By John Beals
The loss of cable TV in Point Roberts has many residents asking, “What are the options left for TV?” and, “How do I get local stations?” There are basically three choices for TV: A satellite dish; streaming services for national stations, movies and TV series; or digital antenna for local stations. Since most residents are asking about local TV stations, let’s talk about digital antennas!
A digital antenna provides access to local stations, but depends on having “line of sight,” distance to the broadcast antenna and other electrical requirements. There are several types of digital antennas. First, it must be a “HD” or “DTV” antenna that picks up both UHF and VHF signals.
There are indoor, attic and outdoor antennas. Directional and multi-directional antennas. Attic and outdoor antennas usually provide the most channels, but they are harder to set up. A tip: The antenna should have a removable coax cable, in case you want to upgrade your cable, because RG6 coax cable is much better than RG59, which is what usually comes with the antenna.
Before digital TV, you just connected an analog antenna and flicked through the channels to see what you got, adjusting the antenna to get the best reception. However, a digital antenna requires a digital tuner. TVs built after 2007 were required to have a built-in digital tuner. Older TVs require a digital TV converter. The digital tuner requires you to scan for channels before viewing them. Each TV manufacturer has their own method to scan channels so follow the instructions in your manual. Scanning for channels can take up to half an hour, so be prepared to spend time waiting for the scan to complete.
Once the scan is complete you can flip through your channels to see what you were able to pick up. Test the number and quality of channels by pointing your antenna in different directions and repeating the channel scan. Some locations in Point Roberts can pick up 11 DTV channels.
The number of channels you pick up depends on your location with respect to the TV station broadcast antennas. Hills, mountains, trees and the direction the antenna is placed can affect your reception. You can see your available channels at antennaweb.org.
If you’re interested in getting a digital antenna, talk to your neighbors who own antennas to see how many channels they get. Search the internet to learn more and get reviews on different antennas. Talk to your local electronics expert. A tip: Buying an expensive antenna won’t guarantee more channels. However, do avoid the super-cheap models which only work in large cities.
(John Beals owns Point Roberts