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Scan (or re-scan) for channels on your TV

  A series of old antenna televisions on test channels.
Gts / Shutterstock

So you're trying to watch free wireless TV, but you can not find any channels. That's completely normal. You just have to do a quick channel search (or a new search) and you're ready to go.

Why do I have to search for channels?

Digital Television (ATSC 1

.0) served as the standard for free, broadcast television since the 1990s. And like any 20-year technology, it's a bit strange. You would expect a TV to know which local channels are available, like a radio, but that's not the case. Instead, your TV stores a list of available channels. Strange, what?

Do you know how old televisions (and radios) had to be tuned to transmitters by hand? When you search for channels on a TV, this process is basically done for you. The TV slowly cycles through all sorts of TV frequencies and creates a list of all available channels on the go. If you watch TV later, just scroll through this list. Of course, this list must be updated from time to time, and you must restart the search.

When should I search for channels?

You must search for channels at local change frequencies whenever you make a change. This means that every time you move, you need to buy a new TV or antenna, and then search again each time a local TV station changes to a different broadcast frequency.

Does not work, looking for channels. "But right now America is in a transition to radio television. Due to an FCC mandate, broadcasters are constantly switching to 4K-compatible, ATSC 3.0-compliant frequencies that do not interfere with mobile radio frequencies. As a result, all televisions are slowly losing track of local channels. In addition, completely new channels could appear near you and your TV does not know they are there.

The solution? Check for new channels every month or every time you discover a local broadcast is missing. It's a simple process and worth doing for free OTA TV.

Scanning (or rescanning) channels

  Scanning channels on a VIZIO E Series TV
VIZIO / YouTube

Scanning (or rescanning) channels is usually an automated process. Everything you need to do to start this process in a few simple steps. And although these steps are different for each TV, the process is quite similar on every TV.

  1. Make sure your TV is connected to an antenna.
  2. Press the Menu button on your remote control. If you do not have a remote control, your TV should have a built-in menu button.
  3. Select "Channel Search" in your TV's menu. This option is sometimes referred to as "Search Again," "Set," or "Auto Tuning."
  4. If you can not find the Channel Search option, browse the TV's "Settings," "Extras," and "Channels," or "Options." For some TVs, press the "Input" button and switch to "Antenna". Searching channels can take up to 10 minutes.
  5. When browsing is complete, your TV either indicates how many channels are available, or you are put back in a broadcast.
  6. Are there still some channels missing? Run another scan or check the Mohu website to see which channels are available in your area. You may also need to move your antenna to improve reception.

If you are having trouble finding the Channel Search option on your TV, refer to the manual. You will usually find an instruction manual by searching the Internet for the manufacturer and model of the TV and entering the word "User's Guide".

Why can not my TV automatically search for channels?

Granted, this is a bit awkward and annoying to work with. If radios do not have to do tedious rescans, why can not televisions automatically search for channels?

Scanning (or rescanning) is an automated process. You only force your TV to start this process. The reason why your TV does not automatically search for new channels without your permission is that it would be uncomfortable and disturb the television.

  A row of television towers flanked by a beautiful sunset.
Sutham / Shutterstock

Remember, we are dealing with 20 year old technology. There is nothing wrong with that. It only has a few quirks. One of these quirks is that a TV can not be used for TV scanning. If your TV is routinely searching for new channels without your permission, you'll occasionally have to deal with random 10-minute silence periods. This can even happen while watching an important soap opera or football game.

If you are wondering why your radio does not need to perform automatic searches, you can easily tune in a radio while it's running. A good radio signal is filled with a mixture of loud and quiet parts (music), while a bad signal is filled with monotone static or silence. Therefore, most radios have a built-in tuning circuit that simply checks the amplitude response of radio frequencies. If you press "Next" on your radio, only a few frequencies pass through the tuning circuit, and everything that has a mix of loud and quiet parts is saved.

Scanning Channels Will Be Ceased Soon

As mentioned above, the FCC is switching to the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard. It's a fascinating change that's worth investigating. Over the next decade, ATSC 3.0 will allow us to watch TV on virtually any device, including phones, tablets and cars, in 4K quality.

Of course, channel scanning would be a problem for a handheld device or a car. When you move around the city (or even your home), the frequencies are changing in terms of quality and availability. The FCC eliminates the need for station search in ATSC 3.0. Eventually, you'll forget that you've ever had to sit for 10 minutes in front of your TV as it searches for channels, and this guide will disappear in the air.

RELATED: ASTC 3.0 Explained: Broadcast TV arrives on your phone

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