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Try out converter box, antenna early for DTV transition

Posted December 17, 2008
Updated December 18, 2008

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— In two months, television stations will switch off analog transmitters and broadcast only digital signals.

To keep getting a television signal, people can purchase cable or satellite, buy a digital television or buy an antenna and converter box.

Installing a converter box and an antenna

“The signal has to come through the converter box in order for the converter box to do its job and make the picture show up on the TV,” WRAL’s Tyler Hobbs said.

A cable runs from the antenna to the converter box. Another cable goes from the box to the television. When it is first hooked up, however, viewers will probably still see snow.

Viewers should use their television remote to go to channel 3 or 4 and then hit “menu” on the converter box's remote.

“What you're generally going to want to do is go to 'auto tuning,' and then you press the ‘OK’ button” to scan to find channels, Hobbs said.

It is important to note that many stations already broadcast  digitally on at least two sub-channels (ex: 5.1, 5.2), so the number of channels will be doubled.

Antenna tweaking


If there are missing channels, is no signal or the picture is breaking-up, move the antenna.

“Just a simple movement, even if it's an indoor antenna from off your TV to your mantle or to a bookcase or something like that may completely take care of all of your problems,” Hobbs said.

Then re-scan for channels. If that doesn't work, a different type of indoor antenna may be needed.

Hobbs says rabbit ears probably won't do the job. An outdoor antenna mounted in the attic or on the roof may be needed.

The key is to try it out before the conversion takes place on Feb. 17.

“You kind of have to go through a trial-and-error process because if you want to receive your broadcasting over the air, it's not an exact science. Some things will work for some people, but not work for others, so sometimes you have to do a little experimentation,” Hobbs said.

Dish Network and Direct TV have not transitioned their satellite signals to digital yet, but the providers say they will be ready for the switch.


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  • rroadrunner99 Dec 22, 2008

    I purschased the RCA Muiltdirectional Digital Flat Amplified Antenna. Don't waste your money buying this model it does not work. I got less channel's with it than with standard VHF rabbit ear's hooked to the converter box. It sell's in the $36.00 price range at Wal-Mart. They said I had hooked it up so I could not return it nor exchange it for a different model antenna.

  • ohmygosh Dec 18, 2008

    Here is link to FCC premption.

    Also note that published coverage area data for stations asssumes a 30' high outdoor antenna.

  • ohmygosh Dec 18, 2008

    dhall357 is right. Get some other converter box. I found the channelmaster one to have everything but the on-off switch on the remote. It appears to be more sensitive.

    The article is also correct. Be prepared to experiment. Antenna placement and size will be extremely important. Unfortunately, the shift to digital is a shift to smaller wavelengths -- greatly aggrivating the antenna and pointing problem. BTW the FCC prempts outdoor antenna restrictions for the reception of commercial TV. So even your deed restricted community can't tell you you can't have an outdoor antenna if you need one.

  • Professor Studley Dec 18, 2008

    I've gotten my DTV converter a couple monts ago, and thus far, I like DTV more so than digital cable and digital satellite service, it's free, and has much higher clarity.

  • dhall357 Dec 17, 2008

    I bought my two converter boxes last March and they work fine except for the remote. It is a Magnavox from Walmart. The remote will only control channel selection. If want to use anything else you will need the TV remote handy to control volume etc. Magnavox has not published the IR code so it can be used by a multifunction remote. A more expensive remote with "learning" capabilities must be used. Do not buy the Magnavox at Walmart.