GC Digital TV: History and How to Connect

The following article was contributed by Charlie Cannaliato, an engineer with the television districts here in Granite County. The Flint Creek Courier thanks Charlie for sharing his knowledge and expertise in this area.


HISTORY:

Years ago free over the air TV used to be available in both Drummond and Philipsburg. Each town had two channels of TV; one from Butte and one from Missoula. These channels were in analog format and the quality varied from poor to good depending on many variables. As time went by, the FCC licenses were not renewed and the stations fell into disrepair. Several years ago, applications were made for new free over the air TV channels in Drummond and Philipsburg. These would be digital channels bringing superior quality and High Definition TV to Granite County. The process was completed a few years ago and free TV has been available in Philipsburg and Drummond since then. This article is to help you learn about digital TV and show you how to receive the signals.


WHAT IS DIGITAL TV?

Digital TV or DTV for short is a new way of transmitting TV signals from the station to the viewer. In the days of analog, the farther you were from the tower, the weaker the signals became; the picture got snowy. Even worse, the surrounding mountains caused the signals to bounce and reflect which produced ghosts and degraded the quality significantly. With DTV, you either get the signal or you don’t. If you get it, it should be as pure in quality as it left the originating station. In addition there are two other major benefits: (1) stations can broadcast in High Definition and (2) they can broadcast more than one program at a time.


HOW CAN I RECEIVE DTV IN DRUMMOND OR PHILIPSBURG?

First of all, you need an outdoor antenna. All of the signals in Granite County are UHF so the antennas are smaller, lighter, and easier to install. At the end of this article, there are links to antennas that you should use. Then you need a Digital Television or a DTV Converter Box. A Converter box will work with any TV set no matter how old it is; it will not be able to receive High Definition, however. The newer “flat screen” TV’s are capable of receiving DTV and also offer HD.


HOW DO I CONNECT A DIGITAL TV OR CONVERTER BOX?

With a converter box, follow the directions that came with it. Essentially, you connect the outdoor antenna to the INPUT of the Converter and then the OUTPUT of the Converter to your conventional TV set. Now set your TV to channel 3 and follow the setup instructions. If you turn on your TV (on channel 3) and the Converter Box and you don’t see anything, check your connections. If you have connected everything properly, you should see a setup screen; follow the instructions.

With a “flat screen” TV simply connect the outdoor antenna to the TV set. Go to the setup menu and follow the instructions. Make sure you have selected OFF-AIR rather than cable.

With both the Converter Box and the Flat Screen, you will need to do a “scan”. This can be confusing! DTV stations can broadcast on a specific channel but the channels that appear to you are different. For example, in Philipsburg, KECI is broadcast on channel 17. During the initial “SCAN” your TV set will find channel 17 and label it as KECI-HD, channel 13.1. It will also find channels 13.2 (MeTV) and 13.3 (Movies). From this point onward, you will always tune in KECI by selecting channel 13 then use the channel up button to get to 13.2 and 13.3.


NOTE: You must do a scan before you can select any channels. Trying to tune in a channel directly prior to a scan will result in no picture. This applies to both Converter Boxes and Flat Screen TV’s.


WHERE DO I POINT THE ANTENNA?

In Drummond and Hall, it is on Airport Road, just off the highway. In Philipsburg, it is at the top of Discovery Ski Area (Rumsey Mountain).


WHAT CHANNELS ARE AVAILABLE NOW?

In Philipsburg:

  • KECI (NBC in HD)

  • MeTV

  • Movies!

  • KPAX (CBS in HD)

  • The CW

  • GRIT

  • Ion

  • KTMF (ABC and FOX both in HD)

  • SWX

  • KSPS (PBS in HD)

  • PBS Create

  • PBS World

  • PBS Kids

(Note: The PBS channels are currently down; we hope to have them restored soon.)


In Drummond:

  • KECI (NBC in HD)

  • MeTV

  • Movies!

  • KXLF (CBS in HD)

  • The CW

  • GRIT

  • Ion

  • KWYB (ABC and FOX both in HD)

  • SWX

  • KUSM (PBS in HD)

  • PBS Create

  • PBS World

  • PBS Kids

  • Montana Legislature.


WILL RABBIT EARS WORK?

Probably not. Do not buy amplified rabbit ears as they are a waste of money. A simple outdoor antenna works best. I suggest the antennas listed below or their equivalent. They require some assembly but are small and very light weight at only a few pounds. Here are some links to products and vendors:

Walmart: (walmart.com)

  • The Onn 4K HD Motorized Outdoor TV Antenna (150 mile range) currently selling for $25.98.

  • Ta-102g Outdoor Amplified HDTV Antenna (150 mile range) currently selling for $28.59 Amazon: (amazon.com)

  • Vansky Outdoor 150 Mile Motorized 360 Degree Rotation OTA Amplified HD TV Antenna currently selling for $35.59

  • Outdoor Amplified HD TV Antenna 150 Miles Long Range with Motorized 360 Degree Rotation currently selling for $29.99

Solid Signal (solidsignal.com)

  • QFX UHF VHF Amplified HDTV Antenna 360° Rotating Outdoor Antenna (ANT106) currently selling for $21.99

I would avoid “flat” antennas, omni directional antennas, and rabbit ears. You need a UHF antenna. There is no such thing as a “digital” or “4K” antenna; antennas are antennas.

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