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All full-power television stations broadcast only as digital TV, or DTV, following the transition from analog to digital broadcasting in 2010. If you are having difficulty receiving digital broadcast stations, this troubleshooting guide provides a connections checklist and tips for reception of digital signals.

Use an Antenna that Provides Good Reception of All Channels

  • You need an antenna that provides good reception of both VHF signals (channels 2-13) and UHF signals (channels14 and above) to reliably receive all of the digital signals broadcast in your area.
  • Many antennas are designed only for reception of either VHF or UHF signals (but not both).  For example, the commonly used “rabbit ears” indoor antenna is only suitable for receiving VHF signals.  To receive UHF signals, an indoor antenna should also include a wire loop or other feature for reception in that band.
  • Reception capabilities of TV antennas vary considerably. Also, factors such as nearby buildings, trees, terrain or construction may affect reception. For more information on antennas, check out our guide: Antennas and Digital Television.

Check Your Connections

  • Make sure your antenna is connected properly to the antenna input of your digital-to-analog converter box or digital television. If using a digital-to-analog converter box, also ensure that the antenna output of your converter box is connected to the antenna input of your analog TV.  Refer to the owner’s manuals of your components if you are unsure of the proper connections.
  • Ensure all components are plugged in and have their power turned on.
  • If you have a digital-to-analog converter box, tune your analog TV to channel 3.  You should see a set-up menu or picture displayed on your TV screen. If you do not see a set-up menu or picture, tune your TV to channel 4. If you still do not see a set-up menu or picture, recheck your connections.                                                                                                                                        

Perform a Channel Scan

  • Digital-to-analog converter boxes and digital televisions have a button, usually on the remote control that is labeled “set-up” or “menu” or some similar term. Press that button to access the set-up menu.                                                                                                                                    
  • Using the directional arrow buttons on your remote, scroll to the option for a “channel scan.”  The channel scan will automatically search for digital broadcast channels that are available in your area. Consult the owner’s manual of your digital-to-analog converter box or digital television for detailed instructions on how to perform a channel scan for your device.
  • Once the channel scan is complete, you will be able to tune to the digital channels received by your antenna. You should perform a channel scan periodically to check whether additional digital channels have become available.
  • For more information, including an instructional video, check out our consumer guide: Remember to Rescan.

Adjust Your Antenna

  • Small adjustments to your antenna can make a big difference in the number of digital channels you can receive. For an indoor antenna, try elevating it and moving it closer to an exterior wall of your home.
  • While adjusting your antenna, access the “signal strength meter” on your digital-to-analog converter box or digital television to determine whether your adjustments are improving the signal strength. The signal strength meter is usually accessed through a menu feature on your remote control.  Refer to the owner’s manual of your device if you have difficulty accessing it.
  • After adjusting your antenna, perform another channel scan to see if your reception has improved.

Still Having Difficulty?

  • Digital broadcasting generally provides a clear picture; however, if the signal falls below a certain minimum strength, the picture can disappear. You may need to adjust or upgrade your antenna system to receive stations with picture dropout.
  • Simple indoor antennas provide minimal performance that may not be suitable for your location.  If you are unable to obtain satisfactory DTV reception with your current indoor antenna, you should obtain an indoor antenna that includes features for better reception of VHF and UHF signals, and/or an amplifier – often referred to as an active indoor antenna – to boost the received signal.                                                                                                             
  • An outdoor antenna generally gets better reception than an indoor antenna.  However, the performance of outdoor antennas can degrade over time due to exposure to the weather. If you are having problems, check for loose or corroded wiring or broken antenna elements. Also check the direction the antenna is pointed.
  • Try to keep the length of wire between your antenna and digital-to-analog converter box or digital television as short as possible for best reception.
  • “Splitters” used to connect a single antenna to multiple digital-to-analog converter boxes or digital televisions reduce the signal strength to each device. Does reception improve without the splitter? Sometimes an “active” splitter that includes an amplifier can solve the problem.
  • If you are near a station’s broadcast tower, reception of that station – and other stations – can be impeded by signal “overload.” Consider using an “attenuator” or removing amplifiers to improve your reception.

For more information about the DTV transition, go to www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/dtv-transition-consumer-guide-archive.   

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Converter Boxes and Digital Televisions: Troubleshooting Guide (pdf)


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