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Over-the-air TV viewers need to rescan Sunday: Here's how and why

KSL's transmitter site on Farnsworth Peak. Utah television viewers who receive their signal over-the-air via an indoor or outdoor digital antenna will need to rescan stations on Sunday, Sept. 9, in order to stay connected to local broadcasters.
KSL's transmitter site on Farnsworth Peak. Utah television viewers who receive their signal over-the-air via an indoor or outdoor digital antenna will need to rescan stations on Sunday, Sept. 9, in order to stay connected to local broadcasters.
Ray Boone, KSL TV

SALT LAKE CITY — Be advised, citizens: "Rescan Day" is nearly upon us.

While sounding a lot like a fearsome holiday from some dystopian futurescape, rescan (that's re-scan) days are actually a necessity born of the ongoing shuffling of the digital broadband landscape by the Federal Communications Commission.

Thanks to wireless service providers' voracious appetite for bandwidth, accommodations to expand and restructure frequency allocations has led to the need for about 1,000 broadcasters across the country to perform realignments.

On Sept. 9, Utah viewers who access local television broadcasts via over-the-air digital antennas, mounted either inside or outside their homes, will need to execute an autotune or station rescan from their TVs to continue to receive all their local broadcasts.

Six of Utah's full-power broadcast stations will be making a switchover in the wee hours of the morning on that day. Engineers from each of the stations are working together to complete the process, which has been underway behind the scenes for months, according to KUED technical director Phil Titus.

"We've been working about a year-and-a-half preparing for this move," Titus said. "Six full-power and several low-power stations in our area have to move. Technicians and engineers from all of our stations, even the ones not being affected by this changeover, have been working together at our combined antenna facility on Farnsworth Peak."

Titus said he didn't have the exact figures, but believes the switch is costing each broadcast outlet around $1 million. Most of the expenditures will be reimbursed with a portion of the billions of dollars the FCC has raised through auctioning off new and previously occupied frequencies, mostly to wireless companies.

While the work on the back end is complicated, technical and requires modifications to antennas, transmitters and combiners, for viewers who successfully complete their rescanning procedure, no perceptible changes will be noticed, including no change to each station's previous TV channel designations.

Also, those who receive their television signals via cable, satellite or streaming service will not need to make any changes.

Broadcast outlets involved in the move include PBS affiliates KBYU Ch. 11 and KUED Ch. 7, NBC affliate KSL Ch. 5, ABC affiliate KTVX Ch. 4, CW Network affiliate KUCW Ch. 30, independent KJZZ Ch. 14, and Telemundo affiliate KEJT Ch. 10.

Salt Lake's other channels, KUTV Ch. 2 and KSTU Ch. 13, weren't required to make changes due to their previous frequency allocations.

Rescanning channels on most TVs is a simple procedure.

  1. Select Scan or Autotune from your TV remote control or converter box control menu to start the scanning process.
  2. Your TV will do the rest. This process usually takes just a few minutes to complete.

Once the rescan is complete, you will find your favorite stations on the same channel numbers as before. If you have difficulties, you can usually find instructions by selecting the "Set-Up" or "Menu" button on your television or converter box remote control.

While the number of over-the-air TV viewers was down to around 15-16 percent of total audience in 2010 for local stations, those numbers have been on the rise. Currently, around 1/4 of local viewers pull in local stations via a digital antenna.

For DirecTV customers who lost access to broadcasts of KSL Ch. 5 on Aug. 14 over a contract dispute, a station representative said negotiations are ongoing.