What to do about TV reception problems

This page suggests some possible solutions for television interference problems.

Check your equipment

The first step is to check if your own entertainment appliances (DVD players, recorders, sound systems) are the source of your reception problems.

Disconnect all your receiving and recording equipment from the 230V mains at the wall socket, except for your television receiver. Plug your aerial cable directly into your television receiver so it is connected to the aerial system and not connected to or through any other equipment.

If the interference is still on your television, try an alternative television. Make sure the original television is turned disconnected from mains power.

Once you've taken these steps, is the same interference still present? If:

  • Yes, it's likely that the interference is created in one or combination of your:
    • aerial
    • aerial feeder system
    • an interfering source external to the aerial system.
  • No, then the interference is probably being created within the original television, in which case this should be serviced or replaced.

Check your aerial system

Indoor aerials don't work as effectively as outdoor ones. The best reception is usually obtained with an outdoor aerial.

Make sure the outdoor antenna is pointing in the right direction. If you're not familiar with the aerial type and how it should be oriented, we recommend that you enlist the services of an aerial specialist.

Visual check for faults

Carry out a visual check of whether your aerial is in good working order — it may:

  • be damaged by corrosion (aerials in coastal areas are especially susceptible to this)
  • have loose bolts, broken or loose elements, or a broken feeder
  • have some other fault.

If you find any damage, repair the aerial or have the aerial replaced.

Television feeder cable

Check your aerial to television feeder cable. These can sometimes partially fill with water and become water damaged. Aerial baluns are particularly susceptible to corrosion.

Joints and splitters

Check any joints or splitters in the feeder system for faulty connections or faulty splitters. If you suspect a splitter is faulty, remove it and reconnect the coaxial cable so the aerial is directly connected to the television receiver.

Once everything is checked/repaired/replaced

If the aerial and feeder system are repaired or seen to be in good condition, then it's likely that the interference is being received by the aerial. In which case the interference will be either generated in your premises or external to your premises. If in doubt, enlist the services of an aerial specialist.

Fixing a weak signal

Complete the aerial system checks above first.

If you think that your interference is due to a weak signal:

  • complete the aerial system checks above
  • make sure your antenna is mounted correctly and pointing towards the transmitter
  • use stand-offs for vertical aerials to avoid losses created by the mounting pole
  • if the signal level is being reduced by an obstruction, try to find a new location for the aerial where the signals are not blocked.

Higher performance aerial

Often, a higher performance aerial will help overcome problems caused by low signal strengths. Sometimes, a mast-head amplifier may be necessary, to overcome cable losses. In this situation, use the lowest gain amplifier needed, to avoid system overload. Note that interference that is present at the aerial will be amplified, along with the wanted signal.

Recorders and decoders

Video recorders, DVD recorders, and satellite/terrestrial decoders — if used in the loop configuration, as they normally are — all add a measure noise to the system. Remove them and feed the aerial cable directly into the television receiver.

Outside coverage area

Each television station is designed to service a particular geographic region. This is called a coverage area, within which there should be sufficient signal strength to override the background (ambient) level of radio frequency noise.

If your interference is because the broadcast station isn't intended to cover your location, specialised engineering may be required.

No improvement

If you have checked/done all of the above and there's no improvement to your signal, contact a service technician or aerial specialist for further assistance.

Dealing with multi-path interference

Multi-path interference (also called ghosting) happens when part of the signal comes directly from the transmitter, while another part has been reflected from a hill, a building or some other large object in the locality. The reflecting obstacle can be located in any direction from the antenna.

You can sometimes get better reception by changing the alignment of the aerial as follows:

  • one person slowly points the aerial from side to side, up or down, or twisted
  • another person watches the television receiver signal quality/strength screen.

Shifting the aerial up and down the antenna pole will often clear this type of problem. Down is often better, due to the secondary reflection off an iron roof.

If that's unsuccessful, it may be possible to find another position for the aerial which results in better reception. There are also aerial configurations that eliminate unwanted signals. Talk to your aerial specialist for information about these.

Dealing with electrical interference

Television interference can often be caused by domestic electrical appliances, either in your own home or in that of a near neighbour.

The interference often occurs only when such an appliance is in use, so noting the times when interference occurs will help you with its identification. Note that many appliances have a standby mode and while they appear to be off are in fact still operating.

Check for potential sources in your own home. This can be done by turning off all electrical products in the house, one by one (while the interference is occurring), until you find one that stops the interference. Note that some products when turned off may still be partially operating, so make sure you turn them off at the wall.

Some products — such as alarm systems — use batteries as a backup when the mains supply is disconnected. In this case you will probably have to get help from the relevant electrical service firm.

Ask your neighbours if they have the same problem. If they do, external interference is the likely cause. However, make sure that they get exactly the same problem at the same time on the same station, otherwise their answer may be misleading.

If you're still unable to identify or locate the source of the interference, contact your local service technician.