What's the Catch?
In order to receive free digital and high definition signals you must meet all of the following conditions:
- You live in an area that is capable of receiving over-the-air (OTA) broadcast signals.
- Your local broadcast stations (ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, etc) transmit a digital signal.
- You either have a HDTV that has a built-in digital (ATSC) tuner or a HD-ready TV and an external HD receiver connected to it.
Do You Meet the Conditions?
Here are some general answers based on each condition listed above. They are numbered accordingly.
- Most of the U.S. population should live within range of an OTA broadcast tower. The exception would be someone living in a very rural areas, like a desert or middle of a mountain range. Although, it's possible to live within the range of a broadcast tower and still not get a signal, like if you live near large buildings or have physical objects -- metal roof, large buildings, large hills -- blocking the signal getting to you.
- The digital transition has happened so all full power broadcast TV stations are broadcasting in digital. There is no more analog from these stations. Prime time programming from the networks is usually in digital or HD, but most of the daytime programming is still in the old non-HD format.
- You should know the answer to this already. If you don't, look at your owner's manual or call the manufacturer and ask them. If your TV has a square screen -- not rectangle -- then is is likely that you don't have a television capable of displaying digital or HD programming.
You Meet the Conditions…Now What?
It is time for action now that you know you have everything needed to receive free high definition and digital programming. This is what you can do:
- Go to www.antennaweb.org to find out the best antenna for your area. You can get a generalized recommendation or specific for your address. If you use your address and provide your email address then I would uncheck the two boxes if you don't want to receive emails from the Consumer Electronics Association.
- Once you know what kind of antenna you need then go to your local electronics store or shop online and buy the unit. If you are buying an outdoor antenna then don't forget to plan for the extra cable you might need to wire it into the TV.
- Once you have the antenna at your residence, install it. You might need to auto-program your television in order to access the digital stations. If you have a cable or satellite HD receiver then you might be able to connect your antenna directly to the receiver and receive HD through the receiver without having to switch the TV source to antenna.
- If your TV is HD-ready you will need to connect the antenna to the receiver in order for the TV to receive the digital/HD signal.