satellite dish largeIf you are moving to France or currently living here, you will probably still want to keep up with YOUR favorite soaps or movies or even the latest films. You can watch all your usual channels freeview or subscription. These are available all over France.

To receive UK TV in France you will need a satellite receiver and its dish. DTT Freeview or On Digital as it used to be known, generally won’t work anywhere south of Calais and even there it is hit and miss.


To keep all your options open, you should use a Sky Digibox. Newer models are obviously faster than older ones and tend to be more reliable with regard to signal strength and quality.

A few UK channels can be received with any decent non-Sky digital satellite receiver, regardless of whether it is bought in France or the UK. These include all the BBC radio and TV channels, ITV and several news channels like CNN, Sky News and Euronews.

With a standard sky Digibox you can receive over 200 channels and 95 radio stations (without a sky card)

For Channel 4 and Channel 5 you will require a Freeview To View (FTV) card as these channels are scrambled.

You can, if you have a UK address subscribe to all sky packages including SKY+ and SKY HD Or you can arrange this through certain French companies. You do not need a telephone line to be connected to receive SKY+ AND SKY HD.

A Sky Digibox also includes a full 7-day Electronic Programme Guide or EPG and this is well worth having. For a full list of all TV and radio channels both free and pay for view go to .

There are several ways of getting a Sky Digibox. You may already have one that you used in the UK, or you can find a used one in a car boot sale or in online auctions. You can also buy them new from any UK or French satellite specialist store.

New Sky Digiboxes now retail at prices nearer £110 with Sky+ more expensive, at around £150,as it includes a hard drive for recording programmes.

There is also Sky HD (High Definition) which incorporates sky+ but double the recording time from £260.

A Sky+ and Sky HD will require a twin or quad lnb as these boxes require two cables from the dish to the Digi box to allow the box to record two different things at once.

You can also pause live TV, record two programs and watch a pre-recorded program at the same time. Once you have one of these systems you will never be without it again.

Viewing cards

A Sky Digibox on its own will only do half its job. To get full benefit from it you will need a Sky Viewing Card. There are two sorts of these:

– ones that carry a monthly fee and which provide access to pay channels – subscription cards

– ones that only decode the FTV channels mentioned above.

These FTV cards used to be available to anyone with a UK address and to get one you merely had to ring 0870 054 1800. As of February 2004, however, new FTV cards were no longer available and now the only way of getting one is to find someone who no longer wants theirs.

Sky will only send cards to UK addresses and is not supposed to knowingly supply service to those outside the UK (or the Republic of Ireland) for copyright reasons. In practice those who want to receive these channels outside of the official reception area apparently just take their card and box with them, if they already have one. If they subscribe they apparently “borrow” the contact address of a friend in the UK.

New cards (subscription or FTV) need to be activated and this can only be done once the box has been set up with a dish and is working properly (see below). It also has to be done in the box which is going to be used for reception: so you can’t activate a card in someone else’s box and expect it to always work correctly in yours.

To activate a card: insert it then get the box and card details from the service menu: Services 4-5. The broadcaster needs to know the name, address, card number and box number and also the subscriber number for a subscriber card. Those outside the UK apparently just get someone in the UK to ring the card provider (phone number on the back of the viewing card) for activation, if they haven’t done this prior to leaving. The card should then be activated within a few hours but it should all be left connected and switched on until the card is working properly.


Once you have your box and card you will have to think about a dish. This will need to be carefully installed with a clear line of sight facing the southeast. If you live at the bottom of a cliff or behind very tall trees then you may have some trouble. You will need to contact a reputable antenna installer in France and explain that you want to receive Astra 2 at 28° East. As it is a French company and not an English person he may get confused with Astra 1 at 19° East which is a common satellite for French transmissions. You do not want this satellite. (As these satellites are over the equator all positions are always given in degrees from the Greenwich meridian at the equator, and not from magnetic north as you might otherwise think).

Most of the big French Hypermarkets and DIY stores have a SAV (Service Après Vente) department that handles antenna installations and they will usually do a good job for €150 – 250 or so, including the dish, cable and other parts.

There are also a lot of local companies who can offer a good knowledge of your area and give you their expertise for a similar price.

In most parts of France a 60cm dish will be adequate. If you have a UK dish this will be known as a Zone 2 dish which is a 60-63 cm dish.

A small black Sky mini-dish as is often seen in the UK and is known as a zone one dish (43cm) is a reasonable replacement, as is a 60cm dish though there seems little point going to the trouble of bringing one of these from the UK when 60cm dishes are widely available in France for under €50.

If you are in doubt about size then you should contact your local supplier who can give you free advice.

One of the big advantages of the Sky Digibox is that all tuning and set-up is totally automatic. And I really mean totally. You need never adjust any of the menus and if your installer shows a desire to fiddle and says that there is something that needs adjusting in the box then he is probably wrong. Keep an eye on him! There is a built-in signal strength meter that can be accessed via the Sky remote using the following keys: services – 4 – 6. You can ignore the upper signal strength reading but the lower signal quality bar should show at least 40% grey and preferably more to ensure good quality reception in most weather conditions.

See the instruction manual supplied with your Digibox for equipment connection details. Basically you should use Scart leads (one is supplied with the box) for the connections between the VCR, Digibox and TV. Your UK TV will work perfectly well with a Sky Digibox as will any TV bought in France as long as you use Scart (Péritel in French) leads for the connections. If you intend using the TV away from the Digibox (in a distant bedroom for example) with a coaxial cable connection then you just need to be sure that the TV supports PAL “I”. All UK TVs do, as do some French TVs.

A TV licence system exists in France and anyone with any sort of TV is supposed to pay the licence fee, regardless of whether they watch French TV or not. Due to the high rate of TV licence evasion some automation has been introduced to the system. If you a buy a new television in France, the manufacturer has to ask you to complete a form which is sent off to the equivalent of the TV licensing authority. The amount is then automatically taken from you at the end of the tax year.

Latest Sky equipment

SKY HD: brings you the best sky entertainment in stunning HD. Rich in colour, you can feel its intensity and a picture so sharp you can see every face in the crowd. You’ll be wowed by the difference. Prices from £260.
The SKY HD Box also offers the Sky+ function, allowing Sky+ subscribers to pause live TV, record to new channels simultaneously and automatically record every episode of selected series.

Sky Gnomes: gives you the freedom to enjoy great sky entertainment without a cable in sight. Listen to news, sport, music and much more; up to 30 meters from the base unit. Prices from £60.

Useful French words and terms

Satellite dish: une parabole

Satellite dish installer/engineer: un technicien

Arm style wall fixing to hold dish: un bras coudé pour parabole

SCART lead: un câble péritel

SCART socket: une prise péritel

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