Long ago I “cut the cable” and started watching over-the-air (OTA) TV. Your remember, it’s the TV most of us grew up with if you were born pre-1980. I actually use my police scanning antenna on a splitter to receive my TV signals, and it works pretty good (I get about 30-35 channels). The only problem with OTA programming are those dagnabbit commercials! I can’t stand ’em!
Fortunately there is another type of OTA TV, called Free-to-Air satellite, or FTA. I have written about this before The Thrill of Discovery so I won’t cover all of that ground again. Commercial free TV (at least mostly) is such a welcome experience – no distractions from the programming, and no appeals to crass consumerism. And then there is the radio section of FTA satellite offerings – hundreds of radio stations, including some of the big shortwave names which are no longer on the shortwave bands.
I had been without my beloved FTA offerings because of a particularly violent windstorm which actually pulled up some panels from my all-metal roof over the garage. My satellite dish is up there on a pallet, held in place by cement blocks. Apparently the wind was strong enough to raise the metal and move the pallet just a twitch, or so I thought, which could knock reception off of a satellite. As for fixing it, hot summer, metal roof — you get the picture.
As it turns out, my satellite dish was fine. The problem was failing batteries in my receiver remote. Apparently it was sending jumbled signals to the receiver, which in turn was not able to position the dish correctly. Let that be a lesson to me! Always check the batteries first!
With well over 400 different TV stations available just on the satellites I have tuned in, and several hundred radio stations, I have more than enough to keep me interested. International news, cultural music and customs, sporting events, even some American channels with old-time programming — it’s great radio and TV all received by my 3 ft. dish. While I do watch some of the cultural history/art/cooking shows, mainly I listen to it like a radio while working on other things. I consider it radio with pictures.
For those who may be wondering what it takes to get started in this, I will pass along some information on my equipment, as well as some sites for exploring FTA satellite TV (and Radio!).
Keep in mind you can start with a fixed dish and a receiver pointed at one satellite (I would suggest Galaxy 19 in North America) with a clear view of the equator to the south. Obviously in other parts of the world you may be pointed north, or you may have a whole different series of satellites available to you if living in Europe or Asia, etc.
The satellite reference sites I list should give you good information regardless of your location, and while the varieties of receivers and dishes may differ in terms of manufacturers, the setup info should be fairly consistent.
The rotor is not necessary if just tuning into one satellite. Lowers cost and eases setup a bit. But with a rotor, once a satellite is in exactly, then usually the programming in the receiver knows how to find others. The number of satellites able to be received will depend on the width of open sky available to you when pointed toward the geosynchronous satellites. Of course you will need coax and a means to align the satellite. I have included a link for a typical meter – very basic but will work.(If getting a rotor for multiple Sats, and if you can afford it, I highly recommend getting something like the SATlink WS-6908 or the 8dtek DSM Desired DVB-S2, or similar. These are receive capable finders which allow you to actually see the signals at the dish site.
Finally, below the equipment links I have included some company references and forums, etc. which might be helpful in researching FTA stuff.
Receiver (similar, my Amiko is no longer in production): https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B0
Rotor (eBay): STAB HH-90 SATELLITE DISH MOTOR FTA ROTOR HH90 DISEqC ITALIAN MOTORIZED ROTOR
Satellite Finder meter: http://sadoun.com/Sat/Products
Here is a link to a video for showing how to setup an FTA system with a rotor if interested (and a good company to buy from): http://sadoun.com/Sat/Installa
Another good company: http://hypermegasat.com/Index.
A good forum: https://www.satelliteguys.us/x
Another good forum: http://legalfreetoair.com/inde
Site to see what’s on the air: http://ftalistings.com/
And another site for listings: https://www.lyngsat.com/
You can get started for around $150 – 200 (less used) for a stationary setup, or about $300-350 with a rotor. Not bad considering it is a one-time cost rather than monthly cable fees! And of course, you can always have multiple dishes and/or multiple LNBs per dish to increase coverage. Give it a shot! Cut the cable and enjoy the free life!! 73, Robert