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BBC 'satellite switch' leaves expats in the dark

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BBC 'satellite switch' leaves expats in the dark
No more watching BBC's Eastenders for expats in France, unless they buy a bigger satellite dish perhaps. Photo: Bossco/flickr
10:28 CET+01:00
Expats in France and across Europe who use satellite dishes to watch the BBC woke up to blank screens on Thursday morning after the broadcaster migrated its TV and radio channels to a new satellite to the benefit of UK residents over expats.

One of the comforts of home for British expats living in France is being able to watch the favourite BBC programmes, which they could pick up via a satellite dish.

But for many that pleasure was taken away on Thursday morning, when the broadcaster migrated its channels to a new satellite. Those living in the south of France appear to be the worst affected, with those living in Paris and the north apparently still able to watch the BBC. (See maps below)

Expats in France have been bombarding community groups to find out if there is anything they can do.

"We are in Nimes and lost BBC this morning. We would really appreciate to know if there is any point in buying a bigger dish.....?" said one poster on Survive France Network.

Another wrote: "In the Gers we've lost BBC, although the Sky box is telling me we still have a good signal..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

One option that expats appear to have, if they don't want to miss out on Eastenders, is to buy a bigger satellite dish.

"I heard last year that this would happen and upgraded my dish to a one metre, at the end of November, and haven´t lost anything," said one poster to Survive France Network.

For more information you can visit the Facebook page of Big Dish Satellite where advice is given on what to do.

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

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

A version of this story first appeared on our sister site The Local Spain by Steve Tallantyre.

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