You will still need to keep your Sky viewing card. If you stop subscribing on a Sky contract, you can keep using that card to watch 5USA, 5* and PICK TV, the so-called "free-to-view" channels. (All ITV channels are free-to-air).
John Dunmall: I would certainly second that said by MikeB as far as Humax is concerned, as speaking from the engineering point of view, Humax brand devices are known as being about the best in the market for overall reliability and performance, this backed up by my own Humax Freesat twin tuner HD PVR having given 100% reliable service for over four years now since purchasing same, the device having been powered up continuously over the entire time.
This company manufactures a number of Freesat PVR's with slightly different specifications, some more sophisticated that others, and so rather than rhyme them off you can have a look at what's on offer by clicking on the undermentioned link, the Freesat range shown on the right hand side of the screen, although ignore the HB1000S as its only a receiver.
I only keep going with my skysubscription for signal. When the sky box is turned off the picture breaks up into little pixels. I have had someone to look at my area, who can't understand it, but is willing to replace my area as that should help. If I cancel sky, can I continue to use the sky box just for reception?
jayne: Cancelling your Skysubscription will only result in you not being able to view channels that are linked to the subscription. If though your Sky box is of the + (recording) variety, then Sky will disable access to this side of the box.
You can easily find out what you will be able to view simply by removing the card and running through the programme list, any that requires a subscription will trigger the caption, "please insert viewing card".
By the way, when you say that the picture breaks up into little pixels when you turn the Sky box off, are you referring to that seen on a Freeview TV or box?
jayne : In addition to that said. If you are referring to a picture seen on a Freeview device? then if your Freeview devices (TV or box) aerial input socket is connected into the Sky boxes RF1 / 2 rather than the actual aerial, this being connected into the Sky boxes aerial input socket, then your picture "will" break up (or vanish) if you switch the Sky box off.
Should your system be connected in this way? then you can get over the problem by simply connecting the lead from the actual aerial straight into the Freeview TV rather than into the Sky box.
This seems to be a common misconception by a lot of people - they take out a Sky contract, and they think that if they cancel their Sky TV all their channels will disappear.
This is however not true - I have Sky TV downstairs, but I also have satellite TV in my bedroom, to get this all I did was run an extra cable from the Sky satellite dish into a HD satellite card in my PC and there we have it free satellite TV.
I don't get all the Sky channels but there are still many Free to air satellite channels out there that are still available.
All the BBC channels are free to air and can be received by a Sky box with either a cancelled sky card in the slot or no sky card in the slot.
Also many of the other terrestrial channels are FTA (free to air) - like ITV, C4, C5, Film4 is also free.
If you plug your satellite dish into a generic free to air satellite receiver or PC tuner card you may find that at first you receive about 20 Channel 4's (if it's a Freesat receiver or a Sky box these are pre-programmed to only show one Channel 4), and you'll also notice a number of BBC1's, ITV's and C5's. These are regional variations the main difference between each region is the advertisements - for example in the West Midlands you might see adverts for things like West Midlands Safari Park or the Birmingham and Wolverhampton locations of DFS or Ikea, where as on the North West versions you might see adverts for Gullivers in Warrington, or DFS, Manchester, Ikea Warrington, etc. Also if your over the border in Scotland you'd notice that by removing your sky card the STV would change to ITV, and in WalesS4C would swap with C4.
If you remove your sky card from the slot you will find that after a few minutes it will switch all your regional channels to a London version (BBC London, ITV London). It uses the postcode stored in the Sky card to figure out which region to show (and if you want to watch something that's not in your region if you go to the end of the Sky channels in the 900 beyond the adult channels you can get the various BBC regions).
If you cancel your card but leave it in the slot it will still use your postcode to give you the same region, and if you have a sky box that doesn't have a card you can call Sky up and ask them to send you out a Sky Freesat card - note this is not the same as Freesat (even though it shares the same name). The Sky Freesat card will be matched to the postcode it's sent to so it will correct the channels to your correct area.
Several of the regular contributors to this website have explained all that before. I'm thinking of people like jb38 who regularly contributes here.
Worth noting that *all* Freeviewchannels are available free. The one aspect that is not 'free' is the current requirement to have a Broadcast Receiving Licence for your location to cover all TV reception, even live programmes viewed on your computer, but it doesn't cover the delayed viewing of 'catch-up' services as they remain outside of the TV Licence remit.
On Sky, the PSB services remain free to view and it is not essential to have a viewing card, though having one inserted does help to show the 'local' services as you suggest. The encrypted Sky channels and the recording facility on a Sky+ box are unavailable.
Freesat, like Freeview, is freely available to view by anyone with suitable equipment, again with the proviso about the TV Licence.
john robertson: No, as Sky will disable this side of your box at time of cancelling your subscription.
If though you wish to retain the recording and playback side of your box, Sky will allow this provided that you take out another subscription for this purpose (and only that!) at a cost of around £10.25 per month, however most ex Sky subscribers decline going down this route and opt to change over to "subscription free" Freesat, usually purchasing a twin tuner Freesat HD recorder which offers exactly the same facilities as a Sky+ HD box.
Sky and Freesat devices being 100% compatible with each other as far as dish connections are concerned.
Plus even if you do pay Sky the extra for the recording facilities to be turned on, if your on about recording from the aerial (freeview) you can't anyway - you can only record from the freesatchannels (satellite) as the Sky box has no freeview decoder in it and no way of inputting a freeview picture into it.
If you did want to still record and pause TV and not pay sky you could always just buy a general HDD recorder, many of these have the play/pause function on them, and some even include a DVD recorder, or backup to USB, network sharing, abilities to swap hard drives when it's full, etc which is far more functionality than you get from a Sky+ box.