Free to Air(FTA) vs Free To View(FTV)

March 11, 2022

There are lots of similar sounding terms within the aerial and satellite sector that although appear the same, have very different meanings. These include terms like Freeview, Free to View, Freesat, Free to Air and many more. In this blog, I will discuss the difference between these to help you and try to clear up any confusion and help you understand more of what is being referred to. Without any further ado, lets begin!


What is Encryption?

It’s helpful before we discuss FTA vs FTV, to discuss what TV encryption is and why it is used. Encryption techniques are used for a multitude of different telecommunication systems but specifically in reference to TV reception, encryption is a method of scrambling TV signals to control who can and cannot view the content. This is usually because the content is subscription-based but not always. The most commonly accessed encrypted TV in the UK is Sky, who protect their services from non-subscribers via a very secure encryption technique, even the recordings are encrypted to the internal HDD meaning that if you cancel your Sky subscription you can no longer access these either. Encryptions are most commonly associated with digital services and require either a specialist receiver, like a Sky box or an external Conditional Access Module (CAM), Smart Card and subscription to be able to view the content. There are many different types of encryption techniques used for satellite/ TV services and this is something I will cover in a later article.


What is Free To Air? 

Free To Air, most commonly abbreviated to FTA, is the terminology used to describe an unencrypted signal. This means that nothing is required to de-crypt the signal in order to view to TV pictures. Usually this means that a generic satellite receiver can be used to access satellite TV services with no CAM, Smart Card or subscription to view the content. You just align your antenna, tune in the services and away you go. Examples of Free To Air TV services include Freeview, Freesat and anything advertised as having a “clear” encryption. When you set up satellite TV receivers you usually have the option of searching for just clear, unencrypted TV services or both unencrypted and encrypted TV services. If you only want to watch Free to Air TV services it makes the most sense to just tune in the TV receiver for clear encryption services as you would otherwise fill your Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) which TV/ Radio channels that you cannot access.


What Is Free To View? 

Free to View, most commonly abbreviated to FTA is used to describe something that doesn’t require a subscription to be able to access the programmes. FTV content may be encrypted meaning that you may still require specialist equipment, with Conditional Access Modules and/or Smart Cards but you do not have to pay a subscription to access the programmes. Often FTV content is included within a subscription based service and if you were to remove your Smart Card from your receiver and see the programmes that remain you can see what is FTV and what is not. We do not use encryptions for terrestrial based TV services in the UK but many other countries do and you can often find Common Interface (CI) slots on TV’s for this purpose.

Temporary FTA/ FTA

You may find when searching for TV services that some are listed as both FTA and encrypted. This means that for periods of the day, the TV Channel is broadcast using no encryption and at other times the service is encrypted. You may find this with things such as sports TV services where they will allow you to see some but to watch the main events you will have to subscribe to that TV providers services.


Freesat is both a FTA and FTV TV service for UK TV reception broadcast from the Astra 2 satellites at 28.2E and Eurobird at 28.5E. It is a joint operation between BBC and ITV and is received with the same satellite dish that is used for Sky TV. It requires a Freesat TV receiver, usually in the form of a satellite set-top-box (STB) or Personal Video Recorder (PVR). It is best to think of Freesat and the programmes contained within the received TV guide and listings and not exclusively as FTV or FTA. This is because there are numerous other Free to Air services which are available on the Astra 2 satellites and Eurobird that are not included within the Freesat TV channel list, this includes channels like Horse & Country and numerous religious channels that are quite popular. In order to receive these you would need to replace your Freesat receiver(RX) with a generic satellite RX or set your Freesat box in Non-Freesat mode or instead perform a manual tune of your TV services. A word of warning when you do this, you will have lots of duplicate channels not in any sort of Logical Channel Number(LCN) and no 7 day TV guide.


Freeview is a FTV and FTA digital terrestrial TV platform for UK based TV services, it is broadcast via land-based TV transmitters and received through a standard TV aerial. It is either connected via a direct aerial connection to a digital TV or to a separate STB or PVR. Freeview is managed by Digital TV Ltd and DTV Services Ltd, these companies have there common shareholders BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Sky is also a shareholder in DTV Services Ltd. It is my understanding that Arqiva are also involved who were/ are responsible for the transmitters in the UK.


“Pre-View”, “Free Serve”, “Pre-Sat” “SatNav”

I have included this section here for a little bit of fun and to provide some comic relief for some of the erroneous terms I hear for people describing Freeview, Freesat, FTV and FTA. It can be a job deciphering what is being discussed sometimes. I have lost count the amount of times I have attended call-outs to repair an “aerial” to find out that they were talking about a satellite dish or when people describe the aerial as the cable that connects to the satellite dish. I know it can be very confusing!

TV Encryption Questions - In Blog Comments Only Please

I hoped you liked this and found it helpful. If you have any comments or questions arising from this article, please feel free to post them in the Blog Comments section below and providing you're patient for a response I will endeavour to answer these myself as soon as possible.

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Until next time,


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