A free-to-air or FTA Receiver is a satellite TV receiver
designed solely to receive unencrypted broadcasts. Modern decoders are naturally
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
In some countries, it is common for conventional 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, ZDF
and ORF offer FTA satellite broadcasts, as do some of the more recent satellite
rivals such as Sat. 1, 3sat and RTL. The satellites, on which these channels
broadcast, at Astral’s 19.2° east position, are receivable right through most
In the UK,
three of the original five terrestrial broadcasters, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV1 broadcast
FTA on digital satellite, 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 spiritual
FTA receivers are sold in the United States
for the purpose of viewing unencrypted free-to-air satellite channels, the mass
of which are located on Galaxy 25 (97°W, Ku band). This provides an alternative
option for various ethnic communities to watch television from their native
countries without subscribe to an often expensive programming package from a
major satellite TV provider. The distinctive one-meter Ku-band dishes are
becoming a common fixture in ethnic communities as, in some cases; programming
offered is not available by any other means.
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.
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 programmers normally
carried on digital sub channels 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 carry programmers (except news) a day later than the main terrestrial PBS