Watching TV in Spain

Published on 11/15/2006 in Spanish Culture

What about my UK TV?

If you are thinking of taking your TV with you to Spain, TV sets operating on the British system (PAL-1) won’t work. Spain uses the PAL- BG standard. However, it will work via a satellite system or by connecting the aerial to a Spanish video player, which must be connected by a SCART lead to the TV. Most expats who move to Spain, with all the best intentions of learning Spanish via the television usually end up with a whacking great dish taking up half of their terrace.

Communal Satellite System

Many urbanisations have their own communal satellite system usually depending on the ratio of Brits to Spanish. Not all new developments have communal systems and those who do want it may have to organise it amongst themselves.

Quality TV?

Whether you understand the Spanish language or not, I am sure that most people will agree that after a night in front of the Spanish box, the BBC license fee is worth every penny.

The Channels

There are two state owned channels TVE 1 AND 2, channels specific for each region and the two large privately owned Antena 3 and Tele 5. TVE backs the governing socialist party, PSOE; Antena 3 has right wing leanings; and TELE 5 leans more to the left. With regards to the state-owned channels there is currently an obvious attempt to improve the quality of programmes with more ‘realistic’ soaps such as Cuentame como paso about everyday life during the Franco era. News coverage can be quite disturbing as there is little editing of live, video footage; probably a backlash of years of censorship under Franco.

Chat Shows

If you are Trisha fan or celeb obsessed than you are in for a treat as the main offerings are low quality chat shows devoted to gossip and scandal. However, exposure to such programmes should be kept to a minimum as they can result in severe headaches due to the inability of the guests and sometimes presenters to talk in a voice less than 120 decibels.

UK influenced TV

Reality television has hit Spain, although in a much lower dose than the UK. If you want to improve your colloquial Spanish then Spanish Big Brother, literally translated as Gran Hermano is the one to watch. If you thought the UK version was a shameful reflection of British society today than don’t judge the Spanish based on it. Other familiar shows include copies of The Weakest Link and Who Wants to be a Millionaire whose presenters are Spanish clones of our own Anne Robinson and Chris Tarrant. Dubbed American sitcoms are popular ranging from the more recent Frazier and Friends to the more tired Fresh Prince of Bel Air.


Fans of British comedy such as The Office and Only Fools will be sorely disappointed as Spanish comedy can be amateur and crude. Unconvincing transvestites with balloons for boobs are still very much in vogue as is slapstick humour.

Be Patient!

Spanish television will certainly test your patience with commercial breaks every fifteen minutes that last fifteen minutes. In fact, it is easy to become engrossed in two or three programmes on different channels at once while you wait for the other one to return.

TV for Learning

Compared to the quality of our own home grown CBeebies, there is little educational value in Spanish children’s television. Dubbed Japanese cartoons are in abundance and Muppets style ‘Los Lunnis’ are popular with the three to eight age group. TVE often shows dubbed episodes of the Fimbles and Teletubbies which are a great familiar starting point for both pre schoolers and adults alike in acquiring the Spanish language.

Learn Spanish by watching telly!

Personally, I have found Spanish television a fantastic way of improving my listening and understanding of the Spanish language. When I first started watching it just over eighteen months ago, I could barely follow a Mexican soap opera and now, although I can’t understand the meaning of every word, from an information point of view, I can get the same benefits from Spanish television that I used to with British.

Written by: Susan Pedalino

About the author:

Women In Spain

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122 said:
Monday, October 10, 2011 @ 2:00 PM

rude on comedy

spooksie said:
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 @ 6:05 AM

Looking at the article it seems slightly outdated due to the rise of on demand services.

This company looks like its releasing a new promising product to give free UK tv in Spain.

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