What is "free-to-air"?


Quick Answer

"Free-to-air," which is abbreviated as FTA, describes television and radio services that are broadcast in clear and unencrypted form, which allows anybody with the right receiving equipment to pick up the signal and then listen to or view the contents without needing a subscription. Traditionally, these broadcasts are carried on terrestrial radio signals, and they are received with an antenna and the appropriate sound equipment.

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Full Answer

FTA may also refer to broadcasters and channels that provide content that requires no subscription from the listeners and viewers. However, the content may be delivered to the viewers and listeners by other carriers that may require subscriptions, such as by cable, Internet or satellite. Some of these carriers may also be mandated in certain geographies to provide FTA channels, even if premium subscriptions are not present. As long as the necessary equipment is still working, FTA channels will continue to deliver their content, which is especially vital and required during emergency broadcast services.

While technically available without subscription, the content may still be digitally encoded and restricted by geography. Because FTA is frequently used with international broadcasting, it is considered to be a video equivalent of the shortwave radio. Many FTA retailers list channel guides.

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