Channel changes: How to ensure your favorite stations stay on your TV

People who subscribe to cable or satellite will not be affected.

Ian Bush
July 17, 2018 - 8:53 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Over the next two years, nearly 1,000 television stations will change channels as more room is made "in the air" for data-devouring smartphones and other wireless devices. Two of the new assignments take effect on Wednesday in the greater Philadelphia area.

On July 18, new frequency assignments will be added for two local TV stations: WFMZ in Allentown (known as channel 69), and WLVT, the public broadcaster in Bethlehem (also called PBS39).

"For people who subscribe to cable or satellite, they'll be unaffected by these moves," said Steve Gardner with TVanswers.org.

But for the 77 million people who watch free, over-the-air TV using an antenna, they must take action.

"They will have to re-scan or auto-tune their TVs to keep watching," he explained.

For most TV sets, that's a three-step process:

  • Press MENU or SETUP on the remote you use to change channels.
  • Select SETTINGS or CHANNEL or ANTENNA.
  • Select RE-SCAN or CHANNEL SCAN or AUTO-TUNE.

On July 23, you'll have to do the same thing to continue to receive WTVE (TV51) out of Reading.

"There are only about 12 or 13 crews across the entire United States who know how to do this work on the television towers," Gardner added. "So they're working their way across the country doing this."

Cellphone companies like T-Mobile are going through the hassle in the first place so they can begin to build the next-generation (5G) wireless network and ease congestion on the current one. 

Last year, the federal government held an auction to free up scarce spectrum, bringing in nearly $20 billion for broadcasters who relinquished their licenses.

But again, if you subscribe to Comcast, Verizon Fios or another cable or satellite provider, you will not affected.