British TV & Radio in the UK & Overseas
Welcome to the Astra 2 website, for information news and advice on everything connected to British television and radio. With the BBC at its core, the UK produces some of the world’s best television, exporting programmes and films worldwide.
Most British TV and radio channels broadcast on satellite, many including the five main terrestrial channels are free-to-air (FTA).
It is now possible to watch your local or regional channels where ever you live in the British Isles and now with live streaming potentially worldwide (most UK channels require a UK ip address).
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The three main platforms for free TV in the UK are:
1. Sky (BSkyB), the largest subscription satellite service in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, offering the largest HD line-up, the best sports coverage and the latest films. There are also many FTA channels available on Sky.
2. Freeview is the UK’s free-to-air digital terrestrial platform, with up to 50 TV channels without a subscription. Freeview broadcasts channels in HD using DVB-T2 and MPEG4 (Freeview HD).
3. Freesat is a digital satellite TV service from the BBC and ITV which launched in May 2008, to watch you will need a Freesat or Freesat+ receiver, a satellite dish and ideally an HD-ready TV.
There are no more on-going monthly subscription costs.
Astra 2E & Astra 2F at 28.2° East
Astra 2E and Astra 2F are fully operational and carrying channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, channel 5 and Sky on the satellites UK spotbeams.
TV viewers outside the UK and Ireland may not be able to receive channels from the two satellites, which have smaller footprints than the previous satellites. Overseas viewers may have to upgrade their dish to receive Astra 2E, Astra 2F.
Reception reports suggest that the UK spotbeams are much tighter with a very sharp fall off to the west and east of the footprints.
Eastern Spain and areas of Scandinavia seems to be getting a higher signal strength, possibly due to the off-axis beam as 28.2°E on the geostationary arc is not directly in line with the UK but offset to the east.
The new footprints on SES’ replacement fleet have been designed to meet the requirements of UK and Irish broadcasters who target their channels for distribution in the UK and/or Ireland.
The Astra 2 Forum
The Astra 2 Website also has its own Forum; here you can discuss everything related to British TV and radio.
There are also country specific boards, making it easier to find information, or obtain advice and real local knowledge and advice from other forum members.
The Forum has specific areas covering digital platforms, equipment, and reception overseas.
Sky, covering standard Sky receivers along with Sky+ and Sky+HD
Freesat, the free-to-air public service platform from the BBC and ITV, get help and advice on receivers and reception.
Freeview the free-to-air digital terrestrial platform.
TV & radio on the Internet, both in the UK and overseas.
Registration is free and is required to post on the forum.
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British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) is a satellite broadcasting, broadband and telephone services company headquartered in London, with operations in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Formed in November 1990 by the equal merger of Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting, BSkyB is the largest pay-TV broadcaster in the UK and Ireland with over 10 million subscribers.
British Sky Broadcasting was formed by the merger of Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting on 2 November 1990. Both companies had begun to struggle financially and were both suffering financial losses as both competed against each other for viewers. The Guardian later characterized the merger as ‘effectively a takeover by News Corporation’.
In 1997, BSkyB formed a partnership with Carlton and Granada to bid for the right for the new digital terrestrial network. In June, it was awarded the right to start the service, ONdigital under the condition BSkyB withdrew from the group’s bid. A few days afterwards BSkyB left the consortium, and work fully concentrated on its digital satellite network.
The launch of the Astra 2A satellite at a new orbital position, 28.2° east, in 1998 (subsequently followed by more Astra satellites as well as Eutelsat’s Eurobird 1 (now Eutelsat 28A) at 28.5°E), enabled the company to launch a new all-digital service, Sky, with the potential to carry hundreds of television and radio channels.
Sky+ HD is the brand name of the HDTV service launched by BSkyB on 22 May 2006 in the United Kingdom and Ireland to enable high definition channels on Sky to be viewed.
As of 21 August 2014 the number of Sky+HD boxes currently in use stands at over 10 million.
Freesat is a free-to-air digital satellite television joint venture between the BBC and ITV plc., serving the United Kingdom, though the service can be received overseas.
The service was marketed from 6 May 2008 and offers a satellite alternative to the Freeview service on digital terrestrial television, with a selection of channels available without subscription for users purchasing a receiver.
The service also makes use of the additional capacity available on digital satellite broadcasting to offer a selection of high-definition programming from the BBC and ITV. Channel 4HD will join the Freesat platform on April 1 2011.
A VOD (Video on Demand) version of BBC iPlayer is available on Freesat channel 901, you can catch up on the last seven days of BBC programmes.
ITV Player is also available on Freesat HD receivers.
4oD and Demand 5 are also available, though only on Freesat <freetime> receivers.
Freesat broadcasts from the same fleet of satellites (Astra 28.2°E and Eutelsat 28A) as Sky. Channels are broadcast using DVB-S and DVB-S2.
The Freesat electronic programme guide is broadcast from the Eutelsat 28A satellite situated at 28.5° east. Freesat’s role is not broadcasting or availability of channels, although the BBC and ITV are substantial broadcasters in their own right, instead providing a platform for receiving the channels and the EPG.
Freeview is the free-to-air digital television service broadcast from terrestrial transmitters using the DVB-T and DVB-T2 standards. Launched on October 30, 2002 at 6am, it took over the DTT licence to broadcast on four multiplexes, three of them from the defunct ITV Digital (originally called ONdigital).
Unlike ITV Digital and the cable and satellite digital TV services, it offers no premium or pay-per-view channels, and no subscription channels.
A set-top box costing around £30 to £100 or a new television with an integrated digital tuner is needed to receive the Freeview service.
The Freeview consortium’s founding members were the BBC, National Grid Wireless and British Sky Broadcasting.
They were joined by ITV plc. and Channel 4 on 11 October 2005. The service broadcasts free-to-air television channels, radio stations and interactive services from the BBC, Sky, and various other broadcasters.
Freeview HD officially launched in 2010, the service currently offers four HD channels, BBC One HD, BBC Two HD, ITV HD and Channel 4HD, Freesat HD uses the MPEG4/DVB-T2 standard.
More DVB-T2 services will started in 2013, the BBC are broadcasting BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC News, CBBC and CBeebies in HD.
Recording programmes with Freeview+ is really easy – most devices have an EPG (electronic programme guide) which allows you to select the programme you want to record from a TV guide on your screen.
YouView is an Internet TV service in the UK. Formally launched on 4 July 2012, it is a partnership between three telecommunications operators and four broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5).
YouView provides access to free-to-air Digital Terrestrial Television channels (both DTT and DVB-T2 channels in common with the Freeview television platform) and to TV on demand (catch-up TV) services via a ‘hybrid’ set-top box purchased by users, connected with both a broadband Internet connection and a normal television aerial. No contract is required, and there is no subscription charge. Catch-up and on-demand content is delivered over the Internet.
BT and TalkTalk have each partnered with YouView, allowing BT TV and TalkTalk Plus TV customers to access the YouView service, along with BT’s and TalkTalk’s own offerings. Both BT and TalkTalk each have a special YouView-branded set-top box.
Virgin TV is a cable television service in the UK, owned by Virgin Media. Its origins date from NTL and Telewest, two of the largest cable operators in the country which merged on 6 March 2006. All services (including TV) were rebranded under the Virgin name in February 2007. Virgin TV is the largest cable television provider in the country.
Virgin TV carries around 300 digital television and radio channels, including a mixture of subscription, premium subscription and pay-per-view channels.
With up to 260+ channels, including 59 in HD, there’s plenty to see on Virgin TV. From much loved Sky channels to 3D movies and live pay per view events and their exclusive TiVo® system,
There is no need for a satellite dish or aerial as the service is delivered through fibre optic cables.
BT TV is a subscription IPTV service offered by BT Group in the United Kingdom, originally launched as BT Vision in December 2006. As of April 2014, BT TV (Vision and BT YouView) has just over 1 Million subscribers.
BT TV provides on-demand content, 20 extra entertainment channels (14 of which are available in HD), 9 extra children’s channels 11 Movie channels (Sky Movies) and 3 live sports channels. Sports are available in SD and HD through IPTV signals. BT Sport 1 and 2 and also ESPN are now available in non-fibre areas over IPTV using copper multicast where available.
As BT TV transmits channels and content through IPTV, BT requires customers to sign up to the BT Broadband internet and phone service to use BT TV, with connection via BT’s official router, BT Home Hub.
TV & Radio Online
Most of the UK’s television and radio channels are available online, there are many ways to watch and listen, through your computer, directly on your TV or in the case of online radio stations, through an Internet radio.The BBC and ITV broadcasts all of their television channels on live Internet streams, these broadcasts are only a few seconds behind the terrestrial and satellite broadcasts.
The quality is not perfect, though it is quite watchable either on your computer screen, or through you television via a HDMI, SCART or other A/V cables.
Most computers have some option to connect to external devices, see you computers and TV’s user manuals for more information.
All of ITV’s channels are available as live streams; all the channels are restricted to UK IP addresses only. Picture quality is quite good even on a large screen.
Channel 4 offers live streams for all of their channels, Channel 4, E4, More4, 4Seven, Film4 and 4Music, all are restricted to UK IP addresses only. Picture quality is quite good even on a large screen.
All of the BBC’s national, local and regional stations along with the BBC World Service, are available to listen to live on the internet (rights permitting), with appropriate media player software. Listen live on BBC iPlayer.
It is also possible to listen to BBC Radio services via the internet without having to log on to a computer. The easiest way to do this is via a WiFi or Internet Radio.
Most of the UK’s national, regional and local commercial stations offer live streams on their websites. Since 2006, many of the UK’s commercial radio stations have been restricting live stream access to users from the United Kingdom only.
Video on Demand (VOD) or audio video on demand (AVOD) systems allow users to select and watch/listen to video or audio content on demand.
VOD systems either stream content through a set-top box, allowing viewing in real time, or download it to a device such as a computer, digital video recorder, personal video recorder or portable media player for viewing at any time.
Get a UK VPN from StreamVia
Radio in the U.K.
The BBC today runs ten national domestic radio stations, five of which are only available in a digital format: via DAB, the Internet on Freeview and on digital satellite, on both Sky and Freesat.
There are over 270 independent local radio (ILR) analogue services and 46 local digital multiplexes carrying over 200 radio services.
The UK currently has the world’s biggest digital radio network, with 103 transmitters, with two national DAB ensembles and forty eight local and regional DAB ensembles broadcasting over 250 commercial and 34 BBC radio stations across the UK. In London, there are already more than 51 different digital stations available.
In addition to DAB, radio stations are also broadcast on digital television platforms, Digital Radio Mondiale on FM, AM, LW and SW.
Almost all radio services are free-to-air, and most online stations are not restricted to UK IP addresses, so you can listen wherever you are.
Listen online with Radioplayer, the online audio player which gives you access to live, on demand and podcast radio from hundreds of stations in the UK.
Radioplayer is a not for profit company founded by the BBC, Global Radio, Guardian Media Group, Absolute Radio and RadioCentre to serve radio and its audiences by making listening easy.