Rescan for channels again. Yes, again

I know I just talked about this around two months ago. But, it’s time to scan for channels again. If your market has any channels in phase 6, it’s time to scan again because the deadline for phase 6 transition passed October 18.

What’s this really all about?

If you’re new to the process, I’ll point you back to this article from 2017. The FCC, the government agency that regulates television, spent most of the 2010s cooking up a kooky scheme. They would take away channels 37-51 and give those frequencies to cellular users for 5G data. Broadcasters could sell their licenses back if they wanted to, or accept a subsidy to move from a high broadcast frequency to a lower one. Most took the subsidy, and in mid-’17, the FCC announced their plan to relocate over 1,000 broadcast stations. This came to be known as “the repack.”

How am I affected?

If you only get local channels from cable or satellite, or if you stream, you’re not affected at all. However if you get your local channels from an antenna you’ll probably have to rescan several times between now and next summer. It’s easy to rescan. It starts with pressing the MENU button on your TV’s remote. Look for a screen that says “Setup” or “Antenna Setup” or “Off-Air Setup,” something like that. Then there’s usually an option to scan for channels.

What’s all this about phases, then?

The FCC decided that this all would happen slowly. Each station was assigned a “phase.” That’s a chunk of time when they could begin testing their new frequency. At the end of the phase they would change to their new frequency.

You would think, the way our government works sometimes, that they would just have every station do it all at the same time and cause massive havoc. But, surprisingly, they were smarter than that. Not only did they break this up into ten phases, they also staggered the transition within metro areas. Some cities have stations in three different phases, in order to keep some semblance of order.

How can I find out if I’m affected?

Really you don’t need to worry about it if you are willing to scan for channels once a month just to keep things up to date. If you want more detailed information, though, this article lays it out to you and includes a link to a volunteer-run site where you can get even more information

When will all this nonsense be over?

Because the goal is to keep things smooth and avoid harsh transitions, the whole process which started back in late ’17 won’t be done until the summer of ’20. I’m not saying you’ll never have to rescan again after that, but you can stop doing it so frequently at that point… at least until NextGen TV comes in and causes even more confusion for the antenna lovers of the United States of America. By then, though, you ought to be a real pro at scanning for channels. If nothing else, you’ll have had plenty of practice.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.