Your new apartment or house may already be wired with cable or a satellite receiver. In some cases, cable television fees are included with your apartment’s monthly maintenance fee. If not, call your local cable company and they will let you know if your building is wired. The cable television companies in Germany offer a number of non-German channels, including CNN, BBC World and French TV5.
AFN, or the American Forces Network, has long been supplying German listeners with the latest in American pop music. In the Frankfurt area, tune to FM 98.7 or AM 873. You’ll get news, sports, music and an occasional airing of NPR (National Public Radio). NPR airs at noon and 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday on AFN-AM. For more information, check out the AFN website at www.afneurope.net. Since commercial advertising is banned on AFN, you will have a chance to hear some truly quirky public service announcements between NPR broadcasts.
To receive satellite television, you must buy and install your own satellite receiver. They are available at many retail outlets and will allow you to receive all of the major German cable channels, plus numerous other foreign stations. If you get reception from the Astra and Hotbird satellites, you can receive the following “free” English-language stations: Cartoon Network, CNN, Eurosport, QVC, Sky News and BBC World. One of the most popular ways to view English-language television services in Germany is to subscribe to Sky TV – Rupert Murdoch’s pay TV network for the UK, which offers subscribers more than 160 channels in English. Due to the licensing arrangements, Sky is only officially available by subscription to residents of the UK and Ireland. So a gray market has developed of companies that can provide everything you need to receive Sky TV – including the digital receiver and the "smart card." There are a myriad of packages available, depending on your viewing interest. There is usually a one-time set-up fee plus a monthly subscription charge. To find out more about these services, go to www.bavaria-satellite.de.
Since 2003, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been broadcasting "free-to-air" (i.e. not scrambled) over digital satellite and were joined by ITV in 2005 and Channel 4 and 5 in 2008. Provided you have a digital satellite system, you can receive four BBC television stations, four ITV stations and four Channel 4 stations and Channel 5. But because these stations are broadcasted over Astra 2D satellite network, you will need a 90-120 cm dish to receive it - which is larger than the normal dish found at most electronic shops in Germany. You should consult with a satellite technician who can measure your reception quality. The total setup (with dish, receiver and installation) should cost about 400 euros.
If you are part of the US military or consular community, then you have access to the AFN satellite television service. To receive it, you will need an AFN decoder which is only available to authorized personnel.
If you are mainly interested in sports and movies in English, you may want to consider the Sky digital satellite network in Germany (formerly Premiere). Sky, which is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s television imperium, offers a range of international sports programming and most movies in two languages - German and English. There is a range of subscriptions available and Sky can also be received over the digital cable TV network – not just by satellite. For more information, contact Sky at www.sky.de or 0180 55 100 50.
If your home is wired for cable, you can also get foreign-language programming through Hessen’s cable provider unitymedia. There are a number of language packages, but the English package includes quality programming such as BBC Prime and ESPN. The monthly fee for the English package is 9.95 euros per month, in addition to the normal cable fee.