July 2009


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Answering viewer questions about digital TV reception

11:02 AM Wed, Jun 17, 2009 |
Posted by: Walt Zwirko

Thanks for all your comments about digital TV reception problems.

We can’t recommend specific antennas other than to say you need a model designed to receive both VHF and UHF channels in the area where you live. A good resource for that is AntennaWeb, which generates a fairly conservative list of what TV stations you should be able to receive at your address with the right antenna (and it provides antenna suggestions).

If you are a bit more “techie,” you’ll want to try the TV Fool Web site, which offers a similar service but provides more detailed information about projected reception. It ranks the stations in the order of how easily they should be received and includes technical information regarding signal strength.

The information from AntennaWeb and TV Fool is based on computer projections of reception in your location, and I’ve not yet seen the computer program that can be 100 percent accurate in evaluating every variable that’s involved. Generally speaking — as long as you are solely interested in reception of Dallas-Fort Worth channels — an outdoor directional antenna is best (aimed at Cedar Hill, where all the local stations are based). An attic antenna is next best (as long as you don’t have foil-backed insulation on your rafters or exotic roofing material that could impair reception).

An indoor antenna is least likely to provide full coverage (just as it would come up short in reception of analog stations). If that’s your only option, however, I’d first try the most basic model with the two “rabbit ears” for VHF channels and a loop for UHF channels; you should be able to find one for around $15. RadioShack has a “budget” model that fits this description (catalog 15-1874) for $11.99. Adjust the antenna rods and move the antenna as described in the story above. Always be sure to perform a re-scan after any antenna changes. If that doesn’t work, try an amplified antenna model with the same basic design; they’re generally $40 or less. Make sure that you can return any unit that is unsatisfactory.

If maps are your thing, check out the FCC’s digital TV information site. Enter your address and you’ll see a list of the stations you should be able to receive on the left-hand side of the map. Click on the call letters of a station and the map will display a line showing the direction of the transmitter along with additional information about the station. Now click the link for “gain/loss map” and you can see an outline of the station’s estimated coverage area (the solid line) along with color coding to indicate changes from the analog signal.

WFAA’s digital signal map is at the right; click on the image for a full-size version. It shows that Channel 8 should gain about 117,000 viewers after the switch. Other stations gain coverage in some areas and lose it in others.

Someone asked about reception differences based on the time of day. This could be related to atmospheric and environmental conditions or technical issues as broadcasters fine-tune their transmissions. I am not aware of WFAA making any changes to its signal since Friday’s changeover, however.

Any variances will be mitigated by having an antenna that exceeds minimum reception levels. If your antenna delivers a stronger signal to your TV set or converter box, that signal is much less likely to dip below the reception threshold when the signal is compromised.

For homes with one antenna that serves multiple TV sets, it is important to note that every time the antenna signal is split, the signal level is diminished. An RF amplifier can compensate for the splitter loss. The best place for an amplifier is as close to the antenna as possible (where the signal is strongest) and before any splits.



I have a radio with a TV BAND that I use to listen to my soap operas at work. I went to use it yesterday and the channels are gone. Is this a result of the digital change? Is there anything I can do to be able to listen to the stories9yzniu?

At 10 pm I’m getting “Mash”? What happened to the news?

We live in Waco but get all the Dallas-Fort Worth stations except 52. We got it before June 12. Our antenna is on a tower and is 40 ft. tall. We also have a new TV. Why could we get it before but not now? We have re-scanned several times.

Walt…thank you for the rescan suggestion but I found it did little to help. I went from having 10 english non church chanels to part of onem maybe and its usually a different one each day. I dont watch that much TV but I do have a few favorites. I will look for a more expensive rabbit ears but can’t afford cable on my budget. Does anyone have any suggestions…other than turning the TV into a planter.

I have done the auto scan and rescanned several times. Channel 8-1 comes in fine but with the sound from Channel 8-3. Any suggestions on how to fix this???

This is for Pam’s question above….

I had the similar problem and I was able to fix the audio problem by trying as listed below…

If the audio is incorrect or missing on just one channel, try tuning to that channel and pressing the “Audio”, “SAP”, or “MTS” button on your remote. You may have to press the button multiple times to get the audio back to where it should be.

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