BRITISH ‘telly addicts’ resident in southern Spain have been on the edge of their seats over the past couple of weeks as speculation mounts concerning the rumoured loss of favourite channels due to satellite changes.
There is mild hysteria among some sections of the ex-pat community as they prepare to go without BBC, ITV and Channel 4 along with other channels which are received across southern Europe via the Sky platform using a dish.
Reports are abundant about British expatriates threatening to leave Spain if they cannot watch the regular soap series including Coronation Street and Eastenders, with several saying: “If we lose the popular programmes, especially in the winter evenings, a lot of us will probably go home.”
TV is a mainstay for many elderly residents with some saying they will not be able to afford a monthly subscription to Sky TV.
It was widely reported that all UK channels would disappear on December 16, but only Channel 5 went off.
SES Astra, a Luxembourg-based company which operates the satellites over the UK and Europe has apparently been saying for a while that the current Astra 1N has done its time and, in addition to a cost saving exercise, it will be replaced by Satellite Astra 2F.
It appears the new satellite will have three beams with the UK beam covering France and some of northern Spain – but alas not reaching as far as Andalucía! Satellite installation companies have been inundated with requests and a search for alternatives.
They are telling customers not to panic as it may be as late as mid-summer before the tests are completed, and there is always the internet as an alternative means of receiving programmes.
Everybody knows that we receive TV illegally or through a pay to view system and with no licence fees incurred.
At first the shock waves were felt most in the thousands of bars showing all sports on big screens, thinking they were about to lose the medium which pulls in a high percentage of their clients. But Sky cardholders will not be affected.
Meanwhile, there is not much to cheer about in Spain. The region has endured its worst rain for almost 30 years, the housing market in most areas remains stagnant and unemployment continues to rise.
On the surface it looks a gloomy picture but Spaniards are a hardy race and while braving some of the worst, austere times ever, many we speak to say they will overcome these difficult times.
The horrendous August fires which scorched thousands of hectares of beautiful forest and agricultural land have begun to recover and return to green pastures. A massive reforestation of trees and shrubs is taking place by workers and volunteers, but many of the hundreds who lost their homes will not get insurance payouts as they were built illegally on ‘green areas’ with no planning permission. Many are forced to rent or live with friends or relatives.
We note the UK is having its share of disastrous weather affecting millions of homes and businesses. Here too it was a similar picture in November with roads and bridges annihilated in a short space of time as the Costa del Sol had the worst flooding for 28 years.
There is without doubt a glut of unsold property in the region, particularly smaller flats, and those houses in the £400,000 bracket.
But in the million pound and upwards price bracket, sales are buoyant with speculators and rich investors from Russia and China snapping up incredible villas at knock-down prices. When I say knock-down I mean those reduced by anything up to £1m.
Elaine and I feel sorry for those older homeowners with illnesses or financial difficulties who are forced to sell to the growing number of bargain hunters.
The Spanish Government, attempting to kick-start the market, has offered immediate temporary residency to those purchasing a home in excess of 160,000 Euros.
This means they can live here as ex-pats but will not get medical or other social security benefits. They are hopeful the measures might stimulate some movement in a slow selling market. We shall see.
Also, sweeping new laws designed to help landlords get bad tenants out have come into force. Previously a tenant had many rights enabling them to stay in a property for five years without paying any rent or doing simple maintenance work. Now 10 days paying no rent and you’re out! Special tax relief and incentives are also in place to help young tenants which should help get things moving a little.
Ministers here are confident that tourism will pull the region out of the crisis with indications that there is a healthy growth of trade in the holiday/leisure industry, especially with problems in places like Greece, Egypt and parts of the Middle East.
The Spanish Treasury Minister, Cristobal Montoro, predicts quite confidently that 2013 will be the last year of recession.
Spain is still a beautiful country with much history and a diverse culture.
We feel it will still attract millions each year, many opting to live here, if only to enjoy the lifestyle and the 300 days of sunshine each year.
Elaine and I have been here over 13 years and at present have no thoughts of leaving.