(subtitle: installing Freesat in France without getting hot and bothered…)
After eight years eight months and 27 days of living in France we have given in and installed English TV. It would have been a few months sooner but I’m pretty slow at getting on with things, especially when I don’t know what I’m doing.
So in case anyone else is as slow as me, and because when I was doing my research I couldn’t find it explained clearly anywhere, I thought I’d give a quick user guide to how we did it. Of course, as with so many things, it’s completely straightforward and pretty inexpensive when you do know how to do it, impossibly complicated when you don’t.
Part of my problem was that having lived in France for a few years I knew nothing about Freesat, the UK free to air television service…there are other ways of achieving the same but below is exactly what we did. Please feel free to leave comments if I’ve got it all wrong or there is a better way.
What you need
- A Freesat box and lead to connect it to your TV – we bought ours in the UK, perhaps you can also find one online if you are not visiting the UK any day soon
- A satellite dish and head. Our dish is 70cm in the south of France. Forums talk of the need for people ‘down here’ to have dishes of 1.2 metres or more but it seems unnecessary here if you have a completely clear view (no trees, buildings etc in the way). Might be different where you live…
- A lead long enough to join your dish to the Freesat box! (Ours is 25 metres away, with the dish in the middle of a flower bed at some distance from the house). If you are planning to record programmes as well you will need two of these leads, and your satellite head will need two cable outputs (and of course you Freesat box will need a record facility)
- A signal strength detector plus a spare lead (during installation you will need two leads). almost certainly you already know someone with a signal detector, ask around before buying one.
What to do next
- Connect everything together, including the signal strenth detector between the Freesat box and the dish
- Point your dish at the sky. Our Freesat manual said ’19.2° east of south’ but should have said ’28.2° east of south’. The sun in the south of France in summer is roughly in the right place at 1pm (south at 2pm), so that is a rough guide. The dish will be pretty close to vertical.
- Now move your dish around in small degrees until the signal meter shows the best signal you can get (there is a different satellite at 19.2°, you don’t want that one).
- Turn on your TV, select the correct source for your freesat box, and ‘voila’, the auto tuning should take over from there. Within 10 minutes you will be watching Eastenders.
Why did it take me so long then?
For ages I couldn’t get a signal for the main channels (but could get plenty of German channels), and got various screen messages about bad connectors and low signal strength. What these all really meant was ‘see that tree branch right over there – it’s in front of your dish, you idiot’. As I said, you need a clear view of the sky.
Hence why I carried out a final test with a very long lead running halfway across the garden to a treeless vantage point, before looking on ebay to see if NASA were selling any enormous second-hand satellite dishes.
Don’t get your hopes up about the results. Even when it is all working, and we now have an extra 120 channels to choose from, there was still nothing much worth watching. Britain’s Got Talent and re-runs of Minder weren’t quite the action packed evening we had spent so many months anticipating. Now, where can I buy the Radio Times?