As American television broadcasts switch from analog to digital, some people are reporting reception problems where they can no longer receive broadcasts from weaker television stations. At the time of this writing, about one-third of the 1,800 television broadcast stations have already made the switch to digital transmissions in advance of the new June 12, 2009 deadline.
To understand the nature of the problem, you need to understand that with analog television broadcasts, even weak signals will display a picture and sound. It may be grainy and the quality may be poor, but you will still receive a television station. With a digital signal, this is quite different. With digital television transmissions, either the signal is strong enough or it is not. If the signal strength does not reach a certain threshold, you may not be able to view the station at all. Digital is either on of off. There is nothing in between when working with digital signals. The result is that when you are in the fringe of the reception area for a station, it will not come in. The upside is that the digital transmissions that you do receive should be much clearer with no snow and much improved quality.
If the signal is varying around the threshold level, you may find that the image is freezing, “pixelating” (breaking up into squares) on the screen. If you improve the strength of the signal, this should go away.
What Can Be Done About Weak Digital Signal?
While you normally do not need to change to new antenna for digital reception, it may help to buy one designed for digital reception. Look for digital antenna with a built-in amplifier. A signal amplifier is about the only benefit with a digital antenna that will make any difference at all. Technically speaking, there is no difference between an antenna used for digital reception versus analog reception. If a sales rep tells you that a digital antenna is required to receive digital signals, he or she is either misinformed or lying.
A small digital or rabbit ears antenna may not work well if your TV and antenna are located in the middle of your home. The walls in a home weaken the signal. Move the antenna next to a window facing in the direction of the transmission tower and you should receive a much stronger signal.
If you are using a rooftop or attic antenna, it may help to buy a larger antenna. The Consumer Electronics Association has a web site that may help you to select the proper antenna for your location. It will also tell you which direction an antenna should be pointed for the best reception. Don’t get spooked by all of the information they ask for on the web site. You only need to enter your zip code to obtain the information you need.
There are also a number of digital antenna amplifier boxes available, but they tend to be a bit pricey. Check with your local television store to see what they recommend for your area.
If you are using a rabbit ears antenna, make sure that both the UHF and VHF wires are connected to your converter box. Some rabbit ears antennas are designed to hook up to separate connections for UHF and VHF on the back of older analog televisions.
If your budget can afford it and the services are available in your area, you might want to consider switching to cable or satellite service. You should not have reception problems with these television services, other than the typical problems with satellite reception during storms.
You could also consider buying a new television. All televisions sold since March 1, 2007 should have an ATSC digital tuner. You do not need a converter box to receive digital transmissions with these televisions.
Why is My TV Not Receiving Digital Television in High Definition?
The switch to digital does not mean a switch to high definition signals. Although HDTV is digital, not all digital transmissions are HDTV. The new television transmissions are not in high definition unless you subscribe to a high definition service through a cable or satellite provider. Expect to see a 480i resolution with digital transmissions, which is the equivalent to the resolution found with analog transmissions. In some cases, a high defintion resolution is down-converted by a DTV-to-analog converter box, because analog televisions only display a 480i resolution. If you want high definition, you have to pay extra for it through a cable or satellite service provider.