Broadcast from more than 1,000 transmitters and available to virtually all UK homes, Freeview offers a wide range of free digital TV and radio services through an aerial. To ensure the best Freeview reception it's important to make sure your TV equipment is tuned correctly and that you have a suitable, properly aligned (and preferably bird-free) aerial with cabling in good condition.
1. You can check the coverage prediction for your area and the channels available at your address by using our coverage checker (right)
2. Always check that both the cabling for your aerial and the interconnects between your TV, recorder or other devices are secure and in good condition.
3. As a rule, we recommend removing any unnecessary aerial amplifiers or splitters, which can lead to equipment being overloaded or receiving too little signal. Old amplifiers previously needed to receive analogue signals or low-power Freeview services before switchover are a common cause of reception problems today.
To watch Freeview you need a suitable aerial, correctly aligned and in good condition. Aerials are designed to work either with a specific group of broadcast frequencies (grouped), or across all airwaves that can be used for TV transmission (wideband). A coloured stopper or 'bung' on the end of an aerial identifies which group of frequencies it is designed to work with.
|Aerial group||Group A||Group C/D|
A black stopper indicates a wideband aerial. Most aerials sold today are wideband as these are best suited to dealing with any changes to TV signals. Some Freeview signals are set to change around 2020 to make space for more mobile broadband services (see box below).
If you can't see a coloured bung on your aerial - this can be difficult from the street - you may be able to tell if it's grouped or wideband by the size and distance of the elements or fins along the body. On a grouped aerial these will generally be a consistent size and evenly spaced. A wideband aerial will have different lengths and spacing.
Aerials need to be either horizontally or vertically polarised, depending on the transmitter you are receiving your signal from. In most cases, viewers receiving their TV signals from a main transmitter will need a horizontally polarised aerial. Homes served by smaller relays generally require vertical polarisation.
A good local aerial installer can advise on the type of aerial you need for your area. We recommend consulting an installer who is a member of a recognised trade body, such as the Confederation of Aerial Industries (CAI) or the RDI. Information about this is also available on the detailed view of our coverage checker and from the Freeview advice line on 03456 505050. The example below shows that a horizontally polarised group A aerial (A H) is suggested to receive services from Crystal Palace.
Digital UK recommends using a rooftop aerial for best results. Our predictive coverage checker is modelled on homes using a rooftop aerial at 10 metres above ground level. Loft aerials (rooftop aerials installed inside a home) or portable indoor aerials may work in areas where there is good reception but can be subject to electrical interference from other domestic appliances.
If you live in a block of flats or a shared household you may have a communal TV system, designed to provide a signal to several homes from a single aerial. These may also be used in areas where planning constraints restrict the use and number of rooftop aerials and satellite dishes. Some communal systems need to be retuned following changes in broadcast frequencies or the launch of new channels. If you have questions about a communal aerial system, contact your landlord or managing agent.
Aerials generally last for a long time but rooftop installations can be affected by weather over time. If your current picture quality is poor and you are happy that your TV equipment is correctly tuned and in good working order, you might have a damaged aerial or cable that needs attention from a professional installer. Loft aerials and portable set-top aerials can work in areas where there is good reception but can be subject to electrical interference from other domestic appliances. Where this is the case, you may need to consider moving to a rooftop aerial if you cannot identify and resolve the issue.
On rare occasions technical changes at your local TV transmitter may mean you need a different type of aerial to receive all available channels.
When buying a new rooftop aerial or replacing an existing one we recommend contacting an aerial installer who is a member of a recognised trade body, such as the Confederation of Aerial Industries (CAI) or the RDI. A local installer will understand the circumstances and geography of your area and suggest the best option. Based on industry guidance, a typical aerial replacement costs £150. However, there can be regional variation and complex installations can cost significantly more. Additional aerial socket costs around £45.
Guidelines for choosing an aerial installer:
The Government has taken the decision to reallocate some airwaves currently used by Freeview for the future launch of new mobile broadband services. This is designed to meet a predicted increase in the demand for mobile data. The process began in Scotland in summer 2017 and is now underway across the UK, region by region. It is expected to be completed by 2020. More information, including details of the free support available for viewers, is available at www.freeview.co.uk/tvchanges
Most Freeview viewers will simply need to retune their TV equipment when this change takes place in their area. However, Ofcom has stated that between 100,000 -160,000 homes currently using a grouped rooftop aerial may need a replacement be sure they can continue to receive all available channels in their area. Some viewers may also need to repoint their aerial or install a small filter at the back of their TV to prevent interference once new mobile services launch.
Viewers in the process of replacing their aerial in areas where signals are transmitted in Group C/D are recommended to consider a wideband model.
In the budget statement of March 2015 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that funding would be set aside for these changes to airwaves.
Occasionally you may experience an issue with your TV reception, such as a pixelated picture or missing channels. Most problems are easily diagnosed and resolved. Digital UK recommends that any maintenance on rooftop aerials is carried out by a qualified installer. Common causes are listed below:
Loose or damaged connections can result in picture problems. You should check that all cabling is secure and in good condition, including both your external aerial lead/plugs and any interconnecting cables between devices (between your TV and a set-top box, for example). Bad weather can also cause damage to your aerial over time, particularly where water penetrates and corrodes the cabling. You can find out more about this here.
An aerial that's out of position and no longer pointing directly at the correct transmitter can also be the cause of reception difficulties.
Aerial amplifiers previously needed to receive analogue or low power Freeview signals before switchover are a common cause of reception difficulty - these can actually overload equipment. Similarly, aerial splitters may result in a weak signal. Removing these can often resolve an issue.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to receive signals from more than one TV transmitter. This is quite normal in some areas but can cause problems where equipment automatically tunes to a weaker signal, or one that provides the wrong regional news services for your location. Manually retuning your TV or set-top box to the correct transmitter for your address can help ensure the best reception.
In some cases, problems can arise where aerials aren't aligned to the best transmitter (for example, your aerial may be pointed at a distant large main transmitter but receive a much better signal from a smaller, local relay). Redirecting your aerial can improve reception.
Certain weather conditions, including high pressure (which generally brings fine weather or morning fog), may occasionally affect your Freeview reception. Interference caused by atmospheric conditions is temporary and should clear once the weather changes.
Changes and future improvements to terrestrial TV services sometimes require engineering work on transmitters. While every effort is made to minimise the impact on viewers, this can cause temporary disruption to reception. You can check to see if there is planned engineering at your local transmitter here.
Some home appliances can disrupt reception by causing power fluctuations at the mains where your TV equipment is connected. Switching off other devices around the home can help identify if these are the cause of a problem. Common culprits include fridges, washing machines and tumble dryers, fluorescent lighting systems, lawnmowers, central heating systems and water pumps. Fitting a mains filter to your TV equipment and keeping your aerial and video/audio leads away from other electrical cables can help prevent interference.
Note: Mobile and cordless phone handsets, baby monitors and walkie talkies can also affect TV reception when used in close proximity to your reception equipment, aerial or cabling.
Traffic, roadworks and radios used by the police or taxi companies can affect TV reception. Fitting a filter to your aerial and ensuring all cables are in good condition can help to prevent this.
Trees, tall buildings and other local topography (ie hills) between a transmitter and your home can prevent clear reception by blocking or reflecting the signal. Where this occurs, a good local aerial installer may be able to advise on possible solutions, such as redirecting your aerial to an alternative transmitter.
New 4G mobile broadband services operating in the 800MHz band can cause interference to Freeview signals in some areas. In many cases this can be resolved using a simple filter fitted between your aerial cable and your TV. A company called at800 has been established by the mobile phone operators to resolve these reception issues for viewers.
Channels on Freeview can change from time to time - some may be removed, others added and channel numbers can change. Try retuning your TV equipment once in a while to make sure you have the latest channel line-up for your area.
General advice on reception and coverage for Freeview viewers is available from the Freeview website and the Freeview advice line on 03456 505050. They can be contacted on Twitter via @FreeviewAdvice. Advisors can also help with details of local qualified aerial installers should these be required. Unfortunately, advisors are unable to visit individual properties themselves.
Advice on TV interference is available from the Radio and Television Investigation Service, which is managed by the BBC.