It used to be you would receive this sort of information from the local daily newspaper, but nowadays there is precious little about local broadcast television from that source, so periodically we keep you up to date on the changes that affect your free over-the-air TV service. There are more channels than ever in Portland for you to watch over the air now!
Originally, the Federal Communications Commission authorized the UHF television band all the way up to Channel 83. Back in those days, Portland had only Channels 2, 6, 8, 10, and 12 (KPTV was Portland's first TV station, and the first commercially licensed UHF television station in the world, on Channel 27 – but it later merged with a station that had started up on Channel 12, and took its call letters with it). There weren't many UHF stations in those days – those are TV stations on channels on 14 and above – but there was plenty of room for future expansion, which began nationally in the 1960's and 1970's.
Locally, Channel 22 went on the air from Salem in 1981, as the area's first lasting UHF station; but its coverage from a tower in Silverton was pretty spotty until the station moved its transmitter to Portland, where it transmits today. The first lasting UHF TV station actually licensed to Portland was Channel 49, which went on the air later in the 1980's, and is today owned in tandem with Channel 12.
Meantime, as UHF stations began to gain audience, particularly in the last decade as digital TV transmission took hold, the FCC paradoxically decided to auction off some of the TV band, and suddenly the television service stopped at Channel 69. Later still, another auction took place – the buyers of these frequencies are mostly cellular telephone companies – and the TV band was clipped back to stop after Channel 51.
Well, now, guess what. Yes, another auction earlier this year. And now there isn't a whole lot left of the UHF TV band – it shortly will stop after Channel 36. Fortunately, the digital signals can be transmitted on adjacent channels without causing the interference that prevented doing so with the old analog signals, but that still means that the entire television service will have just 35 channels to work with, and some are blocked out in each area by the use of these channels in nearby areas.
This is a particular problem in Los Angeles, where there are far more than 36 TV stations on the air. So the latest auction allowed TV stations to be paid off in the auction to give up their channels, so fewer channels would be needed. Some stations have done so – just as "cord cutting" has caused a resurgence in over-the-air TV reception. After all, if you can get one of today's digital TV signals, it will be perfect, with no "snow" or "ghosts". A perfect picture. No Portland station volunteered to give up its channel in the auction, though.
And, digital transmission allows each TV station to carry more than one signal within its channel – so today you can get, free over the air, here in Portland, over 40 TV signals!
Digital transmission also means that stations can use different channels than they say they do, and the channel number they use promotionally will be transmitted to your TV so it will appear on the dial where they say it is. There are only four TV stations in Portland that are using the actual channel they say they are – 8, 10, 12, and 22. All the rest are transmitting on different channels than you think – and several are in the Channel 40-49 range.
That means that sooner or later, when the band is cut down to stop at Channel 36, those stations will have to move down. (They will still appear on the dial where they say they are, but you will have to "rescan", at that time, for your TV set to find where they went and start showing them again.)
Notably having to move: Channel 2 – which is actually using Channel 43, and will have to move their signal down to Channel 24; Channel 6 – which is actually using Channel 40, and will have to move down to Channel 25; and Channel 25 – which is actually using Channel 45, and will have to move that signal down to Channel 32. Fortunately, the real Channel 32, which is actually using Channel 33, will not have to move. Channel 49 is actually using Channel 30 and will not have to move, either.
Again, all these channels will still appear on your TV at the old numbers you know, but they will go black on your TV when they move, until you "rescan" so the TV can find them again.
Just when this will happen is unclear, but it will be in the next year or two, and the stations will try to make sure you know about it in advance so you don't lose their signal for long.
Channel 22 will stay put, but the low power TV station they own on Channel 41 will move down to Channel 15; a low-power station owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Channel 38 will move to Channel 36. The list we received from the FCC did not mention Channel 47, which is owned by Channel 2 and relays the Univision Spanish network, but it no doubt will remain in business on some lower channel as well. It is unclear if the low power station on Channel 46 that is owned by Channel 8, or the very low power station that is on Channel 49 but says it is on channels 4, 17, 27, and 37, will remain on the air or not. Channel 10 has a metro repeater on Channel 48, and we expect that to remain available on a lower channel to be announced.
If you have not "rescanned" your TV lately you may not be receiving all the channels currently in Portland, many of which have general entertainment of various types. You should rescan occasionally to make sure you are not missing something you'd like to watch.In addition to all this, the FCC is preparing to approve a new advanced digital TV transmission system which will allow even higher definition (4K), and other features and services – but, drat, it will not be compatible with your current TV. However, the FCC expects stations adopting that system to continue to provide their current digital signal for quite some time yet, so that you won't have to replace your TV….again.
We'll continue to keep you posted from time to time on the continuing evolutions and changes to your free local TV service.
And we fervently hope the FCC is now finally through auctioning off what remains of the UHF TV band!
Here's looking at you…