29 January 2012

TV in Spain

Being able to watch their favourite British television programmes is a high priority for many expats living in Spain.  To watch them on a TV set this means having giant satellite dishes on the roof, various other bits of kit, and a certain amount of fiddling with Sky subscription cards if you want the whole range of channels.   Even then, reception often cracks up in poor weather conditions or during the hours of darkness.

Watching programmes on a computer isn't that straightforward either.  The BBC iPlayer and ITV equivalents won't work outside the UK, for copyright reasons, so you have to install special software to shield your IP address and use a proxy server.

There are some companies that offer access to a range of channels via a paid subscription, but they tend to come and go (along with your subscription fee) as they are not strictly legal.    You can download torrents, but getting the programmes you want is a bit hit-and-miss and that's not strictly legal either.

So, not wanting to clutter up our roof terrace with a 2-metre dish, we opted for Spanish TV.  We reasoned that it would help our Spanish (which it has) and stop us sitting glued to the box every night (which it hasn't).

Spain completed the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting in 2010.  There are over twenty free-to-air channels available through TDT (Digital Terrestrial Television), including five state-owned ones: TVE1 (general public service broadcasting), TVE2 (cultural stuff), 24H (24-hour news), Clan (for children) and Teledeporte (sports).  Each autonomous community has its own channel; in Andalucia this is Canal Sur.    TVE1 and 2 have no adverts, and the other channels tend to have fewer but longer commercial breaks than in the UK.

Complete list of TDT channels

Traditionally, foreign series and films broadcast in Spain have always been dubbed into Spanish.  This dates back to Franco and the perceived need to censor out dangerous foreign influences.   With TDT it is usually possible to remove the doblado and watch programmes in the original language by adjusting the Audio settings.  This enables us to watch programmes like House MD, Law & Order, Bones, even Desperate Housewives in English, as well as a wide variety of movies.  However the days of the doblado may be numbered, as it is believed that one of the reasons the Spanish are so bad at foreign languages is because they never hear them, and some channels are planning to broadcast subtitled films in 2012.

Since the introduction of TDT, and doubtless because of the economic crisis, the Spanish are spending more hours in front of the box - around four hours a day, on a par with the UK.

The pay-to-view satellite service, Canal + (formerly Digital +), offers packages of additional channels on subscription.  All the packages include BBC World, CNN International and Al Jazeera.

Spanish television has a dreadful reputation in the expat community.  A quick google reveals statements like this:
"The TV channels available in Spain are pretty dismal (even if you speak the lingo!). To make life tolerable the only sensible thing to do (if only to keep up with home and world news), is to install a SKY or FREESAT digital satellite system."
This is nonsense.  There is a fair amount of dismal telly, but it is certainly no worse than in Britain, and there are some real gems.  Some of my favourites are listed below, with links to their online archives.  

Un País Para Comérselo - a pair of serious foodies tour the country seeking out Spain's gastronomic secrets. 
Destino: España - a look at different places in Spain as seen by foreigners who have made their homes there.
Get to the top with Desafio Extremo
Página 2 - all about books, with a different author interviewed each week.
Redes - science and technology as seen by the irrepressible Eduard Punset.
Desafío Extremo - ever fancied abseiling down Angel Falls or climbing Everest?  The intrepid Jesús Calleja will take you!
Callejeros - topical documentaries.
El Líder de la Manada - dog-whisperer César Millán shows the Spanish how to look after their dogs.
¡Cómetelo! chef Enrique Sánchez cooks Andalucian food (worth watching as much for the screw-ups, which aren't edited out, as the actual recipes!)
Saca la Lengua - fascinating programme about the Spanish language, how new words are introduced etc.  
Buscamundos - goes to the places the average travel programme doesn't reach.

If you are learning Spanish, turning on the subtitles for the deaf can help you keep up, though they can be somewhat offputting.

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