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A television station is a set of equipment managed by a business, organisation or other entity, such as an amateur television (ATV) operator, that transmits video content via radio waves directly from a transmitter on the earth's surface to a receiver on earth. Most often the term refers to a station which broadcasts structured content to an audience or it refers to the organization that operates the station. A terrestrial television transmission can occur via analog television signals or, more recently, via digital television signals. Television stations are differentiated from cable television or other video providers in that their content is broadcast via terrestrial radio waves. A group of television stations with common ownership or affiliation are known as a TV network and an individual station within the network is referred to as O&O or affiliate, respectively.
Because television station signals use the electromagnetic spectrum, which in the past has been a common, scarce resource, governments often claim authority to regulate them. Broadcast television systems standards vary around the world. Television stations broadcasting over an analog system were typically limited to one television channel, but digital television enables broadcasting via subchannels as well. Television stations usually require a broadcast license from a government agency which sets the requirements and limitations on the station. In the United States, for example, a television license defines the broadcast range, or geographic area, that the station is limited to, allocates the broadcast frequency of the radio spectrum for that station's transmissions, sets limits on what types of television programs can be programmed for broadcast and requires a station to broadcast a minimum amount of certain programs types, such as public affairs messages.
Another form a television station may take is non-commercial educational (NCE) and considered public broadcasting. To avoid concentration of media ownership of television stations, government regulations in most countries generally limit the ownership of television stations by television networks or other media operators, but these regulations vary considerably. Some countries have set up nationwide television networks, in which individual television stations act as mere repeaters of nationwide programs. In those countries, the local television station has no station identification and, from a consumer's point of view, there is no practical distinction between a network and a station, with only small regional changes in programming, such as local television news.