There are three main television/video standards in use throughout the world.

  • The system used in the US, Canada, Japan and some other countries is called NTSC
  • Most of Western Europe (including Spain), Australasia and Southern Africa use a system called PAL
  • Eastern Europe (and France) uses SECAM

The three standards are not compatible with each other. This means a TV signal (or video) produced for one system will not play properly on machinery that’s been designed for another. A non-PAL compatible television will not receive a signal or be able to produce sound and picture.

National Spanish TV Stations

There is no TV licence fee payable in Spain; advertising supports all channels. Spain does not have a national independent broadcasting authority.

Some of the autonomous communities have a regulatory board but the only national commission is the Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones (Telecommunications Market Commission) that has a small influence over the audio-visual sector.

  • TVE Televisión Española: A government-controlled station which was launched in 1956. There are currently 2 TVE channels, La Primera and La2 which run 24 hours a day. TVE is Spain’s largest network
  • Antena 3: Spain’s second most popular channel, launched in January 1990
  • Cuatro: Free to view channel on air since November 2005
  • Tele5: The least politically biased of the major channels
  • Canal Plus ( Subscriber service with a focus on sports, English and Spanish football and premium international films and television series. You can buy a tailor-made “package” of programming choosing a focus on sports, film, children’s programming documentaries or similar

There are a number of regional stations available to each province broadcasting in the local language such as Catalan, Basque and Galician.

satellite tvSatellite programming

Free to air programming from other countries (such as the UK) may be received with an appropriately-sized and -oriented satellite dish and digital satellite receiver. Many providers also make these television services available via the Internet – a decoder will be required – this is available (usually just for a deposit) from the provider.

Alternatively, it is possible to access UK-based free-to-air (FTA) programming on the same satellite that broadcasts Sky Digital. Please note, however, that there is no legal way to access encrypted programming on that satellite while in Spain (such as Sky Digital’s premium channels accessible only through a Sky subscription package, or those channels that may only be watched in the UK using a satellite receiver with a free-to-view card installed).

Satellite dishes over 1.9 metres in diameter may require planning permission from the local Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) although this varies between towns and should be checked before proceeding with any installation.