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Free-to-Air TV and Radio? 64

ChiaBen asks: "I was visiting a friend recently who has a Free-to-air satellite receiver. It allows him to pick up any free satellite TV and radio programs, along with many pay-to-view (requires a payment, of course) programs. Nokia has a receiver, and I'd like to know if else is making similar hardware. It seems interesting, but before I drop a few hundred bones on one, I'd like to know what everyone has to say about it?"
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Free-to-Air TV and Radio?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Read the wiki link you posted, all the information you need is there as a start point.

    ps: buy pansat! :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    pansat
    viewsat
    fortec

    many more.

    try www.al7bar.tk for more info

    posted anon for personal reasons :-)
  • by sdnoob ( 917382 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:28AM (#14692642)
    pretty much any desirable mainstream content is encrypted or scrambled now (at least in the us), even on the 'big dish'. there are, of course ways around it.. but that's a whole different ball game and isn't exactly 'free' when you get caught either..

    back in 'the day', it wasn't uncommon to find network feeds (being sent to affilliates ahead of the actual air date, very popular among bab5 & trek fans) and raw feeds from sporting events. bulletin boards (bbs's) that were dedicated to this 'hobby' were around so you could find out where and when to point your dish to pick those signals. but last i was in front of a big dish, most of those things were scrambled. most everything is digital (and also encrypted) these days..

    i can remember spending time out in the backhills of west virginia. there was a huge cottage industry involving setting up a 'free' dish and 'broken' receiver. dunno if it's like that today (this was ~10 yrs ago), probably not as the move to digital (which is theoretically easier to protect) was just kicking into high gear about then. i just found it rather amusing to see pickup trucks, to numerous to count, hauling around 6 foot dishes and going door-to-door.
  • Big dish still lives (Score:5, Informative)

    by bigbigbison ( 104532 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:56AM (#14692772) Homepage
    If you want non-English language programming or local programming, there is still tons of stuff being broadcast for free from satellites. Satellite Guys [satelliteguys.us] is one of the best sources for info. Check out their forums, specifically the Free to Air one. Here's a list of what is available up there for free [satelliteguys.us].
  • Get a DVB-S card (Score:5, Informative)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @01:14AM (#14692848) Journal
    Forget a stand-alone reciever. They're very inflexible, and a bit expensive for what you get.

    Meanwhile, a PCI DVB-S card can be as cheap as $50, and with software decoding, you can play 4:2:2 streams, HDTV streams, free IP access from some satellites, and you don't need to worry about whether or not the reciever manufacturer will fix any bugs in it's firmware, or whether or not one reciever has an difficult to use menu system, etc.

    Disclaimer: I don't have either, but I've been looking at info all around the net (user reviews, forums, etc), deciding the same thing myself, over the past few weeks.
    • Re:Get a DVB-S card (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      DVB-S cards are better in many aspects. I use mine to record a lot of shows - it truly dwarfs the quality of any analog capturing means (PVRs, analog capture cards, whatever). The difference in quality is unreal - it's like twice as good (lesser-than-analog-cable versus nearly DVD). One you try it you NEVER go back to analog capturing, it just looks like crap, all these ppl using XP MCE and MythTV are truly missing out (or are blind). Then cut the commercials out if you got time, reencode in H.264 (using x2
  • Move to the UK (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ResistanceIsIrritati ( 808817 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @06:00AM (#14693515) Homepage
    You could always spend your cash on moving to the UK where we are well served with free to air programs via Freesat [freesatfromsky.co.uk] and Freeview [freeview.co.uk]. I use Freeview which works through your existing aerial and has all the channels I need. The cost of the decoders has plummeted in recent months. I paid about £100 18 months ago. You can now get them from the supermarket for less than £30. There are paid for channels available on Freeview if you want them and, of course Sky [sky.com] satellite.
    • That's "free-to-air", for some definition of "free" where you pay the BBC 130 pounds every year even if you never watch any of their broadcasts.
    • I use Freeview which works through your existing aerial and has all the channels I need.

      It's interesting that here in the US, few people even know what an aerial is any more. For years, real estate developers have been making deals with cable companies to force their residents into purchasing cable TV. This is done by writing clauses into local convenants (CC&Rs) that restrict home owners from putting up an antenna for aesthetic reasons, so most people just buy cable whether they need it or not.

      I

      • So put a wideband UHF aerial in your loft / attic; I have one in mine and get a fantastic analogue and digital (DVB-T, Freeview) signal from the local transmitter.
    • You could always spend your cash on moving to the UK

      yes, but the the food is so...... bleh.
  • Free to Air is similar to putting an antenna out and telling the cable (or DBS) company to get lost. Stealing is like stealing a DBS signal. I know someone who uses a re-programmed FTA receiver to receive both dish network AND FTA channels. If you want American Programming you may need a C-Band Dish for MPEG-2 FTA even though most programming is on KU-Band. Channels include: CCTV 4 (China) Pennsylvania Cable Network (C-Band USA) Al-Jezera etc. You can get thousands of channels.
  • Like a primestar. Install it yourself, it's not so tough.

    Recievers are cheap too, on ebay. Figure out where you'd want to point the dish, and get a reciever capable of decoding whichever bird it's aimed at.
    • Like a primestar. Install it yourself, it's not so tough.

      Problem is that such a dish costs $100,000 or more if your landlord or neighborhood association forbids satellite dishes.

      • Homeowner's association can only forbid dishes bigger than 1 meter, or the absolute height of any pole it needs to be on.

        Landlord can only forbid it if there are no exclusive use areas.

        And, since that's what the question is, that's a pretty fucking stupid thing to say.
  • BUD (big, ugly dish) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grumling ( 94709 ) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @09:42AM (#14693950) Homepage
    The way to see this stuff is with one of those old 3 meter dishes from the 80's. The problem is that it is likely your community has laws against such things being allowed in your yard (although most of the time you can put up a fence or something to hide it). I always said I would never live in a placee that has such restrictions (I want to put up a tower someday), but it is getting harder and harder to find a place that has no such restrictions that is affordable. The 100 acre ranch would be ideal, but not gonna happen on my salary.

    They say there was a time when people wanted to see telephone and power wires because it meant progress. Now we have to hide infrastructure underground, lest we offend the eye...
    • 1) Chances are, if you are a geek, you CAN afford a big honkin plot of land somewhere. I bought 36 acres outside of Research Triangle Park for less than it would cost to buy one acre INSIDE of the Triangle. I have a bit of a commute (about one hour), but then I live at a place where I can pursue my own ideas of appropriate living. I can make my own diesel, grow my own food, set up an ordnance bunker, paint my trees yellow, set up giant satellite dishes and windmills, farm pit bulls, whatever. (note I do
      • 1) Chances are, if you are a geek, you CAN afford a big honkin plot of land somewhere.

        Chances are, if you can afford a big plot of land, it can't get cable or DSL Internet access.

    • Mod the parent DOWN! He has no idea what he is talking about.

      The truth is these recivers use the same DishNetwork or DirecTV dish (46cm) that many of you already have attached to the side of your house. At worst you would need a 100cm dish.

    • The way to see this stuff is with one of those old 3 meter dishes from the 80's.

      Why? What important DVB-S signals are available on C-Band? It seems most everything is in Ku-Band now, which means you can get away with a MUCH smaller dish. Either a relatively tiny general-purpose 1.5m or throw-away DishNet/DirecTV dish.

      The problem is that it is likely your community has laws against such things being allowed in your yard

      Where do you live? I'll guess Eastern USA, or in a major city (LA, SF, etc), because p

  • i have found this link invaluable when trying to show off what free tv has to offer, http://lyngsat.com/freetv/index.html [lyngsat.com] , simpley select a region next to "Free TV:" and then a country so see what is broadcast from there.
  • ...by, for example, telling us what frickin' country you're in... I dunno, we Brits invented the computer and the web, but do we get any respect?
    • "we Brits invented the computer and the web..."

      Oh come ON... everyone knows Al Gore isn't British.
      • Ah, no, the Americans did invent the internet, and indeed Al Gore was an important figure in this. Who can argue with that? But the web, the thing that made the internet what it is today, was the invention of Professor Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, KBE, FRS.
  • Don't bother. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iantri ( 687643 ) <iantri @ g mx.net> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:46PM (#14694655) Homepage
    Unless you happen to like eccentric religious programming and bizarre foreign channels, you'll quickly find there is nothing to see in FTA DVB broadcasts in North America.

    You'll also quickly find out that most of the information about "free to air" receivers is actually put up under the guise of providing information for a similar and considerably more common activity; reprogramming the receivers with firmware that can decrypt, in software, the encryption schemes used by Dish Network and Bell ExpressVu (who both use the DVB standard for their broadcasts, DirecTV uses a proprietary standard).

    • Additionally, i forgot to mention that the North American providers aren't too cooperative; if you want to pay for programming you need to buy their receiver. So there's no option to pay for programming that you want.
    • eprogramming the receivers with firmware that can decrypt, in software, the encryption schemes used by Dish Network and Bell ExpressVu

      AFAICT that's the only way to use home-brew hardware with one of these services. So, if you subscribe legitimately but have one of those PoS receivers that are provided which crashes all the time, forgets to tape your shows, hangs up when you try to stop a recording, etc, ad. nauseum, you have to either suck it up or go grey.

      I'd love to be proven wrong on that as I haven't f
    • Unless you happen to like eccentric religious programming and bizarre foreign channels, you'll quickly find there is nothing to see in FTA DVB broadcasts in North America.

      That's very much true in Europe as well. All the European and African countries share the same satellite broadcast system. It's interesting to see what each culture considers the most important. While UK companies seem to broadcast porn, premium rate dial in competitions and bargain basement sales, China is broadcasting business news progr
  • There was a story on BoingBoing [boingboing.net] a few months back about a guy that does this. The picture is cool.

    "Al Jessup of Beckley, West Virginia, has 12 cheap satellite dishes stuck to his house, which pull in over 5,000 free-to-air channels from satellites all over the sky. He is retired, and delights in odd and foreign programming."
  • by pestie ( 141370 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @01:00AM (#14698216) Homepage
    I've been itching to get into FTA for years, but only got around to doing so a couple months ago. The simplest possible setup you'll need is:

    • A dish
    • An LNB (low noise block downconverter, which sits at the focal point of the dish)
    • A receiver

    Because I wasn't really sure about FTA I wanted to get into it as cheaply as possible. I bought a cheap 0.3dB LNB and a truly crappy receiver on eBay, used an old Primestar 40" x 30" dish (which turns out to be one of the best dishes you can get for FTA), hooked it all up, got it aimed at Intelsat Americas 5 [lyngsat.com] and started watching! I think my total equipment investment was in the neighborhood of $100. I did replace my craptastic receiver with a more expensive ($150 at the time) Fortec Lifetime Classic [sadoun.com], but it was worth it. You can, as others have said, go with PC-based solutions, too - PCI or USB satellite receivers - but I wanted a standalone receiver just to start.

    Yes, as others have pointed out, most of what's available via FTA in North America is religious programming or bizarre foreign channels, but don't let that discourage you! First of all, that stuff ranges from entertaining to totally weird (like the old animated Star Trek series dubbed in Armenian, or some damned thing). If you're sick of the crap on American TV, this'll definitely give you something more interesting to check out. Second, there are some American channels up there, especially PBS and the like, but some network affiliates as well. And if you're really determined, you can find network feeds, where the networks send their shows to their affiliate stations in the clear, before they officially air. You can also find news crews out in the field, often doing flattering things like swearing and picking their noses before as they set up and test their equipment before a remote report.

    FTA is like the Wild West of television. It's not always easy to find the good stuff, but it's worth the effort.

    Check out the SatelliteGuys forum [satelliteguys.us] if you want more information. The people there are extremely friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. I'm just a user there, not an admin or owner, so I'm not trying to shill for the site or anything. I just love it.
  • I have had one hell of a lot of fun scanning the skies. I started out with a modest 76cm Winegard antenna and a Samsung receiver, just pointed at Intelsat Americas 5 (formerly Telstar 5). IA5 has a veritable international conclave up there, with a lot of international content uplinked by Globecast World TV [globecastwtv.com]. Some of it is encrypted pay content, but a lot of it is free, subsidized by foreign governments who want to reach their folks overseas. China runs 2 or 3 continuous news channels on another satellite. I

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