DTV Facts

By KBJR Manager

DTV Facts

November 4, 2010 Updated Oct 30, 2013 at 12:20 PM CDT

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Digital Television Reception
We’ve all gotten used to how easy it is to receive traditional over-the-air (analog) TV. If the picture looks bad, just move the antenna around until it fixes the problem. Digital TV reception can be lost or missing on one or more channels for no apparent reason and it’s not always obvious how to get it back.

It Starts with a Good Antenna.
Choosing the correct DTV antenna for your application is a matter of determining not only your distance from the broadcast site, but also the directivity and/or rejection of your antenna from unwanted signals.

TV antennas come in three functional categories:

VHF/FM (Very High Frequency) designed for TV channels 2 through 13
UHF (Ultra High Frequency) designed for TV channels 14 to 69
UHF/VHF/FM – the combo unit - designed for all channels

DTV signals are commonly broadcast on both UHF and VHF so the UHF/VHF/FM combination antenna is your best reception choice.

The best bet for good reception is to locate your antenna outdoors because it reduces the chance for interference. If you live near the tower you can generally get by with a smaller antenna but if you live 25 miles from the broadcast tower you will need a larger, higher gain, antenna.

Can I get by with Rabbit Ears?
Rabbit ear antennas have been used indoors for years, however the problem with these and other “omni-directional” antennas, is that they pick up signals from all directions at once. Signals near the broadcast tower are strong enough to bounce off large buildings or structures such as water towers. The result of these bouncing signals is commonly referred to as “ghosts” and with digital television reception these ghosts result in picture freezing or sometimes complete picture loss, even in an area with strong signals.

If you own “rabbit ears” or “powered rabbit ears” it would be best to replace them with an antenna that has good side and rear rejection. Look for an antenna with multiple elements and a sharper, pointed look to the front. This is a directional antenna and will help eliminate ghosting if you live close to the broadcast tower and will help bring in weak signal if you live far away from the tower. Rabbit ears, or omni directional antennas may be adequate for people living an intermediate distance from the broadcast tower.

Distance matters
If you live near the broadcast tower a common reception problem is signal overload. You may see your digital picture improve after you turn your antenna away from the broadcast source. If this is the case, your antenna is too large and has too much gain. To correct this problem you can purchase a smaller antenna or purchase an inline “pad” from a TV antenna supplier. Pads reduce the signal coming in to your TV and are sized with a “dB” rating. For reference, a 3dB pad cuts the signal in half. The higher the dB numbers on the pad, the larger the signal reduction. Using the signal meter in the menu section of your TV may help you determine the level of pad needed. The exception is when the signals are so very strong that your signal meter shows no signal at all. In this case you may want to start with a very large pad—10 dB or greater.

If you live 25 miles or more away from the broadcast tower site you will need a larger directional antenna. Look for one with multiple elements coming to a sharper, pointed look to the front. Ghosts will become less of an issue but signal strength may now be the problem. Most manufacturers list the gain of their antennas in terms of distance, such as “reception of up to 60 miles”. Some manufacturers list the gain of their antenna in “dB”, and the higher the dB numbers, the higher the gain.

Pick the right spot
Ideally, an antenna should be mounted at the point where the signals are the strongest; normally higher is better. Also, consider a location where it can be easily serviced should repairs or adjustments be required in the future. Before making a permanent choice, move to various locations and test the signal strength using the signal strength meter located within your TV or Set Top Box. A few feet left or right, up or down, can make a significant difference in the amount of signal received. You will be looking for a steady reading on your meter; the signal should not be moving up and down in terms of level. When aiming the antenna, consider the path between you and the broadcast tower. Look for a site that has an unobstructed signal path (no trees or large buildings).

Choose a good cable
When working with digital signals, the connection between the antenna and the TV should always be made with a quality coaxial cable. This is not a purchase that you should “skimp” on. Poor grade coax will cause excessive attenuation and poor reception. Poor grade coax also tends to deteriorate, making it necessary to replace your installation within a relatively short period of time. RG 6 cable is a good minimum choice and is typical of most installations requiring the reception of both VHF and UHF signals.

Add a Preamp
To improve the performance of your high gain antenna you can add a preamplifier or booster amplifier which will greatly improve your odds of locking in the signal. Look for preamps with the lowest noise figure and the highest gain. A preamp normally consists of two units: an outdoor preamp and an indoor power supply. The preamp itself should always be mounted on the antenna boom or on the mast as close to the antenna as possible. The preamplifier location is essential to good reception performance because the signal coming off the antenna alone is usually weak and the coaxial cable feeding the signal to your TV contributes even more to that loss. Preamps mounted further from the antenna usually amplify interference noise as well as signal, making it much more difficult for your digital TV to decode information.

Multiple TV sets
If you plan to use your antenna for two or more TV sets you may need to consider the use of special devices that prevent interaction between your various TVs. The simplest device is a “passive” splitter. Keep in mind that the signal will be reduced by one half every time it is split. The result could mean the difference between reliable reception and reception that comes and goes. If you choose to use passive splitters, always keep them indoors, protected from the weather. You may also find it advantageous to split near the nearest TV to the antenna. This will allow you to bypass the splitter when trouble shooting in the future. Powered indoor amplifiers are also available. The quality of these devices is usually determined by price. Caution should be used when utilizing powered indoor amplifiers, as additional noise or mismatching could reduce the integrity of your reception.

Lo Gain Antenna

Hi Gain Antenna

There are hundreds of TV antenna models available. Most homeowners will be able to receive DTV signals on an antenna if that antenna is properly matched and installed. If you use an antenna already and it’s old or damaged, you can improve the DTV performance by replacing it. You may want to visit a local installer or seller of antennas before purchasing your equipment. Their knowledge of signal strengths may be key in helping you make the proper choice.

How can I see Northland's NewsCenter Digital Channels?

Like traditional TV, our digital signal is a free over-the-air broadcast that you can receive via a UHF antenna. In addition you will need a digital tuner, which can be purchased as a stand-alone box or built into a digital television. If your receiver does not automatically find our signals, they are on on digital channels 19 and 33. Depending on your location, you may need a UHF antenna outside or in your attic. Advice on what kind of antenna you need at your home can be found on www.antennaweb.org

Once you have acquired our signals, you will notice we are broadcasting multiple channels.

The Networks of Northland's NewsCenter: Free Over-the-Air Channels

3.2 KDLH-DT2: Northland's CW 2


6.2 KBJR-DT2: My 9

6.3 KBJR-DT4 Northland's NewsCenter NOW

Our digital channels are also available on some area cable systems, including:

Charter Communications in Duluth and Lake Nebagamon: 2, 4, 5, 9, 391, 783, 786
Mediacom in Eveleth, Grand Rapids, Silver Bay: 3, 6, 9, 28, 806
Mediacom in Moose Lake: 4, 5, 9, 18, 806

Our digital broadcasts are currently not available via satellite dish services.

What happens in 2009?

The FCC has set the date of June 12th, 2009, as the date for all TV stations in the U.S. to cease their analog broadcasts. However, some stations have been authorized to cease their analog signals before that date. As of that date you will be able to receive our digital broadcasts in one of three ways:

1. Over the air on a television with a built-in digital tuner

2. Over the air utilizing a stand-alone digital tuner or converter box

3. Via a cable or satellite service that is re-broadcasting our signal

More details can be found in the Q&A below or by watching the online video above.

What are DTV and HDTV?

DTV is Digital Television. It is any broadcast that uses a digital signal.
HDTV is High Definition Television. This is a digital broadcast offering the highest quality picture and sound available.

SDTV is a digitally produced broadcast that delivers better resolution than analog TV, but lower resolution than HDTV.

Analog TV is what you have been watching for years.

What shows are in HDTV?

Many network programs, sports, and movies are in full HDTV. Look for programs marked HD on our program grid.

What shows are on KBJR-DT and KDLH-DT?

All shows broadcast on KBJR and KDLH are also simulcast on KBJR-DT and KDLH-DT. Some are in full HDTV, while others are up-converted. Program listing for all our channels are available on our program grid.

What are the benefits of DTV?

Wider Format:

HDTV screens are about one-third wider than existing TV screens.
They have similar dimensions to movie screens. HDTV screens closely match the peripheral vision range of the human eye, making it more natural to watch.

Higher Quality Picture and Sound:

HDTV uses the same amount of bandwidth (six megahertz) as used in the current analog system, but HDTV can transmit more than six times the information as the analog system. This translates to higher quality in picture and sound.

Higher Resolution:

SDTV television pictures are made up of 525 lines that are scanned horizontally. HDTV pictures are created by scanning 1,080 lines. Adding twice the amount of lines multiplies the amount of pixels (the small dots that create the picture). Current sets have about 300,000 pixels, while the HDTV screen is composed of more than 2 million pixels. Having more pixels on your screen will also improve the sharpness of your pictures, allowing you to read on your television screen small text commonly found on computers.

True Surround Sound:

Complimenting the lifelike pictures are 5.1 channels of CD-quality digital audio. Current stereo TV sets offer only two channels of audio. HDTV delivers true surround sound: front speakers on the right, center and left, along with two back speakers and a sub-woofer.

Strong Signals Always:

The days of static and ghosts on your TV set are over. The digital signal will also strengthen signal quality, meaning the signal will be just as brilliantly clear and sharp up to 65 miles away if there are no obstructions between you and the tower and a quality antenna and preamp are used. If you can receive our digital signal, you will always get studio-quality video and audio.

Interactive Possibilities:

Thanks to digital broadcasting, we can also broadcast data (datacasting), which will revolutionize the way you communicate, entertain yourself and live your life. We will be able to marry the convenience of television with the power and freedom of the Internet. Datacasting will make truly interactive TV possible, empowering the viewer to make television-viewing an incredible experience.

More Than One Channel (Multicasting):
We can also squeeze in more than one "channel" of television or data into our digital TV channel. In special circumstances, we can choose to send a channel of high-definition TV, up to two channels of standard-definition TV (SDTV) and a channel of data at the same time.

Will my current TV become obsolete?

The FCC has set the date of February 17th, 2009, as the date for all TV stations in the U.S. to cease their analog broadcasts. As of that date you will be able to receive our digital broadcasts in one of three ways:

1. Over the air on a television with a built-in digital tuner

The FCC has mandated that all new TVs, VCRs, and DVRs include a digital tuner by March 1, 2007

2. Over the air utilizing a stand-alone digital tuner or converter box.

This option will not allow you to receive the full benefit of HDTV, but you will be able to continue to use your existing television.

3. Via a cable or satellite service that is re-broadcasting our signal.

Check with your provider for availability. Your provider may charge an additional fee for HDTV signals.

Your analog television can always be used with your existing video equipment, like VCRs, DVD players and video games.

Can I get HDTV Free?

You have to buy the right equipment to view HDTV, but the signal itself is free. Learn more at http://myfreehdtv.com and antennaweb.org

You can get more information about digital converter boxes here

For further assistance call: 1-800-CALL-FCC, nationally, or 218-730-4DTV (4388) in Duluth, or 1-800-422-9707 in Wisconsin.