FCC offers tips for better digital TV reception

Still struggling to join the digital TV age?

The Federal Communications Commission has some tips for you from its digital-transition playbook.

TV stations nationwide ended analog-signal broadcasts on Friday. However, many viewers with digital-to- analog converter boxes – which enable older TVs to receive digital broadcasts – have been struggling to get reception.

DTV Across America, a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based group assisting U.S. consumers with the transition, estimated Wednesday that more than 5 million households are struggling to get the TV reception they had before the switch.

“This was never going to be an easy transition … ,” said FCC Chairman Michael Copps. “It appears to have worked well for the majority of over-the-air viewers, but for those who are experiencing a less-satisfactory outcome, we are committed to staying on the job to help.”

The FCC, which has handled about 1 million calls on its DTV consumer hotline since last week, has issued some suggestions for frustrated converter box owners not yet enjoying their favorite shows.

One is called “double rescanning.”

Rescanning is the recommended channel-scan process that converter box owners need to do periodically to receive all available stations, but the FCC said double rescanning is sometimes needed to clear a converter box’s memory of saved channels – information that might now be incorrect.

Here’s how it’s done:

• Disconnect the antenna from the converter box or digital TV.

• Rescan the box or digital TV without the antenna connected. It’s easily done with a remote, or follow instructions in the box/TV owner’s manual.

• Unplug the box or digital TV from the electrical outlet for at least one minute.

• Reconnect the antenna to the box or digital TV, and plug the unit into the outlet.

• Rescan the box or digital TV one more time.

The FCC also recommended antenna procedures.

If you have a rabbit ears antenna or something similar, extend the rods all the way out to get the best receptions of VHF channels 2 to 6; for the best reception of VHF channels 7 to 13, reduce the length of the rods to 12 to 18 inches.

Experimenting with the position of a circle antenna, “bow tie” or other device designed to pick up UHF channels 14 to 51 also is recommended.

The FCC said the specific location of an indoor antenna is key. Putting it on top of the TV may not be the best option.

Consumers should try moving the antennas near a window, to a higher position or away from other electronic equipment. Rooftop antennas may be needed in some areas.

The FCC’s DTV hotline, at (888) 225-5322, remains open, and more help is available at www.dtv.gov.