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Setting Up Television in France

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find out how to watch English tv in France

You've just moved to France and are settling in. You've got your electricity and gas service set up, your mobile phone, and your Internet. What's next? Simple. Your television!

Introduction to Television in France

There are five public television stations that you can watch for free in France: TF1, France 2, France 3, France 5, and M6. However, many people purchase additional cable TV channels, often as part of their Internet plan.

Digital television is also well developed in France. Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) is known as TNT - Télévision Numérique Terrestre - in France. There are some free channels (France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5, France O, ARTE, and LCP), but you will need a decoder in order to access them. You can purchase a decoder in any electronics shop (e.g. Darty, FNAC, Boulanger).

Did You Know?France was one of the first countries in the world in which television was introduced, in 1931, and was one of the first countries in Europe to receive colour television, in 1967.

As mentioned previously, most Internet packages include the option of a certain number of television channels ("standard" offers run from 100 - over 200 channels). Packages tend to be France-centric, though you may find English-language international news channels such as BBC World News, CNN, Al Jazeera English, Sky News, or CNBC in your offer. At the time of writing (April 2016), Orange appeared to have the most extensive offer of English-language channels in its standard TV package, though this may change over time. In terms of "entertainment" channels, though it is becoming easier to find subtitled films in French cinemas, this is not necessarily the case for television, so while you may find television shows and film you recognize on TV, they will likely be dubbed into French!

French Television Tax

In France, all households must pay a license for television use, if they have a TV set. This is called the contribution à l'audiovisuel public, or simply redevance télé, and is charged with your annual taxe d'habitation (housing tax). In 2016 it was 137 € (find out more here - in French).

How to Set Up Television in France

Will my UK television work in France?

Electrical outlets in France, like the UK and the rest of Europe, supply power at 220-240 Volts, meaning that your UK television will work in France (you will just need to use a plug adaptor). The same advice applies to UK-purchased DVD players - they should also work in France with no problems.

Watching English Television in France

Streaming is an increasingly popular option for watching English films and television series. You may need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) based in the US or the UK to be able to access the shows you want. Plenty of websites offer this service for free; simply search something along the lines of "free US/UK VPN" to find one. At the time of writing (April 2016), the Hola plugin was a popular option, especially as it offered several VPN options (UK, US, and more). Tunnelbear is another option (paying) that is reported to work well on smartphones and tablets.

You can also purchase many television shows/access to certain television channels through iTunes.

Watching British Television in France

Most providers include a few English news channels (such as BBC World or Sky News) and/or sports channels in their standard package Internet "box" offer. You may find a better selection in the premium packages, or by adding a "bouquet" of additional channels.

Depending on where you live in France (i.e. how close you live to England), you may be able to get a UK television signal with a large enough satellite dish. Some UK expats have also had success using their Sky/Sky+ digiboxes in France, but keep in mind that this is technically breaking Sky's terms of service and you risk having your service cut if Sky finds out.

How to Watch American Television in France

You may be able to find certain American news, entertainment, and sports channels in your "box" (Internet + fixed line + television) offer. Most French telecommunications operators offer options "a la carte", allowing you to pick and choose specific channels. Premium packages are more likely to have a wider selection of American TV channels.