The hilly countryside in the Hunter means that a large number of TV tower sites are needed to provide adequate television coverage. A weather phenomenon called seasonal ducting also plays a part.
Poor antenna installation and cabling, wrongly located antennas, and incorrect receiver tuning are also to blame for reception difficulties.
Even with correct antenna installation, some viewers in the Hunter region may experience poor TV reception because of the natural phenomenon known as atmospheric or signal ducting.
Atmospheric ducting of TV signals happens when distinctive weather conditions, especially high-pressure systems and still conditions, causes distant broadcast signals to travel further than planned. These unintended ‘rogue’ signals then interfere with local signals because antennas and receivers can’t differentiate between the local signals and those being ducted from distant TV towers.
Seasonal ducting interference affects mainly households in the townships north of Newcastle that receive services from Mt Sugarloaf, as Mt Sugarloaf services operate on the same channels as the high power transmission site that serves the Illawarra area to the south of Sydney.
Summer is the most common time for ducting to occur, but it can happen at any time if conditions are right. You may be able to tell it’s ducting if your TV reception is affected in the late afternoon or early evening.
In 2016 the regional TV commercial broadcasters put forward a plan that the Federal Government supported to address the ducting issue and to improve coverage, by investing in new transmission infrastructure at 3 sites identified by the broadcasters:
- Port Stephens residents - TV tower upgrade
- Bulahdelah residents - new TV tower
- Medowie, Salt Ash and the lower Tilligery Peninsula residents - new TV tower
By using different channels, these towers (as well as Anna Bay) provide an alternative TV source that is reliable and not affected by the ducting.
What you can do
Use the right equipment
You may have to make changes to your existing reception arrangements to take advantage of the new and upgraded services. This may mean:
- adjusting your antenna so that it points to the correct TV tower
- replacing your antenna, along with any cabling or connections that are substandard or in poor condition
As multiple transmission sites provide coverage to this area, some TVs or set-top boxes may automatically tune into services that are affected by ducting, which still gives poor coverage. If you’re getting multiple, different versions of the same channel, try re-tuning your TV. The manual tuning option may be the best way to do this.
Ask the experts
Consult an experienced and reputable antenna installer. They can advise if any of these new towers will cover you, the best antenna type, placement and orientation, and have the right equipment and knowledge to address individual situations.