OTA HDTV Reception Q&A

Updates on the DTV transition and how to receive over-the-air digital television for free.

Location: Richmond, IL, United States

Hello there! I created this blog to share the information about over-the-air HDTV reception you have been wearily searching the Web or calling technical lines for, whether you have decided for less expensive means to get your favorite TV shows, or still adjusting from the over the air broadcast DTV transition that occurred on June 12, 2009. After working for a leading antenna manufacturer for almost 5 years, during which time I've shared my expertise with those who asked on the phone and by email at work, I decided to do the same in the Blogosphere! Confused about getting your local HD channels? Just click through the archives, some of the most useful information is in the early posts from 2005-06. If you want to get in touch with me with antenna related questions, just leave a comment anywhere on this site.

Monday, July 27, 2009


It has been over six weeks since the USA's full power analog TV broadcasts went dark, and the few left that are simply providing a "nightlight" service are slowly fading away as the "completely unready" household ratio continues to dwindle down.

However, those over the air households that thought they were ready with their converter boxes or new TVs have realized that they did lose some channels even after a rescan of their tuners. There have been reports of a handful of VHF stations now looking to get FCC permission to increase their transmit power as some households, be they just on the fringe of the viewing area or have indoor environments where the signals are not penetrating the buildings, are missing out on their shows after taking heed of all instructions to convert.

Additionally, there are still some DTV stations that have not yet gone to their maximum allotted DTV transmit power simply because they were not quite financially or technically ready to do, but plan to in the next few months.

So, if you have found a couple off-air DTV channels to be breaking up occasionally on a humid or stormy day, I would contact the station and ask if they are broadcasting at full power, and if not yet, then when. If the stations are at full power, then you may want to consider upgrading your antenna to a larger one that can pull in more signal.

Also, be sure to rescan your tuner about once a month as more and more stations are adding multicast channels to their over the air DTV broadcasts. Who knows, you may find yourself hooked on a new channel that you had to shell out a lot per month to get on digital cable.


Blogger Stephen Margolis said...

On July 27, I visited a friend's son-in-law and daughter in Mendota Heights. Since the June 12 transition, their DTV reception had deteriorated. This is a prime reception area; you can see the Shoreview towers (about 10 statue miles away) from there. There are lots of mature trees.

The actual location is:

44.90857 N.
-93.10894 W.

I found that they had a chimney-mounted Phillips antenna. This antenna has a small amplifier unit mounted near the receiver. The receiver is a very high quality 42 inch flat screen digital TV.

We removed the amplifier and did a channel scan. Nearly all channels then came in with perfect pictures, including high definition channels. The exception was channel 5, which (unexpectly) reported "no signal." According to TV Fool, all channels, including 5, should have line of sight and strong signals at this location.

We replaced the chimney mounted antenna with the trusty Radio Shack 15-1874 and, with small adjustments in antenna location, all channels gave perfect pictures. We got similar results with the simple RCA ANT 111 - these are both passive antennas which sell in the $10 range.

So, my diagnosis for this case is: amplifier overload on channels which increased power at the June 12 transition.

My recommendation: for areas with line of sight, strong signals, no multipath: use the simplest passive antennas.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Derek (IA) said...

Trees can become obstructive to over-the-air reception especially at full foliage. It is not unusual to find that off air signal weakens in the middle of the year when trees grow their leaves, which is less open space. Pine needles on trees also have been known to be troublesome, as little UHF resonators. Also, the summer months, notably in the Midwest USA, have longer periods of sunlight and humidity, which also are known to scatter and attenuate over the air signal.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Stephen Margolis said...

Hi Derek:

I have a TERK HDTVa which I thought wasn't working. We have a number of low-power analog TV stations on UHF which broadcast from the IDS Tower in Minneapolis, about 9 miles away from me. If I go down the street, I can see the top of the building. I set up the TERK HDTVa on a table, and used the amplifier on these weak signals and got clear, snow-free pictures and good sound. The antenna has the directional qualities I would expect, with a clear null at 90 degrees. A simple VHF loop, like the Radio Shack 15-1874 will receive these analog stations, but with snowy pictures.

I went to the fringe of the UHF range of the digital stations, about 36 miles from the transmitters, which are on an 1800 foot guyed tower. The Radio Shack 15-1874 received all digital channels, with the "signal strength" meter reading about 30 to 50. (I know from you that this is really a bit rate meter). The TERK gave a reading of 100 in the same location.

So, the TERK does work, you have to use the amplifier (which may contain a matching network) and it only works well in fringe areas (beyond line of sight).

Sincerely, Stephen G. Margolis

3:17 PM  
Blogger kpaul said...

I live in Maple Grove. There is no sound on the TBN stations (25.1, 25.2 etc.) I get a great picture but no sound. I guess that TBN brodcast from the IDS tower. Any help?

3:51 AM  

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