An end to channel rescans?

If you get your TV from an antenna, you’ve probably rescanned for channels in the last two years. Chances are you’ve done it several times. Channels 37-51 don’t exist any more. Those frequencies were given over to cell phone companies for 5G. There’s plenty of room for all the channels in your market with 2-36 though. Even the extremely crowded markets like Los Angeles and New York are pretty much set for now, although as they move to ATSC 3.0, things will probably change.

But what if you never had to rescan again? For some people, that is going to sound pretty good about now. Yes, it’s a minor annoyance in a year filled with much bigger annoyances. But hey, baby steps right?

Here’s how it could happen

An article at NABPilot lays it all out. The ATSC 3.0 standard is final, but it still hasn’t been fully adopted. It could be slightly modified for allow for automatic rescans when a channel sends a signal to your TV. Obviously this would be done when no one was using the TV so it would be completely transparent to you.

When you think about it, this technology isn’t revolutionary. Your computer and your phone can get automatic updates, and your smart TV probably already gets them too. The idea that broadcasters have to run a scroll on the bottom of their programs for a whole month and then force you to push buttons seems kind of archaic when you think about it, right? Why wouldn’t your TV just do this?

Will this slow down ATSC 3.0?

It doesn’t have to. The ATSC 3.0 standard is finalized but there is time to make modifications to it and still meet the fairly fuzzy timeline that’s out there. Congress hasn’t taken up the issue of adopting ATSC 3.0 yet at all. They’re not likely to during this term, which gives the people who wrote the standard at least six months to debate it. As I said, this isn’t new technology here. We’re talking about automatic updates, which is something pretty much everyone has done for about a decade.

Remember there is still a lot of work to do before ATSC 3.0 is completely rolled out. We’re in a technology test period, and it’s normal to see changes to a standard during that period. When the technology seems stable, Congress will debate how to roll it out. It’s expected to take about five years from the time that Congress approves a rollout, until the ATSC 1.0 broadcasts stop. So we’re maybe talking about 2026, 2027 at this point. Considering how long 2020 has taken, that seems like an incredibly long time.

In the meantime…

yes we’re still stuck with ATSC 1.0, and there will be more rescans to come as ATSC 3.0 tests continue. In larger markets, subchannels are going off the air so that the ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 broadcasts can exist in one channel. That means you’ll be rescanning again, probably soon.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.