Television and Satellite TV

Find out what TV entertainment is available in the United Kingdom...

The UK switched to an all-digital broadcasting system in 2012.

Most other countries in the world have either switched over, are switching over, or plan to switch over from analogue TV broadcasting to digital TV broadcasting. Before the advent of digital broadcasting, the main three standards were:

  • NTSC: the USA, Canada, Japan
  • PAL: most of Western Europe, Australasia and South Africa
  • SECAM: France, Africa and Eastern Europe

Today, the main digital standards are:

  • DVB-T: most of the world, including Europe, southern Africa, Australia and southern Asia
  • ATSC: the USA, Canada, Mexico and South Korea
  • ISDB-T: most of South America
  • DTMB: China

The systems are not compatible, so a television produced for one system will generally not work on another. However the switch from analogue to digital means that (for instance) a TV bought in France will work in United Kingdom.

Digital set-top boxes are available for people still using analogue TVs. However, these only work within one set of standards, so an analogue set brought into another region may still not work with a set-top box.

All new TV sets now sold in the UK are digital and conform to HD standards. Some are also compatible for 3D movies.

Terrestrial Television in the UK

There are five channels on terrestrial television in the UK:

TV Licences in the UK

A TV licence is required by anyone who watches or records TV in the UK as it is being broadcast, including on a computer, laptop, mobile phone or DVD/video recorder. Anyone who pays a television licence can watch the five channels listed above.

TV licences can also be paid for by direct debit, credit/debit card, at a PayPoint outlet (these are located in supermarkets, petrol stations and newsagents), with a TV licensing payment card, a TV licensing savings card, by cheque, postal order or electronic transfer.

Freeview Digital TV

Depending on where a person lives in the UK, it may also be possible to get free digital TV via Freeview. Through a digital box, digital TV recorder or digital TV, consumers are able to access up to 50 digital TV channels.

Cable TV

There are only a small handful providers of cable TV in the UK, as most consumers prefer to use satellite or IPTV (streaming via the Internet). Despite this preference, more than half of the country is cable-capable.

Satellite Television

Satellite dishes can be bought from any hardware shop and attached to the outside of a house.

The two major providers of satellite TV in the UK are Sky and Freesat.

Sky TV is a subscription service. Installation costs vary depending on the chosen package and additional pay-per-view films, events and individual subscription channels are available. Freesat was launched as a kind of public service and offers a significant range of programs for free, as well as pay-per-view and paid High Definition options.

  • To subscribe to Sky TV, see the website or Tel: 08442 411 818
  • To subscribe to Freesat, see the website