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Subject: Satellite TV Frequently Asked Questions List
This article was archived around: 17 May 2001 22:09:23 GMT
Copyright 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 Gary Bourgois
USENET SATELLITE FAQ LIST
Frequently Asked Questions in rec.video.satellite / HOMESAT-L
Compiled and Edited by Gary Bourgois, WB8EOH
Send additions/further questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.MI.US
May be posted to other networks and individual systems provided it is not
edited or modified in any form.
DESTROY ALL PREVIOUS EDITIONS
Gary Bourgois, FAQ Author
What do I need to receive Satellite TV?
Who should own a Satellite Receiver?
What types of things can I see with a satellite system that I might not
find on Cable or Broadcast TV?
How much will a satellite system cost me?
Where can I get a list of all the satellites and satellite channels?
Is there a good cheap book that will help me set up, align and repair my
In reference to a satellite communications system, what does a backhaul mean,
and what does it physically represent?
What about scrambling, isn't it all scrambled these days?
How much does it cost to "descramble" the scrambled channels?
How does my descrambler talk back to the satellite, and how does it know
where I live so it can black out my local sporting events?
Are the networks scrambled?
What channels will never be scrambled?
How do descramblers work?
Where can i get the plans to build a descrambler so I can watch for free
But what about the other scrambling systems used by broadcasters, how do
How small a dish can I use, and what is this DBS thing?
Can I use a smaller dish for AUDIO only?
What is the difference between PRIMESTAR and DSS?
Can I get STAR TREK: Voyager on my satellite dish? WHEN is it ON?
What is a Wild Feed, and why are these shows sent early?
What does "BUD" mean (I see it all the time in postings on the net)
How can i know which NBA and NHL games are on the birds?
Can you watch more than one TV at the same time?
Can I receive international satellites on my dish?
What about this mysterious KU band?
What does it cost to add KU to my system?
What is an Inclined Orbit Satellite, and how can I receive them?
How long does a satellite "last" and why do they get regularly replaced?
It is early Spring (Fall) and I was watching my satellite dish and the
picture got fuzzy and vanished. What happened?
What is SCPC?
What are DATS and SEDATS Audio, and how can I receive them.
What digital information is available on satellite and how do I get it?
What is the best satellite system for me?
Isn't it difficult to install a satellite system?
My community has restrictive covenants and dishes are not allowed.
Is there anything I can do to install a dish?
I live on a wooded lot with lots of trees. Is this a problem?
How can I subscribe to the HOMESAT mailing list, since I don't get netnews?
What other sources of info are there about home satellite?
I have a question that was not on this list. How do I get an answer?
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED TO RECEIVE SATELLITE TV?
A TVRO (TeleVision Receive Only) System consists of the following components:
This is the most visible component, a parabolic reflector which may
consist of Solid Aluminum, Perforated Aluminum or WIRE MESH. Dish
sizes vary from small (3-4 feet KU BAND, EUROPE) all the way to
16-20 Ft (USA Commercial C-BAND) with the average falling between
7-12 ft, 10 ft being most common. This device focuses the microwave
signals coming from the satellites much as the mirror in a reflecting
telescope concentrates the light from distant galaxies.
The most common type of dish mount is called a POLAR MOUNT, so named
because it is oriented to coincide with the earth's axis, enabling
it to "track" the satellites, which are spread out in geostationary
orbit in a band of the sky called the "Clarke Belt", named after
Arthur C. Clarke, who dreamed up the concept of geostationary
communications satellites back in 1945.
The mount is installed on a 3 inch pipe, which is sunk in concrete.
Most (but not all) mounts require a 3.5" OD pole. In most (but not all)
cases this is a 3" ID pipe. Schedule 40 works well, so does used "drill
stem". In many areas, this is available from salvage dealers at very
reasonable prices. (* OD refers to OUTER DIAMETER, ID refers to
THE POSITIONER ARM (Actuator)
A device containing a motor that is used to swing the satellite dish
to allow it to focus on individual satellites, which may be as close
to one another as 2 degrees of arc. Actuator arms are most commonly
found in 18- and 24-inch lengths (the longer the arm, the wider the arc
that the dish can "see".) In addition, a more expensive aiming mechanism,
called a "horizon-to-horizon" actuator, is capable of more precise aiming
(important on Ku band and closely-spaced satellites), as well as being
able to see the entire satellite arc from your location.
Many true dish heads have also added a second actuator to control
the VERTICAL aspect (elevation) of the dish, to enable them to
track inclined orbit satellites which "wobble" or vary in the vertical
This is the Little gizmo that amplifies the very weak signals from
the dish, and also converts them to a more suitable band of
frequencies. LNB means LOW NOISE BLOCKCONVERTOR. Older systems
consisted of separate components: LNA (Low Noise Amplifier) and a
downconvertor which changed the received signals (3-4 GHz, or
GIGAherz ....A GIGAHerz is one thousand megaHz....) to 70 Mhz.
The "standard block" used today is 950 to 1450 Mhz. Both C and
KU band (while they input on vastly different frequencies) output
on the 950 to 1450 Mhz block. HOWEVER there are special consider-
ations when dealing with KU (explained later)
There is also a device called an LNBF, which combines the LNB and
feedhorn into a single unit. (See below for description of feed
assembly. The LNBF device uses a simpler method for adjusting
the polarity (voltage right on the LNB cable). You can not adjust fine
skew, just H or V. This device is practical for C band only systems.
However if the LNB part goes bad, you need to replace ALL of it.
An LNBF is especially suitable for dedicated operations, such as a
smaller dish used for only one satellite. I have a 6 foot dish which
I use for Telstar 401 only, using an LNBF, and it gives excellent
THE FEED ASSEMBLY
The feedhorn acts as a microwave "funnel" if you want to think of
it that way. This device places the LNB at the focus of the dish,
and is usually just called "the feed". There are several different
types of feeds.
Single C band feed: Contains ONE C band LNB. A device called
a POLAROTOR is located inside, which allows the reception of
both vertically polarized and horizontally polarized channels.
In general practice, the EVEN channels are on ONE polarity and
the ODD channels are on the opposite polarity. The actual
polarity scheme depends on the satellite in question.
Dual C band feed: Allows the use of Two C band LNB's one for
horizontal polarization and one for vertical.
Dual Band Feed (C and KU): Has two separate LNB's, one for C
band and one for KU band.
DUAL C band and single KU band feed: (There is at least one
version of this type of feed.
The most popular Dual Band feedhorns are the Chaparral CO-ROTOR II
Gardiner and ADL, though there are others on the market. While these
are actually a compromise system, with some minor losses, in
practice they work pretty well.
This is a bundle of various wires and cables that run from the dish
to the receiver, and consist of cables for the C and/or KU LNB's,
Power to the LNB (Usually sent over the same COAXIAL CABLE) as well
as power for the positioner arm, return signals for position readout,
and control voltage for the polarotor.
Power to actuator Arm (Two conductors)
Return position readout from actuator (Two conductors)
The position readout cable from the actuator to the actuator controller
should have THREE conductors for the position sensor. For pot sensors, one
is for the tap, the other two are for the resistor. For pulse sensors, one
is ground, one is +5V, and the other is pulse input. Not all arms require
all three connections, but my scrounged Saginaw special has some nifty
hall-effect gizmo that does require power to generate pulses.
Power to polarotor (Two conductors)
Polarotors come in two different varieties. The "old style" just used a 12V
motor to rotate the probe. Apply power, it moves. Reverse polarity, it
changes direction. The new ones use a three wire connection. One for +5V,
one for ground, and one for "pulse".
RG-6U cable (rather than the often-seen RG-59U) is the cable of choice
for the higher frequencies of satellite TV.
There are many receivers available by a number of manufacturers,
both new and used. The receiver takes the signal from the LNB
and produces a TV picture from the wideband FM video, and also
allows you to tune SUBCARRIER audio, which can provide many
different audio only services such as MUSIC and TALK shows and
even DATA TEXT reception. Newer receivers work with the standard
950-1450 mhz block that comes out of a standard LNB. Older ones
use a direct 70 MHZ feed and have an LNA (low noise amplifier) and
downconvertor at the dish. If you are on a budget, one of these
older type receivers might be a good place to start, though most
folks today use the more modern technology.
Your receiver may also have a descrambler built in for decoding
PAY services. This type of receiver is called an IRD or
Integrated Receiver Descrambler. You need a descrambler for
services like HBO and regular CABLE-TV type services (to be
The DE-FACTO consumer descrambler is the VIDEOCIPHER system which
is manufactured by General Instruments (G.I) in the USA. There
are stand-alone decoders still available. However a major consider-
ation is that at the present time, Descrambler technology is changing
and older descramblers will not work under the new standards. Beware
when buying an IRD (INTEGRATED, RECEIVER DESCRAMBLER) that the
unit can be upgraded to the new VC-II+
and forthcoming VC-II+ RS (Renewable Security) if you plan on watching
scrambled (Mostly Cable) services or Pay Per View movies and sports
In Canada, the OAK-ORION system was another popular scrambling system,
which was used by TELESAT CANADA on the ANIK (Canadian) satellites.
CANCOM dumped OAK, in preparation for EXPRESSVU DBS. There ARE
some USA programs transmitted with the OAK-ORION system, primarily
Horse Racing and Hospital programming. While it is LEGAL to own a
OAK-ORION decoder, there are not enough services available in this
format to warrant doing so. Unless a person is a REAL horse racing
nut, and even then, getting the decoder AUTHORIZED to descramble
the horse races is questionable.
There are other scrambling systems in use in Europe.
In the USA, there had been a serious market for "pirate" or "chipped"
decoders, which receive scrambled services without the payment of
subscription fees. This situation has lead to the change to the
revised VC-II+ and forthcoming VC-II+ RS systems, which hope to
thwart this piracy through the use of a renewable "credit card" type
of chip system. Of course, this technology costs the consumer
additional money, on top of subscription fees that for the most part
are higher than comparable cable prices. Since the majority of the
scrambled channels are owned by the cable TV conglomerates, who
would prefer people subscribe to cable rather than view by satellite,
the reasoning here is obvious. For this reason, satellite TV
popularity in the USA has declined.
More about scrambling later in this FAQ list.
WHO SHOULD OWN A SATELLITE SYSTEM:
Most owners of Satellite TV systems these days fall into the following
1. Those who can not get cable due to isolated location.
2. Those who wish to receive programs not available on their
local cable system.
3. People who desire the sharpest "blow you away" video picture
possible (Studio Quality, far better than cable or over air)
Or those who want DISCRETE stereo sound from channels or
networks that are not carried in stereo in their local
4. News Junkies who want to see unedited news coverage from the
source location, before it gets chopped up and packaged.
5. Experimenters and techy hobby types who enjoy tinkering.
6. Audiophiles who want to hear HUNDREDS of music services in
7. Digital Information Junkies desiring info-text services.
8. Those who desire foreign Language programming.
9. Individuals who like to see certain TV shows BEFORE they
are aired over the networks, often without commercials.
10. Those in search of additional programming, including pay per
11. SPORTS NUTS... There is more sports on satellite than any
human being can STAND. Virtually EVERY game of EVERY team
is up there SOMEWHERE.... Much of it as "Backhauls" which
are not scrambled, and often do not have commercials.
12. Those who want to watch programs earlier or later than seen on
their local stations. For example, on the West Coast you can
watch David Letterman at 9:30 PM PST (or watch it at 3:30
AM Eastern time on the Pacific feed). If you see a music video
you *really like* on the MTV Eastern feed, you can tape it 3
hours later on the MTV Western feed.
13. Those who want to watch Gene Scott 24 hours a day.
14. RADIO NUTS. With the proper additional equipment there are
hundreds of additional audio services receivable, including
AM and FM stations from major cities, TALK SHOWS, every
kind of music imaginable, and very SPECIALIZED formats. Some
Satellite owners actually spend more time LISTENING to the
signals on their dish than WATCHING. (See the SCPC Paragraph
further down this FAQ list for more info)
15. Culture Vultures. If you like Ballet, Art Films, Concerts,
documentaries, Foreign Films, There are many opportunities
here, including a FREE Art Channel that runs snippets of
Concerts and Performances WITHOUT COMMERCIAL INTERRUPTION
24 Hours a day.
Just about everyone could find themselves in ONE of the above categories.
WHAT TYPES OF THINGS CAN I SEE WITH A SATELLITE SYSTEM THAT I MIGHT NOT
FIND ON CABLE BROADCAST TV OR DBS?
Live uncensored coverage of news feeds, with no anchor man or reporter,
just see the news as it happens before live cameras. Major events like
the WACO debacle and the L.A. riots from multiple feed points, YOU select
the angle and shot you want to watch.
Teleconferences and meetings of various businesses and organizations, while
many of these are scrambled, quite a few are not.
Specialty and narrowcast shows, some examples include a 24 hour gold
prospecting channel, a channel for long haul truckers, etc.
College lectures and advanced courses, not just the simple brain dead stuff
of the Mind extension University, but REAL graduate level stuff, watch for
knowledge, or take the course for credit.
A full time channel from NASA, including complete 24 hour coverage of all
space missions, not just the launch and selected tidbits. See space
experiments being performed, and just look out the window at the earth
Several channels of Canadian TV which is superior to American TV, also
Mexican TV, which includes first run movies in English with spanish
BBC TV Breakfast News, ITN news, News from Moscow TV, RTS TV from Serbia,
TV Madrid, German TV 24 hours a day, Italian TV, a channel of TV from the
Asian subcontinent which runs popular Indian and Pakistani films with no
commercial interruptions (Subscription required). Portuguese TV, Japan TV, A
Greek Channel, Chinese TV, A channel for Eskimos (Inuit), Arab TV, and many
other international broadcasts.
1000 or so AUDIO channels, including every conceivable music format, 24 hour
BBC world service Radio in FM studio quality. Talk shows, and relays of
local radio stations in many cities all across the USA. Several channels of
reading services for the blind, with newspapers, magazines and books read
More sports than a human could stand. Every game in every sport is available
on at least one satellite channel. Some sports like Baseball scramble games,
but the NHL does not scramble. Pro and College sports, minor leagues,
Australian Football, World Cup Soccer, Stanley Cup Hockey. Many games with
NO COMMERCIALS. All the Auto Racing that a Car Nut could STAND...
Narrowcast Religious programming from smaller and minority faiths, including
Hindu, 7th Day Adventist (Three Channels), Scientology, and unusual sects of
Christian and non Christian beliefs.
Alternate Political views, even Nazi Programming, since FCC rules do not
apply to satellite broadcasting. Right Wing, Left Wing, Wacky or wonderful,
Satellite TV is the only free thinking broadcasting outlet on the planet.
A talk network devoted to high tech electronics and communications.
New product rollouts and demonstrations designed for distributors and the
Newsworthy and not so newsworthy Press Conferences in their entirety.
Horse and Dog Racing.
Every Lottery drawing in the country LIVE.
Previews of TV shows that may or may not make it to the networks. Regular
Syndicated and network shows feed from the studios without the commercials,
up to a week before the official broadcast, sometimes the final broadcast
gets edited, Satellite viewers see the shows UNCUT.
Six separate channels of PBS programming.
"Other" not too common shows in the British and/or PBS arena can be found.
Shows like Eastenders, Upstairs/Downstairs, and the Bravo Channels "Six
Wives of Henry VIII". Or is it 8 wives of Henry 6th :)
A behind the scenes look at newsroom operations, listen to the reporters
discussing news stories BEFORE they start talking to the regular viewers.
See well known newscasters have tantrums live. During the Russian Coup
Attempt, satellite owners had a 24 hour camera and microphone running on the
roof of a hotel in moscow, and we listened to the scuttlebutt, watched them
track down rumors, and saw them eating their lunch.
Crystal clean uplinks of special events (such as the recent CMA awards)
direct from the event, before commercials are added by the network.
Most of the programming mentioned is unscrambled (Free) and can be picked up
with any satellite system, including one you can put together yourself for
less than $500.
HOW MUCH WILL A SATELLITE SYSTEM COST ME?
You can pay upwards of $2,000 to $3,000 for a top of the line system
completely installed. A brand new do it yourself system will run between
$800 and $1500, with $1200 about average. HOWEVER, if you are
resourceful, you can set up a system for $200-$500 which will provide
decent pictures and hours of entertainment. Several members of the net
have put together systems for less than $100, even FREE. My own first
system cost $40 complete. It was primitive but was a start, and got me
hooked pretty quickly.
I have written an article called: THE SCROUNGER'S GUIDE TO SATELLITE TV
Which details how to go about putting together a low budget (Under $500)
system that would include stereo audio and SCPC. The article gives hints,
sources for used equipment, and recommended texts to help you assemble and
track the system. NOTE: This is not a plug-and-play kind of thing, your
scrounged system will require EFFORT on your part, and it will take TIME
to assemble the various components. You will INSTALL and SET UP all the
equipment yourself. If you have a couple thousand dollars laying around,
you can pay a dealer for a complete system. The SCROUNGER'S GUIDE is for
someone who does not mind putting forth TIME and EFFORT to achieve the goal
of a cheap system. If you want this article, just ask for it by writing to
email@example.com and requesting the SCROUNGER'S GUIDE. PLEASE
NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT LIVE IN NORTH AMERICA THIS GUIDE WILL NOT WORK FOR
YOU. THE METHODS IT OUTLINES ARE GOOD IN NORTH AMERICA, WHERE C BAND
SATELLITE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR MANY YEARS. It is a guide on how to
obtain USED equipment using methods that only work in the USA and
Canada. Do not write for the guide if you live in Europe, Africa or
anywhere else not in this hemisphere.
You will get your reply by EMAIL. Do not send me a postal address, except
under the guidelines that state how to receive things by postal mail, which
is outlined later in this FAQ. I do not send Postal mail except to those
who have no net access, AND who pay for the costs of copying and mailing
the material. ~~~
WHERE CAN I GET A LIST OF ALL THE SATELLITES AND SATELLITE CHANNELS?
There are Satellite TV guides available that have a partial listing of
what is in the sky, and these also include program listings for the
various regular program services. You should be able to find at least
ONE of them at any news stand. ORBIT and ONSAT are the two most widely
available guides. ORBIT is a huge monthly book, and onsat is a weekly.
Satellite TV week also is a weekly in a tabloid format.
If you are just interested in knowing WHAT is up there, and desire a
comprehensive listing of ALL the satellites and Channels, there is no
finer list than the SOUTHSCANNER CHART, which is available here in
Homesat/rec.video.satellite every month. If you can't wait, write for
your copy (It is huge, about 100 pages long if you PRINT it) and has
full information about every occupied transponder in the arc.
Write to Robert Smathers, the list author at:
IS THERE A GOOD CHEAP BOOK THAT WILL HELP ME INSTALL, ALIGN AND REPAIR MY
Frank Baylin has written a very good reference book called:
"Install, Aim and Repair Your Satellite TV System"
This book is clearly written, and includes ALL the info you need to properly
tune up your dish, find the satellites, and get the best reception. It also
will help you diagnose any problems that come along, and tells you what to
replace or tweek to get your reception back on the beam. Lots of photographs
and diagrams, IDEAL for the beginner.
The book is $9.95 + $3 S/H from:
Universal Electronics Bookstore
4555 Groves Road, Suite 12
Columbus, OH 43232
IN REFERENCE TO A SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM, WHAT DOES A BACKHAUL MEAN,
AND WHAT DOES IT PHYSICALLY REPRESENT??
Backhauls are signals sent from a remote location back to a network operating
center. Usually, but not always on KU band, these are special events and
sports. Since the commercials are usually added by the network, the backhaul
has no commercials, and you get to hear the announcers talk and see them play
with the video effects when the signal is not being broadcast to the world
(before, after the event and during commercial breaks).
What is needed at the backhaul site are cameras, microphones, audio and video
mixing and effects equipment, and an uplink transmitter and small dish to
send the signal to the satellite.
At the network operating center, there is a downlink (receive) dish, and
a receiver to pick up the signal, and pipe it into the audio and video chain
of the network so that it can be sent to those unlucky people who don't have
satellite dishes and have to watch these broadcasts on regular TV or Cable
WHAT ABOUT SCRAMBLING, ISN'T IT ALL SCRAMBLED THESE DAYS?
This is a common misconception. While it is true that most of the CABLE
services are scrambled, many of us see this as a feature. If you DO
desire HBO, THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL, ETC, you WILL need a[ descrambler, AND
a subscription to these services. However, there are over 150 channels of
programming "In the clear" that is NOT scrambled, and many of these
provide a lot of entertainment and information. It all depends on your
personal taste. Most of the sporting events are not scrambled. PBS is
not scrambled (Four separate feeds) and many other services are also
available free for the taking. NOT to mention HUNDREDS of audio services.
There is more on satellite that you can get for FREE than you would ever
have time to watch.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO "DESCRAMBLE" THE SCRAMBLED CHANNELS?
First you need a descrambler. If you get a new system, most likely you
will get an IRD, which comes with the descrambler built in. Just make
sure it WILL upgrade to the VC-II RS, and understand that this upgrade
may cost you additional money when this system is implemented. The
descrambler will add around $400 to the cost of your satellite system.
Next you need a subscription. Movie channels will run you around $7 a
month or so, actually less than cable, but you do get taken for a bit of a
ride on the "generic" cable channels such as DISCOVERY, CNN, etc. You can
not generally by one channel, certainly not at a reasonable cost. Most
subscriptions to the "generic" cable channels (which does not include
premium/movie channels) will cost between $150-$300 a year above and
beyond the cost of the descrambler itself. Some say this is why piracy
has flourished. Piracy is illegal. If caught with a pirate decoder, you
can be fined or jailed. Certainly if you sell such equipment, you can
count on heavy fines, and jail time. Piracy is not good for anyone. Pay
for your subscription, or do like many of us on the net and watch ONLY
programming that is NOT scrambled.
WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE HERE?
You can buy channels in packages like cable TV, or ala carte. The packages
are not necessarily a better deal. If you don't ever watch 25% of the
channels in the package, you are probably better off buying ala carte.
You can also buy most channels on a monthly or annual basis. You save 5
to 10% through annual purchases.
Price ranges for various channels:
Low rent cable channels (A&E, BRAVO, etc.) $0.79 - 1.00/month
Network packages (Denver 5 or Primetime 24) $4.00 - 5.00/month
Premium Channels (Disney, HBO, TMC, etc.) $7.00 -10.00/month
HOW DOES MY DESCRAMBLER TALK BACK TO THE SATELLITE? HOW DOES IT KNOW WHERE
I LIVE SO IT CAN BLACK OUT SPORTS EVENTS OF MY LOCAL TEAMS?
Your Descrambler does not "talk back" to the satellite through your IRD. In
the case of VIDEOPAL, which is an automatic PAY PER VIEW ordering system,
your descrambler is hooked to the phone line. When you order a PPV Movie, it
will place a call to the ORDER center once a month and tell them what movies
you ordered. This is the only "talk back" system built into the VIDEOCIPHER,
and this is only on the units that have VIDEOPAL. The VCRSi boards
(Purple/pink in color) do not have this feature, so you have to call the
order center 800 number yourself and order the movie by voice, so it is no
big deal. As far as "knowing" where you live for sports blackout purposes,
this is a very low tech operation. What they do is have the computer search
the index of subscribers by ZIP CODE. If you live in 600XX you won't see the
Chicago Cubs, for example. Many people get around the sports blackout
"feature" of the Subscription system by having their Auntie in Keokuck do
their subscribing for them. Then they can get all the sports with no
blackouts. This "Grey Market" kind of thing is also used by Canadians so
they can get USA programming (And by Americans so they can watch Canadian
Programming). While technically illegal, and not recommended, this type of
thing is done every day by sports fanatics.
ARE THE NETWORKS SCRAMBLED?
ABC is almost entirely scrambled, with some feeds in the clear. NBC is
Presently totally unscrambled, as is FOX. CBS is usually scrambled, but
they still have quite a bit in the clear. The scrambling used
by the networks is such that you can not receive it with a home decoder.
Totally different methods are used. CBS uses VIDEOCIPHER _ONE_ (completely
different than the VCII used in home systems). ABC uses LEITCH for its
scrambled feeds. Networks are scrambled to protect the affiliates. Your
local station does not want you watching the network shows direct from
the birds with 400+ lines of resolution and discrete stereo sound, which
anyone would do given half a chance. They want you to watch the LOCAL
commercials, so convinced the nets to scramble their feeds. For those
who can not receive the networks over the air, the only choice is to
subscribe to NETLINK's DENVER FIVE package or The Atlantic Three or
PRIME TIME 24.
Interestingly, network NEWS feeds are usually in the clear! If you are a
news hound, this will be GOOD news for YOU.
The PRIME TIME ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK (PTEN) backhauls its programs
several days before they are broadcast on the over the air TV channels.
These transmissions are in the clear, as are most SYNDICATED feeds.
PARAMOUNT feeds (Deep Space Nine) are not scrambled. Same with all other
UPN (Star Trek Voyager, and other prime time programming) is all in the
clear, and they also run pre feeds.
WB (Warner Brothers Network) is not scrambled.
PBS is not scrambled on their C band feed.
WHAT CHANNELS WILL NEVER BE SCRAMBLED?
For the foreseeable future, there should always be SOMETHING in the
clear, though with the conversion to digital transmission, a new
definition may be needed for "unencrypted digital transmission" which would be
available free, but would require a digital decoder. Digital TV will be
the future, not only for satellite, but for cable and YES even broadcast
TV by the year 2000 or so. Raw feeds, backhauls, audio, etc. may never be
scrambled. Gene Scott will probably never scramble. The non cigar smoking
religion channels also won't. And those few channels AIMED at home dish
owners won't scramble. Usually when a new channel comes along, like the
SCI FI channel, it does not scramble right away, and some like the LEARNING
CHANNEL, and CSPAN, though designed for cable have managed to
remain in the clear for years. Shopping Channels will never scramble.
Some channels, NOT entrenched in cable, will not scramble. There are
several channels which program for the "LOW POWER TV" market (Channel
America, Main Street TV, etc) and these are in the clear, and do have
some interesting programs. CBC from Canada is not scrambled. PBS will
always have at least ONE channel in the clear. NASA SELECT does not
scramble their main channel, though, unfortunately, the "mission video"
contract channel began scrambling in the summer of 1992.
Audio feeds are not scrambled (Subcarrier, FM Squared, SCPC), though there
is more and more of a move to DATS (Digital Audio Transmission Service) which
can not be received by the home dish owner. Yet.
HOW DO DESCRAMBLERS WORK?
Each VC-II+ has a unique ID number, which you give to programming services
to subscribe to a channel or package. The programming service broadcasts
your ID number, and a special code that instructs your descrambler to work
when tuned to a subscribed channel.
I AM AN ELECTRONIC TECHNICIAN, WHERE CAN I GET THE PLANS TO BUILD A
DESCRAMBLER SO I DON'T HAVE TO PAY TO WATCH SCRAMBLED CHANNELS?
WHERE CAN I BUY A DECODER SO I CAN WATCH ALL THE PAY CHANNELS FOR FREE?
You would be amazed at how many times we receive this question,
usually in EMAIL. Most people who are not familiar with how
scrambling works, wrongly assume it is some kind of a hardware
circuit that can be constructed with components from the local
Radio Shack. BZZZZZZZZT wrong answer.
The present system used in the USA, and by most of the more secure
video channels in Europe and elsewhere on the planet use a far more
sophisticated system, one that is "addressable". The current system
employs what is called "sound in sync". The audio portion of the
program is encoded as little winky dots hidden in the sync pulses (the
bars on the top or side of the screen that you do not normally see
except when your set is misadjusted. This digital encoding also allows
them to say "DIGITAL SOUND" a nice buzzword. The audio is a compandered
15 bit system. Some with "golden ears" find the sound raspy, but most
folks can not tell the difference.
The real reason the sound is digital is NOT to provide sound quality, but
rather to insure that unauthorized reception is not all that easy, and
a decoder can not be built from scratch.
The scrambling system uses a dual decryption key system, and is based
on the USA DES encryption standard (this is a military sensitive system,
making export of VCII type decoders illegal).
The scrambling method consists of:
1. The authorization center (in California) which creates the
master datastream. This datastream contains a digitally derived
key based upon the serial number of EACH authorized decoder and
a "Tier bit" for EACH channel it is authorized to receive
(determined by PAYING for the service)
2. "SEED KEYS" in the receiver itself which are COMBINED with
the other half of the key (transmitted by the authorization
center) to then create the master key used to decode the audio
and turn on the video descrambling circuit (The VIDEO is a
simple matter to decode, as it is only video inversion and
But WAIT! What about these pirated decoders that one can buy for about
$1000 that claim to give you all the channels free? Didn't some electronic
genius BUILD them?
No. What the pirates did was to create "clones" of the chips in one legal
decoder that they paid to have authorized. They then removed the chips from
other legally purchased decoder boards, and put their "pirate chips" in their
place. The result is that whatever the master parent box sees, so does all
it's clone child boxes.
The rub here is that:
1. The pirates, after making a few million dollars in sales from their
clones, moved to the Caribbean, out of USA law. At this time they
also stopped paying for the subscription on their ONE legal decoder
from whence all the clones are derived. POOF. All the clones go
2. Other pirates, not as smart get caught by the FBI. The FBI turns
the serial numbers over to the authorization center. POOF. Same
scenario. All the clones go dead.
3. Some pirates were not caught. Some clones still live. HOWEVER,
G.I. (the company who makes the decoders) CHANGES the scrambling
system this fall to a totally new method. POOF. Etc.
Cloning is the main method of pirating the signals. No one has EVER built a
VIDEOCIPHER descrambler from scratch. The very technology employed requires
that the system co operate with the authorization codes transmitted along
with the TV signal. There is no hardware way around this. It is a software
scramble, requiring TWO halves of the code.
There is a second method of descrambling, which involves entering the other
half of the key MANUALLY with the keyboard. This is called "WIZARD"
Technology. However since the code changes every month, a new WIZARD Code
must be entered. To obtain these codes, some pirates set up 900 type phone
numbers. The FBI then gets a printout of everyone who calls. POOF.
Recently, the programmers have taken to a new tactic to foil the
wizard code users. Instead of monthly changes, they started changing the
codes every three days or so. There was an unhappy side effect of some
LEGAL users and Cable Companies also losing their authorization, but we
can expect these tactics, called ECM, or Electronic Counter Measures to
continue. We understand that this methodology HAS been successful in
discouraging some of the die hard pirates, finally convincing them to
get legal boxes.
Since HBO and Showtime finally dumpped the VC2 commercial Datastream in
October of 1993, pirate boxes just plain no longer work.
An older hack that no longer works was called the THREE MUSKETEER HACK. (All
for one and one for all). If a person subscribed to ONE channel, the
modified decoder chip then descrambled them ALL. This one died a LONG time
GI Turned off all the old 032 boxes with an ECM (Electronic Counter
Measure) on March 15, 1993.
The VCII Decoders no longer work. If you want to receive scrambled
programming, you need a VCII+. All LEGAL subscribers were supposed to
receive free upgrades. Those with pirated decoders could not upgrade, and
lost their investment. The VCII+ RS (Renewable Security) decoders have
already been delivered, one step of security above the VCII+. The RS has a
little slot for a "smartcard" which will be sent to legal subscribers when
the pirates break the VCII+ code. And DIGICIPHER decoders are already coming
on the market, which will be the NEXT kind of decoder on the market AFTER the
VCII+ RS. You can't keep up with it if you don't have a legal subscription.
Scrambling is a fact of life. It is not going to go away. There are three
ways to play:
1. Pay for your subscription. In the end this is the cheapest way to
go if you MUST watch the couch potato type programming offered on
scrambled channels. Your $1000 pirate decoder can (and will) go
dead on you, with NO recourse.
2. Just say NO to descrambling and watch the HUNDREDS of free and more
interesting signals available. Listen to the free audio services.
Save LOTS of money.
3. Don't listen to what I have said and find a pirate decoder. Enjoy
it while it lasts, and hope that the FBI does not visit you.
PIRACY is a crime in the USA and in other countries. Pirates are caught,
fined and in some cases jailed. The justification for this is that the
scrambled signals are the property of the PROGRAMMERS. If you watch without
paying you are stealing. Some people try and justify piracy by saying the
signal comes on their property uninvited. This argument, while it sounds
good does not hold up in court.
Scrambling remains a HOT issue in the industry. Publications exist in the US
and elsewhere with news of various methods pirates use to steal programming.
You can join this underground if you want to. Or you can purchase a legal
decoder, and hope that they continue to provide free upgrades with EACH change
in the scrambling technology (there are THREE more changes already known to be
coming to the USA scrambling scene).
However now at least you know. You can't go to Radio Shack and get the parts
to make a descrambler for $15. It is NOT that kind of a system.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SCRAMBLING SYSTEMS USED BY BROADCASTERS, HOW DO THESE
There are a number of "other" scrambling systems used for analogue video
information. These systems are used by broadcasters and closed circuit
channels, and not available to the home user. We are often asked how
the scrambling systems work technically, so here is a brief course in
other scrambling systems:
1) BMAC - Used by AFRTS, Horse Racing Channels, KU band Hospitality
premium channels, Private business feeds (IBM, ETC)
Very complex signal. Multiplex Analogue Component. The color info for the
line is sent as part of the line in video form. Because of this, there is no
viewable video. BMAC gives itself away by the "Shark's Teeth" look to it.
The audio is also hidden in the video signal.
2) Leitch - Used by ABC, Global (Canadian) and some sporting events.
The video is a line renumbering scheme.
The top 120 lines of the screen are put at the bottom and vice
versa, then they are renumbered in their respective half screens. Very
distinctive (just look at ABC or GLOBAL to see it) . Also uses phase
inversion every other line for the color information, which is why it looks
black and white. The shuffling is done by a psuedo random algorithm, and
changes from field to field.
The color is lost because the horizontal sync is much narrower and so the
color burst is in the wrong place.
Audio is 4 level encrypted PCM in the area immediately after the narrow
Horizontal Sync pulse. There are also usually analogue audio subcarriers.
3) OAK ORION - Used by CANCOM for the Canadian feeds, also now used by
North American Chinese Television on K2
Is Oak Orion like Oak sine wave used by some cable companies?
OAK sine wave and OAK orion are very different. OAK ORION is more like
VIDEOCIPHER except that included in the OAK is an inversion bit (on one of
the lines in the vertical interval) that tell the descrambler to run normal
or inverted video. The change from normal to inverted is somehow related to
scene changes, possibly by a trigger based on brightness level. SOmetimes it
will stay in one mode for minutes before switching to the other mode
(positive or negative video)
OAK sine wave puts a big sinewave into a POSITIVE image and fools the
Horizontal sync, thus making the picture TEAR. OAK SINEWAVE always has audio
in the clear. OAK ORION has sound in sync just like Videocipher.
4) Videocipher ONE - Used by CBS and Major League Baseball
Generally the audio is in the clear, and it looks like you are looking
through a wavy watery screen. VC-ONE uses variable psuedo random LINE DELAY
meaning that the beginning of each line of video occurs at a different part
of the scan line. If you squint you can almost make out the picture. The
color information is not exactly right, and the images seem darker than
normal also. VC-ONE was the original system proposed for HBO by MACOM back
in the mid 1980's, but was not adopted due to the expense of the total
system. ALL of these scrambling/descrambling systems are much more expensive
than Videocipher-II. And all are fairly secure. BMAC has been cracked by
pirates at least for the HOSPITALITY channels (Premium movies for Hotels),
but we expect that hole will eventually be plugged. The cracked decoders
will not pick up other services, though.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER SCRAMBLING SYSTEMS?
There is another line renumbering system like Leitch, used for some sporting
events, but it does not recompute the line numbers, nor does it invert
the phase, so the colors are all there, and you can see things moving
quite well. This is a much simpler system, but still very secure, and
impossible to watch.
TDF1 on the 27.5 degree Intelsat has the strangest scrambling system I have
ever seen. They take a big box out of the center of the screen, and then
turn it UPSIDE DOWN and also BACKWARDS. You can see everything, but you
have to turn your TV upside down or stand on your head. Or watch a mirror
on the Ceiling! The signal is also in PAL.
(No I am not kidding, this transmission began in July of 1994)
OK I UNDERSTAND ALL THAT VCII+RS+BS+LSMFT STUFF... BUT WHAT THE HECK IS
D I G I C I P H E R AND WILL THIS CAUSE THE SKIES TO GO DARK?????????
There are alarmist types with agendas of their own who are jumping all over
the satellite talk programs preaching the gloom and doom of DIGICIPHER. As
with all technology, there is forward motion, and satellite scrambling is no
exception. There have now been THREE "Last Decoders You Will Ever Need" and
DIGICIPHER will be the next. You can't stop it, it is already here. At this
writing of the FAQ, HBO is already testing the technology, and PBS will be
is also using it. However, you should know there are two forms of
DIGICIPHER, namely 1 and 2, which use MPEG1 and MPEG2 respectively.
DIGICIPHER II is not yet available, and won't be til late 1996.
The skies are NOT going to go dark. The programmers are NOT going to stop
offering their programming to subscribers.
However, due to the loss of T402, and the transponder shortage, some channels
are opting to go digicipher. These are primarily new channels, or some like
COURT TV who have traditionally been in the clear (Cable Companies stealing
the OJ trial and not paying COURT TV are responsible for their sudden jump to
DIGICIPHER as of July 1995).
The problem at the moment is that though GI would like to be the standard
for digital encryption, they are NOT. There are at least FIVE different
digital systems being used by various channels. Here are just SOME of the
GI / DIGICIPHER ONE, DIGICIPHER TWO.
PBS is using Digicipher ONE for its KU feeds to affiliates. They
plan to convert to Digicipher TWO when the equipment becomes
available, some time in 1996. At this time we are told there will
be a HOME Digicipher unit. Cost for the receiver will be in the
HIGH end ($2000) range. You must replace your present IRD, Digicipher
is not compatible with current receive technologyes, so there can be
no "Add on" box. Your present receiver does not even pass the
digital information, due to the Modulation Scheme.
SA / Scientific Atlanta
The SA system is used by several players, including Galavision, who
later DID relent and bring back an encrypted analogue feed, because
of VIEWERS. SA is a major corporation, and we expect they will continue
to have a significant penetration. SA is also used by many corporate
uplinkers for private transmissions.
Though committed to an open technology, this system does not have the
backing of major programmers at this time, but we are very early in
CLI Compression Labs Incorporated
This system is used in specialty applications, corporate and educational
networks. It is a fairly entrenched system, though not yet used in many
Those who bemoan the new technology have the same mind set that would have us
all listening to shellac phonograph records being played with steel needles.
Rather than cry about it, the smart thing to do is to accept it. And buy
STOCK in G.I. instead of calling them the ENEMY.
Send EMAIL for transcripts of the interviews with Jim Shelton and Peter
Knowles regarding the future of digital TV.
WHAT DOES THE NEW DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY MEAN TO ME... BOTTOM LINE.
If you now subscribe to HBO or any of the other scrambled services and just
got your new VCII+ RS unit, you can count on being able to enjoy it through to
the end of the warranty period (three years). They won't turn off the VCII+
datastream next year REGARDLESS of what the DOOMSAYERS are saying. They
can't. The cable companies won't let them, and they would be in legal hot
water from many other entities if they did.
If you do not have a descrambler yet, and can live for the moment WITHOUT pay
services, WAITING is an option. However if you really want scrambled
programming, Then spend the $320 and get the VCII+RS Descrambler, as we
firmly believe programming will be there using this technology for several
more years, though GI is really pushing Digicipher now like never before.
Programmers also have bundled packages that include the VCII+ RS descrambler.
Go for it if you want to be a REAL couch potato. All the VCII+ signals are
now on ONE end of the arc, and jumping from bird to bird is VERY FAST now,
almost as fast as CABLE channel flipping.
SOMETHING TO KNOW: DIGICIPHER uses a completely different modulation scheme.
As we understand it, there will be no such thing as a Digicipher "Module", as
in Videocipher. You will have to buy a completely new receiver, called an
IRT or Integrated receiver Transcoder. While there was initially some talk
of a possible stand alone front end receiver, I would not hold my breath. I
would begin saving. Figure that a DIGICIPHER receiver will be a High End
device, priced around $1,500 to $2,000.
PBS is using Digicipher ONE initially but will go to Digicipher
TWO when it becomes available. Digicipher TWO receivers will receive BOTH
formats, as well as the older VIDEOCIPHER, which is good news. This new
receiver will thus bring you ALL the available subscription programming.
HOW SMALL A DISH CAN I USE, AND WHAT IS THIS DBS THING?
While many of us dream of the BIGGEST dish possible, for some reason I can
not fully comprehend (except that it has to do with Wives and Neighbors) some
folks want a teensy tiny dish. Obviously a small dish will not bring you the
joys of the chase, or the WIDE variety of things those of us with full
capability systems enjoy, but as they say, different strokes for different
For C band, a 7 foot dish will give very useful performance these days. If
you are primarily interested in just cable type stuff, a 4 or 5 foot dish
will bring you reasonable reception on some of the more powerful C band
satellites (Like G5, home of the SCI FI CHANNEL) and a 3 footer will bring in
some of the more powerful KU satellites. A caller to my Friday Night Live
Satellite Talk Show said he was listening on a 2 foot dish.
BUT even smaller dishes are available now. A new venture featuring
120 watt transponders from a fixed location has started operation. This new
service called DirectTV is backed by Hughes-Thompson-RCA, and will probably
succeed where SKYPIX did not. The system employs an 18 inch dish, and a
special addressable receiver. This receiver will NOT receive other
satellites, ONLY the one fixed system it is designed for. It will be fully
addressable, AND basically DirectTV is nothing more than a CABLE COMPANY
IN THE SKY. Your receiver won't work if you don't pay the monthly bill,
which will could run you MORE than cable depending on your options.
Pay Per View movies will also be available, probably for $4 each or there-
abouts. The hardware will cost you between $700 to over $1000 just to have
the priviledge of PAYING for EVERYTHING YOU WATCH. You can scrounge a
TVRO (big dish) system for the same or less, and see PLENTY of FREE stuff.
For some people, though, DBS will be just the thing they have been waiting
for, especially those who can not get cable and WANT cable. These folks will
see the costs as justified, and won't mind dealing with only ONE source.
However, one thing to bear in mind. For now, DBS is a monopoly. It will not
be compatible with any other system, including all the millions of dishes and
receivers already in place.
Remember, if you can tolerate a larger dish, you can receive over 200 video
and HUNDREDS of audio channels for FREE, no monthly charge. We personally
feel this is a greater value, and if you DO want premium or pay programming
it is ALL available already NOW with a conventional satellite system, which
can be had for very little money when you come right down to it.
Still, we do believe that DirectTV will probably be a big hit. In Europe, the
ASTRA satellite system has revolutionized the distribution of TV shows.
Cable did not have a very strong foothold there in most countries, and there
are thousands of ASTRA systems being sold every month. We expect this will
happen in the USA as well. What it means to the present satellite industry
remains to be seen, but we know this much: Nothing stays the same especially
when it comes to SATELLITE TV.
A consideration: at present there are TWO different DBS systems, DSS and
PRIMESTAR. They use two totally incompatible methods of signal delivery.
Other DBS systems are on the horizon. Those first on the market are not
always the ones that survive. Remember the Quasar Great Time Machine VCR?
Remember BETAMAX? Remember the SELECTAVISION CED VIDEODISK that played with
a needle? Remember 8 Track audio tapes? Early adopters sometimes get left
holding the bag.
A third DBS system is slated to arrive in late 1995 or early 1996, run by
Charlie Ergen. This venture will be called ECHOSTAR. As of now, it is
not known what technology he will use. It could very well be a THIRD
incompatible system! In any case, since the DBS dishes do not move, even
if they were compatible systems, you are pretty well locked into ONE supplier
of audio and video, and you PAY for it all.
With a BUD or TVRO, you can chose from MANY different suppliers, and also you
have a ton of FREE channels.
For more information about DBS, get the DBS FAQ. If you have USENET ACCESS
you should FIRST look in rec.video.satellite.dbs
If you absolutely can not find it there, then and only then write to the
Rich Peterson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This FAQ discusses the new and forthcoming DBS systems, primarily DirectTV.
You will find it very informative.
CAN I USE A SMALLER DISH FOR AUDIO ONLY.
For strong subcarrier signals, a smaller dish will work quite well. For
general reception of most wide band and some narrowband signals, a good 6
footer, such as the new Orbitron 6 foot dish with MICROMESH will provide
perfectly satisfactory reception. 4 or 5 foot dishes will give good audio
performance on wideband audio carriers and if you can accept some noise, a
cheap 3 foot dish would at least provide you a signal on BBC or other strong
signals, though there will be some hiss, it will still be better than
shortwave reception. Experimenters claim to have gotten decent audio with a
two foot dish. However if you live on the outer portions of the USA
(Florida, California, Washington State, Maine, etc) you will need a bigger
dish to get the same quality as someone in the central USA in most cases.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRIMESTAR AND DSS?
This question answered by Monty Solomon
Primestar is a service similar to DirecTV/USSB (often collectively called
DBS or DSS) but different in several respects.
WHAT PRIMESTAR AND DBS HAVE IN COMMON:
The provider (DirecTV, USSB, or Primestar) decides what
programming to put on their system, and if you want the Mack Truck
Channel and the provider has chosen not to include it in its lineup, you
are SOL. In this way, your relationship with the provider is similar to that
with a cable company.
A comparitively small dish is used and there is no need to rotate it.
You must pay the provider monthly fees for the programming you want;
there is no free programming. Choices include package deals, ala carte
channels, PPV, etc.
Programming is sent on the (roughly) Ku band, so rain storms can cause
outages or poor pictures.
HOW PRIMESTAR AND DBS DIFFER:
The Primestar equipment is leased, so you don't have to
go out on the limb of buying the equipment without knowing how satisfied
you will be with the result, whether your interest will decline, etc. There
is, however, a non-refundable installation fee ($150?), so you are risking
While DBS dealers may encourage you to pay an installation fee, most people
can do it themselves. With Primestar, you do not have this option.
The Primestar system can only receive Primestar, while the DBS system can
receive either DirecTV, or USSB, or both at the same time.
Primestar currently does not compress their programming, so pictures can
look cleaner than on a good DBS setup. However, I understand Primestar is
in the process of adding a large number of new channels and will soon be
With Primestar, you get the dish and the programming directly from your
local Primestar office; there is no shopping around for the best deal at
Sears or whatever, then going to a third party for the programming.
CAN I GET STAR TREK: VOYAGER ON MY SATELLITE DISH? WHEN IS IT ON?
If you have DBS, you can *NOT* get Star Trek Voyager. No current DBS
service offers a UPN affiliate, and for now there are no plans. If you
have DBS, your only possible source for UPN is to use your regular TV
antenna or rabbit ears. If you have no UPN affiliate in your area, and
don't want (or can't get) cable, then you have only ONE CHOICE:
Many TVRO owners got into Satellite TV just for Science Fiction
programming (It is ALL up there, including a channel of nothing BUT Sci Fi)
All the current running network and syndicated SCI FI shows are broadcast
by satellite, and as a dish owner, you have the chance to see MOST of these
shows *FOR FREE* BEFORE they are shown on the local station, because the tapes
are transmitted TO the stations and networks BY SATELLITE. In the case of
Star Trek: Voyager, Here are the particulars:
ALL THESE FEEDS HAPPEN ON MONDAY.....
T1/03 PARAMOUNT SYNDICATION LEASED TRANSPONDER:
12:00N (EST) FIRST Secondary feed, no logo
T1/19 UNITED PARAMOUNT LEASED TRANSPONDER:
5:30pm (EST) SECOND Secondary feed, no logo
8:00pm (EST) Primary EASTERN feed, UGLY UPN Logo in Lower right
11:00pm (EST) Primary WESTERN feed, UGLY UPN Logo in Lower right
STEREO: 6.2L 6.8R
We feel it is important enough to repeat: Star Trek: Voyager is *NOT* available
in *ANY* form on the DBS dishes (Either DSS or Primestar). They do not have
a UPN Affiliate, and at least for now they have NO plans to add one. If
you want Star Trek: Voyager, and can't see it on your local channel, the ONLY
way to get it is on a BUD!
WHAT IS A WILD FEED, AND WHY ARE THESE SHOWS SENT EARLY?
What we term "Wild Feeds" on the internet would actually be more accurately
called "Recurring Feeds". These are TV shows which are indeed sent out well
before they air on your local or network channel. The answer as to why they
exist is quite simple: This is how the programs are distributed, as it is
cheaper and faster and more reliable to use satellite than the old method of
sending the shows on VIDEOTAPE or FILM. There are two main types of wild
(1) Feed from Production House to the NETWORK
In this instance, The studio that makes the original show is in
Los Angeles. The program is shot on film or videotape, and is
then edited by a "Production House". When the program is done,
it is then transmitted from L.A. to New York City (Network
headquarters) where it is picked up and recorded by the network
(CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX) that will be later broadcasting the program.
In almost all cases, these shows are fed with NO COMMERCIALS.
Instead there is a 10 second space where the network will later
put the commercials in. Of all the wild feeds, this is the
dish head's favorite.
(2) Feed from Syndicator to Local Station
This type of feed is used for Talk Shows, some Kids Shows,
and a few Comedy/Drama/Adventure shows that are played at
your local station. Again, your local station will record the
show for later broadcast. In this case there are always the
Syndicator commercials, but there are long black spaces where
your local station will run their own commercials. In the old
days of Television (Your FAQ author worked in TV in that era)
the shows were actually sent on film or tape by UPS. Satellite
delivery is faster and cheaper.
There is a listing that the FAQ author distributes over the internet at the
first of every month called THE INTERNET WILD FEEDS LIST, which is available
by EMAIL from email@example.com, or can be grabbed at:
This listing usually has between 600 and 800 shows that are available on TVRO
satellite as wild feeds. There is also a mailing list designed for those
involved in the work of feed finding, though it is a closed list and is for
workers only. If you are really into wildfeeds and would like to join this
work group, write the FAQ author for details. Note: If you are not really
dedicated to wild feeds, you will soon tire of the mailing list as it
consists of work related messages, and the completed end result is never
posted on the mailing list.
WHAT DOES "BUD" MEAN (I SEE IT ALL THE TIME IN POSTINGS)
Bud is an accronym for "Big Ugly Dish", the kind of dish we love.
The term was originally used to denegrate the TVRO type dish by the
purveyors of DSS in their attempts to somehow convince the general public
that their system is better. On our Friday Night Live Radio show, I made
it a point to praise the BIG UGLY DISH, and Robert Smathers shortened
it to "BUD". Now we are seeing the term on other networks and even in
magazines. A "BUD" is any dish of 10 or 12 feet. A 7 foot dish is called
"BUD LITE". Eric Knippert coined the phrase LSD for Little Silly DIsh,
refering to the smaller DSS type dishes. We personally LOVE the larger
dish and see them as beautiful sculpture in our yards.
More importantly, we find the variety and value of the larger dish to
be a main deciding factor in our choice to "Go all the way".
When you say "BUD", You've said it all!
HOW CAN I KNOW WHICH NBA AND NHL GAMES ARE ON THE BIRDS?
There is a schedule, put out by
P.O. Box 5756
Fargo, ND 58105
When a local station or sports network has a game there is usually a
"Backhaul" (direct feed from the event back to the studio, if the game is
out of town from the originating station. (Otherwise they don't need a
bird). Now some of these satellite channels are known in advance, for
example the games broadcast on the superstations like WTBS or the various
SportsChannels. This is *not* the case, however, for the "feeds" from the
arenas back to the local broadcast station. These feeds are paid for by
the hour, and (usually) the cheapest or most convenient satellite and
transponder are utilized, so it's not generally possible to predict in
advance exactly what satellite "channel" will be used for a given game.
Mike Northam regularly posts the games that he sees in Oregon, AFTER the
fact. Some wonder what value there is in this.
>My listings, taken over time, however, do show patterns. For example, I
>know from experience that if I want to see a Blazer game, the *most
>likely* location for a feed is on G6. So far this season, all the Blazer
>Cable games have been on G6-14, so that's going to be the first place I
>look for a game. Most of the Utah Jazz games have been on G6 or T1. The
>Bulls tend to be on G2, etc. When Portland plays at Utah, I'll look on
>G6, since a lot of Bonneville (Salt Lake uplink) transmissions are found
>there. Most NBA cities similarly have "preferred" locations, either due
>to limitations/preferences of the transmitting uplink or the downlink
>(for example, KSTU in Salt Lake City may have only one fixed dish
>available for such purposes).
NOTE: In 1994, the NFL scrambled. Backhauls are not available and Feeds
for FOX and NBC are LEITCH Encryped and not available to the home dish
owner. That is the BAD news. For those who are football fans, the GOOD
news is that ALL the games ARE available via SEASON TICKET, and all on
the T-303 satellite. The not so good news is that the costs is $139.00,
which may or may not be a good value depending on how much you like football.
Also if you live in a blackout area, your team games WILL be blacked out.
The transponders being used are the same ones TVN uses for pay per view
movies and events. Many football fans are happy because they did not like
"Hunting" for their games.
CAN YOU WATCH MORE THAN ONE TV AT THE SAME TIME?
In a single LNB, single receiver system, you can watch a single channel
on multiple Tvs, if you have cabled from your receiver to each TV. It
is not possible to watch different channels with this system. To watch
different channels you need DUAL LNB's for C and DUAL LNB's for KU.
You will also need a separate receiver for each location, and a fairly
complex means of splitting and distributing the incoming cables. It
can be done, cable companies do it all the time, but it is probably not
worth the effort, especially if you want to view subscription channels
because the bad news is you will need to pay another subscription for
EACH LOCATION. That can be expensive. However, having at least two
receivers is not a bad idea, and fairly easy to do. However, you can
only watch signals on ONE satellite at a time doing this. One alternative
is to RECORD programs ahead of time for viewing by others in the family.
In this case having a couple of receivers, a couple VCR's and splitting
subscription channels between the two will let you build up a nice
collection of tapes in no time. Once the family is really sold on the
dish, it will not be hard to convince them you need ANOTHER one. Or two or
CAN I RECEIVE INTERNATIONAL SATELLITES ON MY DISH?
This depends on where you live, what size dish you have, and how low you can
"aim" your dish to the horizon. Playing with the Intelsats, Panamsat, and
the Russian Statsionar birds is something that folks on the East coast of the
USA do all the time. You should have a LARGE dish though, 16 to 20 feet to
really do the job, though people HAVE picked up signals with dishes as small
as 7 1/2 feet from as far west as Minnesota. With the average 10 to 12 foot
dish you may do just fine. To receive the signals, you will need a few
modifications to your system. You will need a circular feed, as unlike
Domestic USA birds that are Horizontally or Vertically polarized,
International satellites use Right Hand, or Left Hand Circular Polarization.
If you have a monster dish, you can get by without the proper feed, but you
will loose at least 3 to 5 db of signal. Chaparral makes a special feed for
international satellites, at a cost of around $325. As an alternative, there
is a plastic insert you can obtain that will convert your feed to circular.
This item is quite cheap, about $20.
However, I have found from my own experience that the ADL feed, at least when
used with my ORBITRON SST-10 does a good job of discriminating on circular
signals with no degredation of domestic reception as might happen with a
circular modified feed.
International birds have a LOW look angle, very close to the horizon, so a
horizon to horizon mount is recommended if you are serious about receiving
foreign programming. The AJAX H/H mount is a worthy investment. You will
also need a multistandard TV, or some means of viewing PAL and SECAM signals,
which are different from the NTSC system used in the USA. If you don't mind
black and white, though, a B&W TV is easily adjusted to pick up the European
signals, and is suitable for the experimenter and tinkerer. The Panasonic
AG-W1 VCR has a built in standards convertor, which will allow you not only
to view these international channels, but also to record them (you can not
use your USA VCR to record PAL or SECAM signals). Much of the international
stuff is on KU band, and the European KU band is different than the American
band, so you need a frequency agile receiver, and the ability to store and
program the various frequencies. Even the C band signals are not quite the
same channels as a domestic satellite receiver expects, so you may have to
adjust your video fine tune to receive them. This aspect of the hobby is
exciting, and if you are interested in NEWS events LIVE, or cultural variety
the cost is minimal. While the east coast is the place to be for the best
international reception, good signals can be picked up on intelsats in the
midwest using a 10 foot dish. There is limited access to Pacific Satellites
on the west coast.
WHAT ABOUT THIS MYSTERIOUS KU BAND?
Ku band satellites don't require as large a dish to receive, some have 32
transponders instead of the 24 on C band. The true satellite junkie will
want KU because "it is there". In addition, there is talk of more and
more transmissions on this band. SBS6, for example is one busy bird, with
MANY sports and newsfeeds. KU offers a LOT to those who want to
experiment and explore. G4 and G7 have beautiful KU signals, and if you
live in the Northern USA, there is some very interesting stuff on the ANIK
satellites on KU band.
Ku band satellites are harder to tune than C band, often requiring extensive
manual adjustments. Ku is also more weather sensitive. Ku programming
services are not as well documented as C band. On a larger dish (like a 10
footer) the KU signals are as narrow as a laser beam. One brief touch of the
actuator and the signal is gone. GETTING it in the first place (tracking) is
not a job for the faint of heart. HOWEVER if you have your dish tracked for
the KU band, it will be DEAD ON for C band.
PBS is now on KU, and ABC also has feeds there, both on the
T-401 Satellite. This could be the push that gets many folks to upgrade
NBC feeds all its programming on K2, a KU satellite. The NBC programming is
all in the clear, though there are rumors they may scramble.
ALL NEWS CHANNEL is also seen on SBS6 quite often when
the two CONUS channels are not being used for newsfeeds.
The two ANIK satellites have a LOT of KU on them, including an UNCUT MOVIE
SERVICE In the CLEAR, Two Music Channels, Regional Public Networks, ASN
(Atlantic Satellite Network) and plenty of French stuff. These two birds
can be seen well ONLY in the NORTHERN part of the USA, However. Conversely,
There is MEXICAN stuff on the Morellos Birds that can only bee seen in the
Southern USA. Such is the way of KU, much narrower spotbeams.
KU is also the place to look for NEWS and SPORTS feeds, and backhauls of all
sorts. International type programming (Chinese, Russian, Japanese language)
and many educational feeds are all up there. For the dyed in the wool dish
head, KU is where it is at.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO ADD KU TO MY SYSTEM?
If your dish is KU compatible (some mesh dishes are not) all you need
to add OUTSIDE is a DUAL BAND FEED, such as the COROTOR II, and an
additional KU LNB. The cost for this will be between $188 and $300
depending on where you buy, and how sensitive your KU LNB will be.
To tell if your mesh dish will work on KU measure the size of the holes or
openings in the mesh. If they are greater than 1/4 inch, you won't get good
KU LNB's are measured in DB, rather than degrees Kelvin (as C band LNB's
are measured). .6 DB is considered good. 2.0 is considered junky, though
you can probably find a 2.0 db KU LNB pretty cheap, and it CAN give
acceptable signals on MOST birds, and might be a good place to start if
you find one used.
You obviously will ALSO need a receiver that can tune KU band. Most
newer receivers can.
There is also a device called the UST-55 KU convertor which was made
by UNIDEN. These are sometimes still available from various dealers
at a reasonable price. The convertor does two things. It INVERTS the
video (KU video is inverted compared to C band) and it adds a fine
tuning control to allow compressing 32 channels into 24 channels.
There is no real standard for KU channel layout as there are in the C
band. Various receivers number the channels differently. Some receivers
like the DRAKE 1824 have KU SEEK which saves a lot of tinkering when
looking for special KU feeds.
Tracking your dish for KU is more difficult. The beamwidth is much
narrower, and everything is more critical. If you get your system to
track well in the KU band, your C band reception will be perfect.
KU is a lot of fun. We recommend it!
HOW LONG DOES A SATELLITE "LAST" AND WHY DO THEY GET REGULARLY REPLACED?
The average lifespan for a communications satellite is about 10 years. While
the electronics inside the satellite can last many many years, the
determining factor is the "station keeping fuel". Satellites only "appear to
be stationary because of their location in the Clarke Belt, in reality they
are whirring about the planet, and their orbits become eccentric if left
alone. So each satellite has small rockets on board to regularly adjust
the orbit of the bird. After 10 years this fuel runs out, and the satellite
can no longer be adjusted with respect to its position. This causes the
satellite to start to appear to "wobble" up and down in the orbital plane,
and eventually become unusable. Before this happens, a replacement bird
is launched, and the old satellite is unceremoniously "kicked" up into a
higher "parking" orbit. While it is a nice thought that some day a
space salvage company could go up there and refuel all those old birds,
it is unlikely, and the rapid changes in technology make the older low
power satellites nothing more than curious antiques.
WHAT IS AN INCLINED ORBIT SATELLITE AND HOW CAN I RECEIVE THEM?
Inclined orbit birds are satellites that "wobble" north and south of the
vary in the vertical plane, as explained in the previous paragraph. At
the end of a satellite's life, when station keeping fuel is running low
if a replacement satellite is not ready, there is the option to "go
inclined". One method used is called the "Comsat Maneuver", which puts
the bird into an elongated figure 8 pattern. On C band this method can
get 6 months or more of life out of a near dead satellite (Usually the
electronics are fine, it is just the low amount of Hydrazine fuel that
marks the EOL or End Of Life of a satellite. On C band a slightly
inclined satellite will appear to have a weaker signal during parts of the
day when it is off axis. Many of us remember that this was done with the
old Telstar 301, causing some of the Wild and Network feeds to be less than
perfect. However, it is better than no satellite at all, which is the
case when a launched bird BLOWS UP like Telstar 402 did in late 1994, meaning
that 302 will go inclined while waiting for T-402R. In addition to these
situations, there are birds that are kept in inclined orbits for YEARS.
Several Intelsats are this way, as are a couple of SBS birds, such as
SBS3. ON KU band, because of narrower beamwidth, an inclined bird can
only be viewed during an hour or so a day on a standard satellite system,
when its wobble places it directly over the equator. The Robert Smathers
SSSSC Chart lists the times of day you can pick up these inclined birds.
Some, like SBS3 have a continuous ID slate so you can find them.
Professional Downlinkers often have DUAL AXIS tracking systems which allow
for adjustment in the vertical as well as horizontal plane. In 1995, NBC
will move its feeds off K2 and onto an inclined SBS bird. All NBC affiliates
will be outfitted with costly auto tracking systems. The good news is that
it is now possible for the HOME BACKYARD TVRO OWNER to install his own
system to track these inclined orbit birds. The key component of this
setup is a "vertical kit" which consists of a heavy steel "hinge" which
will allow your dish to move up and down. The cost for this kit is around
$70, and if you are a bit of a tinkerer, it is well worth the money. To this
kit, you simply add a positioner arm (you can do like I did and scrounge one
for very little money) and you will need a means of providing the 24 volt
DC current with switchable polarity. This can be accomplished by using
an old manual type dish positioner to control the vertical tracking. These
can be had free or very cheap. Such a system is NOT automatic, you need
to use your eyeballs and your IRD's signal readout to peak the signal and
you need to adjust the tracking every 10 minutes or so. If you are chasing
newsfeeds, this won't be too much bother. If you really get into tracking
inclined birds, there are computerized tracking systems, and even a few
IRD's that have the ability to track them automatically. It depends on
your own tastes, desires, and level of technical expertise. The vertical
kit I purchased was from Global Communications (See Dealer list at end of
this article) Since he is a TVRO dish design engineer, he can quickly
determine if your system will adapt to this type of system. Hint: if you
have an AJAK H/H drive, the answer is YES! During the Olympics it was fun
to be able to watch the feeds LIVE and not have to wait for the USA delay
broadcasts. Many of these feeds were on an inclined Intelsat. Besides
NBC, activity on inclined birds is fairly sparse, mostly special feeds.
Thus the option of being able to track these satellites is not for everyone
but the option is certainly there for folks who do.
IT IS EARLY SPRING (FALL) AND I WAS WATCHING MY SATELLITE DISH AND
THE PICTURE GOT WEAKER AND THEN VANISHED FOR 20 MINUTES. IS MY SYSTEM
No. You have just experienced the twice yearly Solar Transit Event. This
occurs when the sun, which emanates a very strong amount of microwave energy
is in line with the Clarke Belt where the satellites live, and your dish.
This is incorrectly called "SUNSPOTS" even by people who should know better
(TV station engineers and the like). It only lasts a week or so, and affects
EVERY satellite in the arc moving from east to west. It affects EVERYONE who
uses satellites, including the Cable Companies, TV and radio stations. Cable
channels will wink out, Radio programs will be replaced by music, and TV
stations have to carefully record shows in the middle of the night to play
back during the day so viewers won't know there is a problem.
You CAN use this problem as a tool though. This is a great way to do a poor
man's site survey. Just go to where you plan to install a satellite dish,
and sit there all day and watch the sun. If it goes behind trees, you will
know there won't be good reception of some of the satellites. If all day
long the sun is unobscured, then you know there will be a great location for
WHAT IS SCPC?
SCPC (Single Channel Per Carrier) is a method of transmitting audio
over satellite. Primarily this is a service for Radio Stations, and
is not meant for the general public. This alone makes it fascinating
to receive. There are hundreds of SCPC channels in use. Radio
Networks, Sportscasts, Music services, talk shows, all are heard on
SCPC, as well as major market radio stations. SCPC can be received
with a special receiver, and there are a number of "tricks" that
netters have used to pick up these signals, which can not normally
be received on consumer satellite receivers. If one has a satellite
receiver that has a "70 MHZ LOOP", a cheap TV band Radio can be used
to tune SCPC. While it is also possible to use SOME scanners that
tune the 70 mhz loop (such as the RADIO SHACK PRO-2006) the results
are very poor. The TV radio actually sounds MUCH better. The reason
for this is due to the "step" frequencies of the scanner. With SCPC
the main problem encountered is one of BANDWIDTH. SCPC signals can
be found as narrow as 50 KHz bandwidth to as wide as 150 or more.
By comparison, The TV band radio receives approximately 75 KHz bandwidth
and a normal scanner in narrow mode receives 5 KHz. For this reason,
a standard scanner will not give a listenable signal, even if it is
modified to tune the 70 MHZ loop.
Some receivers, with VIDEO FINE TUNE can be used to shift the 70 MHz
IF band UP to the low end of the REGULAR FM band. This can give
fair results, though usually the entire SCPC spectrum can not be tuned
For satellite receivers that do NOT have a 70 mhz loop, it is necessary
to use a DEDICATED receiver that can tune the 950-1450 mhz band.
The ICOM 7000, 7100, and 9000 have this capability, though they are
quite expensive. The less expensive (~ $600 ) ICOM R-100 is an
extremely wideband receiver which tunes from 100 KHz to 1800 MHz. This
includes the whole 950-1450 block, so it can tune direct signals from
the LNB. To connect the R-100 or a similar receiver, one uses a DC
BLOCK SPLITTER. The isolated side goes to the R-100, and the other
side goes to the Sat Receiver, which is necessary to power the LNB.
The R-100 is very desirable because it also tunes Standard Subcarrier
(available through the RAW VIDEO Jack on your sat receiver) as well
as FM SQUARED audio. It also is a nice public service scanner, and
SHORTWAVE receiver. This one radio does it all AND it doubles on sax.
There are two DEDICATED SCPC receivers. The simpler HEIL SC-ONE, which
features analogue tuning and sells for around $450. The newer UNIVERSAL
SC-100 features 50 memories, digital readout and a built in amplifier.
BOTH these receivers lack MULTIPLE bandwidths, which mean they do not
give perfect reception of all SCPC signals.
Also, SCPC signals are compressed on a 3 to 1 DBX encoding, which
means reception is lacking in dynamic range unless a suitable
decompression scheme is used.
There is no PERFECT consumer SCPC reception system, but the above
methods DO work, and can provide a lot of enjoyment AND the reception
of several hundred new signals.
Author note: A detailed discussion of audio subcarriers is available
in a written transcript of a recent radio show I did regarding the
various methods of tuning satellite audio. Write if interested in a
copy of this transcript. Also, a listing of SCPC audio stations is
available as part of Robert Smathers' SOUTHSCANNER CHART, regularly posted
to the rec.video.satellite.tvro / HOMESAT lists.
I have also written an SCPC FAQ, which contains much of the information you
have just read, with some additional information, it is available by writing
me at the address in the header of this FAQ.
WHAT ARE DATS AND SEDATS AUDIO, AND HOW CAN I RECEIVE THEM.
DATS is Digital Audio Transmission System, and SEDATS is Spectrum Efficient
Digital Audio Transmission System, which are replacing SCPC for many
national services. All the Major networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, MUTUAL and
quite a number of syndicators (Howard Stern, etc) are now on DATS and
SEDATS. These signals are primarily on the Aurora (C5) Satellite. There
is no home DATS or SEDATS receiver, and no known experimenter project
for receiving this audio. We understand that the manufacturers of these
receivers WILL sell them to anyone, including home dish owners, but
the $4000 price tag for a mono audio only receiver has thus far placed
this technology out of reach for 99.9% of the audio experimenters we know.
WHAT DIGITAL INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE ON SATELLITE AND HOW DO I GET IT?
There are a number of different text information services available
via satellite, Unfortunately, at present ALL are pay services.
WST = World System Teletext. This system is very popular in
Europe and was also available in the USA.
At this time, there are no longer any Teletext Transmissions
available in North America
X*PRESS X*CHANGE. By far the most comprehensive source of
text news is X*PRESS. This service links you into all the major
world NEWS WIRE services: AP, UPI, REUTERS, TASS and many
others. To take advantage of this amazing service, you must
have a computer just to sort the incoming data for you. X*PRESS
allows you to select articles based upon key word search.
This is a subscription service, and is not cheap. Expect to
pay $30 per month for the service. You will also need an
INFOCIPHER decoder. Computers supported include PC clones,
Macintosh, ATARI ST, APPLE II. A new PC software package was
released in June of 1993 for MS/DOS machines which addresses
problems of earlier versions. A Windows version was introduced
Full information on X*PRESS X*CHANGE service can be had by dialing
1-800-7PC-NEWS. The fee is reasonable considering the amount
of data available. The total news junkie will love it. This
service is transmitted on Galaxy 5.
SKYLINK. This is also a service available for the home TVRO
user, and offers downloads and some text information and TV
schedules. Reception requires the purchase of a $150 box, and
payment of a yearly $90 fee. The main appeal of this service
is access to a HUGE array of public domain and shareware programs
for MSDOS compatible computers. There are also weather maps and
other services. The Shop-At-Home TV service operate SKYLINK, and
market the box and the subscriptions. The data is fed on an audio
subcarrier of their home shopping network service on G3/17.
For more information on SKYLINK call 1-800-544-6694.
PLANET CONNECT. This is a service similar to SKYLINK, except it
is designed for BBS operators. It contains the FIDO backbone
as well as a lot of USENET traffic. Hardware/Software and
Subscription info available from SKYLINK at the above phone number.
In addition to these services directed at the home user, there are digital
signals all over the sky, but these are commercial services, using
proprietary encoding systems, and are directed at commercial users, which
are either too costly for the home user to subscribe to, or not available
at any price. Experimenters occasionally manage to figure out ways to
tap into these systems, but such discussions are beyond the scope of the
FAQ. If interested in such things, we recommend Tom Harrington's popular
book: THE HIDDEN SIGNALS ON SATELLITE TV, even though much of the infor-
mation in the book is a bit out of date.
WHAT IS THE BEST SATELLITE SYSTEM FOR ME?
We often receive this question, and it is not an easy one to answer.
this depends on what YOU want. We recommend you go to a reputable
local satellite dealer, and LOOK at the systems on display. Do not buy
the first system you are shown, and if you are not sure exactly what
you want, do not be pressured into buying immediately. The system will
be there tomorrow AND the next day. You CAN save a LOT of money buying
mail order, but you will have to install the system yourself. By
looking at the types of receivers/dishes available, you will get
familiar with what Satellite TV is all about. There are advantages and
disadvantages with virtually EVERY receiver on the market, so there is
no blanket answer to which system is the best for YOU. We suggest you
spend a LOT of time looking at all the available systems out there. A
good place to start is in your YELLOW PAGES under SATELLITE TV. Visit
as many dealers as you can. You may still decide on mail ordering a
system, there is no law that says you HAVE to buy from the local guy.
Unless you want a totally installed system. Even so SHOP AROUND.
Beware high pressure tactics to buy every bell and whistle available.
ISN'T IT DIFFICULT TO INSTALL A SATELLITE SYSTEM?
You and a couple of friends can assemble, install and track your
satellite system in one day, even if you know NOTHING about the
technology involved. You need only know how to dig a hole, pour
concrete, and put a pipe into the concrete and get it plumb. There are
many books on the topic of satellite TV that can help you, which should
be available on loan from your library. Doing it yourself will save you
around $500. However, if you don't mind spending the additional money,
your local dealer will be glad to set your system up so you can just
sit back and push the buttons on the remote control. This is up to
you. Some people do not like to tinker and tweak. A do it yourself
system can take some time before you are satisfied with it. There is
a nifty installation manual and videotape available from SKYVISION that
can help you do it right. See the Vendor section for Skyvision's phone
MY COMMUNITY HAS RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS AND DISHES ARE NOT ALLOWED.
IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO WATCH SATELLITE TV?
There are a number of things you can do depending on your resourcefulness,
and also how much you are willing to invest. First, federal law takes
precedence here. The LEGAL fact is, your community can NOT restrict you
from installing a satellite dish. If you take them to court, you will win,
but, of course, you have to hire an attorney and the fight will add $5,000 or
so to the price of your system, UNLESS you can scare them by showing them the
fact that the courts MUST side with the dish owner. It would cost you about
HALF that price to get an FCC TVRO receiving license (Yes they are still
issued), and as a legally licensed receive station you can also bring the
government into play. You can scare them by showing them legal briefs that
show how the cities always lose, and THEN have to pay YOUR legal fees.
If you wish to take the legal avenue, get the help of ASTA, the American
Satellite TV Alliance. They have a very good legal package which can help you
put a case together to get your dish. The federal law in question is:
Code of Federal Regulations 25.104 is titled "Preemption of local zoning
of earth stations" and is reproduced below in entirety:
"State and local zoning or other regulations that differentiate between
satellite receive-only antennas and other types of antenna facilities are
preempted unless such regulations: (a) Have a reasonable and clearly
defined health, safety or aesthetic objective; and (b) Do not operate to
impose unreasonable limitations on, or prevent, reception of satellite
delivered signals by receive-only antennas or to impose costs on the
users of such antennas that are excessive in light of the purchase and
installation cost of the equipment. Regulation of satellite transmitting
antennas is preempted in the same manner except that state and local
health and safety regulation is not preempted."
83 Am Jur 2d sec. 488 is entitled "Radio and television towers and
antennas; satellite dishes" and includes the following:
"In order to regulate satellite antennas and avoid a federal preemption,
the local ordinance must not differentiate between satellite antennas and
other types of antenna facilities (L.I.M.A. Partners v. Northvale, 219 NJ
Super 512, 530 A2d 839). The First Amendment right to receive
information via a satellite dish is a relative right which may be
outweighed by important governmental interests, such as the protection
of community aesthetics (Decker v Plantation (SD Fla) 706 F Supp 851).
Thus, an owner who was denied a special permit required by local
zoning ordinance to erect a satellite dish in his front yard did not have
his rights to due process or equal protection violated, where 16 permits
had been issued, all for backyard erection of satellite dishes, properly
screened to maintain the aesthetics of the community (Decker v
Plantation (SD Fla) 706 F Supp 851). An ordinance governing amateur
radio antennas does not deprive a homeowner of equal protection on
the grounds that it discriminates in favor of satellite dish communication
(Bulchis v Edmonds (WD Wash) 671 F Supp 1270).
"A 12-foot by 12-foot antenna, attached to the ground by concrete and
angle irons, is a "structure" as that term is employed in an ordinance
which prohibits structures in required front yard space (Gouge v.
Snellville, 249 Ga 91, 287 SE2d 539). "
The preceding was typed to the net by Pravin K. Mishra, Ph.D.
You can get a package of information from ASTA for about $25. Call ASTA
for more information on their material at 914-997-8192. I used this
package to successfully defend my own dish installation, which is 26 feet
high, attached to a huge platform structure made just for the dish. Nothing
like this previously existed in my city, and they wanted me to get a
variance. With the ASTA material I did not have to pay for the variance and
have the hearing (which would have cost $150, and I could have lost)
If you live in California, Keith Jarett advises us:
AB104 (Dan Hauser) is now signed into law. It declares unenforceable
any CC&Rs which prohibit TV antennas or dishes up to 3 feet in diameter.
The homeowners association can regulate the installations within reason,
but they can't ban the antennas. If you have to sue them and win, you
can even get attorney's fees.
DSSers in California can cheer, and BUDers can at least get a Ku dish
put in. In fact, maybe they can put an ugly ugly Ku dish in the most
obtrusive location allowed, then when asked to relocate it, just say
"well, OK, if you just let me increase the diameter to 7 feet, I can
get this much prettier dish in the back yard where no one will see it."
However, there are other ways. Hide your dish. There is one manufacturer
that makes a dish look like a beach umbrella, complete with lawn chairs and a
table. There is also a very ingenious system called "The Rock" which is a
fiberglass (Microwave transparent) boulder that can go right over a dish and
hide it. One fellow we know of found out that his restrictive covenants DID
allow a homeowner to have one of those outbuildings (shed) where people keep
their lawnmowers, etc. He built one of microwave transparent material, and
put his dish inside and no one is the wiser. Such a system is actually
preferable, it protects the dish from wind and the elements. (professional
radar systems use RADOMES for the same reason)
I know of people who have non permanent dishes. Some roll the dish out at
night, point it at their favorite bird, and roll it back in the house or
garage before sunrise. Another person I know lives in a community that does
not allow dishes, and he has two. They are on wooden bases, and thus not
permanent. He never removes them, and he tells me they track the arc quite
Of course if you have NOT purchased your house yet, the best thing you can do
is to move into a community that is not so narrow minded. Especially if you
get hooked and want MULTIPLE dishes (It CAN happen).
The company that makes the replica boulder dish cammo system is:
c/o QUB-L Vision
Concord, CA 94520
While you will clearly win ZONING cases, Restrictive covenants are a
different matter. There are ways to win, but it is not guaranteed, since
you sign a contract agreeing to the limitations of the covenant. A good
lawyer equipped with the ASTA information CAN win such a case, but it is
not the simple issue that ZONING is.
I LIVE ON A WOODED LOT WITH LOTS OF TREES. IS THIS A PROBLEM?
Not if you have a chain saw. Trees in the way mean you don't get a
picture, at least in the summer time. Trees have a tendency to block the
microwave signals. If you are not sure of your situation, it is advisable
to have a "SITE SURVEY" done by a local dealer. This should cost you no
more than about $25. Usually you can find SOME place to put the dish to
see the satellites, and mounting on a pole or your roof may help the
situation. I have a similar situation here, and my dish is 26 feet high, and
includes a massive steel reinforced wooden structure complete with a service
platform. This helped me clear the tree line enough to actually get FOUR
international satellites. Obtaining permission from the city to build this
structure was a bit of a hassle, but thanks to the material from ASTA, I was
able to convince them that under the Federal Pre-emption the city could not
deny the installation. I now have perfect reception of the entire satellite
I CAN NOT GET rec.video.satellite.tvro BECAUSE MY SYSTEM IS NOT ON THE INTERNET
OR DOES NOT CARRY NEWSGROUPS. IS THERE A WAY FOR ME TO RECEIVE THIS MATERIAL
Just use the HOMESAT mailing list. You can read the postings every day.
Makes no difference if you are on CI$, GENIE, MCIMAIL or AOL or any System
or BBS that allows netmail.
To suscribe to homesat you should send your message to
with the text
SUBSCRIBE TVROSAT <your name>
do not send the request to firstname.lastname@example.org this is for sending
messages to the list only.
Send a message to LISTSERV@VM1.NoDak.EDU with the text
to get a helpful info file about the working of the list.
WHAT OTHER SOURCES OF INFO ARE THERE ABOUT SATELLITE TV?
In addition to homesat, there is a WORLD WIDE WEB Satellite page run
by Robert Smathers.
If you have WWW access:
This page has a TON of info on it, including TVRO Images, and links to other
TVRO related pages. Call it the "Granddaddy" of TVRO WWW Pages! AND it
links you to all the rest of the TVRO info on the web...
If you do not have WWW, but do have a modem, the Great White North BBS
can be reached at up to 14.4 KB, at (906) 225-5496. At the login prompt
and you will get a menu. You can also write for material in the mail
either Electronic Mail, or even POSTAL Mail... (Keep Reading)
I HAVE A QUESTION THAT WAS NOT ON THIS LIST. HOW DO I GET AN ANSWER?
Ask Away. You can post your question right on the net. The only dumb
question is the one you don't ask. We don't mind helping you get started.
Or send me a note: email@example.com and I will try and answer,
and include your question in future versions of this FAQ list.
If you are reading this FAQ in printed form, and do not have a way to write
us on the computer network, we will now answer your questions by postal mail.
However, due to severe financial limitations, we can only comply with your
request for information by mail if you:
1. Include a Stamped Self Addressed Envelope, placing enough postage
to cover the material you are requesting. (if you are asking a
simple question, one stamp is enough, if requesting more detailed
information, please place more postage on your envelope sufficient
to cover return mailing cost)
2. Write on the back of your RETURN envelope a summary of what you are
asking for EVEN if you send a letter. We receive so much mail that
letters and reply envelopes can get mixed up. (Do not write this on
the envelope you are mailing to US in, but on the back of the
envelope going back to you. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. We have
a few envelopes here with no idea what is supposed to go in them.
3. Include a minimum $1 contribution to cover processing your request.
We are a non profit corporation, and the wear and tear on equipment
etc. is eating us alive. Larger donations are TAX DEDUCTIBLE and
will be used to cover expenses involved in information processing.
Some multipage documents, like the SCROUNGER'S guide are quite heavy
and come with a $3 surcharge for copying.
4. Send your question, SASE and Contribution to:
Great White North Inc.
429 Spring Street
Marquette, MI 49855
5. We can not process any mailings that do not comply with the above
6. If you make your request by computer EMAIL, there is no charge.
This mail offer is made only to those who do not have electronic
access. You will receive your REPLY by Email. Do not send me your
postal address in this case.
Just write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
7. We can not send long EMAIL files to Prodigy, so if you are on
that system, your only option is to use the mail method outlined
above unless you are asking a very simple question. Too often
Prodigy rejects our replies because they go over the 6K Prodigy
If you already have a satellite dish, we encourage you to listen to our
weekly call in show over the Tech Talk Network. This Listener Supported
public service program is now in its third year. Each week we discuss all
the latest TVRO news, and answer many technical questions from listeners.
Friday Night Live can be heard on E2/18 5.8 Wideband Audio EVERY Friday night
from 9PM to Midnight EASTERN TIME.
Send me EMAIL for a complete TTN RADIO SCHEDULE.
HANDY PHONE LIST TO HAVE AROUND DISH...
California Amp (805)987-9000
Channel Master (919)934-9711
Fujitsu Genrl. (201)575-0380
General Inst (619)535-2545
Houston Trackr (303)790-4445
Names and addresses of Equipment Suppliers
- New Satellite equipment (In alphabetical order) -
Bob Duckworth Consulting (Atlanta)
404 874 5051
KU system w/ BR1000 manual receiver for $400
305 344 6000
located in Coral Spring, Fl
from an ad in QST
Northeast Satellite 201-728-3217 (NJ)
Uniden receivers (Complete C band system for $979),
"Top of the Line" w/ Uniden 4500, 6' dish for $1300
Global Communications 608 546 2523
Spring Green WI 53588
Best prices on LNB's, KU Upgrade systems
Receiver: Eurosat Horizon for $169
Full dedicated TVRO Single Sat System for $475 Brand New!
KU Upgrade (Feed and .7 LNB) $188
Hannah & Hansen - New Tech Sat., Inc.
HQ: (412) 621-4214
HQ: 3404 Juliet St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
3303 West Reservoir
Peoria, IL 61615
HST, Echostar, Uniden, Chaparral.
Complete tracking 7.5' dish systems from $1099.
Fergus Fall MN
major dealer - eg, Orbitron 10' dishes for $349 or heavy
duty for $439... LNBs, etc
MJ Sales dba Satellite Warehouse
1842 W. Grant Rd. Suite 187 , Tucson Az
800 851 6534 info at 602-792-9429
Authorized Factory Direct Distributor for: Drake, Orbitron, Ajak Industries,
Panamax, Weingard, Channel Master and Com/Scope.
Sat Warehouse Web Site: http://www.dss.digifix.com/DSS/SatWarehouse
Universal Electronics - OH
614 866 4605
(heavy into SCPC)
Possible One shot ad (not sure) -
VCII (not plus) modules, Uniden 4400 receivers...
703 238 1951
- Used or New and Used Satellite equipment -
(ask for that division) or leave number for callback
800 722 3158
714 957 3158
More Used Equipment
"You name it, we have it"
317 385 2305
Satellite TV Muncie, IN
Uniden 4400s Tracker, Startrack...
317 288 0074
503 632 7187
misc sat receivers - actuators - programmable dish
controllers - teletext decoders - etc.
April 93 Nuts and Volts
"Used Satellite Equipment"
317 385 2305
Feb 93 Nuts & Volts
"Satellite Equipment Bought and Sold"
Megastar 702 386 2844
>From an ad in N&V
"New and Used Satellite Equipment"
Rt 1, Box 22, Marshall OK 73056
>From an ad in N&V
Ventura Califorina (new & used equip)
>From an ad in N&V
BEWARE! Cavet EMPTOR!
Please forward any additions, alterations,
corrections to pravin@LNBD.uicomp.uic.edu; complete addresses and
other phone numbers are specially welcome.
Contributors to the equipment section:
Dr. Robert R. Wier <wier@MERLIN.ETSU.EDU>
Netnews Server <NETNEWS@AUVM.AMERICAN.EDU>
Mike Gingell <gingell@AURFS1.AUR.ALCATEL.COM>
Pravin Mishra <Pravin@LNBD.uicomp.uic.edu>
/ Gary Bourgois, WB8EOH, The Birdwatcher: Marquette Michigan USA \
([-o Keeper of The r.v.s.t. FAQ, Wildfeeds List, and Radio Guides o-])
\ email@example.com REALAUDIO SITE AT: http://ttn.nai.net/ /
Friday Night Live E2/18 5.8 Voicemail/FAX: (906) 228-7477