When analog broadcasts end one week from today, the vast majority of stations will be broadcasting in the UHF band, not the VHF frequency range that’s been home to many analog broadcasts over the years. That’s not just techno-babble you can gloss over. It means you might need a new antenna to keep getting free TV over the air.
We’ve been hammering home this point for months, but with only days left to go, we want to say it one more time. Set-top rabbit ears with only two arms are not designed to pull in UHF signals. You need a UHF/VHF antenna to get all the free TV programming available in your area. Many existing rooftop antennas may be able to get both UHF and VHF broadcasts, but you’ll have to try yours out to see. As we reported earlier this week, our survey of 38,000 Consumer Reports readers found that nearly one in four of the households receiving free over-the-air broadcasts had to purchase a new antenna to get digital signals.
After the transition on June 12, 73 percent of full-power stations will be broadcasting in the UHF band, with 27 percent in the VHF range, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, which has lots of useful information online. Most of those stations already broadcast digital signals (in addition to analog, at least for the next week), so you can try out your setup right now and resolve any problems you encounter. Be prepared for some wrinkles. Our survey showed that 20 percent of antenna users had trouble getting all stations.
Also remember to rescan for channels on June 12 or 13; check our video on setting up a DTV converter box for pointers. Some 600 stations will move to a different channel location than they were on June 11, NAB reports, so you’ll have to get in sync with all those new channel assignments. Stations will be making the switch at various points during the day (they may be alerting you to that timing now with messages scrolling across your TV screen), with many of them going all-digital after 6 p.m. on June 12. That’s why we recommend a rescan on June 13 to capture all the shifts.
For a step-by-step guide that can help you with setup and fine-tuning, download the free PDF file of the "DTV Made Easy” brochure (Adobe Acrobat required) Consumer Reports produced for the FCC and check out the other pieces featured on our DTV transition hub. You can also search through our blogs for the many helpful hints we’ve published over the past year. (Under Categories, in the right column on this page, click on Television to see all TV-related postings, including DTV.)
What are you waiting for? The clock is ticking. —Eileen McCooey