIEW CONNECT TO USE FREESAT'S EPG TECHNOLOGY, NOT YOUVIEW'S
Freesat's 7-day catch up technology, known as Freetime, will be incorporated into a new terrestrial TV standard by UK broadcasters in partnership with TV and set top box makers in a joint venture to be known as Freeview Connect
Freesat's Freetime allows access to the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) forwards and backwards in time, seamlessly.
It had been expected that the terrestrial system YouView would be the only way forward for free-to-air TV, however this year, broadcasters, including the BBC and ITV, cut its funding by a huge amount, fearing it had been hijacked by BT and TalkTalk as a pay-TV platform. Public service broadcasters are keen for the "free' to mean just that: subscription-free TV available for just the cost of the hardware.
YouView has become successful owing to pay-tv add-ons such as BT Sport, given away free by BT (for the moment) but this wasn't how the project was initially conceived when it was known as Project Canvas. Many years late, re-named, and over-budget, YouView offers an interactive 7-day programme guide with access to on-demand players from the timeline.
The big downside of YouView is performance. Schedule information is slow to load, with considerable lag in most functions. BT's Humax YouView HD box is particularly poor. This may be another reason Freesat's Freetime technology has been chosen over YouView. Freeview Connect is already being built in to new Panasonic TVs, with Sony and Samsung likely to follow Panasonic's lead.
YouView, Freeview and the new Freeview Connect are terrestrial TV services, and should not be confused with Freesat, which a is a satellite service available in large parts of western Europe.
JUNASTRA 2G LAUNCH DELAYED TO Q3 2014
The third and final replacement satellite for the UK market, Astra 2G, will now be launched from the Baikonur Cosmosdrome 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.
JUNITV ENCORE LAUNCHES TODAY
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.
JUNINTELSAT 907 27.5W KEYS CHANGE
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.
JUNITV'S GOOD MORNING BRITAIN RATINGS DISASTER
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.
JUNSKY BOX OFFICE PROBLEMS
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.
MAYBAKED IN THE HOT SUN
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.
MAYASTRA 2E SIGNAL WEAKENS
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.
MAYSKY'S NOW TV SERVICE SUFFERS MAJOR FAILURE
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.
MAYBBC TO BROADCAST CLASSIC WORLD CUP MATCHES 'LIVE' ONLINE
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.
MAYSKY NEWS LAUNCHES CATCH UP TV SERVICE
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).
MAYBBC TO SHOW DEDICATED COMMONWEALTH GAMES CHANNEL
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.
MAYSKY'S NOW TV RAISES PRICES UP TO 40%
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.
MAYCHANNEL FIVE SOLD TO VIACOM
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.
MAYSKY GROWTH SLOWS, BT SPORT FREE FOR ANOTHER SEASON
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.
APRSANCTIONS BLOCK SATELLITE LAUNCHES
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.
APRSTV HD LAUNCHES ON SATELLITE
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.
APRNEWS FROM BERLIN
"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"
APRLONDON LIVE STRUGGLES FOR VIEWERS
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.
APRSKY, BT SPORT, ITV HD PLAY AGAIN IN CASABLANCA
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.
APRPREMIER LEAGUE ILLEGAL BROADCAST ARREST
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.
APRASTRA 2C MOVING
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
APRBBC THREE CONTROLLER TO MOVE TO SKY
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
APRTV STREAMING CASE RETURNS TO SUPREME COURT
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.
APRREPORT FROM THE LANDES
"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 neccesary 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 marie 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
APRBT SPORT APP NOW ON CHROMECAST
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.
APRSENIOR SKY EXECUTIVE DEFECTS TO BT
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.
APRBAILIFF FIRM FAILS TO STOP BBC INVESTIGATION
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.
APRREBUILDING A SKY PLANNER
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.
APRSKY "NEUTRAL" ON SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
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.
APRFURTHER DECLINE IN ASTRA 2E SIGNAL
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.
APRVPN AND CHROMECAST
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 recognized 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.
APRBBC iPLAYER ADDS CHROMECAST SUPPORT Edited
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.
MARASTRA 2G LAUNCH DELAYED UNTIL JUNE
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.
MARNEW TV STATION LONDON LIVE OPENS 31ST. MARCH
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 rercommendation 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.
MARKEY BT TV EXECUTIVE QUITS
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 agressive 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.
MARSKY HD SERVICES MOVE TO UK SPOT BEAM
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.
MARUK POLITICIAN CALLS FOR MORE DUBBING OF FOREIGN DRAMA, SPANISH DUBBERS ON STRIKE.
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.
MARBBC HD CHANNEL UPDATE
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.
MARBBC PROGRAMME GUIDE SHUFFLE
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.
MARBBC & ITV SIGNALS FROM 2E WEAKER
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.
MARNEW SKY GUIDE INTRODUCED
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.
MARBBC iPLAYER REBUILT
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.
MARINTERNET IN SPAIN NEAR TO COLLAPSE IN SOME EXPAT AREAS
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 aand Jazztel have also been affected.
MARBBC RESTORED IN SOUTHERN CATALUNYA
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 Portugese (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.
MARREDUCTION IN BBC & ITV SIGNALS CONFIRMED
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.
MARREDUCTION IN BBC SIGNAL
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.
MARWARNING ON BBC LICENCE FEE
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.
MARINTERNET SPEEDS SUFFER FOLLOWING BBC SWITCH OFF
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.
MARNO MORE RESETTING DEFAULT
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.
MARNADA IN LISBON
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.
MARHBO GO STREAMING CRASH
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.
MAR195,707 SIGN TO SAVE BBC THREE
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.
MARMORE SUCCESS STORIES
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 , · Ddigital 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."
MARBBC BOSSES REFUSE TO RULE OUT CLOSURE OF ANOTHER TV CHANNEL
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.
MARBBC1+1 TO REPLACE BBC THREE
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.
MARBBC THREE AXE CONFIRMED
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.
MARIPTV SERVER DISCOVERED IN UKRAINE
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.
MARFAULTY WEATHER WARNING
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.
MARCHANNEL FIVE BIDS FROM US NETWORKS
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.
MARSKY SPORTS CHANNEL MOVED TO UK-ONLY BEAM
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.
MARSUN OUTAGE TODAY
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 indicate 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.
MARASTRA 2G TO BE LAUNCHED IN MAY
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.
FEB30 DAY BBC iPLAYER
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.
FEBSUCCESS STORY FROM THE BANKS OF THE ELBE, WEST OF HAMBURG
"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.
FEBBBC LICENCE FEE MAY BE EXTENDED TO ON-DEMAND iPLAYER
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.
FEBITV TO LAUNCH NEW CHANNEL
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.
FEBITV ONE RECOVERY: TRY A RE-TUNE
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."
FEBBBC GIVES UP ON GLOBAL iPLAYER
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.
FEBINTELSAT 907 SCAM CHECKLIST
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.
FEBDO YOU LIVE IN A DEAD ZONE?
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
FEBSKY VIEWING CARD SWAP OUT
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.
FEBTIME'S UP FOR THOMSON SKY+HD BOXES
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.
FEBINTELSAT 907 SCAMS MULTIPLY
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.
FEBWHY DOES THE BBC DISAPPEAR AT SOME TIMES OF THE DAY?
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.
FEBRTE ON UK BEAM, C4 ON EUROPE BEAM
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.
FEBASTRA 2E POWER INCREASED ON 12 FEB
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.
FEBCHANNEL FOUR VIEWABLE ACROSS EUROPE
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.
FEBNO BBC LOSS IN CENTRAL PORTUGAL
"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
FEBBBC: ZERO IN CYPRUS
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.
FEBASTRA 2E NUDGED WEST
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.
FEBTHE 907 SCAM
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 unauthorized decoders of encrypted transmissions.
FEBMORE REPORTS OF BETTER SIGNALS
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, followng a daily pattern
FEBASTRA 2E TRANSMITTING AT REDUCED POWER TO EXCLUDE EXPATS?
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.
FEBRECEPTION IMPROVES IN SW FRANCE, ITALY
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.
FEBCHANNEL FOUR, E4, MORE 4, 4 MUSIC STILL AVAILABLE IN SOUTHERN EUROPE
...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)
FEBITV AND CHANNEL FOUR DISAPPEAR IN MOST OF MAINLAND EUROPE
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.
FEBITV SWITCH LIKELY TONIGHT
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 emphemeris 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.
FEBWILL SKY BE LOST TO MAINLAND EUROPE IN THE FUTURE?
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.
FEBNO MOVE FOR ITV AND CHANNEL FOUR
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 dramtically weakened, to the point where no signal is received at all, even on huge dishes.
More to follow.
FEBPLEASE SEND US YOUR BBC RECEPTION REPORTS
Positive reports are extremely useful, and will help others in the same position determine the dize 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.
FEBBBC GONE, ITV AND C4 NEXT
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.
FEBBBC CHANNELS LOST IN MANY PARTS OF EUROPE
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.
FEBBBC & ITV CHANNEL LOSSES BEGIN
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.
FEBBBC MOVE IS TONIGHT
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 retrict the overspill of satellite signals into mainland Europe.
FEBASTRA 1N BEING CLEARED, CHANNELS MOVE TO ASTRA 2A
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 stike. SES Astra will have five satellites in place at 28.2º by 2015.(see right, above)
FEBBBC CHANNEL SWITCH OVERNIGHT WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY
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 considererably 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 receiveable 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.
FEBMORE RECEPTION REPORTS
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.
FEBASTRA 2A CHANNELS MOVED TO ASTRA 2E
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
FEBBBC & ITV MIGRATION IMMINENT, NEW BBC TEMPORARY CHANNEL
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 carrried out in the middle of the night.
JANASTRA 2E ARRIVES ON STATION, INTO SERVICE TOMORROW
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.
JANCHANNEL FIVE PLUS ONE DAY OPENS 4TH FEB
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 timeshift channels. The BBC is the only major broadcaster yet to have +1. Channel 5+24 will be available on: Freesat 132 and Sky 175
JANEUROBIRD TO CLOSE
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.
JANSIX MORE ITV ONE HD CHANNELS TESTING
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.
JAN2E ON STATION AROUND 30TH. JANUARY
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.
JANASTRA 2E FINALLY ON THE MOVE
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.
JANNEW ITV HD ONE SERVICES
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.
DECTRANSITION TO ASTRA 2E TO BEGIN IN FEBRUARY 2014
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
DECNEW BBC HD CHANNELS LAUNCHED
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 Asta 1N when it opens at 7pm. Astra 1N is easily receiveable 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.
DECFIVE NEW BBC HD CHANNELS LAUNCHING TUESDAY 10TH. DECEMBER
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 countires.
DECFEW CHANGES TO SATELLITE SERVICES EXPECTED BEFORE CHRISTMAS
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).
DECSKY ADMITS SOFTWARE PROBLEMS, FORCED ROLLBACK TO PREVIOUS VERSION.
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/Amstad 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 northen 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.
NOVNEW BBC HD CHANNELS
Three HD satellite test services have appeared today, on the same frequency as BBC One HD Wales and BBC One HD Scotland. At the time of writing, BBC Four is being broadcast, scaled up to HD. Picture and sound quality are notably better than the standard definition version. There are a number of unverified reports that HD versions of BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC will open around the 10th. of December on satellite, and in addition, in the UK only, on Freeview and YouView. The channels can be tuned on a Freesat or Free to Air box, but not a Sky receiver, on 11023 H, 23000, ⅔, DVB-S2/8PSK, MPEG-4, Astra 2F, labelled 8931 and 8932. Reception of Astra 2F isn't possible in Southern Spain, Astra 2E is likely to be similar.
NOVASTRA 2E STILL TESTING
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.
CHANNEL FIVE HD MOVED BEHIND EE+ PAYWALL
No more free C5HD
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.
New HD channels will be launching soon.ASTRA 2E TESTING CONTINUES
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
OCTASTRA 2E TECHNICIANS WORKING OVERTIME
Artist's impression of Astra 2E in earth orbitTest transmissions of Astra 2E have unusually continued over the weekend. Its operators Astrium and SES Astra are clearly in a hurry to deploy the satellite by mid-December at the latest. After this time, no changes to the programme guide are permitted by Sky. This is to minimise any technical problems over the Christmas period, when fewer support staff are on duty. The BBC plans to launch five new HD channels when Astra 2E is available: BBC News HD, BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD, CBeebies HD and CBBC HD. It's probable these will be launched before the holiday season. All BBC channels, including new services, will be on the UK-only beam.
OCTASTRA 2E IN TESTING POSITION, FIRST TRANSMISSIONS DETECTED
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.
OCTBT SPORT MOVES BACK TO PAN EUROPE BEAM
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.
OCTCHANNEL SWITCH IMMINENT: SOME LOSE, SOME GAIN
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 500Mhz 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.
SEPASTRA 2E LAUNCH SUCCESSFUL
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.
SEPASTRA 2E LAUNCHED Astra 2E has been launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The first three stages have been successful, and the satellite is well on its way into orbit. The five secondary stages of the Proton Breeze-M will be fired over the next nine hours. In a broadcast from the ILS headquarters in Washington, members of the launch team commented on the preparations. Notably, no direct mention was made of the July Proton crash which caused such long delay in Astra 2E's mission. During the live programme, SES mentioned their next satellite for 28.2º, Astra 2G, the launch of which was anticipated for "early 2014", earlier than many people expected.
SEPASTRA 2E: ROLLED OUT: LAUNCH TONIGHT, SUNDAY 29TH. SEPT: 23.38 CET.
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.
SEPNEW LAUNCH DATE FOR ASTRA 2E: 17TH. SEPTEMBER 2013
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.
AUGWIDESPREAD MISINFORMATION ON THE ASTRA 2E BBC "SWITCH OFF"
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 Televison 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.
AUG15 SEPTEMBER LAUNCH DATE FOR ASTRA 2: MOVE OF BBC CHANNELS LIKELY BY CHRISTMAS Following the investigation and report into the Proton-M crash on 2nd. July, it has been announced that the Astra 2E satellite for SES Astra will be included in the resumed launch programme at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The lift-off is scheduled for September 15. This means that if deployment is successful, Astra 2E will go into service before Christmas 2013. The most likely period for this will be November. The move of BBC, ITV and C4 channels from Astra 1M to Astra 2E is likely during this month or soon afterwards.
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.
JULPROTON-M CRASHES; ASTRA 2E LAUNCH POSTPONED
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.
MAYASTRA 2E PROVISIONAL LAUNCH DATE: JULY 19 Some sources are suggesting that the new Astra 2E satellite will be launched on July 19th. 2013. This is somewhat later than originally planned. The actual date may move forwards ( or more likely, backwards ) at short notice nearer the time. Based on previous experience with Astra 2F, Astra 2E will go into service some time in September. Only then will it become clear just how many channels will be lost by those living in southern Spain and Portugal, and parts of western europe. The received signals on the ground will be similar, but not identical to, those of Astra 2F. Though they are nominally in the same position in the sky as viewed from the ground, the two satellites will be some hundreds of kilometers apart, in geostationary earth orbit.
MAYSES ASTRA 'Intend to cut out as many English speakers in Europe as possible'
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
See earlier news in the News Archive