Why Did My Broadcast TV Channels Disappear?

by | Last updated Mar 13, 2024

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.

If your channels disappeared after doing a re-scan, check out this article.

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 in 2020’s FCC “re-pack” is that the channel’s broadcast frequency changed.

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

If that doesn’t work, unplug your antenna, re-scan, then plug your antenna back in and 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.

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 transmitters 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 Temporarily Reduced

During the FCC re-pack, a TV station might temporarily use a lower-power transmitter while they upgrade their equipment. 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” (note, site may take a long time to load):

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.

Another possibility is that the TV transmitter had a technical difficulty resulting in reduced power. Try emailing the station to find out why the station went away. Reader Eric did this and they responded:

One of our transmitters experienced a power surge and needs a part replaced. We ordered one and will replace it as soon as we get it!


4. The TV Station Changed From MPEG2 to MPEG4 Encoding

MPEG2 is the original standard for encoding digital TV broadcasts, but a small number of TV stations have now started to change to MPEG4 only. If you have an older TV, it might not be able to decode these newer signals. Right now this applies to a small number of stations, but the list will undoubtedly grow. For more details, check out this great explanation from The Antenna Man.

The solution is to either purchase an external tuner or a new TV.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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. Here are more tips to avoid interference from your Amazon Fire Stick.

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.


8. 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 is 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!

9. 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!

10. Atmospheric Conditions, “Tropospheric Ducting”

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.

Tropospheric Ducting” is when TV signals bounce back down to the Earth from the troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere) and travel much further than usual. Isn’t that a good thing though? Actually, no, because you can get far-away TV signals interfering with your local stations. The only solution is to wait it out. It usually ends in a matter of hours.

Try these tips to improve your reception.

11. 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.

12. 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.


13. There’s a New Cell Tower in Town

New cell phone towers are constantly being built. These can interfere with your TV reception. If you are getting reception, but there is occasional pixelation, the problem might be LTE cell tower interference. In that case, an LTE filter might help. I recommend the Channel Master model:

Note, this filter probably won’t help if you cannot get any reception at all. It can only potentially help improve picture quality and pixelation.

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

I'm an electrical engineer (BSEE Caltech) with twenty years of experience designing industrial and consumer products, and now a web developer who loves to share ways to save money on TV content, Internet access, and cell phone plans! Read more about me here.

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Cindy Schmidt
Cindy Schmidt
1 month ago

I’m not receiving reception for channel 2……it’s on all my TV’s.

angie
angie
1 month ago

ok, i figured this out when everyone was having the same issue. ive read through all the reasons, and how to try and fix them. nothing has worked! are you saying i now have to either get cable or other BOUGHT ” machine” or tool? this is ridiculas! but not a bit surprising. covid did its little population cleansing, i guess its the boomers turn because most of them are not computer savvy. soon, no paper money, run off credits ypuve earned. it is terrifying how science fiction has already begun, all those old writers saw the writing on yhe wall. so, please make some allowances for those who worked all their lives, only to choose bills over food.

Jason Brown
Jason Brown
4 months ago

Hi Brian. I have an antenna tv and when I first turn on my tv I have a pixilated screen. After 10 minutes or so the channel starts to come in clearer. And after a half an hour the picture comes in perfectly. This happens even when I turn my tv off for a few minutes then turn it back on again it starts the process all over again. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Steve
Steve
5 months ago

My antenna seems to receive all the usual channels that it always has, but today suddenly NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX I can’t view. All the other non-major ones are fine to see still. What happened and is it fixable?

Sherrie
Sherrie
6 months ago

Hi Brian! Glad you’re here for those of us navigating this “new” journey after cord-cutting:) They haven’t made it too easy on us lately… My new thing is that Ch 23.5 (REWIND) has the menu listings & show descriptions that belong to a whole other broadcast channel entirely attached to it. It’s showing me what’s currently on Ch 11.5, instead. Even lists itself as 11.5 while tuned to 23.5. If that makes sense.. In fact, there are whole blocks of this kinda switheroo thruout, up & down the dial. To make it even more fun: 23.5 -Rewind has absolutely NO sound (even though I have a strong signal) and have REscanned a number of times. While the other tv does have sound (it still experiences the same ‘identity crisis’ thang)! To me, this is the oddest occurence so far. Sheesh… hope you can make sense of it (as well as my desc – hard to explain eloquently)!! Thank you again for what you do! -Sherrie Brand, north Mpls 55429

Sherrie
Sherrie
6 months ago
Reply to  Sherrie

I knew I would mess up my wording at some point! For instance, I may be watching, as exmpl: Growing Pains on Rewind, but it’s really showing me the listings for Longmire on Circle. And l8ke I said, it’s not just the one instance (or ‘block o’ channels’)

Sherrie
Sherrie
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Shim

Thank you for your kind response, Brian. I truly wish it were the case… however, they’re both new (2022). Indeed! The sound deal with my bdrm tv is a head-scratcher! It used to only happen before getting the antenna in a sweet spot. When there’s interference, there’ll [either] be poor pic OR zero volume (on any channel) but, again, it’s just the one tv. The one I refer to as 50/50. Since it did that with every unit I’ve had in there, I wonder if it has to do with being in close proximity to the apt bldg’s boiler room. Perhaps also reaching the livingrm tv. When there’s interference, Brian, would it help to use one of those __?__ can’t recall the gadget’s name (helps quiet that type of noise).. Hey thx again – sorry didn’t see your response sooner

Butch Muir
Butch Muir
7 months ago

I live in Anne Arundel county Maryland where last year the channel 4 for NBC, channel 5 FOX, channel 11 CBS, channel 9 NBC all came in clearly. With the same roof antenna these network stations have signals too week to receive, although I receive 50 other channels over the air what has changed?

Gina
Gina
7 months ago

Surrounded by trees, will indoor tv antenna work

Fortunato Lupinacci
Fortunato Lupinacci
1 year ago

i lost channel 1518 why

Jdog
Jdog
7 months ago

Because there refuseing to fix they shit

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