Most digital receivers come with a list of channels pre-programmed, and as we mentioned above, it can update the channel list from the satellite itself. There is no need for us here therefore to list every channel receivable, nor can we do so: new channels appear and others disappear very often. Instead, we will give a more general and approximate breakdown of what kind of free (or 'open', that is, uncoded) channels you can find on the major satellite positions over Europe, according to what language they send in. For residual analogue viewers, or the 'I want everything' user, we also indicate how many analogue channels remain, as of March 2001.

Astra 1

This group of satellites placed at 19 degrees East used to be the major satellite position in Europe, it has now been bypassed by one or two others, and is of main interest to those who look for German channels. The breakdown is as follows:
  • 35 German channels
  • 9 French
  • 4 English
  • 3 Arab
  • 2 Polish
  • 2 Spanish
  • 2 Italian
[All these figures are approximate.]
These German channels include the major terrestial state and regional channels, as well as the largest commercial ones. The English ones include CNN, Sky News and Travel. Astra 1 still has about twenty-five channels in analogue, almost all German [and all also transmitted in digital], with CNN, Sky News, CNBC and Eurosport in English. The UK channel Channel 5 is a bit of an exception: in digital it is sent encrypted on Astra 2. In analogue, you can also see it on Astra 1 if you have a Videocrypt decoder - you do not need a subscription card. There is no saying how long this will last; the remaining subscription-based British channels in Videocrypt (the Sky channels) will cease transmission in the summer of 2001, and Channel 5 may follow suit. It will otherwise then be the only Videocrypt-encoded channel in existence.


The current fare on the HotBird satellite(s) at 13 degrees East is more varied in language, and in total almost twice in number as on Astra 1:
  • 35 Italian channels
  • 22 Arabic
  • 16 German
  • 8 English
  • 7 Spanish
  • 7 Polish
  • 5 French
  • 4 Persian
  • 2 Russian
  • 2 Greek
  • 2 Chinese
  • 1 Dutch
  • 1 Portuguese
  • and about a dozen channels in various Balkan languages, also Thai, Kurdish etc.
Some of the German channels are duplicates of those on Astra 1 (or Swiss/Austrian variants of them); the English include BET, Bloomberg, and EuroNews. Hotbird still has 18 - 20 channels in analogue, most are duplicates of the digital services: the three RAIs in Italian, two German channels, two in French, two Spanish, three or four in Middle Eastern languages, Portuguese, and two or three in Polish.
One in English stands out: BBC World (the news channel, not the entertainment BBC Prime). That is an open and free channel in analogue on Hotbird, while it is in digital only encoded as part of many subscription packages, but not free to air.

Astra 2

The new Astra position at 28 degrees East is all British, and is mainly taken up by the Sky subscription package as well as BBC and other terrestial channels which are all encoded and unavailable to residents outside the UK. There are however also a dozen or a little more open channels, all in English, on Astra 2. They include Sky News and ITN, then various money channels, home shopping and advertisement and one or two regional channels, so the fare may be meager if you do not have access to UK subscription, but given the dearth of open English-language channels elsewhere, it may be kept in mind.
Astra 2 has no analogue channels at all. Sirius and Thor

The Scandinavian satellites on 5 degrees East (Sirius) and 1 degree West (Thor), are also mainly for subscription. Sirius has two open channels in Swedish, one in analogue and one in digital. Thor has five or six open digital channels in various languages (Danish, Russian, Hindi and two in Chinese. BBC World is a subscription channel, but may I believe be open as well), none in analogue. Other satellites

Most other satellites are in the same category; focused on a subscription channel and with a smattering of free-to-air channels. The exception to this are regional satellites like ArabSat, NileSat and TurkSat which have only channels in Arabic and Turkish respectively, most of them free to air. As for European language channels, some may be mentioned:

  • Eutelsat W 2, 16 deg. East: 13-14 channels (4-5 Italian, 2-3 Dutch, Romanian)
  • Eutelsat W 1, 10 deg. E: 4-5 in all (German, Turkish, Balkan).
  • Eutelsat W 3, 7 deg. E: 13-14 in all (6 Turkish, 4 Polish)
  • Telecom 2D, 8 deg West: 6-7 in all (Turkish, French. Also lists BBC World)
  • Telstar 12, 15 deg. W: 4-5 (English, Chinese)
Of the French Telecom channels, Telecom 2B at 5 degree West may be mentioned: It carries no digital channels, but has the terrestial French channels in open (free) analogue (but in the SECAM colour scheme; if you have a non-French TV set, pictures will appear in black and white). In digital form, these are in sent as part of encoded subscription packages for France, transmitted from Hotbird.

By language

So, summing up, free channels are available in these languages (again: approximate figures! Not counting duplicates, and there are channels in languages not listed here):
  • German: 45 channels (Astra1, Hotbird)
  • Italian: 35 (Hotbird, Astra1, Eutelsat 2)
  • Arabic: 35 (Hotbird, Arabsat, Astra1)
  • English: 15 (Astra2, Hotbird, Astra1)
  • Spanish: 14 (Hotbird, Astra1)
  • Polish: 12 (Hotbird, Astra1, Eutelsat 3)
  • French: 10 (Astra1, Hotbird, Telecom 2D)
  • Persian: 4 (Hotbird)
  • Dutch: 4 (Hotbird, Astra1, Eutelsat 2)
  • Chinese: 3 (Hotbird, Thor)
  • Russian: 2 (Hotbird, Thor)
  • Greek: 2 (Hotbird)
  • Danish: 1 (Thor)