Depending on your point of view, having TV on tap may seem essential or unneccesary. If you want to watch TV though, the analogue switch off means it’s not as easy as it used to be.
What are the options?
If you stay in the UK for most of your travels, you can opt for Freeview services. These digital broadcasts are received through an aerial and are decoded either by a set-top box or by your TV’s built in tuner. If you prefer to tour in across Europe too, then satellite is a better bet.
The key to good reception of Freeview services is a good aerial. In strong signal areas, your caravan’s roof aerial may get good enough reception, but the safest bet but a traditonal aerial like you have at home is better. Mount it on a pole and the extra height will pay dividends in getting a good signal. The higher the aerial, the better your chance of watching Emmerdale. You need to hook the aerial to a Freeview digibox or a television with a built-in digital tuner to get a picture. A suitable freestanding aerial kit with a pole is available from accessory shops. Expect to pay around £90.
Although not quite as complex as it sounds, getting satellite TV is more involved than digital terrestrial. There are three ways of getting it, only one of which involves paying a subscription. All need a satellite dish and mount.
Freesat is a subscription-free satellite service has around 180 channels including the main BBC, ITV, C4 and C5. All you need is the freesat box and a suitable satellite dish. Two free HD (high-definition) channels are if you have a more expensive HD digibox.
Alternatively, you can get a free-to-air digital receiver and many portable satellite kits come with these supplied. You can access thousands of TV channels from the UK and the rest of the world for free including BBC, ITV, C4 and Channel 5. It’s exactly the same as a Sky box without the viewing card. The advantage of this set-up is that if you are out of range of the UK-centric Astra satellite, you can use the digibox to pick up broadcasts from other satellites such as Hotbird, which have some English language programming on them. A freesat box cannot decode these channels.
If you’ve got a Sky subscription at home, your digibox will work anywhere you get a signal from the correct satellite. If you use viewing card away from your home address however, you are technically in breach of your customer agreement with Sky. It is highly unlikely you would get caught but the choice is yours.
Equipment to receive satellite broadcasts ranges from very cheap to very expensive. For around £100 at the low end, you get a portable tripod-mounted dish and FTA receiver. These kits usually pack away in a case and but the set-up can be a bit fiddly.
The next step up are roof-mounted manual kits. They cost less than fully automated systems but do require permanent installation. The dish still needs to be manually aligned, but there are no tripods or trailing cables to worry about. These cost from about £250.
The pinnacle of portable satellite systems are the full automated roof-mounted systems. These cost from £1250 but are fully automated, so once you stop the van, flick a switch and the dish will align itself.