Free-to-view (FTV) is, generally, available without subscription but is digitally encoded and may be restricted geographically. Neither of these is pay-TV, which is an encrypted subscription (or pay-per-view) service.
Although these channels are described as free, in some cases the viewer does in fact pay for them. Some are paid directly by payment of a licence fee (as in the case of the BBC) or voluntary donation (in the case of educational broadcasters like PBS), others indirectly by paying for consumer products and services where part of the cost goes toward television advertising and sponsorship (in the case of Japanese television broadcasters like TV Asahi and TV Tokyo which relies on sponsorship heavily). One further variation is in Canada, where the CBC Television/Télévision de Radio-Canada network is partly funded by taxpayer dollars, and otherwise supports itself with commercial advertising revenues as it competes with other free over-the-air commercial networks.
Australia's two main government-owned TV channels, ABC and SBS, along with the digital-only multichannels ABC2 and the SBS World News Channel, are both available free-to-air on the Optus D2 satellite. Viewers in remote parts of Australia can also access Seven Central and Imparja Television, or WIN WA and GWN in Western Australia, through the free-to-view Optus Aurora program.
A number of European channels which one might expect to transmit in free-to-air - including many countries' national terrestrial broadcasters - do not do so for copyright reasons. Rights to purchase programmes for free-to-air broadcast are often higher in price than for encrypted broadcasts. However, these channels usually provide a scheme to offer free, but encrypted, viewing with free-to-view broadcasts. The UK's Channel 4 and Five, 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).
Cable and satellite distribution allows many more channels to carry sports, movies and specialist channels which are not broadcast as FTA. The viewing figures for these channels is much lower than the FTA channels.
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 Star Choice and Bell TV, although the large style dish (over 3 feet) does have a few choices. FTA signals may be scattered across multiple satellites, requiring a motor or multiple LNBfs to receive everything.
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.
Nonetheless, free-to-air satellite TV is a viable addition to any home video system, not only for the reception of specialised content but also for use in locations where terrestrial ATSC over-the-air reception is incomplete and additional channels are desired.
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