Ask LH: Why Is Channel 7 Reception So Bad?

Hi Lifehacker, My TV works fine except for Channel 7 — the signal quality can drop for no apparent reason from 10 to 5 or even 3. This can happen at any time during the day but is most prevalent at night after 5pm. It’s been a real problem ever since we went digital. Any suggestions? Thanks, Seven Strikes

Dear SS,

Being a Blue Mountains man, I can relate to poor reception of individual channels — it’s an issue that’s plagued regional viewers since the dawn of the analogue era. As a kid, I missed out on most of the Angel/Shane saga on Home & Away due to crappy reception. It’s an emotional loss that I’ve never fully recovered from.

But I digress. Your televisual woes could be caused by a number of factors. Let’s look at these in turn and then discuss some possible solutions.

The reason you’re noticing it more now is probably because digital artifacts and audio dropouts are far more disruptive than old image noise. The most likely explanation is that your house is on the edge of a “digital cliff”, which is right on the perimeter of the signal for your area. As a general rule of thumb, you can expect to encounter a problematically weak signal if you live more than 50km away from the nearest transmission tower. Naturally, your reception can also be hampered by large objects obstructing your external television antenna such as trees or mountains.

You can find out how far away the nearest transmission tower is by paying a visit to the Oz Digital TV website. This provides a comprehensive list of digital TV transmitter locations and frequencies within all Australian states and territories.

You mentioned that the reception tends to be worse at night — this suggests that tropospheric propagation could also be playing a role. This is an electromagnetic quirk caused by fluctuating temperatures at dusk. (i.e. — TV signals bounce off the boundary between warm and cooler air layers. At night, this boundary becomes less distinct, which results in a drop in reception quality.)

Your TV equipment could also be to blame. This is less likely when a single channel is affected, but stranger things have happened. Start by checking the coaxial cable connecting your TV to the antenna: is it old, frayed or tangled? If so, a replacement might be in order. Also reset and retune your television — use the Government’s myswitch website to ensure your channels are tuned into the correct frequencies. It also can’t hurt to experiment with light switches in your house — some LEDs are known to interfere with TV signals.

If all else fails, get a technician to take a look at your roof antenna, especially if it’s never been repaired/replaced before. People tend to assume that these things are impervious to damage despite being exposed to the elements 24/7.

You can find some additional tips in Digital Ready’s guide to tackling poor reception. If any readers have solutions of their own, please let SS know in the comments section below. Good luck!


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