What Do You Need to Pick Up Local TV Channels Only?

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You can pick up local TV channels for free with some additional equipment hooked up to your television.

Any television set hooked up to a cable or satellite box is unaffected by the changes brought about by the transition to all digital TV. If you have a TV set that is not hooked up to a cable or satellite, however, you may need to purchase additional equipment in order to receive your local TV channels. Whether or not you need to purchase any additional equipment depends upon when your TV set was manufactured and the quality of your television signal reception.



To free up space in the Radio Frequency Broadcast Spectrum, in 1996 Congress authorized the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to allocate an additional broadcast channel to all the television stations in the United States. This authorization set the stage for the transition to all digital TV. Television stations used the additional channel to begin simulcasting their program broadcast in digital format in preparation for the end of analog format broadcasting. By law, since June 12, 2009, television stations are no longer allowed to broadcast in analog format.


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Television Sets

Television stations haven't been the only ones preparing for the technical changes required for digital broadcasting. TV manufacturers were also required to prepare for the change as well. If you purchased a television set that was manufactured after March 1, 2007, by law these newer model television sets are equipped with an internal digital tuner. If you have a television set with an internal digital tuner, the only additional equipment you need to pick up your local TV channels is an indoor UHF/VHF television antenna.


Additional Equipment

If you're using an older model television set that does not have an internal digital tuner, you need an indoor UHF/VHF television antenna, as well as an ATSC digital-to-analog converter box in order to pick up your local TV stations. Check the manufacturing specifications of your television set if you're uncertain about whether or not it's equipped with an internal digital tuner. Really old model TV sets that do not have a coaxial input will also require a 75 to 300 ohm matching transformer to connect the converter box to the TV.


Connecting Your Converter Box

Use a 75 ohm coaxial cable, which generally comes included with a newly purchased converter box, to connect the TV output on the back of your converter box to the coaxial input on the back of your television set. If your television set does not have a coaxial input, connect the free end of the coaxial cable to a 75 to 300 ohm matching transformer. Then connect the transformer to the twin antenna leads on the back of your television set. Connect your TV antenna to the antenna (Ant.) input on the back of the converter box.



While digital TV signals produce better quality TV pictures, they also present different kinds of reception challenges in contrast to analog TV signals. With analog TV broadcasting, even if you were only receiving a weak TV signal you still might have been able to enjoy a picture, even though it might be fuzzy or have static. With digital TV broadcasting, a weak TV signal is pretty much synonymous with no reception. Keep your indoor antenna pointed away from, or raised above metallic objects (such as refrigerators), which can reflect your TV signal and create multipath interference. You can also use an antenna amplifier on your indoor antenna to boost your signal reception. If you're unable to receive good TV reception with a high quality indoor antenna, you may need to invest in an outdoor antenna.