Buying Satellite





Arrivederci Roma, hello Surbiton. Britain might be a long way from Italy but homesick ex-pats can stay in touch with the old country with satellite TV...



Estimates vary but there could be as many as three quarters of a million people in Britain's Italian community, and that includes at least two hundred thousand ex-patriots, according to the Italian Embassy in London. Add to that Italian-speaking Brits and you've got a sizeable audience, and appetite for Italian television in this country.


That audience is reasonably well-served, and has been since the early1980's, by satellite broadcasts of Italian TV channels. In fact Italy's state-financed broadcaster RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana), were one of the pioneers of satellite TV; the general entertainment channel RAI Uno has been carried on various Eutelsat satellites since June 1984, long before direct-to-home systems like Astra were conceived. In those early days low-power communications satellites were used to distribute TV to local cable networks and rural communities. TV channels such as Rai Uno were never meant for consumption outside the home country, though by the mid-eighties the cost of satellite receiving equipment had fallen dramatically and hundreds of private dishes were being installed in the UK each month, a sizeable proportion of them in the homes of Italian families.


In  recent years RAI Uno has been joined by a second general entertainment channel, RAI Due; a couple of years ago there were plans for RAI Tre and an MTV-style music channel but they have since been shelved. Several other Italian channels are now available from various satellites with footprints reaching the UK, though it has to be said that some of them are not easily receivable on small fixed dishes, more about that in a moment. Italian broadcasters have so far resisted the temptation to join the Astra club. RAI have had discussions with Astra's operators SES on several occasions about the possibility of leasing transponders, rumour has it  there is still hope.



So what equipment do you need to receive Italian TV in the UK? Jimmy Rustem at Insat, one of the UK's leading installers of multi-satellite systems unhesitatingly recommends the Nokia SAT 1700. 'It's got the correct subcarriers, it's reliable, it adapts readily to motorisation, and it's got class'. When it comes to the choice of a dish Jimmy is equally adamant. 'You can get away with an 80cm dish in the South East, but a 1-metre dish is better, a 1.2 is better still, if you've got the room'. The most popular Italian channels, RAI Uno and Due, are on Eutelsat F2 at 10 degrees East, and it is possible to pick them up with a fixed dish, with a second LNB and extension arm for Astra signals. A similar arrangement could be used for the two other channels on Eutelsat F1 (13 degrees) and Eutelsat F2 (16 degrees), though Italian TV aficionados we've spoken to suggest they're not really worth the effort.  Insat reckon a straightforward system, based around an 80cm dish, including installation should average out at 300 or so, a twin LNB set-up would add about 100 to the price.


A motorised dish is the most flexible option, and the only practical way of picking up the three Italian-language channels on Intelsat 602, at 63 degrees East. Unfortunately this satellite is very low in the Eastern sky and few sites can get an unobstructed view. Motorised dishes are a good deal more complicated, and there's usually a lot of extra work involved in the installation, even so, a capable system, based around the Nokia Sat 1700 and matching positioner, need cost no more than 600, including installation.



Ivano and Caroline Durso have lived in Britain most of their adult lives, latterly in Orpington, on the fringes of South London, a very long way from their native Southern Italy. They have three children, two boys and a girl aged 6, 12 and 13. They have a Nokia SAT 1700 system with a 1-metre fixed dish on the side of their house. The Durso's have several televisions, and they can all be fed from the main living room set using a distribution system installed by Ivano.


Ivano runs a food import business, which has meant the Dursos remain in regular and close contact with their home country, but satellite television has been a relatively new interest in their lives. 'It was recommended to be by a friend,' says Ivano, 'he swore by it, and I had to try it'. Did you buy it to stay in touch with home? 'No, that's not the only reason', says Caroline, 'it is useful for the business, Ivano can stay up to date with new foods as they come on to the market, through the adverts, it's also very useful for our customers to know what is happening over there'. What programmes do you watch regularly? 'We get the two RAI channels, I watch the early morning news, Telegironale,  at around 6am, before I go to work, they carry the lire exchange rates, which are very important for my work', says Ivano, ' and I watch the evening news, at 7pm, when I get home'. What do you think of Italian news? 'It's very good, it has much better international coverage, compared with the BBC, though there's a lot of politics right now, but that might be because of the recent elections'


Do you have any favourite shows? 'No, not yet, we haven't had the system very long', explains Caroline, 'so we're still finding our way through the channels, but I don't watch much TV anyway'. 'The first day we had it' Caroline went on, ' we watched some old movies, mostly American, dubbed into Italian, and Murder She Wrote, also in Italian, it was very strange seeing it like that'. Have you come across any more unusual programmes? 'Yes, there's lots of game shows, some of them familiar, like La Ruota Dell Fortuna, that's Wheel of Fortune'. What about the children, do they watch Italian TV? 'No, they prefer the cartoon channels and kids programmes'.


How do you find out what's on? 'That's difficult' says Ivano, 'there's nothing in the British newspapers or magazines, so it's pot-luck what we find on sometimes'. 'The RAI channels have teletext, that helps', adds Caroline. There are several other Italian channels, would you be prepared to motorise your dish to receive them? 'No, it's not possible' explains Ivano' we cannot easily receive them from our house, and it probably wouldn't be worth the extra expense'. So are you happy with Italian TV on satellite? 'Yes, so far' ,says Ivano 'but ask us again in a few months'.



The two RAI channels do not look substantially different from BBC or ITV schedules. The day is broadly split into four sections with the first part taken up with breakfast shows, magazine programmes, a sprinkling of soaps and cartoons. By late afternoon the emphasis has shifted to children's programmes, Disney cartoons, early evening news and current affairs. The rest of the evening is taken up with a mixture of American soaps, sport and movies, depending on the day of the week, though RAI Uno is definitely more sports oriented, whilst you're more likely to find a movie on Due after 9pm. These include a mixture of dubbed Hollywood films -- old and new -- and a good number of home-grown productions. Naturally football figures prominently in the sports diet and you can expect to find at least one major match on RAI Uno every day of the week. Both channels close down between 3 and 4am, and yes, their late-night programmes look just as boring as ours!.




SATELLITE/POSITION   TR CHAN                        FQ/POS                        CONTENT                                                        

Eutelsat II F1/13 East       37                         Euronews                        11.575/V                        24hr news, Italian sound  


Eutelsat II F2/10 East                        120  Rai Uno                        10.972/V                        sport/gen. entertainment 

                        26L  Rai                        11.062/V                        unscheduled feeds and links                       

                        26U  Rai Due       11.095/V                        Movies/gen.entertainment      


Eutelsat II F3/16 East                        37   Telepace                        11.575/V                        Vatican channel          


Intelsat 602/63 East                           61L Rete                         10.974/H                         unscheduled feeds and links                       

                        61U Rete 4                        11.011/H                        gen. entertainment 

                        62L Cinquestelle                        11.052/H                        gen. entertainment 

Radio                        63L Radio TL                        11.096/H                        rock and pop  



NB Photog contact: Ivano and Caroline Durso, 86 Oakdene, Orpington, Kent

Tel. (0689) 878278





R.Maybury 1993 1412




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