What is Freesat ?
Freesat is a British digital satellite television platform developed by the BBC and ITV plc. The service began broadcasting on 6 May 2008 and offers a satellite equivalent of the Freeview service, with a selection of channels available without subscription for users purchasing a receiver. The service makes use of the additional capacity available on digital satellite broadcasting to offer high-definition channels.
BBC and ITV, the two biggest free-to-air broadcasters in the UK, have made their services available digitally through two routes, digital terrestrial and digital satellite.
On digital terrestrial, the channels have always been available free-to-air with the appropriate equipment. However, Freeview is currently available to only 73% of the population. After analogue TV services are replaced in the planned digital switchover, this will increase to 98.5% for the public service channels and 90% for the full Freeview service. In order to provide more widespread coverage and a larger number of channels, a digital satellite alternative is necessary.
The digital satellite platform has largely been controlled by the commercial operator BSkyB. Initially, both the BBC's and ITV's channels were encrypted since the original satellites used for Sky Digital broadcast to most of Europe but the broadcasters rights for premium content such as films and sports typically covered the UK only.
The use of encryption meant that any viewer wishing to view the channels had to purchase equipment from Sky and pay for a free-to-view viewing card in order to decrypt the channels. Similarly, in order to use the Videoguard encryption, the broadcasters needed to pay a fee to NDS.
Move to free-to-air
In May 2003 the BBC moved all of their channels onto the Astra 2D satellite which has a footprint that focuses more tightly on the UK. This move allowed the BBC to stop encrypting their broadcasts while continuing to meet their licence obligations. They dropped the encryption two months later.
In September 2005, the BBC and ITV announced that they would collaborate on a free-to-air satellite service to complement Freeview. Two months later, ITV also moved their channels over to Astra 2D and then made them free-to-air.
The free-to-air channels could then be received using any standard digital satellite (DVB-S) receiver. However, the Freesat project aims to provide a more managed service with an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), interactive features and approved receivers, similar to the Freeview service launched three years earlier.
The initial plan was to release the service in early 2006. This was postponed to Autumn 2007 as approval from the BBC Trust was only received in April 2007. However, the service was further delayed and was officially launched on 6 May 2008.
BBC HD was available on Freesat from launch day, with ITV HD scheduled to be added later. As of May 2008, no high definition channels are available via digital terrestrial, however, Ofcom have confirmed that from 2009 high definition will be available on Freeview, requiring an HD Freeview box.
Why get Freesat ?
Well, for starters you’ll get over 80 TV and radio channels, and HD programmes from the BBC and ITV* – all for free. But it doesn’t stop there – freesat gives you super fast digital text and enhanced interactivity as well as digital subtitles and audio description.
And they will bring you more channels every month, their line-up will just get better and better. To help you make the most of this choice they have organised channels so you won’t waste time channel hopping. They have arranged them all into easy-to-use categories with their 7-day on-screen programme guide. So, with freesat you can find exactly what you want at the press of a button.