Radio and Television in France (for Brits)

UK BBC Radio

There is very limited coverage from the UK, even on LW (long wave) 198kHz, basically extending not very far inland from the northern English Channel (Manche) coastline – although topology and atmospheric variations do affect this. LW broadcasts the World Service between 01:00 and 05:30 GMT (UT) and Radio 4 at other times. Reception on MW (medium wave) 648kHz extends further, to Paris and Le Mans, but we have found that reception quality is quite poor.

BBC World Service on SW

Traditional short-wave transmissions to Western Europe have now ceased.

DRM Digital Radio

(This is not the DAB digital radio system that is receiving a lot of unfavourable comment within the UK) The BBC, together with other international broadcasters like Deutsche-Welle, have started using Medium Wave frequencies to provide digital radio – DRM Digital Shortwave Radio – throughout Europe. DRM offers a dramatic enhancement in sound quality, and mitigates the effects of audible interference from other stations. It is also designed to make receiver operation more user-friendly. DRM – Digital Radio Mondiale– promises to re-invigorate the use of the Low, Medium and High Frequency Bands. The receivers are, as yet, not cheap – approx. £175.

Satellite Radio and Television

The Worldspace satellite radio service has now closed. If you do not wish to watch Channels 4 and 5 you can buy a Free-To-Air digital satellite receiver (digibox), which will give you all the other BBC and ITV channels and 60-70 English radio stations. However, these receivers do not have a card reader slot so you would not be able to receive Channels 4 & 5 or any other subscription channels, which currently require a card. To receive Channels 4 and 5 free, and receive Sky programmes (on subscription) then you will need a Sky digibox and buy a FreeSat card. If you wish to watch French terrestrial TV programmes (to improve your French?) your set needs to receive in the SECAM format. We manage very well without needing to watch TV of any variety – one of the great benefits of the boating lifestyle, for us.

TV on the computer

Bear in mind that ‘watching TV’ on the computer uses a lot of bandwidth – there’s a large quantity of data passing through. On a free or unlimited WiFi connection that may not be a problem, but it can very quickly use up a mobile broadband allowance.


The Slingboxdevice connects to your digibox at home in the UK and then enables you to connect to your Slingbox from anywhere (elsewhere in the house, elsewhere in the world) using the internet, to select and view any channels and programmes available through the ‘feed’ digibox.

On-line Broadcasting

With a suitable network connection (WiFi or mobile broadband) it is easy to listen to BBC radio online and to watch selected programmes from a week’s output via the BBC iPlayer.

Note that copyright reasons mean that not every broadcast is available in France – for example, the Formula 1 Grand Prix organisation negotiates separate live broadcast deals for each country and the BBC’s does not include France. It is also possible – and very popular – to download radio programmes as MP3 format podcasts, to be played later.

If you’re not British you might not know that the page-head image is of the famous (to us) first ever colour television test card, used for decades from 1967 onwards.