FTA Satellite, News, Shortwave

It’s Radio with Pictures!


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/B00HAV96A2?tag=amz-mkt-fox-us-20&ascsubtag=1ba00-01000-s1060-def00-dsk00-smile-us000-pcomp-feature-scomp-wm-4&ref=bit_scomp_smile_sav0


Dish (Ebay): http://www.ebay.com/itm/36-Inch-90-cm-Free-To-Air-FTA-Satellite-Dish-HD-LNBF-/122007810338?hash=item1c683b7122

Satellite Finder meter: http://sadoun.com/Sat/Products/Accessories/Meters/SF95L-DSS-FTA-Satellite-Signal-meter.htm


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/Installation/HH-mount-installation.htm

Another good company: http://hypermegasat.com/Index.html

A good forum: https://www.satelliteguys.us/xen/

Another good forum: http://legalfreetoair.com/index.php

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



  • Reply John c. 10/13/2017 at 7:35 pm


    Great article and timely as I’m getting tired of cable packages. I’ve used an indoor TV antenna for OTA and on a small 6 inch portable TV I can get aroundc6-8 stations. It’s free so that’s not bad. The sat set up sounds intriguing. Thanks again!

  • Reply Robert 10/13/2017 at 11:13 pm

    My pleasure, John! Until cable starts selling things on-demand at reasonable prices, I’ll stick with the free stuff. I can’t stand having to pay for 100 channels I don’t watch for the five I might want to from time to time!
    Cheers! Robert

  • Reply Justin Moore 10/14/2017 at 10:02 am

    Great post Robert!

  • Reply gary 10/15/2017 at 3:40 pm

    tnx for that robert just wondering if anyone can help me with how to set up a vb cable for recieving digital radio sigs . i have an rsp2 and ive downloaded vb cable and dsd plus but i forget how to run the vb cable set up. must try harder ha ha. wud be very obliged for any help on this . tnx and re rotor satelite i might give it a go in the near future . i have a free to air box rigged up to a sky dish which we bought when we where subscribing to them . wasnt impressed . the guy who set up the dish wasnt very helpfull and he left without telling us that he cudnt tune in the terrestrial chns which i did my self with an indoor antenna going straight into the tv. any thats the story best of luck and tnx for the info . regards and all the best gary.

    • Reply Robert 10/18/2017 at 12:14 am

      Hi Gary!
      While I could not find specific instructions, I did locate the site and would recommend asking the creator of the software. I run Windows so the installation files would be different, but have found the owner to be quite responsive when contacted.
      As for the Sky Dish – I assume it is basically the British equivalent of DirecTV or Dish Network. These satellite dishes are usually about 18 inches in diameter, and tend to be too small for Ku band reception. You might be able to pick up a few really strong stations, but due to the limited size they do not have very good power levels. The larger the dish the more the power is amplified.
      Also you would need to purchase an LNB for the KU band to get the right frequencies. Then of course you would need a Ku band receiver.
      All in all, I suspect a package deal would end up saving you money in the long run, and you would get the right size dish (36″ or larger) for Ku reception. Best of luck!!
      Cheers! Robert

    Leave a Reply