Ever since cable TV first became widespread decades ago, watching the TV signals that are broadcast over the air has largely been looked down upon. In many ways, it's actually kind of surprising that local TV stations still transmit their signals over the air, but when you get down to it, even if they can reach only a relatively small audience in an urban and suburban area over the air broadcasts are probably worth the added expense. After all, there are a lot of people who want to watch TV but are either unwilling or unable to afford to subscribe to satellite TV or cable TV providers. The rest of us end up largely ignoring terrestrial over the air TV broadcasts. People who live in populated areas simply rely on satellite or cable, and people who live out in the country either use satellite TV or simply assume that over the air TV isn't an option. (There are actually cases of rural communities that have access to over the air TV programming through translator antennas, but nobody knows about them until the association that maintains them looks for donations to keep them on the air. It seems that if people actually knew these resources were in existence, they might use them and be more willing to support them than they would be when they're reminded of them just once a year!)
Now though, thanks in large part to the surging popularity of HDTV and the fact that it's often broadcast over the air, there has been renewed interest in over the air TV programming. That's because a large portion of the available HDTV programming can be received and watched over the air for free, courtesy of local TV stations in many areas. This is a great boon for people who are unwilling to pay the extra monthly fee of having HDTV channels added to their satellite or cable TV packages.
This renewed interest in over the air TV transmissions has also created a renewed interest in TV antennas to improve reception. The idea of TV antennas is so old fashioned that many people- even adults- may not really remember having used them. Antennas are basically used to get better reception of over the air TV signals by presenting a greater surface area to pick up the electromagnetic waves that carry the TV programming. They can vary in size from the rabbit ears that used to sit on top of TV sets, all the way up to the spiny, ugly metal monstrosities that people would mount to their fireplaces. Now, both models are being used to pick up over the air HDTV channels. The set top models- the rabbit ears as their called- can reliably pick up a TV signal withing twenty five miles of the transmitting station. The larger, externally mounted antennas can receive quality signals from up to seventy miles away!
When you take into account that all over the air TV transmissions will convert over to digital format, there may be even more interest in using antennas to pick up over the air TV rather than subscribing to a cable or satellite TV service. After all, over the air transmissions often feature all of the major network programming and are free for the taking. Plus, there's the option of saving money by subscribing to a smaller programming package and then supplementing it with over the air TV.
While there's little chance of over the air TV replacing the subscription services, it will be interesting to see how people's viewing habits are influenced by the changes in what's being offered over the air.
Posted by larry dixon at 14:07:00. Filed under: General