All Australians should generally be able to receive free-to-air television, either terrestrially or via satellite (if terrestrial coverage is not available), provided they have the correct receiving equipment. TV broadcasters provide this service, with support from the Australian Government.
The most common cause of poor TV reception is that thing on the roof—your antenna. An antenna that’s poorly maintained, broken or incorrectly installed is likely to be behind your reception problems.
Following the recent switchover to digital TV and the consequent retune (check out http://retune.digitalready.gov.au for more information), now’s a good time to check if your antenna system is in the right shape and form, especially if it’s been exposed to harsh weather over a long period. Digital TV means a host of new channels should be available in your area, so make sure your antenna isn’t coming between you and good reception!
If you have the right equipment—what’s technically called an ‘optimised television receiving installation’—you’ll be much less susceptible to reception problems.
A number of elements are important when assessing your antenna system, including:
Where you live—this determines signal coverage and frequencies.
What equipment you have—the simpler, the better! You need a good single antenna, a good cable and a fly lead.
How it’s installed—your antenna should be outdoors, pointing towards the right TV tower and correctly ‘polarised’.
How it’s maintained—make sure your antenna isn’t rusty or broken, and has no missing elements.
Location, location, location
Australians live in many different geographic locations, ranging from large coastal cities to isolated outback areas. The TV signal coverage you can receive depends on where you live. Some areas are on the edge of coverage limits, so if you live in one of these places it’s even more important to have your antenna system fully optimised. If you live outside the terrestrial television coverage, you can still receive a full set of digital channels via satellite.
Following the recent switchover and retune, digital TV services are grouped into frequency blocks. These are location-specific frequencies, so where you live also affects which frequencies you receive.
Equipment is king
Your antenna is only doing its job properly if it can receive television signals in your area. The design, size and type of antenna—and how it is installed—can affect its performance. The size and shape of an antenna depend on two main characteristics:
Which specific frequencies the antenna is designed to receive.
The gain of the antenna—in areas of poor reception, it may be necessary to increase the received power of the broadcast signal with a more directional, higher gain and frequency band-specific antenna.
Many people think installing an antenna is an easy DIY job, but if you have every tried this I'm pretty sure you will have realised its not. All our technicians carry specialised equipment which measures the frequency received in order to get your picture in tip top shape, so unless you own this equipment installation can be a pretty tricky job.
The wrong features
Some antennas will rarely give you good TV reception and are best avoided:
Indoor antennas (sometimes called 'rabbit ears')—in areas of high signal strength, an indoor antenna may just be sufficient to receive some or all TV channels. However, it may make your signal more susceptible to interference.
Antennas designed to receive either FM radio or TV channels in the VHF band 1 and 2 (channel 0–5).
Multiple antennas, combined and used to receive signals from a few broadcasting sites, will make your receive system prone to interference and reception difficulties. Talk to your antenna installer about removing any legacy antenna that is no longer needed.
Safe and sound
Climbing on the roof is extremely dangerous, so contact the experts to make sure your antenna is safely and correctly installed.
Your antenna should be installed outdoors, up to five metres high for urban and suburban areas and up to 10 metres high for some rural areas or areas with marginal coverage, pointing towards the TV tower that provides the best television coverage for your area.
Your antenna installer will be able to do a site survey and find the best location for your antenna on your roof, free of local clutter (big trees and surrounding building) and other local signal obstacles.
If you’re replacing your antenna, don’t assume the best spot is an existing location/pole. The environment may have changed due to mature trees and new buildings. A fresh site survey for good signal strength and quality signal may be necessary—but remember that this is a job for the experts!
Television signals are transmitted either horizontally (H) or vertically (V). This is called ‘signal polarisation’. Your antenna should be installed so that its elements match the signal polarisation—that is, antenna elements should be installed horizontally to receive horizontally polarised TV signals and vice versa.
Signal polarisation is also location-specific, but your installer will be able to deal with any of these problems..
Staying in shape
Like any equipment, antennas perform better when they’re properly looked after. The good news is that once properly installed, your antenna installation does not require much attention.
Some easy ways to make sure your antenna is in tip-top shape are:
Do an occasional quick visual inspection of your antenna from the ground. Check that your antenna is still there, it’s positioned in the right direction, it’s firmly attached to the mount (a lot of physical movement can affect reception) and it hasn’t lost any elements.
Do a visual inspection of the connectors and fly lead next to your television receiver—make sure they’re not damaged or squashed by any furniture.
Make sure all your devices are connected properly to your antenna, especially if you are using multiple devices connected to each other (such as TV, set-top box and personal video recorders). Double-check that all these devices are tuned to the right channels.