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This month, an update for the many in Southeast who enjoy watching TV free, over the air...

If you receive your TV over the air from the local TV stations – which means you have access to upwards of 50+ free TV channels, all in digital quality, and a number of them in HDTV – you are no longer being informed by the large, former daily, newspaper in town about what the local TV stations are doing. We try to fill that gap for you, since local TV viewing has been on the upswing for years, and is better than ever these days.

And something did happen at Channel 8 on July 7. If you didn't realize you needed to rescan your TV soon afterward, you might have had trouble seeing the station since mid-July. The good news is that Channel 8 is still broadcasting; it's still there, and if you are not seeing it now, you should just "rescan for channels", and you'll get it again. If you don't get it after a rescan, the first thing to check is to make sure your digital, flat-screen TV's tuner is set to "antenna" or "air" – and NOT "cable"! This is important for anyone trying to see all the local channels, since new TV sets almost always come set to "cable mode", and if that is the case, then the only local TV channels you will receive off the air are just the ones still actually broadcasting on the VHF channels – which, here, now are just Channels 10, 12, and 49. Channel 8 has just moved to the UHF band, where most of the other local stations have been for years, regardless of what their "channel number" is – and now, to get Channel 8 and all the others you aren't getting, you must go into your TV's menu, and then into the tuner section, and set the tuner mode to "antenna" (or "air"). After that, "rescan for channels" again!

Nowadays, digital tuners will display channels on whatever "channel" they say they are on – but they can send out their signals on any other channel they choose, and most are using the UHF band now, because those signals have higher power and penetrate modern building walls better. Channel 8 is now transmitting on Channel 26, and should come in stronger than before for many viewers.

(Temporarily the station was repeating their signal on a low-power UHF transmitter on Channel 23 – so for about a week, you were getting KGW-TV on three different transmitters; but now the only one bringing you Channel 8 is the new high-powered UHF signal, which will again come in on "Channel 8".)

We've all been able to receive digital quality HDTV pictures from an antenna here in Portland for over ten years now. In the 1970s, there were only five television stations here – Channels 2, 6, 8, 10, and 12. Now we have several more TV stations; and, thanks to the new digital transmission technology, most of them are transmitting multiple channels – many of which are not on satellite or cable systems. So, even if you do subscribe to a pay TV service, it's worth also having the capability of getting local channels from an antenna (which can just be a set-top device, but you'll probably get more stations using a rooftop antenna).

But wait, there's more! Local TV broadcasters are trying to upgrade what they are doing to meet the needs of the future, and so they also have voluntarily been transmitting "next gen TV" signals as well; they've been doing it for months, cooperatively sharing two high-power UHF transmitters. You probably haven't seen the result – we haven't either – because TV sets that can actually receive these "ATSC-3" signals are hard to come by. We ordered an expensive "next gen TV" converter box last year, so we could report here on it – the box was promised to us for last spring, but now delivery has been pushed back until at least September. So, you may be hearing about "next gen TV", but you probably can't see it yet. The FCC is not mandating this upgrade – and, indeed, has required the participating stations to keep on transmitting in their current "ATSC-1" format for several more years at least, so you don't have to worry about having to buy a new TV for quite a while yet. But if you do buy a new TV capable of receiving "next gen TV", broadcasters are promising an even better picture, even better sound, better performance on portable devices, potential new data-oriented services, and the capability of integrating the broadcast signal with the Internet in new ways – one of which being that they can tailor the commercials that you see to what most interests you. That last one may or may not sound exciting to you, since it means they will be knowing your tastes and interests since it means they will be knowing your personal tastes and interests in a way they never used to. Currently providing their programming through these two "next gen TV" transmitters in Portland are KATU-2, KOIN-6, KGW-8, KOPB-10, KPTV-12, KRCW-32, and KPDX-49.

If and when THE BEE ever receives that "next gen TV" converter box we ordered, we'll report further on how the new TV service looks, and what it does.

In the meantime, if and when you need a new TV set, check to see if there is a new model you like (and can afford) which also has "next gen TV" capability. If there is, you might be seeing this new service before we do! And anyway, eventually, someday, you may have to have one, just to keep on viewing local TV.


You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.

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