Originally Posted by Dagwood70
If I remember correctly from when I lived in Germany the main German & Netherlands' national channels were free to air over the satellite dish. You only had to buy and set up a basic box and dish. If you wanted premium channels (movies, etc.) you paid a monthly fee and got a card to put your satellite receiver box.
That is still true in Germany - where the main terrestrial channels are also available FTA unencrypted on satellite - and in many cases also in HD (OTA in Germany is, AIUI, still MPEG2 SD only) However in the Netherlands, the main terrestrial channels are encrypted on satellite and not FTA. They may be FTV (free-to-view) or Pay-TV - not sure - but they require a viewing card and suitable conditional access module to view.
OTA in the Netherlands, unlike Germany and the UK, is dominated by pay-TV services, with only the main terrestrial PSBs (Now called NED1, NED2, NED3) and a few minority channels, available unencrypted and FTA. The rest require a viewing card and CAM (Conditional Access Module - either standalone or integrated) - either in your TV or a set-top box (There is a European standard for CAMs which means that all TVs have a CI (Common interface) slot - a bit like a Cablecard slot - which allows a CAM and viewing card to be installed (so you can watch pay-TV services on OTA - and in some cases cable - without needing a STB).
This isn't uncommon in Europe - Sweden has a significant amount of pay-TV on their OTA platforms too (though more services are FTA there than in the Netherlands to be fair)
Once OTA is dominated by pay-TV, the discussion about whether it is a "public service" and different to cable and satellite are more nuanced I guess - particularly if OTA is not a major force (as it is in other European countries like the UK) There is increasing discussion about the 700MHz block (the 800MHz block has gone already) currently used for TV being redesignated for mobile broadband, reducing significantly the spectrum for OTA broadcasts.
Switching existing SD MPEG2 services using DVB-T to SD AV/H264 using DVB-T2 is one proposal to cope with reduced spectrum... A partial solution would keep the main PSBs on MPEG2 SD DVB-T but switch everything else to AVC/H264 DVB-T2. DVB-T2 allows 40+Mbs instead of the 24-27Mbs DVB-T offers in an 8MHz channel, and using AVC rather than MPEG2 allows for a lower bitrate to be used for each service at a given quality, so you can significantly increase the number of channels that could be broadcast in a given spectrum allocation.