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Changes to BBC satellite transponders in 2013

Alix Pryde

Director, BBC Distribution

I’m conscious that there is currently some speculation about the timing of forthcoming moves of BBC services between satellites and the reason for these changes. So I thought you would appreciate it if I set the record straight. The quick answer is that, as a result of SES’s fleet replacement programme, BBC services will move in the second half of 2013.

Regular readers will recall that in February 2012, SES retired Astra 2D and BBC services moved to a new temporary home on Astra 1N. Astra 1N is due to take up its permanent position in 2013 (19°East), so the BBC’s services will move to their new permanent home on Astra 2E (28.2°East) when that becomes operational. SES expects Astra 2E to launch in Q2 2013, so we currently expect to transition BBC services to it during summer 2013.

Some of you have also noticed that we commissioned a new transponder (which we call DSat8) in the autumn. It moved from its temporary home on Astra 1N to its permanent position on Astra 2F at the end of November 2012. DSat8 is still in a testing phase but in the coming months it will be used to broadcast BBC One Scotland HD and BBC One Wales HD as we complete the programme of providing all Nations programming in glorious HD. We’ll be publishing the details of DSat8 on our satellite reception advice page when the services launch.

I hope that clarifies the timings of moves and also that the moves relate to the SES fleet replacement programme, rather than any BBC strategy to change its footprint. That said, the new transponders do have a slightly different footprint, so I’ll explain a bit about that, and why the changes are no cause for concern for the BBC in our requirement to ensure that the BBC’s domestic services are readily accessible to people living in the UK.

What impact will all this have for the viewer?

In all likelihood the move of BBC services from 1N to their new permanent homes will have no impact on UK households.  Astra 2E and 2F have the same, tighter but slightly more powerful UK spot beams which means that UK households should get a slightly stronger signal.  So if you happened to be on the edge of coverage, you will hopefully get more reliable reception.

The overspill of the BBC’s services will be reduced so viewers outside the UK will find it even harder to receive them. I know that this causes unhappiness to some of you living outside the UK. However, it is entirely appropriate because the BBC domestic services are for people living in the UK only.

For viewers outside the UK, BBC Worldwide offers a number of channels which are available in various territories.  These include BBC Entertainment, BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies along with BBC World News throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

I hope the detail above helps you to understand a bit more about the changes coming in the second half of 2013 and the reason for them. Finally, thank you to SES for the lovely pictures of Astra 2F.


Alix Pryde is Director, BBC Distribution

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