Improve your TV signal if you're missing stations

September 18, 2009 1:31:25 PM PDT
If you watch broadcast TV but you're missing some of your local stations, you're not alone. Reception problems have been widespread after major stations ended their analog transmissions more than three months ago. Some of the problematic stations are trying to improve their signal, but for many of them, there are few options. Meanwhile, most viewers can substantially improve things on their end. Here are some suggestions:

  • First, rescan your converter box or digital TV to make sure it finds all available channels. Some stations moved to new channels long after the analog shutdown on June 12.
  • Make sure you have the right antenna. In most major markets, there are now some stations in VHF. Antennas sold a couple of years ago as "HDTV" models will do a poor job of pulling them in. VHF indoor antennas have telescoping "rabbit ears." UHF antennas usually have loops of wire. Combined antennas have both, though a new generation of combined antennas come as flat plastic boxes. See the Federal Communications Commission's antenna page at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/dtvantennas.html
  • Learn to use the signal meter in your converter box or digital TV. It's a scale that can be brought up on screen, telling you how strong of a signal you're getting. That helps a great deal in aiming an antenna. Refer to your user manual.
  • Place your indoor antenna near a window, preferably on the side of the building that faces the TV towers.
  • If you have a rabbit-ear antenna with telescoping arms, pull the arms all the way out.
  • If that doesn't work, try a different antenna. Engineers say $12 rabbit-ear antennas sold by RadioShack do better than many newer, more sophisticated-looking antennas.
  • If an indoor antenna doesn't work, consider an outdoor antenna. Purchase and installation could run about $300.
  • If you have an outdoor antenna, check that it's aimed at the towers -- old antennas can drift, depending on how they're mounted.
  • If channels 7 through 13 are hard to get, try installing an "FM filter" on the antenna line to eliminate interference from radio stations.
  • For more tips see http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/troubleshootguide.html

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