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Why Did My Broadcast TV Channels Disappear?

By Brian Shim
Published 12/16/2017
 | Updated 07/16/2020

A very common question I get on DisableMyCable.com is "why did some of my broadcast TV channels disappear?" Usually, people think something is wrong with their antenna, but TV antennas are pretty simple devices, just a piece of metal basically (unless it is amplified). Usually, the antenna isn't broken and it's some other issue.

2020 UPDATE: The FCC and TV stations are in the midst of a "channel re-pack" where they are shifting the frequencies of many TV stations. During this period, you may lose channels due to the signal being temporarily weaker while the real antenna tower is upgraded, or due to the signal coming from a different direction. The re-pack is scheduled to continue through mid-2020. See below for more information.

1. The TV Station's Frequency Changed During the FCC "Re-Pack". Here's What to Do.

The most likely culprit for losing a channel during this FCC "re-pack" is that the channel's broadcast frequency changed.

If you suddenly lose a channel, the first thing to try is re-scan for channels on your TV. 

If that doesn't work, unplug your antenna, re-scan, then plug your antenna back in an scan again. Sometimes that helps clear your TV's memory so it can acquire the new channel.

If the channel is still not showing up, and you have an older TV (like my Sony Bravia from 2008), you might have to tune using the station's real RF channel. On modern TVs, you won't need to do this, but my old Sony doesn't support how to map displayed channels to real channels.

To find the station's real physical channel, go to the Station Finder and click the button to launch it. Enter your zip code. When you see the results, find your station's call sign. If you see an "R" next to it, it means the channel was "re-packed" and the frequency has changed.

FCC website showing repacked channel
The "R" next to the station means the frequency changed, and it may appear on a different channel on your TV.

Click the station's call letters so that it expands and you can find the real channel there:

Expanded channel info showing the actual RF channel

Once you've found your station's actual RF channel, try tuning to that channel instead of the station's regular channel. Note, you will have to add a decimal point and a digit to it, often .1 or .3. In my case, even though the website said channel 31, I had to tune to 31.1. And voila! I was able to get my local CBS channel!

If this works for you, you have a couple more options. Try tuning into the station's original channel number. Your TV might recognize it now as the new channel.

If that doesn't work, then check your TV manufacturer's website for a firmware upgrade for your TV. This might allow it to recognize virtual channels.

If these don't work, then you'll just have to use the new channel number instead of the original one. That is my situation with my 2008 Sony Bravia. Kind of a pain, but I'm happy that I've got that channel back!

2. The TV Transmitter Tower Changed Location

In the FCC re-pack, some stations might move temporarily to an auxiliary tower while the main tower is upgraded. So, try to orient your antenna in different directions to find it. Enter your zip code into the Station Finder and click your station's call letters to determine which direction the signal is coming from.

3. The TV Transmitter Power Was Reduced

During the FCC re-pack, your TV channel might have moved to a weaker auxiliary transmitter tower while the main broadcast tower is upgraded. To see if your TV station is temporarily transmitting on lower power, type in your TV's call letters below to see your station's FCC report, for example, "KCBS":

If you see the words, "Special Temporary Authority" in the report in red, it means your station is temporarily operating at reduced power. You can also email or call your station to confirm (usually their contact information is on their website).

If re-scanning doesn't solve the problem, try my tips to improve reception.

4. The TV Station Went Away

Sometimes TV stations go away completely. This happened to a few stations here in Los Angeles, where the FCC allowed TV stations to auction off their spectrum to wireless providers. Usually, these are higher-numbered not-as popular stations as opposed to the major networks. Google the station's call letters to see if you can find out what happened. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about this.

5. Your Antenna Moved - Try Re-Orienting It

From my testing, I've found that even a small change in antenna position or angle can have a big impact on your reception. Try moving your antenna around to see if that helps.

If your antenna is on your roof, you might have to go up there to make sure it hasn't fallen or shifted.

6. Your Antenna's Amplifier Went Bad - Try Bypassing It

An antenna is a dead-simple device, it's pretty much a piece of shaped metal. But, an antenna amplifier a much more complex device, and it's much more prone to failure.

If you have an amplified antenna (i.e, your antenna requires power), such as the Mohu Leaf 50, try removing the amplifier from your antenna and plugging your antenna directly into your TV. This worked for reader Faith G!

7. Your Cables are Loose - Reconnect and Tighten Them

Make sure your coax cable connections are tight, both at your TV and at your antenna. I was advising one reader offline, and this turned out to be his problem! He was losing signal at the same time every day. He disconnected all of his cables to his attic amplifiers, then re-connected them. Problem solved!

8. Electronic Interference - Turn off Other Devices

It is possible that a new electronic device in your home or neighborhood is wreaking havoc on your TV signal. I've heard all kinds of stories about this from my readers.

First, turn off all electronic appliances in your home and see if your reception gets better. This includes fluorescent lights, computers, Wi-Fi routers, cable modems, Bluetooth devices, cell phones, and so on. If your reception improves, turn on each device one-by-one until you find the culprit.

Some users have reported TV interference when their Amazon Fire TV Stick is plugged in. Try unplugging it. If the signal improves, use the HDMI extender cable that came with your Stick and move it around until it goes away. One user wrapped the Stick in aluminum foil to get rid of the interference.

If you live in a condo or apartment complex, it's possible that a neighbor's device is causing the problem. Not much you can do about that, but you can try my tips to improve your antenna's reception.

9. Weather / Atmospheric Conditions

The weather and time of day can adversely affect your TV reception. Clouds, fog, rain, etc. can adversely affect your signal. Some people report worse reception at night while others report the opposite.

Try these tips to improve your reception.

10. Your TV's Tuner is Going Bad

This is less likely than the other items on this list, but it's possible that your TV's tuner circuitry is degrading. I have heard of this from a couple of my readers. If you have another TV, try tuning the missing stations on that one as an experiment.

If your TV's tuner is going bad, you can purchase an external tuner, or even better, a DVR. But, I wouldn't purchase anything until I confirmed for sure that my tuner was bad.

11. There Is a New Physical Obstacle

If they just built a high rise between your home and the TV transmitter, it could be blocking the TV signal. This could happen, especially in big cities like New York. Try playing with your antenna position.

Conclusion

These are some of the reasons why your favorite station might have gone away. Let me know if any of these tips have helped or if you found any other causes for the loss of TV stations. - Brian

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Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
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Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story! - Brian

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