What Are the Causes of Bad Digital TV Signals?

Since June 2009, all television broadcasts have been in the high-definition digital format. For many who depend on broadcast reception for their television programming, this means new challenges in getting a good broadcast signal from local television stations. Older analog television would provide many clues to a bad signal. The picture could “ghost,” become noisy (snow) or fade away. With digital technology, the picture is either good or gone--with little in between to indicate what the problem might be.

Woman watching tv
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Source Problems

Some problems occur before the video signal even leaves the station. These failures in picture quality are usually temporary and remedied in a fairly short amount of time. Failures in video playback equipment, routing or satellite reception from external video sources acquired by the television station may leave your screen blank, blocky or otherwise unwatchable

Transmitter Interference

Objects or conditions near the location of the television transmission tower may be the next contributing factor to a poor digital TV signal. Passing airplanes, weather conditions such as thunder storms or icing conditions can impede the broadcast transmission. The quality of the digital transmission equipment itself may be to blame with poor signal quality the result of poorly designed or maintained equipment.

Electrical Interference

Electrical interference can be a factor both at the transmission source and near your home. Competing radio frequency transmissions, power lines and transformers and even blow dryers or electric drills can all interfere with the broadcast television signal. The Federal Communications Commission was established, in part, to regulate the radio spectrum used for broadcast transmissions and is charged with preventing problems due to competing radio frequencies. Other interference caused by environmental conditions may not be so easy to control.

Antenna Quality

Although newer antennas are marketed as high definition, or HD, there is nothing different with the way they function than older antennas. The only difference may be a design that allows them to focus reception towards a more specific location (directional antennas). However, antennas, old or new, differ greatly in quality of construction and ability to receive the transmission frequencies. Some antennas are very high frequency (VHF) or ultrahigh frequency (UHF) only. You may need an antenna that provides reception for both frequencies to receive all the television stations in your area.

Antenna Location

Good television reception depends largely on where you place the antenna. Outdoor antennas are usually much more effective than indoor antennas. Knowing how to orient your antenna toward the transmission source will also improve television signal quality. Avoiding physical barriers such as tall buildings or church steeples may also improve reception.

Connection Problems

Lastly, your problem may not be with the broadcast quality at all, but rather the connections between your antenna and television, or television and other equipment you may be using to view a digital television signal. Worn or damaged connecting cables can impact the television signal.