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Encyclopedia > Free to air

Free-to-air is a phrase used to describe television and radio broadcasts which are available without subscription and without decryption (pay-TV).

By contrast, free-to-view broadcasts are available without subscription, but do require decryption.

Examples in the UK's British Sky Broadcasting system are:

  • Sky News: free-to-air - broadcast without encryption
  • Channel 4: free-to-view - broadcast with encryption, but available without subscription

Although these channels are described as free the viewer does in fact pay for them, either directly by payment of a licence fee as in the case of the BBC, or indirectly by paying for consumer products and services where part of the cost goes toward television advertising and sponsorship.



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