Hundreds of Local TV Stations Have Moved to New Channels; Here’s What Viewers Need to Know

More than 140 TV stations in over 20 media markets throughout the United States — including Phoenix, Memphis, and Salt Lake City — have moved to new channels, and hundreds more will follow suit in the next 18 months.

Households in these areas who use an antenna to watch free broadcasts need to rescan their TVs to continue receiving local stations. For those connected to cable or satellite service, no changes are needed.

Why are stations moving to new frequencies? These changes are part of a large-scale restructuring of America’s airwaves to expand the capacity of wireless networks and meet the surging demand for broadband connectivity.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched an auction in 2016 which allowed broadcasters to sell their channels and relocate to efficient parts of the spectrum (a process called “repacking”) or share spectrum with another station. The newly available spectrum was then auctioned to wireless service providers.

Spectrum repacking will mean faster, better service for consumers, including the next generation of wireless technology, 5G, which the American Consumer Institute estimates will deliver $1.2 trillion in benefits to the American public.

Two weeks ago, the first phase of this broadcast TV “repack” was completed. Stations in this phase have moved to new channels and have stopped broadcasting on their pre-transition channels. Nine more phases are planned. In all, about 1,000 stations — serving an estimated 77 million people — are moving to new channels by July 2020.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has set up a website, www.TVAnswers.org, which provides information, tools and resources to help viewers navigate this transition.

Rescanning allows your TV to find all available channels in your area. It doesn’t require new equipment or services, and it doesn’t cost anything. Here’s a quick overview:

  1. Rescan at the right time. Use NAB’s online tool to find out when each station in your area will move. If you live in an area served by one or more of the 140 stations that have already transitioned to new channels, rescan now. Note: Stations in the same market will not necessarily move at the same time, so it may be necessary to rescan multiple times to maintain access to all stations.
  2. When the time comes, select “channel rescan” or “autotune” on your remote control’s menu. Those commands are typically found under “setup” or “antenna.” Give your TV a few minutes to rescan. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again.

Happy viewing!

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