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Free-to-air (FTA) services are television (TV) and radio services broadcast in clear (unencrypted) form, allowing any person with the appropriate receiving equipment to receive the signal and view or listen to the content without requiring a subscription, other ongoing cost, or one-off fee (e.g., pay-per-view). In the traditional sense, this is carried on terrestrial radio signals and received with an antenna.
FTA also refers to channels and broadcasters providing content for which no subscription is expected, even though they may be delivered to the viewer/listener by another carrier for which a subscription is required, e.g., cable television, the Internet, or satellite. These carriers may be mandated (or OPT) in some geographies to deliver FTA channels even if a premium subscription is not present (providing the necessary equipment is still available), especially where FTA channels are expected to be used for emergency broadcasts, similar to the 1-1-2 (112) emergency service provided by mobile phone operators and manufacturers.
On the other side, free-to-view (FTV) is generally available without subscription, but it is digitally encoded and may be restricted geographically.
Free-to-air is often used for international broadcasting, making it something of a video equivalent to shortwave radio. Most FTA retailers list free-to-air channel guides and content available in North America for free-to-air use.
Although commonly described as free, the cost of free-to-air services is met through various means:
Up until 2012, Israel had several free-to-air channels. The major ones rating-wise: Channel 2, Channel 10, and Channel 1. The other ones were: Educational, Channel 33, and Knesset 99.
Since 2018, Israel has several new free-to-air channels that replace their older counterparts. The major ones rating-wise: Channel 12, Channel 13, Kan 11, and Channel 20. The other ones are: Kan Educational, Makan 33, and Knesset Channel.
In 1971, the SABC was finally allowed to introduce a television service. Initially, the proposal was for two television channels, one in English and Afrikaans, aimed at white audiences, and another, known as TV Bantu, aimed at black viewers. However, when television was finally introduced, there was only one channel with airtime divided evenly between English and Afrikaans, alternating between the two languages. Test transmissions in Johannesburg began on 5 May 1975, followed in July by ones in Cape Town and Durban. Nationwide services finally commenced on 5 January 1976.
In common with most of Western Europe, South Africa used the PAL system for colour television, being only the second terrestrial television service in sub-Saharan Africa to launch with a colour-only service, Zanzibar in Tanzania having introduced the first such service in 1973. (Tanzania itself did not establish a television service until the early 1990s, similarly concerned about the expense and perceived threat to cultural norms.) The Government, advised by SABC technicians, took the view that colour television would have to be available so as to avoid a costly migration from black-and-white broadcasting technology.
Initially, the TV service was funded entirely through a licence fee as in the UK, charged at R36. However, advertising began on 1 January 1978.
On 1 January 1982, two services were introduced, TV2 broadcasting in Zulu and Xhosa and TV3 broadcasting in Sotho and Tswana, aimed at a black urban audience. In 1985, a new service called TV4 was introduced, carrying sports and entertainment programming, using the channel shared by TV2 and TV3, which ended transmissions at 9:30 pm. In 1992, TV2, TV3 and TV4 were combined into a new service called CCV (Contemporary Community Values). A third channel was introduced known as TSS, or Topsport Surplus, Topsport being the brand name for the SABC's sport coverage, but this was replaced by NNTV (National Network TV), an educational, non-commercial channel, in 1994.
The main channel, now called TV1, was divided evenly between English and Afrikaans, as before. It also became available in Walvis Bay, an enclave of South Africa in Namibia, which was itself then under South African administration, with a live feed of the channel broadcast via Intelsat being retransmitted on a local low-power repeater.
In 1986, the SABC's monopoly was challenged by the launch of a subscription-based service known as M-Net, backed by a consortium of newspaper publishers on 1 October. However, as part of its licensing restrictions, it could not broadcast news programmes, which were still the preserve of the SABC, although M-Net started broadcasting a current affairs programme called Carte Blanche in 1988. As the state-controlled broadcaster, the SABC was accused of bias towards the apartheid regime, giving only limited coverage to opposition politicians.
In Hong Kong, the largest and most dominant television channel, Television Broadcasts Limited, was the first free-to-air commercial television channel when it commenced broadcasting on 19 November 1967. It may also well be among the oldest and first station to broadcast over-the-air in East and Southeast Asia.
ViuTV and RTHK TV started broadcasting in 2016.
Around 600 FTA television channels and 180 Radio Channel are broadcast from ku-band and c-band transponders on the INSAT-4B and GSAT-15 satellite covering India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and parts of Afghanistan, and Myanmar. In India, the channels are marketed as DD Direct Plus/ DD Free Dish by Doordarshan, India's national broadcaster and other Indian private broadcaster ABS Free Dish from the ABS2 satellite, one can receive free-to-air regional TV channels using small DTH antenna and freetoair set-top box.
In Korea, KBS, MBC (the 2 main public broadcasters), SBS (privately owned, but available for free to viewers), and EBS (including both TV and radio) are the free-to-air broadcasting stations. They dominate more than 80% of advertisement profits, according to the recent survey from the agency [ ambiguous ]. Due to the recent government's [ which? ] decision, digital television service for all free-to-air networks would be scheduled before the year 2012, followed by the end of analog television broadcasting.
European countries have a tradition of most television services being free to air. Germany, in particular, receives in excess of 100 digital satellite TV channels free to air. Approximately half of the television channels on SES Astra's 19.2° east and 28.2° east satellite positions, and Eutelsat's Hot Bird (13° east) are free-to-air.
A number of European channels which one might expect to be broadcast free-to-air - including many countries' national terrestrial broadcasters - do not do so via satellite for copyright reasons. (Rights to purchase programs for free-to-air broadcast, especially via satellite, are often higher in price than for encrypted broadcast.) The lack of FTA among public broadcasters are prevalent in countries whose broadcasters tend to use subtitles for foreign language programmes; although Spain's two public domestic channels, La Una and La Dos, are also encrypted despite dubbed foreign programmes being the norm in Spain. However, these channels usually provide a scheme to offer free, but encrypted, viewing with free-to-view broadcasts. Certain programming on Italy's RAI, and the majority of Dutch channels are covered by such schemes (although in the case of RAI some programming is transmitted without encryption where there are no copyright issues). In Austria, the main national networks broadcast free-to-view via satellite; however, all regional and some smaller channels are transmitted free-to-air, and the national public broadcaster, ORF, offers a special free-to-air channel which airs selected programming without (i.e. those without copyright issues) via satellite all over Europe.
As Germany and Austria speak the same language and use the same satellite, Austrian viewers are able to receive about 120 free German-speaking channels from both countries.
In general, all satellite radio in Europe is free to air, but the more conventional broadcast systems in use mean that SiriusXM style in-car reception is not possible.
Cable and satellite distribution allow many more channels to carry sports, movies and specialist channels which are not broadcast as FTA. The viewing figures for these channels are generally much lower than the FTA channels.
Various European countries broadcast a large number of channels via free-to-air terrestrial, generally as an analog PAL/SECAM transmission, digital DVB-T/T2 or a combination of the two.
In Croatia eleven national channels are free-to-air: HRT 1, HRT 2, HRT 3, HRT 4 (HRT being national broadcaster), Nova TV, Doma TV, RTL, RTL2, RTL Kockica, CMC and Sptv. There are around 21 local or regional channels. Until June 2020 all are transmitted via three OiV (state-owned public broadcasting company) DVB-T and one DVB-T2 (HEVC/H.265) MUXes. As of June 2020 three DVB-T MUXes will be switched off and all eleven national channels will be distributed via two OiV DVB-T2 (HEVC/H.265) MUXes.
In Denmark, six channels are as of 2020 free-to-air,distributed via 18 main transmitter sites and 30 smaller, auxiliary transmitters. The six channels (DR1, DR2, DR Ramasjang, Folketinget, TV2 Regionerne, and sign language/local programme) come in one DVB-T2 multiplex.
In France, there are twenty six national television channels (MPEG-4 HD video) and 41 local television channels broadcast free-to-air via the TNT DVB-T service.
In Germany there are various free-to-air DVB-T services available, the number of which varies by region. Das Erste, ZDF, ZDFneo, ZDFinfo, 3sat, Arte, KiKA and Phoenix are available throughout the country, in addition to at least one region-dependent channel which is provided by the regional ARD member. Additionally, ARD's EinsFestival, EinsPlus and tagesschau24 are variously available in some parts of the country, and various commercial channels are available in metropolitan areas.
In the Republic of Ireland, there are nine television channels and 11 radio channels broadcast free-to-air via the DVB-T Saorview service. Analog PAL versions of some of the channels were also broadcast until October 24, 2012, when all analogue television broadcasting was shut down.
All of Malta's National and Political Party Channels are available free-to-air. The National Channels, TVM and TVM2, Parliament TV and the political party channels NET and ONE, all are broadcast via the Free-to-air DVB-T service.
Even HD versions of these channels are available free-to-air. The only scrambled channel in Malta is ITV Teleshopping.
In the Netherlands, 3 national public television channels NPO 1, NPO 2 and NPO 3, and 7 national public radio channels broadcast free-to-air via the DVB-T Digitenne service. The television and radio channels of the regional public broadcasters are also free-to-air via the DVB-T service.
In the UK, around 108 free-to-air television channels and 30 free-to-air radio channels are available terrestrially via the Freeview DVB-T service. Seven HD channels are also broadcast via a public service broadcast multiplex and a commercial multiplex, both DVB-T2.
The informal term "council telly" is sometimes used for free-to-air television in the UK, evoking a basic service accessible to all.
There are a number of competing systems in use. Early adopters used C-band dishes several feet in diameter to receive analog microwave broadcasts, and later digital microwave broadcasts using the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. Today, although large C-band dishes can still receive some content, the 11.7-12.2 GHz Ku band is also used. Ku-band signals can be received using smaller dishes, often as small as under a meter (3 feet, 3 inches) in diameter, allowing FTA satellite to be picked up from smaller spaces such as apartment balconies (note, however, that these dishes are not quite as small as those commonly used for commercial services such as Dish Network, DirecTV, Bell ExpressVu, Shaw Direct, etc. Dishes intended for those services may not deliver an adequate signal on Ku-band). The European-developed DVB-S and DVB-S2 standards are the most commonly used broadcast methods, with analog transmissions almost completely discontinued as of mid-2014.
The most common North American sources for free-to-air DVB satellite television are:
Most of these signals are carried by US satellites. There is little or no free Canadian DVB-S content available to users of medium-size dishes as much of the available Ku-band satellite bandwidth is occupied by pay-TV operators Shaw Direct and Bell Satellite TV, although larger C-band dishes can pick up some content. FTA signals may be scattered across multiple satellites, requiring a motor or multiple LNBs to receive everything. This differs from Europe, where FTA signals are commonly concentrated on a few specific satellites.
Another difference between North American FTA and FTA in most of the rest of the world is that in North America, very few of the available signals are actually intended for home viewers or other end-users. Instead, they are generally intended for reception by local television stations, cable system headends, or other commercial users. While it is generally thought to be legal for home viewers to view such transmissions as long as they are not encrypted, this means that there are several unique challenges to viewing FTA signals, challenges not present in other areas of the world. Among these are:
The largest groups of end-users for Ku-band free-to-air signals were initially the ethnic-language communities, as often free ethnic-language programming would be sponsored by Multilingual American Communities and their broadcasters. Depending on language and origin of the individual signals, North American ethnic-language TV is a mix of pay-TV, free-to-air and DBS operations. Today, many American broadcasters send a multitude of programming channels in many languages, spanning many new channels, so they can get National support, which ultimately leads to carriage by cable systems, to additionally support the high costs of broadcasting signals in this way.
Nevertheless, free-to-air satellite TV is a viable addition to home video systems, not only for the reception of specialized content but also for use in locations where terrestrial ATSC over-the-air reception is incomplete and additional channels are desired.
Australia has five major free-to-air networks: the two public broadcasting networks, the ABC and SBS networks, and three commercial networks - Seven Network, Nine Network, and Network 10. Traditionally each network had only a single channel in a geographic area, but with the advent of digital television each network started broadcasting several SD multichannels, such as 7two, 9Gem, 10 Bold, and SBS Food, as well as at least one HD channel. There are also free-to-air community television channels in some major cities.
Viewers in remote parts of Australia are able to access many Australian free-to-air channels using the DVB-S2 Optus VAST service.
New Zealand has a number of FTA broadcasters such as Television New Zealand's TVNZ 1 and TV2, as well as MediaWorks New Zealand's TV3 and FOUR, Sky Network Television's Prime and the government subsidised the Māori Television and Te Reo channels.
Four channels, TV One, TV2, TV3, FOUR are also broadcast timeshifted by +1 hour on Freeview and Sky platforms.
A broadcast of parliament and a number of local channels, such as Cue TV are also available. Local stations such as CTV and Face TV (previously Triangle TV) were free-to-air analogue PAL transmissions prior to CTV migrating to the free-to-air digital DVB-T service and Face TV's terrestrial free-to-air service shutoff from December 2013.
A digital terrestrial version of Freeview was launched in 2008, which, unlike the analogue and free-to-air satellite options, supports high-definition broadcasts for TV One, 2 and 3.
In Brazil the main FTA satellite is the Star One C2, it holds approximately 22 C-band analog channels, including all major networks like Rede Globo, SBT, Record, RedeTV!, Band and others, and 5 digital HDTV channels.+itv 1
Television receive-only (TVRO) is a term used chiefly in North America to refer to the reception of satellite television from FSS-type satellites, generally on C-band analog; free-to-air and unconnected to a commercial DBS provider. TVRO was the main means of consumer satellite reception in the United States and Canada until the mid-1990s with the arrival of direct-broadcast satellite television services such as PrimeStar, USSB, Bell Satellite TV, DirecTV, Dish Network, Sky TV that transmit Ku signals. While these services are at least theoretically based on open standards, the majority of services are encrypted and require proprietary decoder hardware. TVRO systems relied on feeds being transmitted unencrypted and using open standards, which heavily contrasts to DBS systems in the region.
Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) is a set of international open standards for digital television. DVB standards are maintained by the DVB Project, an international industry consortium, and are published by a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
Television in the Republic of Ireland is available through a variety of platforms. The digital terrestrial television service is known as Saorview and is the primary source of broadcast television since analogue transmissions ended on 24 October 2012. Digital satellite and digital cable are also widely used.
4DTV is a proprietary broadcasting standard and technology for digital cable broadcasting and C-band/Ku-band satellite dishes from Motorola, using General Instrument's DigiCipher II for encryption. It can tune in both analog VideoCipher 2 and digital DCII satellite channels.
Terrestrial television is a type of television broadcasting in which the television signal is transmitted by radio waves from the terrestrial (Earth-based) transmitter of a television station to a TV receiver having an antenna. The term terrestrial is more common in Europe and Latin America, while in Canada and the United States it is called broadcast or over-the-air television (OTA). The term "terrestrial" is used to distinguish this type from the newer technologies of satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted to the receiver from an overhead satellite; cable television, in which the signal is carried to the receiver through a cable; and Internet Protocol television, in which the signal is received over an Internet stream or on a network utilizing the Internet Protocol. Terrestrial television stations broadcast on television channels with frequencies between about 52 and 600 MHz in the VHF and UHF bands. Since radio waves in these bands travel by line of sight, reception is generally limited by the visual horizon to distances of 64–97 kilometres (40–60 mi), although under better conditions and with tropospheric ducting, signals can sometimes be received hundreds of kilometers distant.
Datacasting is the broadcasting of data over a wide area via radio waves. It most often refers to supplemental information sent by television stations along with digital terrestrial television, but may also be applied to digital signals on analog TV or radio. It generally does not apply to data which is inherent to the medium, such as PSIP data which defines virtual channels for DTT or direct broadcast satellite systems; or to things like cable modem or satellite modem, which use a completely separate channel for data.
Free-to-view (FTV) is a term used for audiovisual transmissions that are provided free-of-charge without any form of continual subscription but are nevertheless encrypted. It differs from free-to-air (FTA) where content is not encrypted.
Television in Germany began in Berlin on 22 March 1935, broadcasting for 90 minutes three times a week. It was the first public television station in the world, named Fernsehsender Paul Nipkow. The German television market had approximately 36.5 million television households in 2000, making it the largest television market in Europe. Nowadays, 95% of German households have at least one television receiver. All the main German TV channels are free-to-air.
GloryStar Satellite Systems is a direct to home religious based satellite television service. The service offers viewers and churches a selection of Christian radio and television services.
Freeview is New Zealand's free-to-air television platform. It is operated by a joint venture between the country's major free-to-air broadcasters – government-owned Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand, government-subsidised Māori Television, and the American-owned Discovery New Zealand. It consists of a HD-capable digital terrestrial television service, to around 86% of the population in the major urban and provincial centres of New Zealand, and a standard-definition satellite television service, called Freeview Satellite, covering the whole of mainland New Zealand and the major offshore islands. Freeview uses the DVB-S and DVB-T standards on government-provided spectrum.
AlphaStar Digital Television was a direct-to-home satellite broadcasting service for the United States market developed by Canadian firm Tee-Comm Electronics. It was the first direct-to-home satellite broadcasting service in the United States to use the internationally accepted DVB-S broadcasting standard and used 39" satellite dish receivers. AlphaStar service launched in July 1996 but was discontinued completely by September 1997 with 40,000 subscribers as the company went through bankruptcy proceedings. The American assets of AlphaStar was used under the auspices of the Champion Telecom Platform which used to own the AlphaStar brand. AlphaStar would also have alleviated a shortage of Canadian satellite capacity by using foreign (US) satellite capacity to fill Canadian needs—indeed this was a requirement for the Canadian company to obtain its license from Canada to commence broadcasting. Tee-Comm, the parent company of AlphaStar had originally co-founded the partnership that created ExpressVu as technology supplier but later divested all interest in ExpressVu.
Satellite television is a service that delivers television programming to viewers by relaying it from a communications satellite orbiting the Earth directly to the viewer's location. The signals are received via an outdoor parabolic antenna commonly referred to as a satellite dish and a low-noise block downconverter.
There are four major forms of digital television (DTV) broadcast in the United Kingdom: a direct-to-home satellite service from the Astra 28.2°E satellites provided by Sky UK, a cable television service provided by Virgin Media ; a free-to-air satellite service called Freesat; and a free-to-air digital terrestrial service called Freeview. In addition, an IPTV system known as BT Vision is provided by BT. Individual access methods vary throughout the country. 77% of the United Kingdom has access to HDTV via terrestrial digital television. Satellite is the only source of HDTV broadcast available for the remaining 23%.
A free-to-air or FTA Receiver is a satellite television receiver designed to receive unencrypted broadcasts. Modern decoders are typically compliant with the MPEG-2/DVB-S and more recently the MPEG-4/DVB-S2 standard for digital television, while older FTA receivers relied on analog satellite transmissions which have declined rapidly in recent years.
Galaxy 18 is a Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) 1300-series hybrid communications satellite owned by Intelsat and located in geosynchronous orbit at 123° W longitude, serving the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and Canada with 24 C band, and 24 Ku band transponders. Galaxy 18 is intended to replace Galaxy 10R which was nearing the end of its design life.
Currently, there are two primary satellite television providers of subscription based service available to United States consumers: DirecTV and Dish Network, which have 21 and 10 million subscribers respectively.
Saorsat is a free-to-air satellite service in Ireland. The service launched on 3 May 2012.
GlobeCast World TV was a television via satellite service received in North America via the Galaxy 19 satellite, providing ethnic television and audio channels. It was a service by Globecast, a subsidiary of Orange. In North America, the satellite broadcasts dozens of Arabic and Asian channels.
Eutelsat 5 West A, formerly Atlantic Bird 3 is a communications satellite belonging to the operator Eutelsat. Situated at 5° West, it broadcasts satellite television, radio and other digital data. Developed for France Telecom it was transferred soon after its launch to the operator Eutelsat. It entered operational service in early September 2002. Its current anticipated working life is 15 years.