Category Archives: TV’s Move to Digital

Television Reception Calculator

Want to find out the signal reception strength of TV stations that serve your area? Check out the calculator on the FCC’s Website:

Enter your Zip Code or address and get the TV stations and signal strengths that can be received at your location. This takes both distance and topography into consideration and is great for procuring and aiming the correct antenna for your locale. Linked to Google Maps you can actually target your house or location using the satellite maps and dragging the teardrop to your exact area. -33-


A Disaster Plan For Television Viewing

You have Cable, Fiber or The Dish and think you are set for the new digital television cutover. Your service providers have assured you through their marketing ads that you do not have to worry about the digital transition and should just relax, sit back and enjoy the show when everyone with an antenna on their roof will be scrambling to get a signal when the government finally decides to shut down analog TV. Don’t allow yourself be lead down the primrose path because your service provider is only telling you part of the story.


As all services do, your television service will occasionally suffer from outages from natural and manmade disasters. Imagine for a moment that you lose your television signal but still have power or have backup power available. Imagine further that you are in need of emergency information or just want to watch your favorite show that appears on a broadcast station. What do you do when your signal from your service provider dies? The smart viewer will have a backup plan in place.


A backup plan consists of the following:


·      A “Rabbit Ear” type of TV antenna.

·      A digital to analog (DTV) converter box or a digital tuner in your television.

·      Necessary cables to make the connections between a DTV Converter and your antenna and TV.

·      Instructions on how to connect everything to your TV and scan for TV channels.


This may seem like a lot of trouble but you will be very happy you have your plan in place if and when you need it. You won’t be able to receive all your fancy and expensive premium channels with this setup but it is comforting to know that you will be able to receive basic broadcast television and more importantly emergency information when it is needed most. Oh, and the most important thing is not to wait for a problem before you try to make your connections and setups. Try it now when there is no stress to perform in an emergency. You will be happy you did. -33-

Digital Television Reception Simplified

Editor’s Note: This article from a broadcast engineer in Eugene, Oregon is reproduced here with permission. It does an excellent job at explaining problems about receiving digital television signals and offers some good ideas on solving the problem without technobabble.

Understanding Digital Television Reception Problems

 by Carl Sundberg – KMTR TV Engineer


As the acting Chief of an NBC affiliate (KMTR, Eugene, OR), I get the calls when listeners have problems making their DTV receivers and converter boxes work. Over time, most of the problems I have found were related to ATSC’s greatest weakness, Multipath.


Since I thought (sic) (taught) high school broadcast engineering for 28 years, I found that anyone can understand even the most complex concepts if it was put in a way they could relate. Toward that end, I have written a simple explanation of why DTV is difficult for some to receive it well and reliably. I have found that when people understand the challenge, they find ways to cope with it better and have more success.


Without question, it’s easier to receive the old analog TV channels than the new DTV channels. The reason is very easy to understand. If you are listening to drum beat where there is a very loud echo, you can count the beats easily as long as the beat is very slow. As the drum beats speed up, it gets harder and harder to tell if you are hearing the primary beat or the echo and at some point, that echo makes it impossible to be able to count the actual beats.


Analog TV had one primary signal that locked up the entire receiver. That signal pulsed at 60 times a second. The new digital signal has 8 beats that pulse at a total rate of over 19 million times a second. Because television signals can’t be heard by our ears, we don’t realize that television signals can have echoes just like sound. With an old television signal, we could see those echoes. They appeared as a secondary image that made the picture look like there were ghosts in the background of all images. Because the main signal that caused the receiver to work was at a rate of only 60 times a second, most TV receivers could lock up to that slow rate signal even when there was an echo present. Like you, listening to a slowly beating drum, the receiver could readily properly figure out what was the main beat it needed to use.


Since TV signals can literally bounce off of everything, signal echoes are every where. You can not eliminate them completely. Like a person listening to a drum beat where echoes can be heard, you can reduce the number of echoes by making your ears more directional by cupping the palm of your hand over your ear. If you use a funnel to listen through, you can really make your hearing very directional. We utilize this concept to make microphones more directional. Microphones used to record orchestras are usually very long tubes with the pick up element in the end of the tube.


Since your new digital TV or converter box is trying to receive multiple pulses that are cycling at an extremely fast rate, it gets very important for your antenna to be like the orchestra tube microphone. It needs to be pointed at the strongest signal and it needs to eliminate as much echo as possible. The traditional rabbit ear and loop antenna is a little more like a human ear. They pick up signals that come from all directions. If you use one of these devices with an amplifier, you not only amplify the signal, but the echoes as well. So, amplified antennas of this design can actually make it harder for your digital TV to work in cities where there are strong signals.


When the digital channels everyone is using switch to some VHF (channel 2 through 13) and some UHF, these channels will require a different type of antenna. Directional antennas will be important for the VHF channels, but they suffer less from echoes than the higher UHF channels because their wave length is longer and it takes bigger objects for their signals to bounce and make an echo.

Signals can be blocked by anything. Some objects block signals better than others. Metal objects and hills block signals very well, but you can even see a change in signal when a person walks by an antenna. For this reason, to get the best and most steady signal, an outside antenna, at least 15 feet from the ground is the best kind of antenna. By being at least 15 feet above the ground, you will be reducing echoes that come from passing cars and trucks. Another reason outside antenna’s work best is because they have more room to be larger. To make an antenna very directional, the pick up elements need proper spacing. This spacing takes length. The antennas above have many elements, but it would be even more directional if they were longer for better element spacing.


Don’t be surprised if an outside antenna works best when you point it in a direction away from a station. Many antenna installers will tell you they have pointed antennas at metal roof tops or water towers to get the best signal. If you have a hill in the way, sometimes you can find a metal roof top on a hilltop house that will make a good signal reflector for that hard to find, clean, echo free signal.


Good luck with this new technology. And always remember, echoes are what cause a signal to be difficult to receive. Very directional antennas work the best.



Article used with permission -33-

I Want (to get rid of) My DTV

My mom is a rebel and a non-compliant consumer of an ancient era. She never owned a computer, often deprograms her TV’s remote control (how she does this remains a mystery to me but it may be a ploy to get me to visit more often) and she absolutely refuses to go Cable. She feels very comfortable in the world of the four major VHF broadcast networks and still calls UHF channels “Those new, foreign stations.” If she knows it or not she and tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands or millions of her fellow citizens are about to become the great American forlorn souls as analog television quietly blinks off the air for the last time in February 2009. Before disaster set in where she could not watch her favorite Britcoms, I went to work to bring her technology up to speed and into the modern digital era.

To get my mom up and running with her analog antenna and TV I purchased two Analog to DTV converter boxes at my local big box electronics superstore using the Government co-pay program. As many of you know the Government subsidizes the purchase of these converters to the tune of $40.00 each and assists each American in purchasing two of them for their use in the digital conversion.

SIDEBAR: This writer found that $40.00 covers about half of the purchase price. In general, everywhere I shopped within normal retail channels I could not find a box for under $79.99. This was supposed to be painless to those citizens who could not afford cable and were only able to receive analog TV through an antenna so the selling price came as somewhat of a shock.

I brought the devices to mom’s home, dutifully hooked-up the converter box judiciously following the instructions, half in English and half in Spanish… then I saw it. I read the part of the manual that said an Eight year old could do this. I knew I was in real trouble after reading the words “Easy Setup.” I have to say that auto setup and electrical hook-up was pretty painless but that is about where the painlessness ends. Oh, My throbbing temples.

The headaches came when the little black box auto tuned to about 20 Spanish speaking channels, 10 channels of God TV and a bunch of Infomercial stations with picture and sound that is as solid as a rock and as sharp as a serpent’s tooth. One would think this is a good thing–solid picture and sound–what more could one want. What it neglected to tune to were two of the eight major digital channels in the area. Not a good thing, especially for mom.

Now understand that mom speaks no Spanish and while she is not Godless, at 93 she doesn’t really need some, ten different, sweaty evangelist to talk down to her about the ravages of sin while asking her to dig deep into her pocket and send him all her pictures of dead presidents that appear on all of her dirty money. She already has 103 Juicers, 117 Air Ionizers, a Pocket Fishing Rod and enough Cubic Zirconium jewels to start her own mine. The Infomercial channels are definitely not in her best interests.

Back to the headaches. This thing was pumping out a good signal and all was right with the world but unwanted channels aside, this gizmo would only tune to six of the eight local digital channels. Where are the other two high powered, local digital channels you might ask? So did I. So did mom considering several of her favorite TV shows are on those channels. I told her that they seem to be off in the cosmos somewhere with no ability to sweet-talk them into her TV. I got freeze frames and the infamous broken-up boxy image because of weak signals on two of the “found” local channels too. How can this be? I am in the suburban area of a major broadcast market and I am only 8 miles as the crow flies and in direct line of sight to the transmitting towers of these stations. They are all high powered and the towers are located in the same “Antenna Farm” within a couple thousand feet of each other.  I can see them with my naked eyes on a clear day. Why can I not tune these two major channels?

At this point, without missing a beat, mom stared me down and said, “Well, fix it. You’re a television engineer.” Woe is me… Not a good day for the guy who is supposed to be knowledgeable of all things technological. Not a good day for the little black box either as I began to approach it to perform a lateral adjustment with a finely calibrated 30-pound sledge. Visions of my mom bragging to all her neighbors about what a smart son she has began to fade.

Now for the brass tacks (or rusty tacks, depending on your outlook). Mom’s roof antenna is upwards to 45 years old so it don’t owe nobody nuthin’. It is half in the trees and the wind has caused many crashes into the surrounding foliage categorically stripping off many of the elements from the antenna mast. Over time, every once in a while mom would find them on the ground around the yard and think God sent her little aluminum plant supports from heaven. I never lead her to believe that that was not true. This delighted her to no end as she tied everything from tomato plants to creeping Ivy to the little hollow silver rods.

The long and short of all this is, me thinks mom needs a new antenna. Just goes to show you how forgiving and robust good ol’ analog was. It too just goes to show you that, even to a technology savvy installer frustrations can overcome any hope for success. Nothing is easy. Murphy was right. I can tell already that it is going to be a long hot summer. -33-

TV Converter Box Coupon Applications Available

Article Updated January 2, 2008

Happy New Year. Your federal government has a late holiday gift for you. If you follow Televising The Revolution you already know the FCC has set February 19, 2009 as the date when analog television will end its broadcast day and begin to broadcast in digital.


Beginning January 1st, 2008, American consumers will be able to log in to and request up to two coupons worth $40 each to assist in purchasing new digital-to-analog converter boxes. Alternately you can call 1-888-DTV2009 to apply over the telephone. Printed applications will also be available at post offices and at public libraries, in English, Spanish, and other languages.


Once you apply be patient because the coupons won’t be sent out until mid-February of this year. Starting February 18, 2008, the government will send coupons via The US Postal Service in the form of a gift card consumers can use at electronics retailers that sell the set-top converter boxes . Currently the selection of converter boxes on the market is slim but that should improve as more manufacturers jump on the bandwagon over the next several months. As of this writing the converter boxes are retailing for $60. to $70.


The coupon program itself is administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). It is backed by $1.5 billion appropriated by Congress and established in Title III of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 (PDF)


What will this “converter box” do for you? Not much more than the basics. According the NTIA proposal the converter box shall:

  • appropriately processes all Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) radio frequency (RF) signals provided to the antenna-only input and then provides output signals in standard definition video for display on a National Television Systems Committee (NTSC) television receiver/monitor;
  • delivers NTSC composite video and stereo audio to drive NTSC monitors;
  • delivers Channel 3 or 4 switchable NTSC RF output for television receivers;
  • complies with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements for Closed Captioned, Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the required parental controls;
  • operable by and includes a remote control; and
  • tunes to all television channels 2-69.

The government is not in the entertainment business. By providing a basic digital to analog converter it wants to make sure it is only paying for the bare minimum to supply people who are using analog receivers with a viable alternative to continue to receive free television from over the airwaves.


For more information, or to sign up for coupons, you can call 1-888-DTV-2009 or visit -33-

NAB Unwraps Digital Cut-Over Spot

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) took the wraps off a 30 second spot to inform the public of the February 17, 2009 advance to all digital television transmissions. Here is a link to the spot on The spot is said to promote consumer awareness of the digital transition. Presented below is a transcript of the spot.


“Notice how digital’s made pretty much everything better?

Especially television.

Digital TV’s got
Better picture
better sound
more channels—

In fact, digital’s so much better that, by law, ALL broadcast TV has to be digital by 2009

But there’s a catch:

Some TV’s need an upgrade to get digital. You could even lose your signal.

Get the facts.

Visit to learn about television’s switch to digital.

Or call this number to see how you can stay connected”


The question is, does this spot arm consumers with the information they need to help them “go digital?” It says little about what action to take. It offers a link to a website for more information but how about those who do not have web access or do not own or know how to operate a computer?

To avoid chaos, confusion and to make it as stress free as possible all facts pertaining to the digital cut-over need to be presented in a very simple, concise manner. Consumers need to be clearly informed that on February 17, 2009 and for some time following there is going to be a very difficult period to cope with if they want to watch over-the-air TV.

Will consumers be ready? Will the over-the-air television viewing public possess the information needed to be able to watch TV on February 18?  Does this spot address these questions? 

For more information see the related stories, A Requiem For Analog TV from September 4, 2007 and Spreading The Word from September 7, 2007 elsewhere in the Televising The Revolution blog.                                         -33-

Spreading The Word

 It was announced today that the Cable Industry will be pumping $200M into advertising to educate consumers that the analog to digital cutover announced for February 17, 2009 will not affect cable subscribers.


According to the Associated Press, The $200 million advertising campaign includes both ads that have been purchased on broadcast channels and donated time from cable systems, the cable association said. It will run through the digital transition date.

The National Association of Broadcasters has pledged to begin its own campaign beginning in December.


In a report from the Government Accountability Office dated 2005 about 19 percent or 20 million households rely on an antenna for over the air broadcasts rather than cable or other means of close circuit reception. See the story A Requiem For Analog TV elsewhere in the Televising The Revolution blog for more information. -33-