An unexpected cord cutting hiccup with OTA broadcasts and a digital antenna

Digital Antenna

I do not watch a whole lot of over the air digital TV, primarily because there are only a few broadcast shows I pay attention to. I discovered something unexpected when the pandemic started and the state of Tennessee started broadcasting lessons on our local PBS affiliate that I simply could not tune to PBS or NBC in the daytime.

Also I realize I’m a decade late to this realization, but learn from my fail.

In an effort to get around this I installed an HDHomeRun at work and a digital antenna – there’s actually a line of site to the transmitter tower. And bam… same issue. But you know, that seemed pretty much a meh issue during the early days of the Covid-19 shutdowns and I didn’t investigate because what I could see was a lot more basic than my 1st grader was doing, and I didn’t need GMA.

I’d initially assumed I had either a low quality antenna, or living in the shadow of an apartment complex that still has WiMax equipment on the top of it, that there was something blocking the signal. This was not the case.

I decided for my dalliance with the Vizio V705x-H1 I was going to get a really good antenna. We’ve had quite a decade this year in Nashville and so far we’ve gone through multiple power outages due to tornadoes, insanely high winds, cell and telephone provider failure due to massive damage, etc. Figured I would combine the best rated flat indoor digital antenna I could with the 705’s TV tuner just so I could get news when the internet goes dark due to power outage, fiber cut, civil war, etc.

Seriously, seven months has seen my work without power for 9 days due to a tornado, my house was down a couple of days for high winds, and I’m on chainsaw blade 3 this year (although I started with an old one at the end of its days).

And like my other two antennas, I found myself unable to see PBS or NBC during the daytime. At night, they detect occasionally but look like hot garbage. What I found would shake my world… not really, but I’ve been reading how to create compelling content circa 2018 clickbait headlines.

OK, short of it is our local PBS (WNPT) and NBC (WSMV-TV) don’t work particularly well with those flat amplified antennas. They broadcast on VHF frequencies instead of UHF and as such you’ve got to have a set of non amplified rabbit ears. It’s enough of an issue they’ve got a page devoted to it.

I borrowed a set of rabbit ears with a metal loop and bam. PBS and NBC in the daytime, but the other channels suffer. Oh well, now I know and knowing is half the battle.

Anyway kids, if you’re prepping for how to watch PBS and state run educational programming in the event of a mass internet outage, keep in mind to keep some rabbit ears around if you’ve got any stations broadcasting VHF frequencies.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts