Television in France

Find out about television standards in France, satellite and Internet TV, and TV licences...

The television standard in use in France is DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting). Most countries in the world have either switched over, are switching over, or plan to switch over from analogue TV broadcasting to digital TV broadcasting. Before the advent of digital broadcasting, the main three standards were:
  • NTSC: the USA, Canada, Japan
  • PAL: most of Western Europe, Australia, southern Africa
  • SECAM: Eastern Europe and France
Today, the main digital standards are:
  • DVB-T: most of the world, including Europe, southern Africa, Australia and southern Asia
  • ATSC: the USA, Canada, Mexico and South Korea
  • ISDB-T: most of South America
  • DTMB: China
The systems are not compatible, so a television produced for one system will not work on another.

Television Licences

The French television licence (redevance audiovisuelle) is billed with the annual Taxe d'Habitation (occupier’s tax). If a household does not have a TV then the appropriate box should be checked when filling in the income tax declaration form to say so. The fee is paid in December each year or can be spread out over monthly installments. It is possible to select some programmes in VO on French TV by changing the language, but for a wider range of programming in English or VO (version originale) you need satellite or cable TV.

Satellite and Internet TV

Fransat is a French digital satellite option with many channels in English. It requires a decoder box and card, and a satellite dish pointed in the correct position. Fransat broadcasts in high definition. CanalSat (formed from the merger of CanalSatellite and TPS) supplies subscription-only satellite TV. The satellite box and contracts are sold at any CanalSat supplier (such as the hypermarkets and home stores Carrefour and Castorama). TNT  is a French high definition satellite system offering free to air programming from countries like the UK. 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. More information is available at Orange and SFR outlets, the Free website, and businesses selling technology and media appliances (such as Darty and FNAC). FilmOn is an Internet-based television service allowing remote computer viewing of local TV worldwide, including the UK. It licenses more than 600 additional channels plus 90,000 video-on-demand titles. It can be accessed via the internet or via it's App. 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 France (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).

Programme Guides

Most French television guides state if a programme is in its original language version (VO) or available in languages other than French (VM - version multi-langue).