Following a week of speculation, the BBC has this week confirmed to The Portugal News that viewers in Portugal will continue to receive satellite channels until at least the middle of 2013.
The BBC’s Director for Distribution, Alix Pryde released a statement on Wednesday to “set the record straight” over speculation that viewers in Portugal and other countries outside of the UK would no longer be able to watch satellite television from terrestrial broadcasters, namely; BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
This speculation came about after a number of UK channels were transferred to a new satellite at 28.2º east, Astra 2F “at the end of November”.
The changeover resulted in the following channels being moved: Channel Five (regions 1-5) 5 USA, 5 USA+1, 5*, 5*+1 and Channel Five +1 along with ITV One regions: Meridian North, Anglia West, Yorkshire East, Central South West, Yorkshire East +1 and ITV One London HD, ITV One regions: Central South, Central East, Wales +1, Tyne Tees North +1, West Country South West +1, Channel Four HD and 4 Seven.
According to Alix Pryde, world leading satellite operator SES retired their Astra 2D satellite in February of this year, and the BBC services moved to a temporary home on the Astra 1N satellite.
Channel Four and BBC & ITV services are still currently on Astra 1N, which can be easily received on small dishes in much of Europe.
“Astra 1N is due to take up its permanent position in 2013 (19º East), so the BBC’s services will move to their new permanent home on Astra 2E (28.2º East) when that becomes operational,” she explained, adding: “SES expects Astra 2E to launch in Q2 [the second quarter] 2013, so we expect to transition BBC services to it during summer 2013.”
A fixed date for the launch is not possible however as two attempts to launch other satellites in Kazakhstan ended in failure, which may lead to a delay in the launch of Astra 2E next year.
Although the BBC is meant as a British domestic service, Alix Pryde highlighted that the changes due to occur during the middle of next year are related to the replacement of SES’s fleet of satellites, as opposed to a BBC strategy to change its footprint.
“That said, the new transponders do have a slightly different footprint,” she added.
The impact for viewers in the British Isles will be nil, but to expats watching from abroad the footprint of the BBC’s services from the new satellite 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,” said Alix Pryde.
As a result of the news, a BBC spokesman confirmed to The Portugal News on Wednesday: “Viewers abroad will be able to watch the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 until the middle of next year and they will definitely be able to watch the final of Strictly Come Dancing before Christmas!”
The spokesman stressed that the channels are essentially a domestic service paid for by UK licence fee payers.
For viewers outside the UK, BBC Worldwide offers a number of channels which are available in various territories, including Portugal.
These include BBC Entertainment, BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies along with BBC World News throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
The BBC also launched an international version of its on demand video service, the global iPlayer, for Apple users last year, which will continue to be developed based on feedback from within the markets.
The service is available in a number of European countries, including Portugal for €6.99 per month or 49.99 per year. It is however different from the UK iPlayer as it is not a seven day catch-up service, but instead provides a showcase of BBC shows, old and new such as Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, Doctor Who and Eastenders for example.
In the meantime, UK satellite installers and suppliers in Portugal have been inundated with calls from concerned viewers, but have admitted to playing the waiting game to see the extent of the damage caused by the switchover.
Algarve-based Satellite television specialist, Chris Whitman from SOS Sky Digital Television told The Portugal News: “As the changes are only due to take place during the middle of next year, we urge people not to panic as satellite companies are monitoring the ongoing situation and looking at solutions. If the channels are moved to 19º for example, we may only have to realign customers’ satellite dishes to pick up the signal.”
Meanwhile, Sky channels are not expected to be affected by the Astra satellite changes.
Astra this week admitted that there have been many “rumours” doing their rounds on the internet, especially ones that overseas viewers would lose all their channels once these changes are complete.
For viewers in some areas of Europe, this may be true, Astra said, but added this depends on which spotbeam Sky decide to use for their channels.
There is no reason for Sky to opt for the UK spotbeam, like the BBC are doing, their channels are encrypted and there are no copyright issues.
There are many expats who have legal subscriptions registered to a UK address, there are many British or Irish pubs and bars that have Sky Sports, these are all income for Sky.
It seems unlikely that Sky would want to lose this income, at this time there are no answers and no guarantees of future reception, Astra argued, but encouraged viewers thinking of purchasing new equipment to wait for further developments.
For more information about the Astra satellites, visit: http://www.astra2.org/astra2.html or satelite.co.uk.