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Digital TV: Clearing up fuzzy stuff

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POSTED June 17, 2009 3:22 a.m.

My retail days seemed like a lifetime ago.

In the final years at Montgomery Ward some nine years ago – after over 100 years in business, the national retail chain closed in early 2001 – I worked in the electronics department of the Stockton store.

At the time, we were embarking on the digital era, with only the savvy consumer being aware that the analog television sets would soon become passé.

But as sales associates, we were only aware that some sort of converter box would be available for purchase for those old TV sets once the transmission went digital.

That time arrived last Friday.

Not affected are the cable and satellite TV subscribers.

Those hit the hardest are the ones left in the dark without the box.

Among the frustrated are folks who did purchase the boxes or own digital TV sets only to wrestle with DTV reception.

The Federal Communication Commission has been trying to remedy this problem, sending at least a half dozen e-mail to the media since last week’s digital transition.

Among the latest tip for better reception, according to the FCC, include “double rescanning” and the proper VHF/UHF antenna to your TV set coupled with antenna location.

Rabbit ears, rods, or other elements are needed to pick up channels 2-13 (VHF), and a circle, bow-tie, or other elements are needed to pick up channels 14-51 (UHF). Some marketed as HDTV antennas may have trouble picking up VHF channels while others may be VHF or UHF only.

In this case, the FCC suggests: “For the best reception of channels 2-6, extend the (antenna) rods all the way. For the best reception of channels 7-13, reduce the length of the rods to 12 to 18 inches.”

The location of an indoor antenna is important, with the most popular spot being on top of the TV set.

Not so, says the FCC.

In order to get the best digital TV reception, the FCC recommends placing it near a window, as high as possible, away from other electronic equipment (computers, VCR, DVD, converter box, or the TV set itself); or change the direction the antenna is facing.

Meanwhile, some consumers may need to purchase a rooftop antenna.

The term “double rescanning,” simply put, means the first scan search for channels on a digital converter of digital TV set may not be quite enough, particularly when the initial search took place when stations moved their digital frequencies on June 12.

“These earlier scans may have saved channel information that’s now incorrect,” the FCC said on Tuesday.

The five simple steps to remedy the problem are as follows:

•Disconnect the antenna from the box or digital TV.

•Re-scan the box or digital TV without the antenna connection. As with any scan, the user should follow the on-screen instruction or the 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 back into the electrical outlet.

•Rescan the box or digital TV one more time.

More information can be obtained by visiting the website, www.DTV.gov.

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