Living here in the French countryside, we have a satellite dish for television reception. We subscribe to the only available French service, which is called CanalSat. There used to be a competing service, but the two merged a few years ago.
Most of the programs we watch every day are in French. I like to put on TéléMatin in the morning for news, weather, and features. During the day, we often have Cuisine TV on the screen, watching for new and interesting cooking ideas and recipes. All its shows are in French too. Listening to such shows is great for your comprehension of everyday spoken French.
Cuisine TV has a cast of French cooks and chefs who host its programs, but it also broadcasts cooking shows hosted by English-speaking personalities including Jamie Oliver, Giada DeLaurentiis, Nigella Lawson, Bill Granger, Ainsley Harriot, Rick Stein, James Martin, and others. (If you're American, you might not recognize many of those names, because they are British or Australian cooks.) All those shows are dubbed into French.
Instead of "dubbed" I should say "over-dubbed." In other words, you can hear the English-speaking host's voice in the background, but there's a slightly louder French soundtrack superimposed over the English. It's annoying at first if you speak English, because your ear tries to focus on the original soundtrack rather than on the over-dubbed French. Sometimes you feel like you can't hear either language clearly. A lot of the science and travel documentaries we watch are over-dubbed the same way.
Dubbing is surely an expensive process. Some of Jamie Oliver's old shows were dubbed rather than over-dubbed, and the dubbing was done with considerable skill and talent. You can watch them and almost believe that Jamie really is speaking French with a perfect accent. But all the later shows are over-dubbed. I guess that's a better option for most viewers than on-screen subtitles would be.
Speaking of subtitles, we also get six or seven movie channels as part of our satellite TV package (called un bouquet in French). A lot of the films shown are American and were made in English. We have our decoder boxes set up to show movies with the original English soundtrack when there is one — in other words, if the film is broadcast in VM (version multilingue). If the movie is French, we hear the original French soundtrack.
If we want to watch an American movie with a French-language soundtrack, we can choose that option on the decoder box's menus. It's an option we never use. A lot of the American movies are shown, however, with the original English soundtrack with on-screen subtitles in French. I've gotten used to the subtitles. Often now I don't even notice them, but sometimes I enjoy reading them to see how the English dialog is translated into French. It depends on how many times I've seen a particular movie.
What we never get, however, is subtitles in English. So the two language options for most films are (1)English dialog with French subtitles, or (2) French dialog with no subtitles. Actually, there are two sub-options that are sometimes available. Newer films are sometimes shown in English with the possiblity of turning off the French subtitles. And for some movies and other shows, you can turn on French subtitles for the hearing impaired (les malentendants) along with the original French soundtrack.
The main point is that you never get English subtitles. The system is designed for French-speakers, not English-speakers or other foreigners. Last night, for example, we watched James Cameron's Avatar on one of the movie channels. It's a recent film, so we had the option of turning off the French subtitles and just watching the movie in the original English.
At some points in Avatar, however, the characters speak a language that is neither English nor French. For those segments of incomprehensible dialog, French subtitles, not English, appear on the screen. Those subtitles seem to be hard-coded into the movie. As I said, we never get English subtitles.
Neither do we get any American channels. Some of the French channels show American TV series, with the same language options as for the films on the movie channels. We've seen episodes of Glee, Battlestar Galactica, The Good Wife, and a few other series. There are many more U.S. series on different French channels that I've never watched or even heard of.
Our satellite decoder boxes are both equipped with hard disks onto which we can record shows for watching later. We do that a lot. All the language options I've described above are also available on the shows and films we record.
A number of the British people we know have decoder boxes that they've imported from England and dishes aimed at satellites carrying BBC and other British programming. They watch the same TV programs they would watch back in the British Isles. There's no such option for American television programming, at least not via satellite.