Free rabbit ears for some cable subscribers


As someone who cut the cord and went with rabbit ears I really hope this backfires for the cable company.


If you find yourself in a situation where you need to know where to aim a TV antenna:

A few months back Mark had some Gweek-guests who talked about the current state of antenna TV. If you’re in a metropolitan area, and your house (or antenna) has some elevation, you can get a fairly good selection of channels. In addition to the b’cast networks – in HD! – there are a number of substations with nostalgia programming, foreign language stuff, and religious content.

It is possible that the RAW cable feed from TWC in LA still has CBS. Plug the antenna directly into a TV with a QAM tuner and do a scan!


From what I’ve heard from the analysts, this dispute is likely to last for some weeks still, because we’re in the summer doldrums right now and nobody cares too much about TV anyway. Once football season starts back up, you can expect a quick end to this one way or another, because cable companies know where their bread is buttered.


This is really sad. About the only advantage I can think of to cable these days is easy access to all the channel. We cut the cord two years ago, I still watch lots of tv, without illegal downloading. We’ve got an antenna, netflix, legal channel streaming and dvd rentals from the library.

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As someone from the UK, where we don’t have that style of TV antenna or that nickname for them, I have to say that the photo and article seriously failed to live up to the image that the headline planted in my head.


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Take out the dubiously shaped bit in the middle, and you’ve got what was standard fare for TVs on this side of the pond for decades. Pretty much every TV I had as a kid came with a pair. They’re just V shaped telescoping antennas you had to fiddle with a bunch to get snow free reception, but they’ve sure entered the popular culture over here.

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Times Warner Cable subscriber: “I haven’t been able to watch Under The Dome! My life is ruined! Ruined!”

TWC non-subscriber: “I’ve been watching Under The Dome every week! My life is ruined! Ruined!”


As a non-TV-haver, I mock the rest of you. Mock! Mock!

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I’ve known a lot of people who claimed that they only paid for cable because the TV reception in their area was bad, but to my knowledge none of them had even attempted to use a rooftop antenna. It’s obviously not an option for everyone, but I think it’s one of those decisions where most people shrug and go with cable because they assume that’s just the way things are nowadays.

Rabbit ears are most effective at receiving VHF frequencies. Other antennas may be better at receiving UHF frequencies-- technically, US television stations can be assigned to either band, but UHF stations tend to dominate. Before digital TV, most of the major networks had VHF stations; UHF was commonly used by unaffiliated stations-- thus Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF. Since the networks were more popular than the independents, the rabbit ear antenna was the default for viewers who didn’t use a roof top antenna.
In the UK, UHF seems to be used. Thus a different antenna would have entered the cultural imagination.

Ironically, most broadcasters in the US have moved over to the UHF band; I don’t know why.

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Somehow it always ended up that the only way to get the very best picture was to stand there holding one of the antennas.


I had a professor who actually explained this one - it turns out the human body is the perfect adaptive antenna.


One factor In the US is definitely frequency allocations. In the US, per FCC rules, there are twelve 6-MHz VHF Channels (Analog channels 2-13) while there are 69 UHF Channels (Analog channels 13-83). Another could be how VHF and UHF propagate, VHF has the distance, aka line of sight advantage due to longer wavelength, while UHF’s higher frequency penetrates obstacles like buildings and trees much more efficiently. Hate to only vite Wikipedia but they have some great (and accurate info), as well as this beautiful Frequency allocation chart, readable high-res PDF here

North American Broadcast Channels


wikipedia notes

UHF radio waves propagate mainly by line of sight; they are blocked by hills and large buildings although the transmission through building walls is high enough for indoor reception

but apparently the big advantage is power.

Here’s the line up in my city

ABC-7 (VHF 7): 30 kW
NBC-4 (UHF-48): 813 kW
CBS-9 (VHF-9): 12.6 kW
Fox-5 (UHF-36): 1000 kW

A substantial savings, wouldn’t you say?

No, UHF is more easily absorbed by objects than VHF. But I thought the US (and Canada) re-allocated the VHF band and converted all analog stations to digital a few years back. With the exception of some remote stations that remain analog. here

Here’s how it worked.
Prior to 1996, all television signals were analog (NTSC). Most cities had a fully populated VHF band (2-13) and a thinly populated UHF band (14-83). In the 1980s, channels 70-83 were reallocated to mobile frequencies, and UHF stations in that band were reassigned.

After 1996, the FCC gave a second channel to existing TV stations so that they might broadcast digitally. The digital tuners could be programmed to keep track of frequencies–so “Channel 9” might actually be broadcasting on channel 35. Most unassigned channels were in the UHF band, so these secondary digital channels were assigned UHF licences. Thus, ordinary UHF antennas were sold to a somewhat gullible public as “HDTV” antennas.

After analog broadasting ceased in 2009, these old NTSC frequencies were no longer needed, and these digital stations could be migrated back to the old channel slots, if desirable.

And because the tuner kept track of what frequency a “tv channel” was actually using, and because digital television doesn’t need guard bands, the whole block of uhf frequencies can be squeezed down again. Channels 51-69 have been sold off to cell phone companies.

The cable and satellite companies in Canada took the digital transition as an excuse to shut down broadcast stations that they owned and force people to get cable or satellite to keep receiving certain networks. CBC couldn’t afford to switch a lot of their repeaters to digital because the Conservatives kept cutting their budget every year and stacking the board with cronies.

So now there’s no CBC station broadcasting where I live. No Global. No CTV. For Americans, this is the equivalent of not having PBS, NBC, and CBS. Oh, and other than public broadcasters (like CBC and TVO) and a few independent channels, the cable and satellite companies own the broadcast stations.

Well, glad to see you transponding datagrams one way or another, though I don’t understand how you’ve done (esp. xmsn) with rabbit ears. You mean, you would rather have people doing appointment viewing; you would rather this (just CBS, I would think) thing forces cable companies to sell ads catering to OTA customers, buy OTA channel slots, and throw a few encrypted OTA premium-content signals out; or data modems and a Local ATSC Channel allocation of some sort (an FCC license, at least) should shake out?

Isn’t that their motto? ‘Let 10,000 varietal Belgian Lop-Eared, Dutch Spotted, Western American Hare and Blue Doubles RabbitEars Bloom?’
see also
or Trayvon Martin edition: (guest ad scripts NSFW, so you know.)