Free to air satellite Dish Network

FTA and International TV

A Viewsat Xtreme FTA receiver

A free-to-air or FTA Receiver is a satellite television receiver designed to receive unencrypted broadcasts. Modern decoders are typically compliant with the MPEG-2/DVB-S and more recently the MPEG-4/DVB-S2 standard for digital television, while older FTA receivers relied on analog satellite transmissions which have declined rapidly in recent years.

Mainstream broadcast programming[edit]

In some countries, it is common for mainstream broadcasters to broadcast their channels over satellite as FTA. Most notably, in the German-speaking countries, most of the main terrestrial broadcasters, such as ARD Das Erste and ZDF offer FTA satellite broadcasts, as do some of the more recent satellite rivals such as Sat.1 and RTL. The satellites on which these channels broadcast, at Astra's 19.2° east position, are receivable throughout most of Europe.

In the UK, all the original five terrestrial broadcasters, BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, and Five broadcast FTA on digital satellite in some form, including many of their regional variations. However, in some countries, it is not the norm for mainstream channels to broadcast on FTA satellite television.

Ethnic and religious programming[edit]

FTA receivers are sold in the United States and Canada for the purpose of viewing unencrypted free-to-air satellite channels, the bulk of which are located on Galaxy 19 (97°W, Ku band). There is also a substantial amount of Christian-based programming available on several satellites over both North America and Europe, such as The God Channel, JCTV, EWTN, and 3ABN.

Educational programming[edit]

The PBS Satellite Service offers educational programming on Ku band DVB from the AMC-21 satellite (125°W). As there is no standard MPEG audio on many of these channels, the AC3-only feeds require a Dolby Digital-capable receiver. They are otherwise free. Channels include PBS-HD/PBS-X as well as various secondary programmes normally carried on digital subchannels of PBS terrestrial member stations.

The main PBS New York feed is absent from the free-to-air version of the PBS satellite service to afford local terrestrial member stations a chance to broadcast material before it becomes available on PBS-X or PBS-HD. Typically, PBS-X feeds carried programmes (except news) a day later than the main terrestrial PBS network.

US terrestrial broadcasters[edit]

Many of these channels carried programming from major network television affiliates, although these are disappearing, particularly on Ku-band.

Equity Broadcasting used one Ku band (Galaxy 18, 123°W) and one C-band satellite feed as a key part of its Equity C.A.S.H. centralcasting operation; many small UHF local stations were fed from one central point in Little Rock, Arkansas via free-to-air satellite. Most were members of secondary terrestrial networks, including both US English language and Spanish language broadcasters, and content from satellite broadcasts often fed over-the-air digital subchannels of terrestrial stations. Programming such as the Retro Television Network or Retro Jams had been provided at various times; music video broadcasters Mas Música and The Tube were formerly available at 123°W before being taken over (Mas Música is now MTV3) or ceasing operations.

Similarly, unencrypted Ku band satellite television was also used temporarily in the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina as a means to feed NBC programming into New Orleans from the studios of an out-of-state broadcaster; the feeds contained the content, branding and station identification of the damaged New Orleans station in a form suitable for direct feed to a transmitter (with no further studio processing) in the target market.

Paradoxically, many Equity-owned local UHF stations obtained solid national satellite coverage despite small terrestrial LPTV footprints that barely covered their nominal home communities. In many cases, this brought smaller networks and Spanish-language broadcasting to communities which otherwise would have no free access to this content.

Perfect Vision Satellite Tripod for Directv or Dish Network 2" & 1 5/8" OD Satellite Mount work on FTA as well
CE (Perfect Vision)
  • 3 ft Universal Tripod
  • Dual size pole 2 Inch and 1 5/8
  • Designed for the larger HD satellite dishes
  • Works for Directv, Dish Network and FTA
  • Sturdy steel construction
ABP Digital FTA Antenna Satellite Dish with mounting arms by Channel Master 1.0m SMC VSAT Type 100
Home Theater (ABP Digital)
  • Receives free channels over the air
  • No contracts or subscriptions required
  • LNB mounting arms included
  • 1.0 meter diameter

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