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Ask Anything: 10 questions with WRAL Digital TV Administrator Tyler Hobbs

WRAL Digital TV Administrator Tyler Hobbs answers your questions about converter boxes, antennas and much more.

Posted Updated
Try out converter box, antenna early for DTV transition

Dear WRAL Viewers,

If you still have DTV-related questions after reading through the questions and answers below, please feel free to contact me at: DTVQuestions@WRAL.com or call WRAL at 1-800-532-5343.

Thank you,
Tyler Hobbs, DTV Administrator


What stations will be available in the Raleigh area with the converter box and an antenna? – Deb Boone, Apex

The answer to this question is dependent on three main factors:

  • the terrain in the immediate vicinity of where the viewer lives
  • the distance from each station’s transmission antenna
  • the type of antenna the viewer is using.

Each of these factors has an impact on the viewer’s ability to receive stations. For example, there are locations in the Triangle area that can pick up a number of digital television channels with nothing more than a simple indoor bowtie antenna or a “rabbit ears” antenna with a UHF loop. However, a number of Raleigh locations require the use of an amplified indoor antenna or even an outdoor antenna in order for the viewer to get satisfactory reception.

Fortunately, there are some online tools that can help with answering this question. Two Web sites, in particular, that I have found useful are www.antennaweb.org and www.tvfool.com. Signal coverage approximation maps and other reception-related information can be found on these Web sites.

In addition, a list of stations that you should be able to receive (along with the type of antenna needed to receive those stations) is generated by entering your physical address.

I have a satellite subscription through Dish Network. When I bought into the plan, they told me that I would be ready for the DTV conversion. Yet, both WRAL and WTVD have done tests for DTV readiness and I have failed them both. Are the satellite companies not telling us the truth? – Ed Taylor, Knightdale

This has been a question on many viewers’ minds. A number of satellite service subscribers from Dish Network and DirecTV have reported seeing WRAL's digital transition preparedness warning during our DTV "soft tests." This has led to some concern that the viewer or WRAL is unprepared for the digital television transition.

Dish Network and DirecTV are now transmitting WRAL's digital broadcasting. However, not that long ago, these two satellite service providers were still broadcasting WRAL's analog signal. Both companies have only recently finished upgrading their equipment in order to receive and transmit digital feeds.

I don’t think it is a matter of Dish Network and DirecTV deliberately misleading customers, though. Customer service call center employees of these companies may have simply been unaware of – or misunderstood – the nature of the equipment upgrades.

Satellite service subscribers should not have to do anything additional to prepare for the digital transition unless they are specifically informed otherwise by their service provider.

We purchased the converter box, hooked it up, and were disappointed. With sports, the players move in slow motion across the screen. The picture is OK with "talking head" programs where there is no quick movement. But sports and action shows are not worth watching this way. Will the reception improve? Are we doing something wrong? – Allyson Wieland, Chapel Hill

Normally, my first thought would be to wonder if you may have an older, analog “first-generation” LCD TV with a slower screen refresh rate. You say that you are disappointed, though, so that seems to imply that this issue was not present before you connected the converter box. This leads me to believe that the problems you are experiencing are likely due to one of two issues:

  • You have a malfunctioning converter box
  • your antenna may need to be adjusted or repositioned.

If you have another converter box – or can find one to borrow – you may want to hook it up and see if that makes a difference. If it does, it is quite likely that you have a malfunctioning converter box. If that seems to be the case, check the store’s return/exchange policy and the manufacturer’s warranty for your options.

(For some general converter box troubleshooting hints, you may want to also try:

If you are able to experiment with another converter box and you still have the same problem, it may be an antenna and/or reception issue. I have provided some suggestions and recommendations in this forum with regard to these problems that you may find helpful.

If you put in a request for the coupon in or about November or December, how long before one is suppose to receive a response? I have not heard anything, and every time I try to make sure I am to receive one, the message is that I have already submitted a request but no date is given for me to receive my coupon. How do I know if it has been sent or if it has been sent at all? – Joycelyn Eckels, Raleigh
According to www.dtv2009.gov, coupons for approved applications received in November or December of last year should have been mailed-out no later than January 2009. You should be able to check the status of your coupon online by going to the following Web page and entering you address or your reference number: https://www.dtv2009.gov/CheckStatus.aspx.
Does the consumer have to buy a special antenna if they are receiving TV that way? – Ric, Smithfield

In general, no, but the antenna must be able to receive UHF-band signals. Full-power television stations in the area, if they are not already broadcasting on UHF channels, will be switching to this band (or High VHF, which can be picked-up by UHF antennas) when they fully transition to digital-only broadcasting. Many older antennas are able to pick-up VHF and UHF channels just fine, though.

A digital television signal has a lot of information within it, which is what makes it possible to broadcast in “HD” and on multiple subchannels (ex: 5.1, 5.2). This enhances both the TV picture quality and the programming choices available to the viewer.

Sometimes, however, obstructions such as trees, terrain, or structures can interfere with vital parts of that signal, which then results in the reception of a weak or intermittent signal – or none, at all. Metal siding or shingles also affect signal reception. In addition, the digital signal reception capability of “rabbit ears” indoor antennas has been shown to be less than ideal in many cases.

Occasionally, the combination of signal obstructions and distance from the station antenna makes it desirable for the viewer to install a different antenna that is better-suited for digital signal reception (in that particular location).

Whether the viewer has an indoor, attic or outside antenna, repositioning or even just realigning the antenna may solve reception issues – although this may take some patience and a bit of “trial-and-error.”

Sometimes, as little as 1 foot of horizontal (or even vertical) change can make all the difference between receiving a poor signal and a good signal. It is also often helpful for outside or attic antennas to be attached to a rotor, which can make the realigning process less troublesome.

Note: Remember that every time you move or adjust your antenna in order to view any “new” channels or channels you haven’t been able to pick up at all, you must either:

  • do a channel rescan for all available channels (similar to when the converter box was first turned-on)
  • manually enter the channel number, and, if the TV is then able to display the broadcast, program it in (this option is available on some DTV converter models).

One of the easiest ways to make the converter box rescan for available channels is to simply unplug the converter’s power cord from the outlet, wait two minutes, and then plug it back in, again. This should cause the converter to automatically rescan for available channels.

Will I ever be able to pick up WRAL on my TV again?! I have the converter box, but it tells me there is no signal. I cannot purchase a new outside device. – Louise, Smithfield

To get ready for the digital television transition, WRAL-TV had to replace the primary digital antenna on top of our 2,000-foot broadcast tower. During this change, the station is still broadcasting digitally at full legal power, but from an auxiliary antenna. The switch-over to the auxiliary antenna took place on Sept. 29, 2008.

The auxiliary antenna is just southeast of Garner and is on the same tower where the primary antenna was located, but at a lower height. The lower antenna height (approximately 560 feet lower) of the auxilliary antenna increases the chances of the signal being blocked or reflected from any objects such as hills, trees, buildings, etc. between it and a reception antenna. Interference might also be caused by sporadic atmospheric conditions other than weather.

WRAL will start broadcasting in digital from the new main digital antenna at the top of the tower on June 12. Due to the recent DTV legislation that was passed by Congress, though, WRAL may be able to switch over earlier.

When WRAL does switch back to the higher antenna, the signal coverage area will increase considerably (as compared with the standby digital antenna’s coverage area). During the interim, though, some digital viewers who watch WRAL-TV over the air may have trouble getting any signal; or, they may experience poor reception during certain times of the day.

Note: The FCC is still determining DTV extended-transition policies and procedures. Once those have been decided upon, we will have a better idea of what a transition delay will mean for WRAL viewers – including when we can start broadcasting from our new main digital antenna and at what power.

If you are experiencing reception issues, you may want to try the following if you have not done so already:

1) Try adjusting your antenna and/or relocating it to a different part of the room (see question  No. 5 for more details with regard to moving your antenna).

2) Check the wiring and connections going from the antenna to the converter box –

  • Do the wiring and connections appear to be in good condition? If not, you should consider replacement of any questionable components.
  • Are there any connections that seem loose? If so, you may simply need to tighten them with a screwdriver.
If I have a digital TV, will I be able to hook up to an antenna and receive channels, like when camping with camper? – Les Ellis, Raleigh

Yes, but keep in mind that there might be reception issues due to your location and/or antenna. If that is the case, I have mentioned a few suggestions that may help in some of the answers to the previous questions.

Since the funds have run out for converter box assistance, how are people suppose to be able to watch TV? I am fortunate enough to have cable, but I have children that do not have that option. – Donna Mullins, Willow Spring

DTV coupons are not required to purchase digital converter boxes; consumers can purchase a converter box by paying the equipment’s retail price, which is generally between $40 and $60.

Coupons are still being sent out, although there is currently a waiting list for them. Coupons are being sent to those on the waiting list on a first-come, first-served basis as funds from unused, expired coupons become available.

In the stimulus package currently being reviewed by Congress, $650 million has been apportioned to replenish DTV coupon program funds, which would enable the NTIA (the government agency responsible for administering the program) to take care of those on the waiting list and begin issuing coupons to new applicants again.

Coupons must be redeemed within three months of being issued. To be put on the coupon waiting list, call 1-888-388-2009 or follow this link: https://www.dtv2009.gov/ApplyCoupon.aspx.
If I have older TV sets but have already purchased the converter boxes for each set. Do I need a special antenna? I do not have an external antenna, only internal ones for each set. Just wanted to make sure I have done everything I need to do to be ready for the switch=over to digital signal. I really appreciate your time with this question. Thank you very much. – Mary Warner, Sanford

My suggestion would be to go ahead and hook up and set up your converter boxes, if you have not done so. All major television stations in the area are already broadcasting in both analog and digital formats.

If you then find that you are not able to receive the stations you want to receive, then you may need to consider some antenna options. The recommendations made in my responses to some of the previous questions may, hopefully, provide some insights in that regard.

You may find the following Web page helpful as well: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/dtvantennas.html.
I have a small TV in my bedroom with an internal VCR. Since I use an antenna with this set and will use a converter box, how do I set the VCR to record programs, since channel numbers with the converter box don't match up with the old settings? – Matthew Burns, Raleigh

Although it is not a perfect solution, you should still be able to record digital channels with an analog-tuner TV/VCR and a converter box that does not have an event timer. I suggest trying by the following:

  • If the converter box is set to turn off automatically, this setting must be changed so the converter box remains on;
  • Change the channel on your converter box to the channel of the show you wish to record;
  • Set the VCR to record by time on channel 3;
  • Leave the converter box on that channel prior to and during the show you are recording.

Note: If you want to record different shows on different channels, the channel on your converter box must be manually changed at the end of the first show (or at least before the next show starts) to the channel of the next program you want to record.

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