The ACMA

Television

TV reception

Diagnosing interference: TV reception

Are you still having reception problems, even though your antenna system is the right type to receive TV signals in your area and it’s in good condition?

Does the problem occur intermittently and affect your neighbours’ reception at the same time in the same way?

Your poor reception may actually be because of interference. Interference means that your television reception is affected by the presence of other, unwanted signals (more technically called ‘an emission of electromagnetic energy’) from other devices.

Interestingly, interference does not affect television signal levels; it affects the signal quality, and this is what can cause your reception problems. This means that signal boosters won’t help with interference—they’re likely to make reception problems even worse.

The most important thing to remember is that if you don’t have an appropriate television receiving system, you need to fix your antenna before looking for interference.

If you still think you are suffering from interference, there’s a range of causes, some of which may surprise you!

Electrical appliances

A common cause of interference to TV reception is impulse noise (short high-energy bursts of wideband noise) that is emitted from domestic electrical appliances either in or outside the home. These appliances include:

  • Electric motor-based appliances, including:
    • washing machines
    • swimming pool pumps
    • power tools.
  • Thermostat-controlled appliances, including:
    • hot water systems
    • water-bed heaters
    • refrigerators
    • pool chlorinators.
  • Other electrical items, including:

The best way to identify an interference source in your home or neighborhood is to eliminate possible problem items by turning appliances off and then checking if the interference has gone from your TV.

Amateur and CB radio

If you have an amateur or a CB radio, it may be causing your reception problems. This can be because your equipment or antenna installation is faulty or your equipment isn’t able to reject unwanted transmissions.

Overload of signal amplifiers

Signal boosters like masthead and distribution amplifiers increase the strength of signals received at a television set. They are mainly used in areas that receive weaker signals from distant broadcast sites or to provide signals to several television receivers. They won’t usually improve signal quality and can actually make television receiving systems susceptible to high-level unwanted signal sources.

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.

Power line and street light interference

Defective street lights and power line infrastructure can cause interference to TV reception. Power line interference occurs near high-voltage power lines—most commonly during hot, dry and windy weather when there is sparking between insulators and metal supporting brackets.

A similar problem occurs in the evenings as dew forms on built-up dust, salt or industrial pollution that has collected on the insulators and brackets of the power line—again causing sparking.

In both instances, the interference generally clears after rainfall. If the interference continues after rain, then the power line may be physically faulty and will require maintenance.

Street lighting interference, like power line interference, will generally affect several nearby homes. The interference starts when the street lighting turns on/off or coincides with it flashing on and off during the day or night.

Persistent power line or street light interference should be reported to the relevant electricity supplier.

WARNING: Do not personally attempt to rectify any suspected faults on power poles, power lines or street lighting. It’s essential that you contact your local electricity supplier if problems occur with power or lighting utilities.

Help! I’m still having problems with interference

Your next step is to call an antenna installer. He or she should be able to identify if your reception is affected by interference and, if so, help you to follow the procedure for seeking assistance from the ACMA. There’s a process in place for us to investigate and assess your interference problems.

Last updated: 28 November 2016

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