Written for Dutch Connection AZ by Johan Reinalda
Note: in order to serve the widest possible audience, the rest of this document is written in English.
Many Dutch language speakers are aware that most Dutch and Flemish radio and TV programs are available online, either as live or on-demand streams (this includes many local/regional stations in the Dutch language areas.) However, many people are not aware of the existence of BVN TV, www.bvn.tv . BVN-TV is the freely available satellite TV service of the 'Wereld Omroep", or Radio Netherlands. BVN carries an assortment of programming from the Dutch public broadcast TV stations (Nederland 1, 2 and 3, www.omroep.nl ), as well as from the Flemish station VRT, www.vrt.be . BVN programming consists of 8 hours each day. There are roughly 2 hours of youth-oriented programs, and 6 hours of adult-oriented programs. These programs are repeated twice to fill the day. You can see daily and weekly schedules (typically up to 3 weeks in advance) at http://www.bvn.tv/html/tv-gidsen.html . In North America, the schedule is cut such that all 6 hours of youth programming is in the morning, and the adult programs broadcast throughout the rest of the day.
BVN is available in most parts of the world. See http://www.bvn.tv/html/ontvangst.html for more information. This overview is concerned with what you should know about in order to get a BVN receiver setup (either self-installed or professionally hooked up), and how to receive BVN in North America (more specifically in the Phoenix, Arizona area). However, most parts of this overview should be readily adaptable to other areas, particularly to other areas in North America. I have tried to indicate where you will have to check things yourself if you are not in the Phoenix area.
In North America, until early 2005, the BVN signal was carried only by Dish Network. It required a monthly subscription to receive. In February 2005, BVN got a slot on a "Free To Air" satellite. BVN is now available as an unencrypted, free channel on the 'IntelSat-Americas 5' satellite. All that is required now to watch BVN is a dish and a FTA receiver, without monthly fees! The rest of this page will guide you through the steps necessary to watch BVN for (nearly) free! (And as a bonus, at least in North America, the Radio Netherlands audio services in Dutch, English and Spanish are carried for free on the same satellite!, as well as many other, mostly Middle-Eastern, stations)
To get BVN you have several options:
Please note: if you already have satellite TV service for your normal TV service, it is possible, but far more complicated, to combine BVN and your other satellite service on the same cable and TV. I do not describe that scenario; please contact a professional satellite installer for assistance with this. To do it yourself, my best advise is to run a separate antenna cable from your new BVN dish to your TV. This cable will run parallel to your other satellite antenna cable. You can then use a secondary input on your TV for the FTA receiver. Easier yet is to watch BVN in another room that has a cable hookup that is not currently used. In either of these last approaches, you have the three choices outlined above, and described below.
This is by far the simplest, but also the most costly approach. You simply contact a satellite installer in your neighborhood to have a FTA dish and and FTA receiver installed. Most outfits that install the commercial satellite services will do this, or can point you to a company in your area that does this. I contacted a Sun City installer, and was told to expect the cost to be $400-$450 for a complete hookup. Be sure to inform them if you have cable TV or antenna coming to your TV as well over the existing cable run. This will require some splitters to combine the satellite signal with the cable signal; you can expect this to add about $40-50 to the cost.
You need to tell the installer the following:
- you want a dish and FTA receiver to receive a free-to-air channel on the "IntelSat-Americas 5" satellite. Satellite location is 97 degrees West
- you want an FTA dish of at least 31" (larger is not necessary in Arizona)
- you want to watch BVN-TV, on Transponder 11 at 11929 MHz, vertical polarization, PID 153
- whether or not you have cable or TV-antenna signals on the same cable going to your TV.
- what kind of input you will use on your TV. Most modern TV's will have an S-Video input to hook your new satellite receiver up to; better yet is a composite input (three colored connector). These two options give the best picture quality. Or if you must, you can use a secondary tuner input to hook it up to channel 3 or 4 of your TV. In worst case scenario, you can feed you regular antenna signal through the satellite receiver, similar to the way a VCR was/is hooked up. Most modern FTA receivers support at least S-Video, channel 3/4 and TV pass-through.
(All you will need to purchase are the above two items, the dish and the FTA receiver. You do not need Smartcards, or any other encryption devices, so don't let them sell it to you!)
on the same cable (such as cable-TV or local over-the-air TV stations)
Installing a dish is fairly simple once you have all the right equipment. You need the following:
- dish of at least 31" size in Phoenix, and large part of the southwest. (In coastal areas and up north, you might need a slightly larger dish. See http://www.intelsat.com/resources/coveragemaps.aspx for more details on signal strengths, and ask your area satellite installers what dish size they recommend)
- FTA receiver
- a Ku-band LNB (the 'low noise block' converter, aka LNBF, typically listed as 'free-to-air lnbf')
- a satellite signal strength meter (you can do without, but for the $10 or so, I'd highly recommend it)
- a compass (the measure where to point the dish in the horizontal plane)
- a protractor (to measure the dish elevation)
- some good quality coax to run from the dish to your house cable box. Use a good quality RG-6 type coax, available at a local home supply store.
- some cable connectors to put on each end. Instead, you can probably find a proper length of coax with connectors in your local hardware store.
- at least, but possibly more, Male-Male coax connecter to couple pieces of coax together (again, your home supply store)
You can buy numbers 1, 2 and 3 at many places around the Internet. Please read the 'professional install' section for some guidance regarding hooking up to your TV. Then check your TV and the specs for the receiver you want to get. Check out EBay, there are lots of packages available. Another good site that has a good deal for a receiver and dish is Sadoun Satellite. This company has some good pages on setup and configuration as well. FTA specials can be found at or about http://www.sadoun.com/Sat/Order/Satellite-systems/FTA-Systems.htm. They typically have a complete entry level setup for about $170-$180 plus S&H. Frequently, a satellite signal meter is a freebie, and you can find various length of RG-6 cable with connectors there as well. Their self-installation kit includes a compass, cable and more and might be exactly what you need! You can order all you need from your chair! (Please note that I have no affiliation whatsoever with this company, nor do I recommend their product over any other product you may find online or in retail stores. They are purely mentioned as a FYI-reference for what you should be looking for. Thus, "your mileage may vary...")
Please note that I have had mixed success on the Sadoun site for browsers other then Internet Explorer. If you are a Firefox user (like I am), you should use IE for the links to their site.
Mounting and Pointing Your Dish
For an excellent explanation of how to point your dish, please go read the page below. This page conveniently uses the IA-5 satellite as an example. This might be all you need, and you can skip my ramblings: http://www.sadoun.com/Sat/Installation/Dish-Pointing-Tips.htm and their general install page at http://www.sadoun.com/Sat/Installation/Installation.htm. Essentially, for IA-5 at 97 West, to find out where to point your dish, go to http://www.sadoun.com/Sat/Installation/Satellite-Heading-Calculator.htm and choose Phoenix, AZ at 33.5 North and 121.1 West (I used my location in Glendale, AZ at 33.67 North 112.21 West.)
You get an elevation of 46.7 and Azimuth 153.9 (Geographic). with skew of -21.5 degrees. Adjust this for magnetic north ( about -12 degrees in Phoenix; scroll down on the above page), and you get a compass reading of about 152 degrees.
Now, you have to find a location around your house that has clear line of site to the compass heading of 152 degrees (about South-SE), about 45 degrees up. If you are lucky, you can find a spot where you can see your TV from where your dish is (e.g. through a window). Once you have found this, mount your dish. Once the dish is in place, lock the horizontal setting to 152 degrees using your compass, and estimate the vertical setting to 45 degrees. Please note that the dish LNB arm is NOT your guide. With offset dishes, the LNB arm is pointing roughly 31 degrees lower then where the dish is actually pointing. So in this case, you want the arm to point at about 15-16 degrees. Use your protractor here (which may be part of the compass).
Next, turn your LNB (the thing at the end of the dish arm) by about 21 degrees clockwise to get the negative skew. You now have a good starting point.
Hooking up to your FTA receiver.
Now, attach the coax cable to the LNB (the little box with the round end-part. This is the actually antenna and down-converter, "Low Noise Block" converter), hookup the signal meter (look at which side goes to the dish!), and feed the other side to your TV. This is most likely via your cable box on the side of the house. Find the cable run that goes to your TV, and hook up to it with a Male-Male connector. Remember, this section assumes you do NOT have a regular TV signal to worry about.
At the TV, take the cable that normally goes to the TV, and connect it to the input of your FTA receiver. Hook the output of the FTA receiver up to the TV (via S-video, Component-Video, or channel 3/4). Turn the TV and FTA receiver on. You should now see the FTA system menu of some kind. This verifies that you have hooked up the FTA receiver and TV properly.
The Signal meter should now have a light (most have this), or if you turn the selectivity know to one side or the other, it should start beeping. This means that it is getting power from the FTA receiver, and most likely your cable is hooked up properly.
When you're all done, it should look like this (sorry, no time for a good picture):
Programming your FTA receiver
This will be different for each FTA receiver. Please read the manual of your unit. In general terms, at a minimum, somewhere you will have to fill in the following:
- your LNB frequency; most likely 10750 MHz for standard FTA LNB's. Possibly a low and high cutoff. See the specs of your LNB
- the desired transponder frequency and polarization, in this case 11929 MHz, Vertical
Your receiver should now be able to tune the signal. If you get a 'lock' immediately, great! Skip to the section below. If you don't have a lock, you will need to tune your dish direction in order to get reception. If you are lucky, you can see your TV from where your dish is. This will great speed things up. I actually took my receiver and a portable TV outside right next to the dish during this process.
Tuning is clearly described in the Dish-Pointing link . You might read it instead of the following.
To tune, turn the know of the signal meter to where the sound just stops. Now, carefully loosen the horizontal part of the dish and turn it ever so slightly, while watching the signal meter . You are trying to peak this and get it to beep. If it beeps, turn down again until it stops and try to peak again. You should continue to watch your receivers 'lock' indicator. If you get a lock, start using the signal/quality indicator of your receiver. Peak again, making slow adjustments (wait 5 seconds between adjustments, as it take the receiver a while update). Once peaked, screw down the horizontal adjustment.
Repeat the same procedure for the vertical adjustment. This is somewhat more precarious, as you are working against gravity here (the dish will drop down if you're not careful.) This may be a time to get someone to assist. Again, peak using the signal meter, or once locked, you the receiver indicator.
Finally, you can rotate the LNB slightly back and forth to peak the signal on the receiver.
Once you have a lock, the receiver will do all the work for you. It should find all the programs on the transponder. You are looking for PID (channel) 153, BVN. The same transponder has several other stations. Once you get the hang of how this is done with your receiver, you can program the other transponders (and their stations) on the IA-5 satellite at http://www.lyngsat.com/ia5.html Look at the channels starting at 11749 MHz (the lower channels are C-band, and require a different, larger dish and LNB.) Remember that we have peaked reception for the BVN transponder, and in particular Horizontal transponders will not have a good signal.
You have now installed the system, you can take out the signal meter, close your cable box, put away your tools...
It's time your favorite self-indulgence while watching BVN!
on the same cable (such as cable-TV or local over-the-air TV stations)
Dish installation is the same as above. Equipment necessary is identical as well, but you will additionally need two 'Satellite Splitters or Diplexers'. There are little devices that allow the cable/antenna signal and the satellite signal to be combined on one cable at the house cable box, and separated again at the TV. See here for a sample, and some good pictures:
OUTSIDE: Take the cable from your dish to the cable box. Hook it up to the proper port of the signal meter. Hook the other port up to the SAT port of a diplexer. Hook the cable from your antenna or Cable company (i.e. COX in the Phoenix area) to the TV or U/V ANT input. Hook the IN/OUT up to the cable going into your house to your TV.
INSIDE: at your TV and receiver, take the cable and hook it up to the other diplexer IN/OUT port. Connect a cable from the SAT port to the receiver's antenna port. Next, connect a cable from the TV or U/V ANT port to your receiver TV input (if hooking up in pass-through mode) or directly to your TV antenna input. Finally, connect your receiver to the TV via S-video (or component video), or cable channel3/4.
You are now ready to check the receiver hookup (menu system) and signal meter (light) as described above.
This should now look something like this (again, no picture):
Ant/Cable Ant/Cable to TV or receiver input--- | | Dish------SignalMeter-----Diplexer-------------HouseCableBox--------------Diplexer-----Receiver------TV
Now, continue with the section above on 'Programming your FTA receiver'.
To watch satellite TV on your computer, the above installation choices are still necessary. However, instead of using the FTA receiver, you would use a 'satellite card' in your PC, and some program to record and watch the programs. This is for the advanced user only. If you are interested in considering this option here are some things to start you off with. Please note this is a very incomplete list:
- you should have a computer video card that has TV-out capability (At least S-video, or component; DVI would be nice if your TV supports it)
- you will need a DVB-S type card. (There is DVB-T, digital TV over the air, mostly in Europe; and DVB-C, digital TV over cable as well)
- if you have a Microsoft Windows Media Center system, you can add a satellite card with MCE support and you are good to go. Look at "DVB-S" cards like Technotrend, Hauppage Nova, VisionPlus, and others
- Several other software packages for Windows can record from TV cards and become a digital VCR. Some of the DVB-S cards come with software that provides this functionality. Sage TV, Beyond TV, and others are commercial versions. There is also several open source programs (start looking at sourceforge.net)
- In the Linux world, there are several full-blown media software options. These require a fairly advance understanding of Linux, but can be very satisfying. Freevo is a freeware version of a popular commercial digital recording device. MythTV is another. Both can record TV to hard disk & play it back; play music, tune to internet radio and much more. I have implemented MythTV in my house. Our TV watching has never been the same since. We now are totally free from knowing when a program is on, and can fly through commercials at light speed!
- For all of these, it is helpful to have electronic program information available, so your computer automatically knows when to record things. For BVN I have written a 'grabber' that reads the BVN website program information, and produces an XMLTV report that can be used by many of the above computer programs to learn about the TV programming. I can now set things like 'record all new shows on BVN that contain the word SPORT in the title, and keep the last 2', and never have to worry about missing 'Studio Sport' in it's various names on BVN. If you know what all this means and how to use, and would like a copy, send me an email.
Last of all: Enjoy BVN!
The author can be reached, in Dutch or English, at johanreinalda at yahoo dot com.