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History of Freesat


On digital terrestrial, the channels have always been available free-to-air with the appropriate equipment. In 2007 Freeview was available to only 73% of the population. After analogue TV services were replaced in the digital switchover, this increased to 98.5% for the public service channels and 90% for the full 'Freeview' service. To provide more widespread coverage and a larger number of channels, a digital satellite alternative was felt necessary.

In May 2003 the BBC moved most of its channels from the Astra 2A satellite to Astra 2D, which has a footprint that focuses more tightly on the UK. This move allowed the BBC to stop encrypting its broadcasts while continuing to meet its rights obligations. It dropped the encryption two months later. Two months later, ITV, whose channels had already been located on the Astra 2D satellite since launching on the Sky platform some years earlier, also made their channels free-to-air.

The Freesat project aims to provide a managed service with an Electronic Programme Guide and interactive features similar to the Freeview service launched three years earlier. Unlike Freeview, however, these features are only available on approved receivers manufactured under licence from Freesat.

The service launched officially on 6 May 2008. From the launch, Freesat advertised all national television channels from the BBC and ITV as being available on the platform (excluding ITV2 +1), as well as all national BBC radio networks. Channel 4 also managed to make most of its channels free-to-air in preparation for the launch. In addition some channels from other broadcasters such as Chello Zone, CSC Media Group, Al Jazeera English, Zee Live, Zee News, RIA Novosti and Euronews were included on the channel list.

BBC One HD, a high-definition simulcast of BBC One, was made available on Freesat and other platforms on 3 November 2010. Channel 4 HD also became available on the platform on 19 April 2011, but will be withdrawn from 22 February 2018. NHK World HD was added to Freesat on 9 May 2011; it shared its channel number with its standard definition counterpart and was therefore only listed on high definition receivers, which were unable to access the standard definition channel via the EPG. (The SD channel ceased transmission on 1 October 2011.) On 23 July 2012, the BBC added 24 temporary channels to cover the 2012 Summer Olympics, the channels share their EPG slot with their standard definition counterpart. On 29 August 2012, Channel 4 added three temporary channels covering the 2012 Summer Paralympics in high definition from the following day; the three channels also share their EPG slots. On 14 February 2013, RT HD was added to Freesat, sharing its channel number with its standard definition simulcast.

Some channels (notably BBC One and ITV) are transmitted in regional variations and the appropriate services are selected by the Freesat receiver from the user's postcode. In March 2010, ITV altered several of their regions from free-to-air transmission to free-to-view (because they were moved to a satellite from which transmission covers a much larger area than just the UK and content licensing means that they had to be encrypted). As a result, a few Freesat viewers (who cannot receive free-to-view, encrypted content) were moved to regional variations not corresponding to their actual location. Other available regions may be chosen by putting a different post code into your box for your preferred TV region. BBC English Regional content is only available in SD, whereas Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland programmes are in HD on BBC One only.

On 16 January 2019 male-orientated lifestyle channel, DMAX launched on Freesat channel 150, replacing Discovery’s Travel Channel on free-to-air. With content centred on around survival, extreme lives, motoring and comedy, DMAX joins Discovery FTA stablemates, Quest, Quest Red and the Food Network.

The UK free-to-air entertainment channel operated by Channel 5, Paramount Network, joined Freesat on 17 April 2019 on channel 132.