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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi Folks,

Boy I must have gotten lost in a worm hole somewhere in the Universe because I originally joined here in 2007 and the last post I made (2015?) was probably after moved to Niagara Region, and before we decided to cut the cord.

The Story so far ...

We cut the cord in March 2015 and installed a ClearStream 4MAX UHF / VHF high gain antenna with a range of about 70+ miles capable of reaching the CN Tower in Toronto to pick up all the CDN stations. We picked up CBC, CITY, Global, TVO all with a signal strength of about 75-80% while CTV 9 arrived at about 65-70%. No surprise there.

By default the backside of the antenna was 'generally' aimed at Buffalo and we picked up all the networks and PBS (UHF and VHF) with a satisfactory signal strength of about 70-80%.

Initially we had a MediaSonic HW-130 STB decoder, but replaced it with an HW-150 PVR in 2020 when the first decoder died. At one point we added a Channel Master 3412 Amplifier but removed it when we discovered the it was causing clipping and overdriving the Decoder.

This setup (minus the Amp) ran flawlessly until 2019 when CTV 9 dropped out entirely for almost a week and then just as mysteriously returned. The absence of CTV 9 was the reason for the attempt to boost the signal with an Amp). In my first attempt to discuss the loss of CTV 9 with BM engineers I was told that we were in 'the fringe' area and that was as good as it would get.

Fast forward to December 2021 and we found that CTV 9 would pixelate around 6 PM every night and often drop out entirely. A new round of talks with BM engineers revealed that we might be getting hit with FM and LTE interference.

Regarding Equipment Upgrades and Changes:

Channel Master LTE and FM Filters

I installed these as a first step to clean up Channel 9 CTV. They were installed sequentially and the result was that the signal quality dropped (predictably) from 65-70% to just over 45-48%. What this told me was that there must have been a considerable payload of FM noise with the signal, with LTE bringing up the rear from surrounding cell towers.

I guess it creates another question too, do FM broadcasters use VHF as the frequency band of choice?

MediaSonic HW-150PVR Decoder and its Role in Virtual Channel Loss

I spoke with the Techs at MediaSonic this week to determine the threshold for channel loss based on signal quality. Prior to introducing sequential filters for FM and LTE Channel 9 CTV was in the 65-70% range. After the filters were inserted the signal stabilized at around 45-48%, but due to a couple of changes made recently it now stabilized at 52% after 6 PM. Until today (a Friday) where the virtual channel decaded and abruptly dropped off the Decoder. Hasn't reappeared since 1 PM today. And this occurs almost without fail every Friday, I kid you not! The Techs at MediaSonic advise that below 43%, the signal would be lost entirely.

Tripp Lite Surge Protector

I purchased a new Tripp Lite Surge Protector with internal EMI and RFI filtering. I think that being able to filter FM, LTE and EMI in the immediate area around and in our home has helped to contribute to a more stable signal from Channel 9 CTV.

Ferrite Noise Filters

I have installed about 6 Ferrite Filters on equipment sensitive to interference and on the coax leading from outside to the Decoder. While this may be overkill, it does seem to help to stabilize the Channel 9 CTV signal even in the early evening hours when the channel used to pixelate and drop out entirely. It now stabilizes between 48-52% and we are able to watch it successfully.

Research and Discover:

Google was helpful, but a comment from a YouTuber about LEDs sent me on another quest as well.

To explain, my neighbor across the street has what we call the ‘Griswold Family Christmas’ house with blazing LEDs from rooftop and on every organic bush in their yard. It’s lovely, and I never gave the LEDs much thought when we put up our own limited LED display on the north face of our home, the same direction the antenna is aimed at Toronto 35+ feet off the ground. The neighbor’s home is in direct line of sight of the antenna BTW.

Did our own LEDs on Christmas tree(s) – we have two in the house, affect the reception? It didn’t appear that they did, and one tree was 6 feet away from the TV and Decoder.

And finally this item had slipped my mind, but a casual discussion with a group of Ham operators reminded me that the City of Niagara Falls (Ontario) has begun the replacement of street lights with LEDs in September 2015. This was after we switched to OTA.

Coincidentally, we have a light pole on the northwest corner of our property. I tried to contact the company that installed them to determine if they knew the level of interference these units might generate, but as of this writing I do not know. The street lights come on an hour before Channel 9 CTV begins to pixelate and drop out, so I'm going to assume the two are not directly related.

Regarding ‘Quality of Signal’ evaluation, I can say categorically that of all CDN stations broadcast from the CN Tower (1700 feet up), all are received in the 70-85% signal quality range, with the exception of Channel 9 which arrives in the 65-70% range. This 'signal quality' is just a MediaSonic measurement of the strength of signals being received. The only channel operating at a substantially reduced signal is Channel 9 CTV. The four or five CDN channels we receive from this one location are all UHF, except Channel 9 which operates on VHF.

Likewise, all of the Buffalo stations we receive are in the 75-85% signal quality range, and at least one operates on VHF with the remainder operate on UHF. Their relative location to us is about 40+ miles away line of sight and the antenna is generally pointed in that direction although all the signals hit the backside of the antenna because of its orientation to Toronto.

The other point to consider is that aimed at Toronto, the antenna is just at its fringe capability of 70+ miles across Lake Ontario. What I do not know is whether Channel 9 CTV was UHF originally, or always broadcast on VHF, as the transmitter used to be located on the east side of Toronto next to the broadcast studio. With the ‘re-pack’ in 2016, I do not know if the channel moved to VHF when it was moved to the CN Tower sometime in 2016.

Summarizing my experience to date, all the CDN broadcasters are received without exception, accept Channel 9 CTV which is the weakest of all the broadcast channels we receive, and they all originate in the same location 70+ miles away.

I don’t know if replacing the antenna head with a newer model of the ClearStream 4MAX UHF / VHF would improve the VHF capability, but it seems a steep price to pay for reception of a broadcast channel that should be stronger than it is given that Bell Media** is the largest terrestrial phone, cell phone, satellite and RF broadcaster in Canada. Rogers Media** being the second largest player.

I guess the CRTC needs to hear that their attempt to clean up the frequency bands (so these two clowns** can abuse more customers with cell phones and new infrastructure), have shot OTA digital transmission a lethal blow.

My experience, your mileage may vary,

Canon_Man
 

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Suggest you add a VHF antenna like Stellar labs VHF Hi band and combine with your current antenna using UVJ vhf/uhf band combiner .Your current antenna VHF band performance is poor.It does not have a 70 mile range on VHF band.CFTO moved to channel 8 in 2019.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I wasn't aware of the limitations of the VHF antenna array, but I think we have closed the book on trying to make stupidity work. What I mean is that Bell Media already knows it has issues trying to reach Niagara Falls now, and Ft. Erie would be out of the question ehtirely. I don't think they ever intended to try to reach this far. I wonder what the CRTC would have to say about that?

The engineers suggested attenuating the line-in to drop the signal down low enough that the Amp could be used to boost the signals overall, including CTV 9. This would require some dB juggling by mixing and matching pad attenuators of various values to reach the desired combined operating input signal. Doing this would allow the Amp to boost the attenuated line-in signal from the antenna sufficiently for the Decoder to read the individual signals successfully, without overdriving the Decoder.

I do not consider this solution to be very elegant, and for the sake of one channel that should really perform better than it does, I am reluctant to mess with our setup further.

A point of interest in this whole journey of discovery is that BM also operates a UHF repeater for CTV2 - Barrie in Fonthill, 20 miles from where I live. WHY they operate a repeater for a demographic that has nothing in common with the Niagara Region is a bit of a puzzle, and potentially a waste of advertiser expense and BM resources for a non-existent audience. If you live in Niagara Falls are you going to buy a car from a dealer in Barrie, really??

However, if it were harnessed as a repeater for CTV 9, (and they actually do use Fonthill to broadcast the CTV 9 News on Sundays during football season) it would be far more effective.

The problem with the Channel Master 3412 is that it's either on or off, there is no way to lower its power ouput. Ideally, an Amp that could be tuned to deliver a clean signal without distortion would be the goal.
 

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Even with the VHF kit, the ClearStream 4MAX has poor VHF performance. I'd suggest using a ClearStream 5 VHF antenna. There are better VHF antennas but they are typically much larger. Combine the two with a UVSJ splitter/combiner. An LTE filter is only needed for UHF. An FM filter is generally only required for VHF. Put the filters between the antennas and the UVSJ. Remove the VHF elements from the 4MAX if possible.

Do not use attenuators before an amp. It will kill the S/N ratio and it looks like an amp is not required. (A filter before the amp or an attenuator after the amp will help in some cases of overload.) If the signal is being split use a low gain (10dB) distribution amp or use a low gain (15dB) mast mounted preamp. Some have separate UHF and VHF inputs which eliminates the need for a UVSJ.

Note that signal strengths and quality varies naturally from day to day. High humidity, clouds, rain, and reflections from the ionosphere (known as tropo) can reduce signals or create interference. Tropo can combine with lake reflections to create strong interference. The best way to improve reception is with a better antenna(s) and increased height to clear nearby obstacles such as buildings and trees. Antennas with higher gain will improve signal strength. Antennas with better directivity and F/B ratio will reduce interference. Increased height will usually improve signal strengths and reduce interference.
 

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When CFTO moved to RF 8, I could no longer reliably receive it of the side of the CM 4021 pointed at the Buffalo area.
I built a folded dipole and aimed it at the CN tower only 12 miles away. Problem solved.
I might add that my Mediasonic 150 is a poor performer on VHF, it appears that the sensitivity drops off. Its much better on UHF. The tuner in my Samsung does much better especially on VHF.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I'm in St. Catharines and when CFTO moved to RF 8 I had to add this:
Antennas Direct VHF Retro Fit Kit for over the air, OTA HDTV Antennas, converts UHF to UHF and VHF antenna (saveandreplay.com)

Can you test the signal using your TV tuner not that PVR?
Thanks for the comments, but as I said, we are done with this. I only wanted to share my experience with the forum, which from what I've scanned and read is pretty much what we experienced. Not spending more money just for one channel.

I re-scanned this morning and 9 is back for now. No one picked up on the cyclical loss of signal on Fridays though. It seems strange that something happens every Friday to drop the signal. But whether our setup has an approval rating from this group doesn't matter to me. Opinions are what they are, and people are entitled to them, as am I.

As a side note, we only really watch CTV 9 for the news, and most of the afilliate feeds it broadcasts are US anyway. As I mentioned, it worked really well for the first 3 or 4 years, and then the CRTC meddled and BM moved the channel and that was the end of reliability as you pointed out.

In the meantime, the CRTC has given the space to these two clowns so they can continue to eat up the airways and abuse the customer base they have further. What happens when they sell the last cell phone and use of the space given to them I wonder?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
When CFTO moved to RF 8, I could no longer reliably receive it of the side of the CM 4021 pointed at the Buffalo area.
I built a folded dipole and aimed it at the CN tower only 12 miles away. Problem solved.
I might add that my Mediasonic 150 is a poor performer on VHF, it appears that the sensitivity drops off. Its much better on UHF. The tuner in my Samsung does much better especially on VHF.
And to your point, the tuner in our Sony Bravia 43" is not as sensitive as the tuner in the HW-150. Perhaps with the LTE and FM filters it might be better now, but it only found about 34 channels while the HW-150 found over 60, enough said.
 

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It seems strange that something happens every Friday to drop the signal.
I've run into similar situations. As mentioned, high efficiency lighting can be an issue. Before LEDs, high pressure sodium, metal halide and florescent lighting caused interference. There are lots of other sources. PCs can emit high levels of RF on a wide band of frequencies. Just about any appliance or device that contains a processor can emit RF. I've even seen radios that were so poorly designed that their digital circuits interfered with their own reception. I've also seen sporadic interference from commercial radio communications such as two way radios. At one time, IC would help track down such interference but it's probably an impossible task now due to the pervasiveness of RF emitting devices. As broadcasting law says, consumer devices must accept RF interference. That's just a polite way of saying deal with it yourself. Part of the reason I gave up on OTA was due to untraceable intermittent interference on VHF which made watching it unbearable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
When CFTO moved to RF 8, I could no longer reliably receive it of the side of the CM 4021 pointed at the Buffalo area.
I built a folded dipole and aimed it at the CN tower only 12 miles away. Problem solved.
I might add that my Mediasonic 150 is a poor performer on VHF, it appears that the sensitivity drops off. Its much better on UHF. The tuner in my Samsung does much better especially on VHF.
We're getting enough channels to make this setup reliable enough for our needs. Just staying off cable, sat, or fiber has saved us over $3,000 per year. When Bell Fibe hit over $250 per month for TV (22Mb/s), Internet (just 15Mb/s) plus home phone, I said that's it. How can they call this fiber when the nearest Central Office is just up the street at a brown Bell box, and they run copper twisted pairs into the house over a kilometer away? Fiber, really?

We went with a second tier provider (that coincidentally runs on Cogeco's backbone) for unlimited Internet, and VoIP home phone for less than $70 per month and kept our Bell phone number (that was a sweet move in itself, sorry Ma Bell). I'm not bitter, I just don't like being taken advantage of, and we as Canadians pay way too much for what we have now.

As long as the LTE, or whatever comes after 4G and 5G doesn't entirely kill OTA we've met our goal of cutting the cord. I originally threatened to put up a tower at our last house when our Rogers bill doubled from day one to ten years later. It seemed like every month there was a buck here or a buck there. This is part of what I mean about these clowns abusing their customers. Their service generally sucks, and the products are not innovative or compelling.

Moving to a tower, we would have been analog then, but way ahead at the bank I think. When these clowns tell you there are over 300 or more channels to watch, they forget to tell you that it's the same 90-100 channels spread across 3 time zones! Nice marketing deception plan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I've run into similar situations. As mentioned, high efficiency lighting can be an issue. Before LEDs, high pressure sodium, metal halide and florescent lighting caused interference. There are lots of other sources. PCs can emit high levels of RF on a wide band of frequencies. Just about any appliance or device that contains a processor can emit RF. I've even seen radios that were so poorly designed that their digital circuits interfered with their own reception. I've also seen sporadic interference from commercial radio communications such as two way radios. At one time, IC would help track down such interference but it's probably an impossible task now due to the pervasiveness of RF emitting devices. As broadcasting law says, consumer devices must accept RF interference. That's just a polite way of saying deal with it yourself. Part of the reason I gave up on OTA was due to untraceable intermittent interference on VHF which made watching it unbearable.
No kidding, you should see what happens to the only TV in our family room when I boot my 6 year old desktop upstairs!

Or how about the paper shredder. EMI apocalypse!

Next time you open up a really old AM radio (vaccum tube maybe?) look for the chokes embedded in the circuit boards. Some of these are there to do exactly what you describe, reduce the interference so the device can actually deliver a signal. I wouldn't be surprised if our wifi in the house imposes its own brand of interference too.
 

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Or how about the paper shredder. EMI apocalypse!
I forgot to mention small AC motors. That would also include vacuum cleaners, some kitchen appliances, hair dryers and small tools such as drills. With some small tools, blue RF emitting sparks can be seen inside the device during operation. That has probably become better in recent years with the use of small DC motors.
 

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Back when I was a kid I was able to pick up antenna channel 9 which was CFTO/CTV analogue NTSC with no cable connected to my TVs coax input. Yeah the signal was so strong that sometimes it Interfered with cable tv channel 9 if you had poor grade coax cables or splitters. As far as I know their signal hasn't changed much and should be just as strong still,. Rite?
 

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Analog CFTO was around 300KW peak ,today in digital its 13KW average.Digital needs 1/5 power so CFTO would need 60KW to match analog.
 

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...and then the CRTC meddled ....
The CRTC only cares about CONTENT of their broadcast and their license to broadcast. Broadcast frequency managment is done by another department and they only care that the broadcaster doesn't exceed their permission. The phrase "has the authourity to, but not the obligation to" has appeared on many decisions.

.. BM also operates a UHF repeater for CTV2 - Barrie in Fonthill, 20 miles from where I live ...
That's just to meet the simsub requirements for CTV2 because the area is outside of the CKVR Barrie contour.

Bell Media (and their competitors for that matter) do what's required by the regulations and nothing more. It's not going to get any better. As a for profit business, this shouldn't be too surprising. What many of us feel disappointed about is that the public broadcasters are playing the exact same game.
 

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Public broadcasters rarely need simsubs so their inclination is to do even less. The only reason TVO is still operating OTA towers in most of Ontario is due to public outcry when it announced a shutdown. The CBC is so arrogant that it ignored public opinion, denounced requests from elected politicians and shut theirs down anyway.

If simsub requirements are relaxed, CTV would likely shut down most of their current transmitters. If it were not for CRTC regulations preventing it operating two stations in the same market, CTV would have shut down CTV2 in Barrie and moved the transmitter to the CN tower.
 
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