NICE AND EASY: Can you use a TV antenna to broadcast from your home?

No.

(OK, the article’s got to be a little longer than that.)

It is both illegal and technologically impossible to use a TV antenna to broadcast TV signals.

(Yeah, that’s not much longer. Let’s give this an honest try, shall we?)

I was contacted by a customer who had this question:

I want to run a neighborhood TV station. It would be fun. I talked to my local cable company and they didn’t want any part of it. I could do it all on the internet but then I’d have to use passwords and such. Just a local TV station for me and my neighbors to pass along information and show what’s going on here. Will one of your antennas do that?

Of course I had to tell this person that what they wanted to do wasn’t going to come to pass. And then, I had to explain why.

The illegal part

In the United States, all broadcasting, in fact all use of radio and television waves, is administered by the Federal Communications Commission. They issue licenses to make sure that broadcasters are serving the public, that they aren’t trying to block each other’s broadcasts, that sort of thing.

Let me back up a little. when I say “all use” I mean it. Cell phones, AM/FM radios, bluetooth speakers, garage door remotes, everything. In some cases the FCC isn’t going to get in your business because things like bluetooth speakers are designed for personal use. Your cell conversations are private, in most cases, but the government can listen in if they have a warrant.

In order to use TV frequencies, you need an FCC license. Which, by the way, you’re not going to get unless you have millions of dollars. It costs a ton of money, on purpose: the FCC wants to make sure that the companies who get these licenses are going to actually use them, and can afford to do so. Operating a large TV station takes a lot of money.

The technologically impossible part

Television antennas are designed to receive many frequencies. Broadcast towers are designed to put out just one. You’ve seen broadcast towers on the side of the road or on tall buildings. They are shaped like big spikes. The part you see isn’t really the broadcast parts, it’s just a tower designed to put the real broadcast equipment up high. That equipment is shaped like a big box or sphere and sends out a super-strong signal in all directions.

In order to broadcast to your neighborhood, you’d need different equipment than just a TV antenna. TV antennas are made of metal and will eventually act as broadcast antennas if you pump enough power through them. However they aren’t very good for this purpose.

Do you need real broadcast equipment?

If you’re a real broadcaster in need of real broadcast equipment, you’ll find a surprising selection at Solid Signal’s commercial equipment section. We have the largest selection of commercial broadcast equipment from towers to modulators to safety gear. Check it out!