Sunday, August 19, 2007

Digital Plus - Spain's Satellite TV

I have the Spanish satellite system, the alternative to Sky and all its wonders. It’s probably not as good.
However, it has an ample selection of news channels, with – of course – a full quiver of Spanish newses (trust me on this – they are a whole lot better than any news channel I’ve ever seen in English). The news channels I get include CNN+, which is a full half an hour without interruption collection of national and international news - with almost no sports, chatter, invitations to see the webpage and other trite filler now so popular with the ‘matey’ English news channels. The other main news channel is the national RTE international news, kind of like the BBC. Besides this and the usual terrestrial channels – for if you want Andalucía’s Canal Sur noticias for example – we also have CNN, the BBC, Sky News (Gulp!), the ferociously right wing Fox News, Euronews (in any of about six languages), Al Jazeera in English and, for reasons best known to ‘Digital Plus’, a 24 hour French News broadcast exclusively in English. Someone must watch it.
In the entertainment channels, perhaps the system is weaker than Sky, but there are eight or ten film channels, including (whew!) French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese films since, happily, Europe is a bit less stuck on Hollywood than Britain appears to be. Sometimes in European films, you can’t even guess the ending!
These film channels will show the picture in Spanish or in ‘original’, which is usually English. They arrive on Spanish screens about the same time as they do on British ones, so we are watching ‘Transporter II’ or that peculiar film about snakes loose in an airplane at the moment.
Or perhaps not.
There are some documentary channels, some light entertainment such as Fox showing old Simpsons and new Boston Legals, AXN showing CSI and the insufferable JAG, a SciFi channel, a whodunit channel – pretty much all in English, and then a desperately unfunny ‘Paramount Comedy’ channel showing endless Catalonian sitcoms. We have the usual music channels, plus some latino ones. Cartoon channels, regional channels… Then there is the inevitably staggering number of sports channels.
Spanish television is different from the British, particularly in its lax respect for ‘18’ films, which are shown at any and all times. Good horror at lunchtime and, for that matter, cutesy kiddywink stuff at midnight. No telling.
Hard pornography is shown on weekends after 1.00am – guaranteed cheap, nasty and always hair-raising stuff. Make your own joke here.
There are lots of pay-channels with modern films, sports events and, inevitably, lots more pornography.
Advertising is reduced on Spanish satellite TV, but there is a certain amount between films and as interruptions on the documentary and light entertainment channels, usually advertising (Spain being Spain) condoms, French ticklers, flavoured condoms, KY Jelly and women’s intimate toiletries with a far from intimate flair. Then, we are also shown children’s absorbent lavatory paper adverts. Plus, to be fair, commercials from the Corte Inglés department store and even, occasionally, adverts for cars and second homes on the Murcian coast.
On terrestrial Spanish TV, the amount of advertising renders the whole subject unarguable. Twelve minutes per hour, minimum. A website called Puerta del Sol has this to say: 'If the 266,628 commercials shown by Tele 5 last year were played back to back, they would constitute 58 days of television'.
Coming with the package is the usual box and dish and, of course, one of those useful but silly controls which is soon covered in sellotape. It’s used by us to change the channel, the language and, of course, to switch off the noise during the National Geographic self-promotion advertising.
In my opinion, the choice and quality has gone down, slightly. One film channel that showed black and white creakers, ‘Clásico’, has gone, but, on the other hand, there are two TCM channels. The best documentary channel, Documental, is no more, and its replacement, Odisea, is only broadcast in Spanish or Portuguese. Again, some comedy serials, such as Frasier and Weeds, are only in Spanish.
So, since we don’t want to feel like exiles, living in Spain but with our hearts in England, we use and watch the Spanish system. Is it better? Yo que sé.

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