TV5 Monde is a French-speaking channel available on Virgin Media on 825. It's part of our XL package.
I said "French-speaking" because it doesn't just show programmes from French channels but also Canadian, Swiss and Belgian ones.
It is great for people learning/teaching French but it is also great for French people who live in England or anywhere else in the world as it enables them to keep in touch with their culture and to find out about the other French speaking countries.
I personally try to watch the Belgian news at lunchtime. I find the presenter friendly and there are differences of vocabulary between French from France and French from Belgium, which always make me smile (for instance they don't say numbers in the same way and I find it very charming!).
Most programmes shown are good quality ones although one of the daily French soaps "Sous le soleil" is so corny it's almost sickening but I suppose people with little understanding of French can follow the plot easily! So that's the only exception of average programme I can think of.
There are some really good films (drama, comedy, etc), some really informative documentaries (on economics, ecology, animals, films...).
I agree with the previous review on the lack of children's programmes. As a mother, I try to subject our son to as much French as possible at home but I feel TV5 need to introduce more programmes for children.
Be warned though that censorship is not as obvious in French programmes and there can be some swearing/nudity in the daytime. You've been warned! ;o)
Having studied French for my AS/A Levels it was inevitable that the only way to imrove my listening of the language would be through either listening to the radio or watching television. I am not a very big radio listener, however I do watch a bit of TV on both weekdays and weekends so why not make it educational for a change?
TV5 Monde is a French channel specialising in a wide range of programmes from cookery, documentaries as well as sports. It is accessible on Sky via channel 805 and I would compare it to BBC1 in terms of the types of programmes it offers.
~ Mornings ~
Weekday mornings are basically spent on current affairs and a special morning programme called Telematin which is like GMTV. As well as offering French news in 30 minute slots, TV5 also like to broadcast news from Canada, Belgium, Africa and Switzerland (predominantly from Francophone countries). The mornings are spent on educational pieces like D'Art D'Art and Un Livre...Un Jour but the real fun begins just before noon.
At 11.30am every weekday there is a fantastic little soap based in Marseille following a group of residents living through lifes little trials and tribulations, it is called Plus Belle la Vie and unlike our depressing soaps *cough* Eastenders *cough* tends to focus on happier and more intruiging storylines.
~ Afternoon ~
The afternoon's programming varies day to day however they do have a set of programmes with remain unchanged. The afternoon is spent mainly on quiz shows and topical documentaries. There is also a daily newsflash at 5pm lasting 20 minutes which summarises pretty much any important French and International current affairs.
To be completely honest, I don't watch much TV5 in the afternoon as it is quite dull during the weekdays, there are often several repeats of programmes and unless there is a film on, I tend to avoid it in the afternoon as much as possible. Although I do make time for the French version of Fort Boyard (despite the fact that it actually lasts 3 hours!!!).
~ Evenings ~
The evenings are dedicated to films, news and documentaries. One fantastic programme, Thalassa, is completely dedicated to anything and everything surrounding the world's seas and oceans. Although it is only shown on Tuesday evenings at 10.30pm (GMT) it does last for two whole hours and is fantastically filmed and educational, and often features little fishing villages in England that one wouldn't really know about before.
~ Weekends ~
The weekends are the best time to catch some good films, sport and just general entertainment. Around 90% of films shown on here are pretty recent (dating from 2000 onwards) and lasting only 1hr 30minutes usually. If like me you have seen quite a few french films in your time you will know that this is a blessing as most French films tend to drag on for ages however TV5 has done the smart thing and chosen films that can a) be watched in one go and b) be actually interesting! Also, for those who are learning French you will also be happy to know that 80% of the films shown have subtitles (wahey!) which makes the understanding of it slightly more easier!
As for sport, although it is rarely shown on TV5 live there are several 'emissions' which offer a catch up of the weeks football and general sports news and on the odd occassion that you get to see something live it ranges from Club Rugby to Judo.
Also, there are several special shows shown during the weekends in the evening which are aimed purely for entertainment. One such show was a charity event which was aiming to raise money for Aids lasting 4 hours packed with live music, juggling, circus acts and even some comedy routines. Although these are mainly promotional events, if you check the programmes now and then during the evenings you might be able to catch something just as fun on!
~ Kid's Channels ~
TV5 Monde doesn't really cater for children as much as it does for adults, the only dedicated children's programmes are very early in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday (which means you would be best to set Sky+ to record them for later). These programmes tend to be cartoons and one such animation is Blake et Mortimer which is slightly like Sherlock meets XFILES and is basically about two detectives based in London (see? they love us really!) who stumble upon secret societies and world's both set in the past and future.
Another delightful programme I would recommend to any child is the fantastic -C'est pas Sorcier- which is an educational show teaching children about anything and everything. For example the last show focused on the life of a cow in France and went through in detail everything there was to know about the different species, their daily life on a farm, the produce we make from their milk etc.
Each week our amusing presenters Frédéric and Jamy explore something new and their constant enthusiasm and different visual ways of describing and explaining the subject makes this programme a must see for kids and adults!
All in all, I would heartily recommend TV5 Monde to anyone looking to polish their French listening or just to enjoy watching programmes which offer so much to choose from. Whilst TV5 could do with some more live sporting events and a lot less repeats during the day, if you have a good look through you will spot some amazing gems on TV whilst also improving your French 'en meme temps!'