Monday afternoon, via SKY Italia, we clicked on to channel 138, for BBC Entertainment (formerly known as BBC Prime), our favourite channel available with the basic Mondo SKY Italia package, only to see this blunt notice.
We were astonished, as there had been no prior warning of the channel’s impending demise. SKY evidently thought it unnecessary even to have the courtesy to advise its clients that this service was soon to be withdrawn.
To say that I was somewhat disappointed is putting it mildly, I WAS ABSOLUTELY LIVID !!! Paul can vouch for for this, having endured an entire evening of my spontaneous eruptions of disgust, door slamming, stomping, sulking and general tantrums. (You can tell that I’ve got true Italian blood !!!)
I emailed BBC Entertainment via their website and received a prompt reply in which they advised us to complain directly to SKY:
“Unfortunately, SKY Italia has decided not to renew carriage of BBC Entertainment and, as such, the channel ceased transmission on the platform from 28th February 2010 at 24.00 hours. This type of action is commonplace as contracts are considered and renewed by both parties every few years.
We have recently made a significant investment in BBC Entertainment and are committed to offering our viewers the high quality channel that they have come to expect from the BBC. We are currently talking to a number of operators about the opportunity to roll out our portfolio of BBC-branded channels in Italy and we aim to agree carriage for the new channels as quickly as possible so that viewers can resume enjoying BBC content. We hope to be able to announce news of channel launches in the near future. In the meantime, if you have any further queries about how this may affect your current subscription, please contact SKY Italia directly to discuss the terms and conditions of your contract.
We are sorry that we could not let viewers know about this before now. It is difficult to do so on-air because BBC Entertainment transmits to over fifty other regions, but we will be posting an announcement on our website Community Forums shortly.
We appreciate your support of BBC Entertainment.”
I wondered was it co-incidental that a few days ago, it was announced that the BBC was downsizing and discontinuing some of its services ???
BBC Entertainment was the best of the few channels broadcast by SKY Italia that show better quality, English language programmes. This was the principal reason for subscribing to SKY Italia in the first place. It was my little “comfort zone” where I could enjoy some familiar British programmes, especially during the dark winter evenings.
Recently the BBC Channel had been rebranded as BBC Entertainment, with a fanfare of publicity. There seemed thave been some improvement, with several interesting new programmes. Ironically I enlisted as a “BBC Entertainment Channel Reviewer”, but what use is a reviewer if there is no channel available to view !!!
SKY had already withdrawn another good channel, namely CULT, which used to be available with our package, but fairly recently has been moved to form part of the SKY Cinema package. I am afraid we are not great fans of the other numerous American programmes, such as cartoons, sitcoms or news channels.
SKY seems to be making the big mistake of choosing quantity rather than quality. They have recently added a few new channels such as: Lady Channel, Lei, Mediaset Plus, Cielo, Fox Retro, all churning out inferior quality programmes and endless repeats.
When, just occasionally, you do find something interesting to watch, it seems it is impossible to get into the story, before being incessantly bombarded with adverts. The EU has launched legal action against Italian adverts which exceed the maximum EU limit on advertising of 12 minutes per hour, and the limit of 20 minutes minimum intervals between breaks for commercials. The ads are also transmitted at twice the normal volume which is really exasperating and surely counterproductive, as everyone instinctively reaches for the mute button on their remote control.
We try to keep up-to-date with the news around the world by watching English speaking News channels such as BBC World, Euronews, Al Jazeera.
With UK SKY News, it is frustrating that the interactive links do not work for us abroad. We are tired of their over exaggerated stories, the way the presenters try to stretch out a story to its absolute limit, by interviewing numerous bystanders or so called “experts”, asking each the very same questions over and over again. Mammia Mia !!! How much more can one take !!!
Then there’s SKY Meteo 24 Weather Forecast regularly presented by painfully thin ex beauty contestants to tart up the bulletins. The interactive 3 day regional forecast is laughable being more than often spectacularly inaccurate.
“Why not watch Italian TV?” I hear you ask.
Well the one thing in Italy we haven’t managed to embrace is Italian TV, it has to be said – it is utterly diabolical. It has to be seen to be believed. Italian television is dominated by the three Italian state TV channels governed by the Government – ie Berlusconi, namely Rai Uno, Rai Due, Rai Tre, which come with their highly irritating “bing bong bing bong bing bong” musical jingle. The biggest rival channels are the private Mediaset channels owned by of course the mighty media mogul, dear old uncle Berlusconi. These channels pump out a stream of low cost programmes, including trashy soaps, reality TV, excruciating talent shows and badly dubbed American imports.
Every evening there is some ghastly “get rich quick” game show which often seem to be sponsored by companies that liberally advertise their products throughout the programme. There is normally a balding late “middle-aged” male presenter who tries his utmost to look like he did when he was in his 20’s by whatever means he finds available, including copious amounts of black hair dye, greasy “Brill Cream”, carroty smears of fake suntan products and abundant chunky gold jewellery. Despite their big cheesy smiles the producers consider that the audience could do with a little bit of something to pep things up …… Cue at least a dozen titillating young glamour girls, complete with their dozen sets of white teethy smiles, voluptuous pouting lips, tussled hairdo’s, decidedly skimpy outfits emphasising their long, long legs and exposing their ample cleavages. … Yes! That should do the trick !!!
Then there are the regular variety entertainment extravaganzas, introduced by more sad aging male presenters, surrounded by a throng of Italian beauties, who seem to have nothing to do at all with the show, and are just being there to nicely adorn the glitzy set and look “cute”. Lots of applause and then it’s the turn of a lady presenter wearing a low cut evening gown, with a perfect white smile to talk and giggle a lot before the music strikes up and she proceeds to manically gyrate and start ripping off strips of her dress until she is left semi-naked and proceeds to fling herself into some frenetic dance routine. More rounds of pre-cued applause before she continues the job of presenting the first guest on the show, without even breaking into a sweat of course. Next follows some incomprehensible slapstick humour with adults dressed up as children, talking in bizarre squeaky voices. Next … a raunchy dance routine with a troop of girls in miniscule spangled costumes to emphasise bums and voluptuous boobies. All this is quite acceptable in this good Catholic Country? I wonder if its one of the Pope’s favourite programmes? Next … an aging Italian rock star who’s well past his sell-by-date, hairy chested, designer stubbled, medallioned with the usual gravelly voice. And so it goes … on and on, and there’s no relief even during the frequent breaks for pubblicità.
Adverts contain lots of precocious children posing in adverts for tooth rotting chocolates, biscuits and cakes that are – “so healthy and full of milky goodness”! Then there is a sexy lady emerging from a moonlit swim, all silky and seductive to be finger fed strands of delicious spaghetti.
In my opinion, the “pièce de resistance” was a ridiculous ad for Parmesan cheese which featured adults dressed up as shiny tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, onions, garlic, aubergines, bunches of basil, and various pasta shapes dancing around a huge cheese singing the “cheesiest” yet most catchiest of songs that goes “Pa pa pa pa parmigiano eh…….., re re re re reggiano eh ……….” You’ve never seen anything like it ! This is Italia !!!
Currently the most annoying ad is for Buitoni ready made foccacia, pizza bases and pastry which portrays a young, beautiful, perfect, diligent housewife “hand-making” a lovely dinner for their husband and family. The music that accompanies the images has a demented, women’s voice screaming over and over, high pitched, finally reaching an ear splitting crescendo, “Brava !!! Brava !!!” Arghhhhhhhhhhhh !!!
There’s a plethora of other smaller Italian channels to trail through, some regional, though still none worth watching … some dreadful soaps, animated discussions about football and politics, chat shows, saucy comedy shows, agony aunts, sailing, ceramics, horoscopes, tarot cards, analysis and advice on choosing your Lotto numbers, religious channels such as the Vatican’s Peace channel, and Padre Pio station, and diabolical non-stop advertising channels selling keep fit equipment, jewellery, electric coffee makers, and things to make you lose weight overnight.
Why not get a UK Sky Card and watch British TV here in Italy ? You may ask.
It seems that to be able to watch British TV via the ASTRA 2D satellite we would require a dish measuring 4 metres, because of the curvature of the earth !!! Surely in this “world of wonderful up-to-the-minute technology” there must be another way ???
At one stage I thought we would be able to watch BBC programmes via BBC iPlayer. However when we registered it became apparent that with an Italian IP address, this service was beyond us.
Also, here at “Tre Cancelle” we do not have a fixed telephone line. It’s a long story, but one of our neighbours has refused to allow us to put up a pole on her land in order to get a connection. It would be very expensive anyway, as the nearest telephone wires are some considerable distance from the house.
Thus our internet connection is solely via a mobile link, which is slower than ADSL / Broadband, and susceptible to weather / atmospheric conditions. Even if, via a proxy server, we could attempt to stream programmes, the quality may well be insufficient for a quality viewing.
Anyway, back to SKY Italia …
A group has been started on Facebook “BRING BACK BBC ENTERTAINMENT ON SKY ITALIA !!” http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=10150110862420713&ref=ts via which it is advised to bombard SKY Italia with phone calls, emails and faxes of complaint. There have been reports of staff on the SKY Client Help Line putting the phone down on irate customers. Disgraceful !!! It is clear that SKY have no consideration for their viewers.
On the SKY Italia Website, Guida TV, BBC Entertainment programmes are still be scheduled on 138 from Sunday 7 March onwards. What on earth is going on ??? I suppose it just goes to show how incompetent SKY Italia are !!! What do they take us for ???
I have emailed SKY to voice my complaint …….. Still awaiting a reply !!!
If the BBC Entertainment channel is not going to be re-instated we will be cancelling our SKY subscription out of principle !!!