What's wrong with my TV reception? | ACMA

What's wrong with my TV reception?

We all love watching television, and there’s nothing more frustrating than when our reception begins to play up. If you’ve been having problems with your TV signal, there’s a few possible culprits.

All Australians should generally be able to receive free-to-air television, either terrestrially or via satellite (if terrestrial coverage is not available), provided they have the correct receiving equipment. TV broadcasters provide this service, with support from the Australian Government.

The vast majority of all television reception issues are caused by:

  • cables and fly leads that are old, damaged or not plugged in properly
  • a TV or set-top box that isn’t tuned to the correct channels
  • an antenna that isn’t up to scratch or isn’t pointing to the correct transmitter
  • areas with deficient coverage or fringe reception
  • trying to receive signals from outside the intended coverage area of a transmitter.

Less often, your television reception may be affected by interference or signal overload from other sources. But it’s important to remember if you don’t have an appropriate television receiving system, you need to fix your antenna before looking for interference.

The causes and solutions for each of these issues can be very different, so it’s important to identify exactly why you’re having problems.

We’ve outlined a step-by-step procedure to help identify and resolve your television reception issues. In many cases, you’ll need to visit the government’s mySwitch website, https://myswitch.digitalready.gov.au, so bookmark this page!

  1. Check to make sure your cables and fly leads are in good condition and properly connected between your wall socket and television set, personal video recorder (PVR) or set-top box.

Loose connections, old or damaged cables and connectors may affect the quality of your television reception. Go to Do I have the right antenna system? for more information.

  1. Go to mySwitch, type in your address and look for the following information:
  • the level of television signal coverage available in your area
  • the TV transmitter that provides the best coverage to your address, including in which direction you should point your antenna
  • the TV frequencies (channels) and signal polarisation (V = vertical or H = horizontal) for the TV transmitter that will provide your best coverage
  • alerts about planned outages or known reception issues in your area
  • the retune date for the TV transmitter that will provide your best coverage (check out http://retune.digitalready.gov.au for more information).

If mySwitch indicates that you live in an area with poor coverage or outside terrestrial (land-based) television coverage, you’ll need to receive digital TV via satellite through the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service. Go to Should I consider the VAST service? for more information.

  1. Make sure that your receiver has been tuned to the correct channels.

This is essential to ensuring adequate reception, especially if:

  • Your reception problems coincide with the retune date of your transmission site—if this is the case, you need to retune your TV receiver (you may want to follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s manual). On your remote, press the MENU button, then look for ‘set-up’ options and choose ‘auto-tuning’ or ‘channels’ for manual tuning. If auto-tuning does not improve your reception, you should use manual tuning and select the channels of the TV transmitter providing the best coverage in your area.
  • You live in an area covered by more than one TV transmitter—if mySwitch indicates that you’re in an area covered by multiple TV transmitters, your TV receiver may be tuned to weaker, more distant signals, while the good local signals are available to you. Manually tune your TV by selecting the channels of the TV transmitter that provides the best coverage in your area.
  1. Make sure your antenna system is up to scratch.

Most reception issues are caused by an inadequate antenna set-up, old or broken antennas and cabling, or inappropriate use of masthead amplifiers.

You should have a single antenna installed on your roof. Based on the mySwitch information (step two), check if:

  • your antenna is the right type for the channels of the transmitter providing your best coverage
  • your antenna is pointing towards the transmitter providing the best coverage
  • your antenna is correctly oriented so that its elements are horizontal or vertical to match V or H polarisation of the signal.

You should also check if your antenna is installed outdoors, is in good condition and is securely mounted, and if your cable needs replacing. A good quality cable can significantly improve your reception. For households with multiple television outlets, make sure the cabling to each wall outlet is done properly.

Legacy or broken antennas should be removed from the roof. If you use multiple antennas pointing to different TV transmitters, you’re likely to experience reception difficulties.

Any work on your antenna system should be done by an experienced antenna installer. Your installer should also be able to advise how to optimise your antenna system to ensure reliable reception. Go to Do I have the right antenna system? for more information.

  1. If you have a masthead or distribution amplifier (signal booster) installed, check that you actually need it.

By default, you don’t need a signal booster for adequate reception within television signal coverage areas. You should consider using a masthead amplifier only if the signal reaching your antenna is weak because of the distance from the transmitter or because it’s obstructed. Even then, using a high-gain antenna may be a better option. Talk with your antenna installer and do your research before using signal booster as these kinds of devices can actually cause reception difficulties and even interfere with your neighbors’ TV reception. Go to Do I need a signal booster? for more information.

If your local expert determines that a masthead or distribution amplifier is necessary to provide enough signal level to your television receivers, we strongly advise that you ask her or him to install an amplifier with a built-in filter or to install a filter in front of the amplifier. This will limit the potential impact of mobile broadband signals on your television reception.

  1. Make sure your antenna system is optimised (see step four).

If your system isn’t set up properly, your reception problems may be triggered or exacerbated by the rollout of new 4G mobile broadband services in your area. If you live within one kilometre of a mobile broadband base station and your antenna system has a masthead or distribution amplifier, you may experience a sudden change to your TV reception quality affecting all channels.

Your reception problems can be resolved by optimising your antenna system, removing the amplifier if not required or simply inserting a filter at the appropriate point in your installation. If you have experienced a sudden change to your TV reception quality, you should consult an experienced antenna installer. Go to What’s the link between mobile broadband and TV reception? for more information.

  1. If mySwitch indicates that you live in an area with good signal coverage and you believe you have an optimised antenna system, but you’re still experiencing reception issues, you should:
  • check mySwitch for planned outages or known reception issues in your area and follow alerts/advice
  • talk with your neighbours and check if they’re experiencing the same issue
  • call an antenna installer, who should be able to identify if your reception is affected by interference. Go to Is interference causing my reception problems? for more information.

The pages below explain in more detail some of the main things to look out for and what you can do about them. There are some basic checks you can easily do yourself but, where possible, we always recommend enlisting the help of reputable local experts to save you time and hassle.


As well as the information on our website, the following resources are available to help you solve your TV reception problems.




Fact sheet—Getting the most out of your digital TV reception

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Last updated: 22 December 2014