freesat: the 12 most important things you need to know about the subscription-free satellite service

Columns & Opinion, Satellite TV

freesat_logo.pngFreesat launched on 6th May. This FAQ was last updated on 6th May 2008.

1. What is freesat?

freesat is a subscription-free satellite service due to launch in the UK in Spring 2008.

freesat is a joint collaboration between the BBC and ITV, approved by the BBC Trust.

2. What programmes will freesat offer?

freesat will offer a range of free-to-air, free-to-view programmes much as Freeview currently does, plus additional high definition content not currently available on Freeview.

At launch, over 80 channels are available (see the end of this FAQ for the complete list), with as many as 200 planned for the end of 2008.

The major channels from the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 are all available, however Five currently has an exclusive arrangement with Sky and so isn’t yet available. The same is true of some other channels currently on Freeview, including Virgin 1, TMF, The Hits, UKTV History, Dave, Sky Three and Sky Sports News.

3. What equipment is needed to receive freesat?

Viewers will need a compatible satellite dish, plus a digital box or TV with inbuilt freesat receiver. Alternatively, some manufacturers will be launching TVs with integrated freesat tuners — for example Panasonic will launch three integrated HDTVs in June.

Anyone who already has a satellite dish who is able to receive the likes of BBC Three and ITV2 will probably be able to receive the freesat signal and will just need a compatible digibox or TV. However, it is worth checking with a retailer first.

In addition, if a satellite receiver is still under warranty or contract, connecting freesat equipment to it may invalidate that warranty.

freesat is keen to point out that only by buying branded equipment (that displaying the freesat logo) can customers guarantee they’ll get access to all channels, EPG, features, and future updates.

Though they admit that some unbranded equipment will be able to receive some channels, they say that won’t include high definition content, and neither will the EPG or interactive features will be available.

However, they are keen to work with other manufacturers, including companies which make PC tuner cards, in due course.

4. How much will freesat cost?

A standard definition digibox will cost around £50 (some cheaper, some more expensive) while a high definition digibox will retail for around £150. Obviously TVs and other digiboxes with more functionality will cost more.

5. When will freesat be available?

freesat launched on 6th May 2008.

6. Who will be able to get freesat?

Over 98% of the UK population should be able to receive the freesat signal, because it is transmitted from the Astra and Eurobird satellites.

7. Is FREESAT FROM SKY the same service?

No. Freesat From Sky is a commercial, subscription-free satellite service run by Sky, offering over 200 digital TV channels and interactive services, with the possibility of upgrading to paid Sky services with the same equipment.

8. Will all Freeview channels be available via freesat?

A number of the channels from Freeview are available on freesat, but not all. See the list at the end of this article.

There’s an issue with Five, due to contracts they currently have in place with Sky. This means that their digital channels may not be available immediately from freesat’s launch, but could be phased in towards the end of 2008.

Additionally, some channels that are subscription-based on Sky, such as Virgin 1, Sky Three, and Dave, are are absent from the freesat line-up.

9. Who will be able to get high definition content via freesat?

Anyone with a high definition television, a high definition freesat receiver, and HDMI connector cable, will be able to watch the HD content.

It’s also possible to connect a high definition digibox to a standard definition TV, in which case any high definition content will be downscaled.

The standard definition receiver won’t display high definition content on any TV.

10. What high definition content will be available?

The BBC HD channel is immediately available, with ITV HD coming exclusively to freesat within a matter of weeks.

Between them, expect to see entertainment, sport, films, drama, children’s TV, and more.

Hopefully Channel 4, Five, and others will make content available on freesat in due course.

11. Who will make freesat equipment and where can I get it?

These are the first standard definition and high definition digiboxes to come to market:

Humax FOXSAT-HD high definition digital set-top box – £150

Grundig GUFSAT01SD standard definition digital set-top-box – £50

Grundig GUFSAT01HD high definition digital sex-top box – £150

Goodmans GDSAT100SD standard definition digital set-top box – £70

Goodmans GFSAT200HD high definition digital set-top box – £150

Bush BFSAT01SD standard definition digital set-top box – £50

Bush BFSAT01HD high definition digital set-top box – £120

Additionally, Panasonic plans to manufacture three LCD HDTVs with freesat built in. 42 and 46 inch models will be available from June, with a 52 inch model coming in July.

freesat equipment and installation booking can initially be done via Argos, Comet, Currys and John Lewis, plus some independent retailers.

12. Does this affect digital switchover?

freesat is another way of “futureproofing” existing analogue TVs when digital switchover is completed in 2012.

More information can be found at the official freesat web site and unofficial blog.

FREESAT CHANNELS AT LAUNCH (EPG numbers in brackets)

Entertainment (101-199)

BBC One (101)
BBC Two (102)
ITV1 (103)
C4 / S4C in Wales (104)
BBC Three (106)
BBC Four (107)
BBC HD (108)
ITV2 (113)
ITV3 (115)
ITV3+1 (116)
ITV4 (117)
S4C Digidol / C4 in Wales (120)
E4 (122)
More4 (124)
Zone Romantica (135)
Zone Thriller (137)

News and Sport (200-299)

BBC News (200)
BBC Parliament (201)
S4C2 (202)
Al-Jazeera English (203)
Euronews (204)

Movies (300-399)

Film4 (300)
True Movies (302)
True Movies2 (303)
Movies4Men (304)
Movies4Men2 (306)

Lifestyle (400-499)

Wedding TV (402)
Overseas Property Channel (411)
Men and Motors (450)

Music (500-599)

Chartshow TV (500)
The Vault (501)
Scuzz (502)
Bubble Hits (503)
B4U Music (504)

Children (600-649)

CBBC (600)
CBeebies (601)
CiTV (602)
POP (603)
POPGirl (604)
Tiny POP(605)

Special Interest (650-699)

Teachers TV (650)

Radio (700-799)

BBC Radio 1 (700)
1Xtra BBC (701)
BBC Radio 2 (702)
BBC Radio 3 (703)
BBC Radio 4 FM (704)
BBC Radio 4 LW (705)
BBC Radio Five Live (706)
BBC Radio Five Live Sports Extra (707)
BBC 6 Music (708)
BBC 7 (709)
BBC Asian Network (710)
BBC World Service (711)
BBC Radio Scotland (712)
BBC Radio nan Gaidheal (713)
BBC Radio Wales (714)
BBC Radio Cymru (715)
BBC Radio Ulster (716)
BBC London 94.9 (718)

Shopping (800-849)

QVC (800)
Price Drop TV (801)
Bid TV (802)
Pitch TV (803)
JML Lifestyle (810)

Interactive (900-949)

Regional (950-999) also accessible via BBC
One/BBC Two
BBC One London (950)
BBC One Channel Islands (951)
BBC One East (W) (954)
BBC One Northern Ireland (957)
BBC One Scotland (960)
BBC One Wales (964)
BBC Two England (968)
BBC Two Northern Ireland (969)
BBC Two Scotland (970)
BBC Two Wales (971)

ITV regionals accessed via ITV1 London (not listed separately)

STV Scottish East
STV Scottish West
ITV1 Wales
ITV1 Border England
ITV1 Central West
ITV1 Granada
ITV1 Anglia East
Channel TV
STV Grampian North

Andy Merrett
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