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Television in France
Make the most of your French satellite television system from Canal Satellite or TPS with a guide to VO TV...
The terrestrial transmission standard in France is SECAM. There are three main television/video standards in use throughout the world.
- NTSC: used in the USA, Canada, Japan and some other countries
- PAL: used in most of Western Europe, Australasia and South Africa
- SECAM: used in France and Eastern Europe
The three systems are not compatible with each other. It is not possible to watch television on a NTSC or SECAM appliance, or to use DVD or video players which are configured for these systems. Multi-standard TV, DVD or video equipment will be able to play a PAL (or NTSC) camcorder, DVD player or games console.
For maximum flexibility, use multi-standard TV and Video equipment, that can handle SECAM (for local TV and tapes) along with the signal that will be produced by:
- Any imported tapes
- Your PAL (or NTSC) camcorder
- Your PAL (or NTSC) DVD player
- Your PAL (or NTSC) games console
And so on. A multi-standard Video recorder will also allow you to record tapes that you can send overseas in a format that will be readable by VHS machines in other countries.
Thanks to the proliferation of camcorders, DVD and games consoles (few of which are ever made available to the French market in a SECAM version), nearly all modern French TV and Video equipment is dual standard, supporting the (broadly similar) PAL and SECAM standards. However, beware of older equipment - pre-1993, say - that will almost certainly be SECAM-only.
- Many modern VHS machines bought in France also support NTSC playback, but only a few high-end models can record NTSC-compatible information
- Many high-end, US-sourced VHS machines and televisions can work with both NTSC and PAL signals, but very few bother to add SECAM-compatibility
The French television licence (redevance audiovisuelle) is billed with the annual Taxe d'Habitation (occupier’s tax). If a household does not have a TV then the appropriate box on the form should be checked to say so.
Some English-language programmes are available on French terrestrial TV, but for a wide range of programming in VO (version originale) you need satellite or cable TV.
Satellite and Internet TV
Fransat is a French digital satellite option with many channels in English. It requires a decoder box and card, and a satellite dish pointed in the correct position.
CanalSat (formed from the merger of CanalSatellite and TPS) supplies subscription-only satellite TV. The satellite box and contracts are sold at any CanalSat supplier (such as the hypermarkets and home stores Carrefour and Castorama).
Free to air programming from other countries (such as the UK) may be received with an appropriately-sized and -oriented satellite dish and digital satellite receiver.
Many providers also make these television services available via the Internet - a decoder will be required - this is available (usually just for a deposit) from the provider. More information is available at telephone shops, Orange outlets and businesses selling technology and media appliances (such as Darty and FNAC).
Alternatively, it is possible to access UK-based free-to-air (FTA) programming on the same satellite that broadcasts Sky Digital. Please note, however, that there is no legal way to access encrypted programming on that satellite while in France (such as Sky Digital's premium channels accessible only through a Sky subscription package, or those channels that may only be watched in the UK using a satellite receiver with a free-to-view card installed).
- For a good list of what's on TV across Europe: Click here
Most French television guides state if a programme is in its original language version (VO) or available in languages other than French (VM - version multi-langue).
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