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TV Listings

Strange Traditions: Dinner for One

Posted by mjr 2007-12-31 (permalink)

The last day of each year sees one of the strangest traditions I've ever noticed. A 40-year-old English-language film of an 80-year-old music hall comedy is played repeatedly on various stations in Germany - and in Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and Australia too. There's not only the film, but edited versions, localised versions, spoofs and other shows based around it too.

The film still isn't shown on any English stations, as far as I can tell. I'd never heard of it before getting satellite TV.

So, to see what the fuss is about, grab your Dinner for One times (may contain annoying ads if you switch Javascript on) and sit down with the satellite TV (best), or enjoy this description and script from analoguesat, a German-language description or this BBC report which includes this snippet:-

"To the end of his life, Freddie Frinton heartily disliked Germany and the Germans, thanks to his own wartime experience.

He refused to allow a German-language version to be made. That is what has led to the extraordinary fact that today the Germans as a nation have embraced a trifling one-act play in English as their all-time favourite entertainment."

Anyway, the last joke is on we English. It's much better than the aging boy bands on our TV at New Year, isn't it?

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Tore Sinding Bekkedal commented:

"Norwegians have this too. :) Same procedure as every year!"

So I see. 23 December, rather than 31st, though?

Actually, yes, that's amusing. When originally performed, that was a minor joke, which almost needed the introduction from the MC. Now, with the repetition every year, it's true about the play, too.

Updated schedule link for 2008

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Where has good German TV listings?

2007-08-14 (Permalink): Now that I've installed my multi-satellite dish again, I've discovered that Yahoo have totally changed their listings pages and (for some reason) viewing it in Firefox thrashes my CPU.

Does anyone know a good television guide for German TV? As usual, I prefer non-javascript and so on, so I can add it to my daily frames page.

madduck commented:

"Try "

and Christian commented:


I use the ones at for my MythTV setup. There's also a grabber on in case you'd want to xmltvize the site

Good luck!"

It seems to work pretty well. Not quite as compact as the old Yahoo guide was, but has a quicklink for 20:15 as well as the front page tips. I've added it to my pages - thanks for both tips!

Pharao suggested:


and m. also commented:


it's a fast, no bullshit just tv listings site."

That's already on my tv page and pretty good for searches, but Javascript-heavy, so not that fast.

Kai Schröder wrote:

"I really like the java program for german tv which can also be used to record shows."

Interesting idea, although I prefer browser-based.

Anonymous posters suggested and http://www.ard- - ARD's idea of "all stations" is a bit odd, but the Kabel1 guide is pretty clear. My new favourite, I think.

vmx commented:

"Try "

Ooh, close. It has a nice front page, but another strange selection of channels and no easy way to bookmark a page showing all free-to-air channels (because it uses a POST form to select channels).

Martin (Joey) Schulze commented:

"German TV program: Don't ask me about their quality, I only know they exist."

Well, tvtoday has a few good screens, but again very Javascript-heavy. tv- spielfilm looks good for films, but includes pay-tv in its 'free TV' filter (probably SF2 and so on are free on terrestial). tvmovie's stylesheet looks screwed (bad contrast, badly overlapping page elements). Some interesting ideas, but K1 wins so far.

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UK Listings

The current state of TV listings data in the UK is terrible. I keep some links on my TV page but they're a bit patchy.

One problem is that timings and programme data is treated as copyright- protected information rather than current events. Anyone publishing listings has to pay a firm that distributes royalties. This is a bit of a pain for free-software-based TVs like MythTV because it limits the number of data sources and can leave users a choice between paying for clean data and trying to make their TV screen-scrape.

One LUG member has started a petition to ask the government to stop this established revenue-collector.

Rolandas commented:

"Do you know, that you can get free listings from broadcasting data services by going to and registering as person? You need to pay money if you making money out of it."

No, I didn't know that. Thanks for the tip.

It's hard to register with BDS because it isn't accessible - anyone know whether the listings are in a useful format?

Still doesn't really change that the TV listings tax is unjust: why shouldn't we be able to publish remixes of this data that we already pay for?

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The Alt.Satellite.TV.Europe FAQ: Possible Updates

These are questions I'm considering adding to The Alt.Satellite.TV.Europe FAQ

Will I get the BBC on the Costa Blanca with a small dish?

Posted by mjr 2007-11-20


"I live on the costa blanca spain. I have been told that bbc and itv are to start broadcasting a free to air service which we will be adle to pick up on a small dish. It's scheduled to start in Feb/March 2008. Could you tell me if this is true?"

No, I can't tell whether that's true.

The BBC/ITV Freesat service is expected to start in 2008 and I think March is meant to be when Channel 4's Sky encryption contract finishes, so I guess that's where that date comes from. That seems highly probable to me. Then again, Freesat has been advertised as launching in 2006 before.

However, I doubt that BBC and ITV will move off of the Astra 2D spot beam that they moved to when they went free-to-air and back to the wider beams needed for small dish reception on the Costa Blanca. So, it will still not work for you. Sorry. (I'm not too cross about that, because the main terrestial Spanish channels seem to be encrypted on satellite.)

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Posted by mjr 2007-11-04

These questions came in as comments this week, but I think they're worth a whole post.

Peter Swan asked:

"This may seem like a dumb question, but I have not seen anywhere the answer to it.

Can a satellite dish be mounted in a loft space or must it be mounted outside?"

There are few dumb questions. DIY dish info is still rather hard to find.

You can install a dish behind a window and I've read about special tiles which allow satellite frequencies through on analoguesat's pages about hiding dishes but I don't know anyone using them.

A more usual solution is either a hidden location such as a flat roof with baffle boards (dishes only need to see the Clarke belt, which is an elevation of about 20 degrees in England) or to use a non-dish antenna like the digiglobe or the LX2000 pipe.

I think it's a really good idea to put the dish somewhere that you can fix it easily. Even the best dish seems to age eventually. I suspect some "professional" installers put the dishes at tops of walls to encourage repair call-outs.

Marcus asked:

"Is it possible to receive British satellite television in other countries?

I am living in Finland and I was considering purchasing a sky system from the UK and installing it over here. Would it work?

Also would I be able to connect a sky set-top box to a different dish?"

Yes, you can get British TV in other countries. Getting external TV like BBC World is easy, but BBC UK services are on Astra 2D, which is focused on the UK. Coverage maps are available on many sites and it looks like Finland isn't well-covered. You'd need a colossal dish.

You can connect Sky boxes to other dishes. Sky dishes and Sky LNBs need to go together, sometimes called Skyware, but dishes and boxes are interchangeable.

A Sky system will work in Finland, but will only receive services on the other beams like 2A and I doubt Sky will register you at a non-UK address (anyone know for sure?). Also, Sky boxes are horribly crippled for anything other than Sky services and hopefully BBC Freesat will make BBC UK services easier-to-use with standard boxes.

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Sky and Setanta Ad Complaints Highlight Differences

Posted by mjr 2007-10-24

Both Sky and Setanta have had complaints upheld against their adverts by ASA this week. Sky for misleading criticism of Virgin Media's new-customer offers (Sky runs new-customers offers too) and Setanta for misleading advertising of their Premiership football package (or formally, Sky's "ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 15.1 (Prices) and 18.1 (Comparisons)" and Setanta's "ad breached CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness)" ).

But it's more interesting to look at who made the complaints:-

"Sky TV believed the [Setanta] ad was misleading"


"one complainant who was already a Sky customer"


"an existing customer"

were among the five complaints about Sky's ad. Sky's biggest critics seem to be their own customers. That's gotta hurt.

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Iceland doesn't work here any more

2007-10-16 (Permalink): Stumbled across the Moonbeam Films's show "The Listening Post" on Al Jazeera English (bad javascript-heavy site) just now. They closed the show with the Loneliest Icelander (youtube) which was pretty damn funny, even if the accents were noticeably off. (Anyone seen a schedule for AJE anywhere else? They don't put show times on-screen and don't have a free EPG or teletext.)

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System Setup

Satellite TV for Yachts?

2007-10-01 (Permalink): SatelliteForCaravans is one of my regular references for setting up satellite systems, but that's for when the caravan is stationary, not moving. So, I'm rather stumped by this question - Patrick asked:

"Hey, glad I found your site. I was hoping you could provide us with some knowledge and point us in the right direction(s). Even though our products get installed on yachts, entertainment systems are new to us. We have clients that travel all over Europe and the other continents. I've poked around several of the websites you listed as resources, but not sure where to go next. What systems are out there that will allow traveling boats to pick up both free and paid sat TV all over Europe, both standard and HD, if not other large geographic regions of the world? Minimal equipment is a big deal. Thanks."

Any suggestions?

Pete Zaitcev commented:

"They sell phased array TV receivers in America for about $300, for use in RVs. I don't know how well they hold the lock while the RV is in motion, I don't own one. Also, America is a different, exploitive market where free over-the air satellite TV does not exist (bar NASA TV). The sets will probably not be useable in Europe. So just use this information to know that the technology exists."

Patrick wrote:

"The satellite dishes used on yachts are gyro stabilized and act perfectly stationary regardless of (most) boat motion. That Satellite for Caravans is an excellent resource - thanks. It talks about utilizing Sky boxes. Do you know of other options? What more do you know about the Astra satellite network?"

Where would you like to start? Most Astra broadcasts are not Sky-linked, so any DVB-S receiver will work, although for the UK channels, some features (like long-term EPG) are missing.

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Tour de France

Early Tour de France Audience Figures

2007-07-24 (Permalink): Bloomberg: Tour de France TV Audiences Rise in Europe Even After Scandals (tip tdfblog ) reports audiences are up 6% in France, 11% in Spain and 40% in Denmark (to over 800,000). Italy's RAI reports 1.2million viewers, while ARD/ZDF averaged 1.4million until they pulled the plug over half a dope test.

In the UK, the BARB Weekly Summaries show the tour's London-Canterbury Stage 1 charting with 178,000 viewers on itv4. That's up from 143,000 for 2006's stage 1 (up 24%). Last year's itv4 coverage seems to have peaked at 197,000, so it'll be interesting to see how later stages fare, as details are announced.

Stage 1 was also shown on the more widely available (analogue+digital) itv1 channel. The itv1 coverage didn't chart, so it must have had less than 3.41 million viewers, but I can't see exactly how many.

British Eurosport's reported audience for Stage 1 increased from 84,000 last year to 118,000 (up 40%). Their 2006 peak was 100,000 for the last Thursday highlights, so that's already broken. They've been advertising pretty widely, with really annoying Franglais adverts that mispronounce the race name ("Tardy France" eh?).

There was also an overspill into other channels, which we don't usually see. Two of my favourites: Graham Jones: What do the Tour de France and a Victoria sponge have in common with your social networking web site? Channel 4: Tour de France's UK appeal (video feed) mms://

Sat.1 starts Tour coverage. ZDF promises to drop football.

2007-07-20 (Permalink): For part of Stage 11, I watched the new Tour live coverage on Sat.1 who bought the German rights. When Sat.1 is busy, Pro7 will cover it. The two stations are owned by the same company, along with Kabel1, N24 and 9Live.

The coverage was OK - the same French pictures as everyone else, but fewer extra features than ARD/ZDF. Commentary was a bit pedestrian, but that's like ZDF. I like Eurosport's commentary much more. International Herald Tribune reports that Eurosport's ratings tripled for stage 10 which is unsurprising. Eurosport and Sat.1 both seem to be on the same ~30% of German DVB-T as well as DVB-S.

In comments on my last post about this, Thomas asked:

"You don't read German papers, do you?"

No. I've not even tried to buy one since moving to this village.

"I do, and I'm neither outraged nor surprised. It is a fairly logical step in light of the debate and the public reception of the tour, cycling pros, and Team T-Mobile in particular."

Is it public reception? Around 50% of those polled by ZDF disagreed with the decision (according to the IHT link above). Given all the ZDF spin on this, that's shockingly low. Is this driven by the silly debate of Bundestag members, rather than public opinion? (I've still not forgiven them for booting Eurosport off of ZDFvision. CDU seem to like messing ARD/ZDF about.)

Are German papers in a feeding frenzy? In some days, they'll move onto football or boxing or something else. Get this in context: it's not like the old scandals where we had pro teams or wives being caught with car boots full of drug kits.

"I'd also bet that T-Mobile will quit as a sponsor."

It didn't seem like that from TV interviews, but I guess they wouldn't say yet. I think if they were going to jump ship, they would have done it after last year's worse problems. AIUI, their contract expires 2010 anyway and I wonder whether all the good publicity from their tour outing in England will help them stay until then.

"Some things belong in pharmacology textbooks and not on TV screens."

Does this mean drugs or incomplete drug tests? ;-)

"If I paid German TV fees, I'd be outraged that this comes that late. But then, I know better and don't have a TV in the first place."

Oh, well! Then I guess nothing would convince you to watch the tour!

Philipp Kern commented:

"they did not threaten for a year actually. After the big doping scandal some months ago they explicitly announced that they will drop the Tour de France if a new doping case pops up. Granted, the person in question did dope before the Tour."

We don't know that yet - only one sample has been tested so far and even then, this test is controversial and has been successfully appealed against before. It's only a case.

Also, maybe it wasn't the TdF, but here's a comment about ARD in 2006 threatening to drop cycling (scroll to 25.10.).

"The argumentation is that the Tour should not be a contest of the best doping substances like it could have been the last years.

But I am probably biased because I don't watch the Tour, or sports in general."

No more biased than ARD/ZDF's producers, it seems. In an interview on itv4, a ZDF producer said they would drop any sporting event with a doping problem like cycling. So, if ZDF have dropped cycling for 1 in 189 participants being accused of doping, then if any footballer is accused of drugs offences, they cannot show any matches involving them. If you want to take football off ZDF, you know what to do...

Thijs Kinkhorst reports in "Too much testosterone" that NOS also continues coverage, like our itv. Good on them. Let's applaud any drug cheats getting caught and punished, after we're reasonably sure.

One little drugs story and ARD/ZDF drops coverage of the Tour

2007-07-18 (Permalink): As if being hospitalised after crashing into a spectator wasn't enough, Patrick Sinkewitz has been told he's tested non-negative for testosterone. I think that is the same test that Floyd Landis failed, which I'm still unsure about.

In an outrageous move, ARD/ZDF (visible at 19 and 13 east) have stopped live tour coverage "until clarification of the Patrik Sinkewitz case" whatever that means. Will they resume if it the second test is positive too? I doubt it.

If I remember correctly, ARD/ZDF have been threatening to drop the Tour de France for at least a year and maybe more. Finally, they get an excuse to replace proper tour coverage with more cheap, bland daytime TV like Z-list interviews, soaps and cookery shows - or continuous criticism of the Tour de France, like they had today.

In the Expatica report, ZDF chief producer Nikolaus Brender said:

"We can't screen an event involving some teams and riders under suspicion of doping."

(That's strange. Of course they can. They have before and I bet they'll still show motorsport, football, horse-racing, golf, wrestling, and so on if they get them. They just don't want to show cycling.)

"We want to show by this gesture that we're ready to support cycling only if it's clean, that's to say without banned doping sustances."

(That's actually quite a high standard: over 180 participants, none of them cheating. That's a lot harder than 20 drivers or 30 footballers all being clean - even then, they don't always manage it and I don't see ARD/ZDF dropping those sports every time one player is accused of doping. Never mind all the smaller cheating attempts which are easier in many other sports than cycling.)

"It's a warning to cycling and to every other sport,"

It's a warning that ARD/ZDF's TV producers are short-sighted and don't care about the viewers.

At least Eurosport Germany continues with live coverage every day! Let's keep watching and see how the chips fall for Sinkewitz. Are ARD/ZDF fee-payers raising hell about this absurd decision? I hope so.

Tour de France on ITV and others

2007-06-28: Despite their TV trailers and it being only 10 days away, there's still nothing on the itv sport site about the Tour de France coverage, but I can see the early stage details on tvtv now.

The bulk of the coverage is on itv4 with some highlights repeated around midnight on itv1 and itv4. Unusually, the first stage is also on itv1, so terrestial analogue viewers can see what the fuss is really about, instead of the ceremonial final stage.

Eurosport International is being good and covering everything live and in highlights, as ever. (Eurosport Analogue is free-to-air in English and German; Eurosport Digital is FTA in German.) The British Eurosport schedule seems something between the International and itv schedules described below.

Strangely, it seems that the weekend afternoon live coverage is also on itv4, which doesn't usually start transmission until 18:00. I guess itv play or citv may be closing down early to make space. In detail:

Presentation of the teams - Friday 6 July, live on itv4 from 18:30 (preceded by Liege-Bastogne-Liege highlights at 18:00), repeated on itv1 00:00, on itv4 00:30. Eurosport show it recorded 10:45-11:15 Saturday morning.

Prologue - Saturday 7 July, live on itv4 14:45-19:00, live on Eurosport 15:00-18:30, highlights on itv4 00:30

Stage 1 - Sunday 8 July, live on itv4 from 10:30-16:10, live on itv1 10:50-11:50 and 15:15-16:00, live on Eurosport 10:00-16:00, highlights on itv4 19:00, repeated on itv4 00:30

As far as I can see so far, weekday stages look likely to be live on Eurosport from 13:00-16:30 (covering the start live at whatever time and maybe with highlights between that and the main live coverage) with highlights on itv4 19:00, repeated on itv4 after 23:30, highlights on Eurosport after 21:00. I expect most weekends to be a similar coverage pattern to the Prologue and the final stage to be covered like Stage 1, similar to last year's final stage.

Also, France 2/3, ARD/ZDF (listings) and maybe RTBFSat will cover the race live too.

2007-07-03: I asked for any other free-to-air satellite coverage of the Tour de France and Bernie S commented:

"RAI 3 on Hotbird"

and there's an online schedule on the RAI 3 site.

Neville Emerson wrote:

"Can't wait. Cycling is the best and coverage is getting better and better every year."

Yes, at long last. There's now a full itv coverage listing on the CTC site but I still don't understand why itv are so late at launching their tdf site!

Speckled Hen asks:

"Anyone know if there's any live coverage online? Can't see anything on either Eurosport or ITV web sites. I know the Beeb usually do it with rugby internationals."

I heard of some recorded items from ASO (Amury Sport Organisation, the tour's managers) on YouTube, but nothing about live video feeds yet. I've had audio in the past from both Radio France and Eurosport but I've not even found those details for this year yet (I'm slow at reading French and the new Yahoo Eurosport site is terribly hard to navigate).

Keep watching Cycling Fans and TdFBlog (who kindly linked this item in their coverage summary ) for news of video coverage. Unless anyone would like to leave me details of live online coverage in a comment on my site, please?

2007-07-10: debbie commented:

"I really appreciate finding somewhere that's giving info' on where to find the coverage on t.v.

I've just looked through Sky t.v listings and coudn't find a damn thing at 9a.m. on Saturday.........unless I'm blind and stupid. So ITV4 sounds the best, then. I'm not subscribed to the larger SKY packages. It's such an excting time!!!! The Tour De France starting HERE in England!!!!"

I've also linked CTC's listing in the last few days, which is more complete.

I'm not subscribed to Sky either and I don't think British Eurosport's coverage was as good as International Eurosport in the past. I would be quite annoyed if I paid for Sky's sports package and still only got such limited coverage when better is available free-to-air. Get a dish, point it at 19 east and enjoy the German, or 5 west and enjoy French. Maybe today, the weather here will be good enough for me to fix my dish.

I'm still surprised by itv's bizarre decision not to promote their tour coverage properly and not to put the highlights on itv1. Wouldn't 2 million fans be worth sacrificing a little of their much- hated late-night phone-in game show that currently hogs itv1 after midnight?


Links for 2007-04-11

Ofcom publishes research on media literacy

Analysis of a research report: "Certainly a useful document to have on hand, if only to deconstruct."

Karen Bremner - The Apprentice Series 2

A new art form: go on a reality TV show, start blogging to raise profile, get hired by Old Media, then leave the site to bit-rot. How many of these "reality TV star headstones" sites are there now?

predicts problems and confusion for consumers

If anyone doubts how much big media gets bad PR from trying to use their big influence to direct the market (such as making their films only available in their format), check the first comment: "I'm waiting for the corporate idiots to decide"

xmltv, was: [Debian-uk] Getting wired in Manchester

Another thing on my "must try that when I get my DVR built" list. » The New Media Landscape and the BBC's Lost Horizon

Nice criticism of BBC's link-up with anti-competitors. I recently wrote about the BBC-Google link, which raises some similar problems.

BBC NEWS | Business | Fewer charges for website content

Figures from 2006 (I'll do media linkposts more often in future).

Time to read the papers?

I only get time to read one paper per week, unless I'm travelling.

Number 10: Tony Blair Interview with Stephen Fry

Fantasy TV shows number 10: A bit of Fry and Blairie.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Broadband switching set to ease

They say new rules came in on 14 February, but sites like are still full of tales of woe.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ban tv competitions/quizzes which charge extortionate caller rates (eg The Mint).

Sign this to clear UK digital TV of all these scam quizzes. I see that after just a taste of humble pie, itv play is back on air overnight on itv1.

2007-05-12: Eurovision

It's voting time in the lunacy that is the Eurovision Song Contest. Here is a summary, including some strange bits of Euronglish:

  1. Bosnia+Herzegovina - nice but no chance;
  2. Spain - 4 guys in tight white and pink lights - creepy;
  3. Belarus - Medallion man with a rock ballad to bukkake - "when you cast your loving potion over me";
  4. Ireland - Folksie, charming, dark yet jolly;
  5. Finland - more noisy dark rock with drums;
  6. Republic of Macedonia - up/down ballad with drums;
  7. Slovenia - Opera in black with drums;
  8. Hungary - Bluesy rock angst. No drums. Phew;
  9. Lithuania - Guitarry song with "lonely shades walking";
  10. Greece - an odd disco/dance at the "heart of attention";
  11. Georgia - a nice slice of trance;
  12. Sweden - revenge of 70s glam! Maybe "with my head in the can" was deliberate;
  13. France - Franglais pop. How did monoglots follow this?
  14. Latvia - a singalong. In Italian. But it looks like Italy aren't here this year. So how's that help? Update: apparently Italy votes even though they're not in the final;
  15. Russia - another fun girl band, singing different (ruder) lyrics to the official song sheet;
  16. Germany - sexism swings;
  17. Serbia - a red up/down song;
  18. Ukraine - dance nonsense - the first song I walked out on this year;
  19. UK - an example of Britishness and why I call myself English, not British (Update: 0 points so far - well done Europe! Update 2: hrm, the friendly islands of Ireland and Malta gave us some points. Silly.);
  20. Romania - a fun little polyglot guitar song;
  21. Bulgaria - drums, dance, squeaking;
  22. Turkey - "How much I crave for you" - a dancey whirly song;
  23. Armenia - the tearful stalker's song;
  24. Moldova - gothest song of the night - "each people will gnaw our wishes no more"???

I can't pick a winner from that. I only voted to try to stop Ukraine.

Update: Ukraine came second. Phew. I don't understand the Serbian song that won. Not even the official translation

Alexander wrote:

"You know, a lot of people here in Ukraine are offended by Danilko's image; He looks glare (in bad sense) and his lyrics are nonsense. But IMHO he is artisis Eurovision deserves. People need show, even stupid one.

So I'm quite surprized he isn't winner."

I'm surprised too. Thankful, but surprised.

2005-07-14: BBC Freesat consultation

zii kell wrote:

"Freesat consultation - organisations' responses Text only

BBC Trust final conclusions on Freesat Text only

Other interesting docs about this can be found in ascii and PDF formats."

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