Freeview reception problems

Written by valerie o'riordan
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Freeview reception problems
Make sure your television aerial isn't obstructed. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Freeview is a low-cost way of receiving UK digital terrestrial television channels. All you need is a set-top box and an aerial. As of 2009, with the gradual shutdown of the old analog signal, Freeview is becoming the main non-subscription method for UK residents to watch television. But like analog, Freeview is still subject to reception problems and interference. Until the entire analog system is shut down and the freeview signal is boosted nationwide, you may find that your television reception is no better than before, although the interference will now take the shape of "blocky" or frozen images rather than the "snowy" analog failure to which you've become accustomed. You might also find that some channels go missing or that interactive services (the Red Button) might no longer work. There are several reasons your signal might be weak.

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Aerial Suitability

If you've bought a Freeview box but you aren't able to receive pictures, check that your aerial is suitable. Freeview requires a good-quality rooftop aerial that's pointing at a digital TV transmitter. Try to position the aerial so that you're getting a line of sight in the direction of the transmitter, with no buildings or other obstructions, like trees, in the way. You can find your local transmitter by checking the Ofcom website. Use a compass to angle your aerial accordingly. However, it's best to get a qualified aerial fitter to install your aerial. The aerial engineer can also advise you which aerial is best suited to your needs. Alternatively, it's possible to use an indoor, set-top aerial (like old-fashioned rabbit's ears). But the signal from the transmitter will then be obstructed by the walls of your house, so you're unlikely to get as reliable a signal.

Transmitter Problems

If your normally adequate signal has suddenly degenerated, check to see if transmitter work is being done that might affect your area. As the digital service is rolled out across the country and the analog transmitters are switched off, engineering work at the various transmitters might affect your signal. Check the Digital UK website for details.

Connectors

Reception problems can be a result of loose or faulty cabling in your home. Is your TV aerial unplugged from your set-top box, or your set-top box from your television? Your set-top box will probably be connected to your television with a Scart lead; try replacing that lead. If you've got excessive cabling--if, for instance, you're looping your aerial through more than one TV set, DVD players, or you're running the aerial cable through several rooms using extension cables--you're increasing the chances of a loose or faulty connection. Try to make the most direct connection possible by connect your Freeview box to the main aerial feed, disconnecting any extensions or video recorders to see if that makes a difference. If you really need to run the cable a long way or to feed other equipment, use an amplified signal booster. These are available from hardware stores.

Electrical Interference

The Freeview signal can be disrupted by interference from other electrical sources--even something as innocuous as a light being switched on or a car driving past. You can cut down on this type of interference by keeping your aerial leads and connectors away from electrical mains leads and by using a high-quality aerial cable with a gold-plated connector. Keep joins in your cabling away from mains leads.

Radio Interference

If you live close to a taxi firm or a police station you might find that their RF transmitters interfere with your Freeview reception. Buy a TVI RF filter from an electronics store--this connects your aerial cable to your set-top box and eliminates this type of unwanted noise. Alternatively, buy ferrite rings that match the diameter of your cabling and string them onto the aerial cable. These metal loops act as a shield against RF interference.

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