How to watch UK TV in Italy
YES! it is possible to watch UK TV here in Italy, despite the BBC taking away our service, in fact it is possible to watch every channel currently “On the Air”, however there are legal issues that you can choose to take on board or ignore and quality and ease of use is very variable!
First of all I must declare my interest, so that you, the reader can make your own decisions accordingly.
I run Europasat Srl (see www.europasat.com) an Internet ISP and UKTV4italia, a TV service dedicated to bringing high quality UKTV to expats (see www.uktv4italia.com), however I will try to be unbiased in this guide, but inevitably some people will have their own strong preferences and as always, what ever works best for you is the right way!
Basically, I live on a mountain in Tuscany, have a very fast Internet service (to run my business) and have every UK TV and Radio channel available to my family at a touch of a button – so this proves that it can be done!
UK TV has never been provided specifically to the Italian market, we used to receive the main UK channels by accident (rather than by design) as the Astra 2D satellite, which broadcasted Free to Air (FTA) channels including BBC and ITV, happened to have a broadcast footprint that was available in Northern Italy with a suitable dish. However, the UK channels changed to the Astra E that has a very focused beam on the UK. In the very North of Italy with a very large Dish and high quality LNB, it is still possible to pick up the service in some situations.
The BBC has the position that it is in business to provide broadcasting to the UK resident license payer and that it has a BBC world service for Non UK residents. It is also true, that many UK broadcasters carry the screening rights for the UK, but not for Europe – so they could have been in breach of copyright law.
This is the simple explanation of why we all lost our service.
How can we watch UK TV today?
These are the possible methods
1. FTA channels via satellite – If you live in the very North of Italy, this may be possible, but you will need a very large dish and a very good installer! As you move down towards Tuscany, the dish size becomes a major problem and the signal is very weak, so you may get a service in the morning, but it may well stop working at different times of the day. You can of course still get some basic programs from the Astra 2E satellite, but none of the main channels – however these should still work at a reasonable quality, if they worked in your area previous to March 2014.
2. Sky via Satellite. You can of course subscribe to Italian Sky channels, but it is possible to buy a Skybox from various companies in Europe with a Subscription activated in the UK. Sky will not support you in the case of a problem and if you tell them your location, they will probably swiftly terminate your service. The UK Sky TV service is not officially allowed here in Italy, mainly because of copyright issues.
Are you breaking the law by using this “backdoor” service? Probably not, but Sky probably is in breach of copyright, if knowingly they let you have the service.
3. Over the Internet. The internet could be seen to be the future of TV broadcasting but could be currently considered the broadcasting equivalent to the “Wild West”!
The problem again is one of copyright, the web has opened up a vast potential, but imagine for a moment that the BBC has commissioned a film, the film has cost £30 m to make and it expects to recoup some of that money by selling it to America or other world TV broadcasters, however, immediately, the film is copied and distributed around the world free on the Internet – devaluing the potential revenues, maybe to the point that the film does not ever get made.
At the moment, this happens, all the time, new providers “pop up” taking a broadcasters feed and even repackage it with their own advertising. During a Sky sports broadcast of a big sporting event, there may be 20 websites streaming it (many from Eastern Europe), by the end of the event, many will have been shut down by Sky! This is on the very fringes of the law, but eventually it will mature, agreements will be reached and rulings made to consolidate the industry.
What is the situation at the moment?
In theory if you can watch a program legally in the UK, you should be able to watch it in Italy, provided you have paid your UK TV license, so as a viewer – you are OK (in my humble opinion and excluding Sky). Some broadcasters seem to tolerate their content being rebroadcasted and some do not, but the legal action is usually against the company or person that is actually doing the rebroadcasting rather than the viewer (but action against the viewer has been taken on some occasions).
Some companies ride the very fringe of the law, one example is Filmon, this American company has been repackaging world TV content (including the BBC and ITV etc) and packaging their own advertising around it and there are numerous law suits going on to take it “Off the air”. The owner is a billionaire, so he has very deep pockets to keep fighting the legal actions, but long term the company will either become a mainstream broadcaster (and pay for the programs) or be taken off the air – time will tell!
There are other providers – such as UKTV4Italia that provides a service offered by wholesale TV aggregators and others that offer peer to peer TV services and viewing the content is legal (according to European law) – again provided you have paid your TV license in the UK.
For all these services you do need a reasonable quality of data and Internet speed between 0.5 Mbps to 1.5Mbps or 4 Mbps for HD.
So which system is best for you?
If we take the three options,
Option 1.Is good if you live at the top of Italy and are prepared to have a big dish and limited channels – to get this, try and find anyone locally that still manages to receive the signal and follow their example. You can legally watch the service – if you have paid a UK TV license.
Option 2 will work, if you are prepared to pay for Sky, but always be aware that you could lose the service if Sky became aware of your location.
Option 3. Is a good solution if you have reasonable Internet – services are Free or can be paid for and basically you pay for what you get!!
It is possible to receive every UK channel and even Sky over this medium. But you do need to examine the legality of any service and any impact that may have on you personally. This option also gives advantages such as TV on demand and Catchup TV. Again if you have paid a UK TV license – then you should be fine legally.
Internet based Options compared
How do you want to view TV, do you want to view on a computer or on a TV?
Most people want to watch TV on a big screen, to do this you will need to either have a Smart TV or by a TV box such as a UKTV4italia, Apple TV,Google Chromecast or similar digi box, or you will need to attach a computer, smart phone or iPad to your TV using a lead or software such as Airplay or Parrot and mirror what is on your computer to the TV.
A simple – plug and go solution
1. The UKTV4italia box will give you a normal UK TV experience, you keep it plugged in all of the time, and as soon as you turn on the TV you will see all of your favourite channels. You can go back and watch any channel and any program screened over the previous 14 days, so you can go out and watch all your favourite programs at your leisure. You can also record the programs at home and watch at a later date – over 150 channels depending on the service purchased.
It also has most of the UK radio stations and there is no need for any computer etc, the experience is just the same as watching TV in the UK.
The quality is SD or HD so acceptable on any TV screen
You can also surf the web, view Youtube etc and there is an Electronic program guide with the ability to schedule recording in the future or to record any program up to 14 days in the past.
The service is not free, the hardware is £99.99 and the TV service starts at £11.99 a month, which includes full technical support, but it is available on monthly pay as you go, so the you pay for only the months that you use the service.