Manufacturers, importers, and distributors of FTA receivers officially do not condone this practice and some will not sell to or support individuals who they believe will be using their products for this purpose, use of third-party software usually voiding any warranties.

Unlike traditional methods of pirate decryption that involve altered smart cards used with satellite receivers manufactured and distributed by the provider, piracy involving FTA receivers require only an update to the receiver's firmware.

There is no assurance that any individual FTA broadcast will remain available or that those which do remain will continue broadcast in a compatible format - in this example, such a viewer would have lost ABC and Fox in mid-2009 due to Equity's bankruptcy.

Free-To-Air receivers generally use the same technology standards (such as DVB-S, MPEG-2) as those used by pay-TV networks such as Echostar's Dish Network and BCE's Bell TV.

FTA receivers are sold in the United States and Canada for the purpose of viewing unencrypted free-to-air satellite channels, the bulk of which are located on Galaxy 19 (97°W, K There is also a substantial amount of Christian-based programming available on several satellites over both North America and Europe, such as The God Channel, JCTV, EWTN, and 3ABN.

The PBS Satellite Service offers educational programming on K As there is no standard MPEG audio on many of these channels, the AC3-only feeds require a Dolby Digital-capable receiver. Channels include PBS-HD/PBS-X as well as various secondary programmes normally carried on digital subchannels of PBS terrestrial member stations.

The same is not true of standard subscription TV receivers, whereby unsubscribing from a pay-TV package causes loss of all channels.

The use of renewable security allows providers to send new smart cards to all subscribers as existing compromised encryption schemes (such as Nagravision 1 and 2) are replaced with new schemes (currently Nagravision 3).

FTA receivers, however, lack the smartcard readers or decryption modules designed for the reception of pay-TV programming, since the receivers are designed only for reception of unencrypted transmissions.

On occasion, where a pay-TV service's encryption system has been very seriously compromised, to the extent that it can be emulated in software and without the presence of a valid access card, hackers have been able to reverse-engineer an FTA receiver's software and add the necessary emulation to allow unauthorized reception of pay TV channels.

In the UK, all the original five terrestrial broadcasters, BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, and Five broadcast FTA on digital satellite in some form, including many of their regional variations.