New Indoor Antennas — Don’t Be Fooled By The Advertising

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How many times have you been fooled (or perhaps better stated, at least slightly mislead) by advertisements you’ve seen or heard on your TV or radio? Advertisers really do know their craft don’t they? It’s true, they definitely know how to make just about anything sound like the greatest discovery since… well… (you can insert the greatest discovery you know of at this point.)

I’m sure you’ve recently seen the latest advertisements on TV (or possibly seen the ads in your newspaper or other publications) that talk about how much FREE STUFF you can watch with a simple off-air antenna. Well, it’s just my opinion but, “Don’t Be Fooled By the Advertising.”

Some of the latest antennas to hit the scene are being hailed as a way for you, the consumer, to watch a lot of free movies and other types of programming without having to pay a fee. Trust me, they do work but may or may not work for you… AND you really need to look more closely at the way they are being advertised.

I found out about these latest “new items” a year or so ago when a customer of mine called me and asked me about one he had received information on. When I answered that I knew nothing about it, he mailed me the ad from the paper and asked me to check it out for him. He explained he was going away to a summer home and would like to stay in touch but didn’t really want the expense of paying for cable or satellite. He and his wife wanted to use this item if it would work for them in the location they were going to. Naturally, I told him I would be glad to check it out and happy give him my opinion.

Well… after I received the ad from him and saw what it said this item could do, I have to admit it “sounded” very good (at least from the way the ad read) and I was intrigued enough to research it further.

I quickly discovered the ad was talking about something I had seen before and it was actually nothing new; it just had a different look – it was packaged a bit differently.

What was it that was not-so-new about this antenna? Well, it was a glorified UHF rabbit ear antenna. Actually, years ago we called them UHF Bowties and they usually clipped on one of the VHF telescoping ears either built in to the older TVs or later added by the consumer and the two together allowed the person using them to receive both the VHF and UHF Analog signals from their local broadcast stations. Although rabbit ears worked, they didn’t always work that well and reception was often limited by where the TV was situated in the home and how far away the broadcast towers were from the consumer’s location.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these antennas don’t work… I’m just saying the advertising is a bit overstated on what it delivers, at least in my opinion. I have to admit, the advertisements DO make it sound good but let’s look at what they are really telling you about this device and what it can do.

One of the first things I noticed about their description of what you could get by using this “New Antenna” was stated in such a way as to make you think it was all because of a new ruling. The ads state something similar to, “because the Federal government had “mandated” that Digital broadcasts be delivered in a way that a consumer could receive them without cost, there were thousands of “movies and other programs” a person could now watch without having to pay what cable or satellite would charge them for watching them. (In other words, if the consumers had the equipment that allowed them to receive the broadcast signals, they could not be charged for watching them. They also make it sound as if you are able to receive these many “movies and other programs” without cost while others are paying exorbitant fees to watch the same thing.)

Trust me when I tell you… there is nothing new about off-air broadcasts except that we now enjoy the advantages of digital signals as opposed to analog (at least for the present time.)

To be honest with you and fair to them, their ads do tell the truth. The stretch comes because they know they are talking to people that really don’t understand the difference between “Off-Air” broadcast TV and “Pay” TV or have had their signals delivered either by cable, satellite or some other means for so long that they don’t remember the “broadcast signals” have been, and are, available.

It has been my experience, when people think about watching “Movies” on TV, they’re thinking about things like HBO, The Movie Channel or Showtime and like channels. They relate their understanding of what they hear or see in the ads to how they generally receive these offerings from Cable, Satellite or some other form of delivery that they have been paying for.

It is true they can receive movies and other programs from their local broadcast stations, and have always been able to, but not “PAY” offerings like HBO, Showtime and the others delivered only by pay TV services.

What the ads for these glorified rabbit ear antennas are actually talking about is the movies and programs available from the local broadcast stations that can be, or are, received via some form of antenna from their Local Broadcast station’s towers but not those “Pay TV” channels that are generally delivered via a different source rather than being able to be received by antenna.

Of course the new advantage they talk about is the new “Digital” signal delivery that is much clearer than the old “Analog” signals. These signals have always been available for reception via antennas from the Local Broadcast towers in Analog, and now in the Digital format, but so many have been receiving their programming from some Cable or Satellite provider, and paying for that service for so long that they have forgotten the Local Broadcasts are available from antenna as well as from their “Pay TV” provider. To hear they might be able to receive something similar without payment is music to their ears, especially in these days of paying for so many channels they never watch to get what they do want to watch along with the continuing tough economic times.

First of all, let’s be real. There are many places a set of rabbit ears will work to receive the off-air broadcast signals and do a very good job but only if, they can deliver a decent signal at a usable strength.

Depending on the strength of  the old Analog signals, they would show pictures in differing degrees of good to bad reception and possibly along with a thing called “Multi-Path” (or ghosting as it is referred to by many familiar with the “old days.”) In comparison, Digital broadcast signals either show you a clear picture or they don’t and often the “new antennas” will deliver some, but not necessarily all, of the available channels in your area. It is a matter of signal strength and that signal needs to be at a certain level to show a picture.

Digital signals are also susceptible to Multi-path but it may show up as things called “pixeling” or “freeze-framing.” (In general, these symptoms describe themselves.) Of course these can be extremely frustrating, especially when a person is trying to watch their favorite programs and that is why good reception of the digital signals is a must to most consumers that are used to other forms of signal delivery.

Generally speaking and in my professional opinion, an outdoor type antenna will give the best reception of these local “off-air” signals but also remember outdoor antennas can be somewhat susceptible to the same problems I mentioned above. Just remember it’s not like the old days… the antennas don’t have to be extremely large and they don’t necessarily have to be as high as they used to. In fact, they can sometimes be mounted in your attic or elsewhere and work quite nicely. In my experience, many of them work better with amplification of some sort (especially depending on whether you want to distribute the signal to multiple TVs), but generally, things are much simpler in these “digital” days once you receive a signal of proper strength to deliver to your TVs.

(I promise, I’ll talk more about antennas in another article, soon.)

In the next article I will be talking about a few things you need to think about before you actually decide to “cut the cord.”

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© June 23, 2015 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, The Norman TV View, The Norman TV Vantage,

All audio productions by and PCN Productions