Some TV viewers still struggle with digital conversion

More than a month after the historic nationwide switch to all-digital TV, some Northern Californians are still struggling to receive signals and watch their favorite programs.

The Federal Communications Commission said the June 12 changeover from analog to digital signals went well for most Americans. The Nielsen Co. said recently that 1.7 million, or 1.5 percent, of U.S. households remain in the dark, down from 2.5 million immediately after the switch.

But some area residents who made the switch are frustrated.

“I’m in and out. Sometimes I have the signal, and then other times, I have no signal,” said Ann Ruiz of Colusa. “I move the antenna. That works sometimes, but then it just goes away.

“I’ve called some of the stations and that (FCC) help line, and they say I might need a better antenna.”

Engineers with Sacramento TV stations say many of the viewer complaints they now receive involve no reception due to antenna issues. They said callers with older TVs have converter boxes needed to convert the digital signal, but they still get either no reception or on-and-off reception.

Even with a converter box, TV reception can be affected by topography, antenna positioning and distance from the source of a digital signal. Also, confusion over VHF and UHF bands persists.

TV stations nationwide moved to different frequency bands in the June 12 changeover. Some switched between VHF and UHF bands, requiring different antennas.

In Sacramento, Channel 3 (KCRA) and Channel 13 (KOVR) are now accessed in the UHF band. However, Channel 10 (KXTV) remains in the VHF band, so a UHF-only antenna will not bring it in.

During a recent on-air session, KXTV engineer Mike Cappicq recommended that viewers get an outdoor, all-channel antenna that receives both VHF and UHF signals.

Consumers with antenna problems also can seek help at

More digital TV consumer help is available from the FCC’s hotline at (888) 225-5322 or online at

Federal officials still recommend that consumers periodically do a “double rescanning” procedure to make sure they receive all available stations. Here’s how that is done:

• Disconnect the antenna from the converter box or digital TV.

• Rescan the box or digital TV without the antenna connected. It’s easily done with a remote, or follow instructions in the box/TV owner’s manual.

• Unplug the box or digital TV from the electrical outlet for at least one minute.

• Reconnect the antenna to the box or digital TV, and plug the unit into the outlet.

• Rescan the box or digital TV one more time.

Also, there’s still time for owners of old analog TVs to apply for federal $40 discount coupons to purchase digital TV converter boxes. Coupons can be ordered through July 31 by calling (888) 388-2009 or visiting

Coupons will expire within 90 days of the date they are mailed. Converter boxes can be bought at most major stores with electronics departments.