Many expat viewers in Spain and Portugal woke up today to find that their Freesat television systems were not picking up any channels from the BBC.
This is a result of the BBC migrating to a new satellite in the early hours of this morning, following the retirement of one of its satellites (Astra 2D) in February 2012. For the last year or so services have been broadcast form satellite Astra 1N, but they last night moved to their new home on Astra 2E (28.2°East).
Satellite Astra 2E coverage, courtesy of astra.org
The intention is to provide the UK with stronger, more tightly focused coverage, and as you can see, the Algarve, Almeria, and the Costa del Sol are now in the borderline reception zone, and early reports indicate that many people are not receiving BBC coverage in these areas.
If you are affected by the ‘BBC switch-off’ then you can either contact your satellite dealer to find out whether investing in a bigger satellite dish is a viable option, or watch BBC iPlayer online using a VPN service.
BBC iPlayer is an online streaming service that allows you to watch both live TV programming and, with its catch-up service, almost any programme screened within the last 7 days. Paid for by the television licence required by every TV watching UK resident, iPlayer is theoretically only available to UK residents.
However, when using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) you create an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a VPN server. If the VPN server is located in the UK, then it looks like you are accessing the internet from the UK, so you can watch shows on iPlayer!
VPN is also useful for many other things as well, such as protecting your privacy when surfing the internet, evading censorship (not admittedly a huge problem in Spain or Portugal!), and protecting your internet when using public WiFi hotspots (as all data is encrypted).
ITV and Channel 4 unaffected as yet, but they are expected to migrate from Astra 1N to Astra 2E in the near future. As with the BBC and iPlayer, the online streaming services ITV Player (ITV) and 4oD (Channel 4) are restricted to British IP addresses, but can be accessed through the magic of VPN.
As a side-bonus, you will also be able access the UK versions of movie-on-demand service LoveFilm, and music-on demand service Spotify.
For more details check out our article here, which includes our pick of the best VPNs for watching British TV when abroad.