Whitesburg KY
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In praise of free TV from antenna

If we didn’t have an adult son living in our house, I can guarantee you that we would not have a satellite dish mounted on our rooftop. Nor would we be shelling out over 100 bucks each month to pay for stuff we never watch.

Points East

To be fair, Chris pays over half the satellite bill because he is hooked on everything sports related as well as a couple of HBO programs. And I have to admit that I take advantage of the SEC channels to watch a variety of sports broadcasts if UK is involved and when I think that somebody has a chance of beating Florida or Tennessee at anything.

I also admit that, prior to moving to this place in the late 1990s, we always had cable television because antennas failed to bring in clear signals from the available stations. In fact, before we installed the dish here, we relied on a 10-foot long by 3-feet wide antenna mounted atop a 30-foot galvanized pipe poked up in the air behind the house. It was dangerous to walk in the backyard after dark because you could cut your head off if you ran into one of the several guy wires required to stabilize the antenna pole.

If you wanted to watch a show on 36, you had to go outside with a pipe wrench and twist the pole several degrees. Ditto when you wanted to switch from 36 back to any of the other Lexington stations. Even then nothing besides KET came in crystal clear. There was no cable service available on or even near Charlie Brown Road at the time. To the best of my knowledge, that’s still the situation.

Anyway, when satellite dishes were reduced in size from that of circular family swimming pools to that of large punch bowls, we decided to sign up over 20 years ago. To be perfectly honest, we have been pretty satisfied with the service, other than the frequent price gouges when we wanted anything beyond the most basic package consisting mostly of local stations, home shopping gimmicks and television preachers. We tore down the old antenna before it had a chance to kill somebody, gritted our teeth, and dutifully paid the satellite bill every month.

Then one day, a few years back, I noticed that somebody between our place and Berea had a small antenna mounted on what appeared to be a mop handle stuck in the yard beside their house, so I finally stopped and asked if they got any reception. The lady told me she had 19 stations, “clear as a bell” and invited me in to prove it.

To say that I was beyond amazed would be an understatement. I knew a few people who lived in both Berea and Richmond, at significantly higher elevations than ours, were able to get impressive digital signals, but it had never occurred to me that they would come in so vividly down in our valley without going back to the monstrosity we’d had back in the ‘90s.

To make a long story short, I discovered that an antenna with rooftop mounting hardware, remote control, and built-in signal amplifier cost less than $40 including S&H at numerous places on eBay. The remote control allows me to change the direction the antenna is pointed with the touch of a button to get stations in Louisville and Cincinnati without even getting out of bed, but I rarely do that because there are already over 20 good digital stations available when its pointed toward Lexington.

All five local network stations, KET, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox broadcast on their main, current signals as well as two or more additional channels that carry everything from old television programs and movies to live radar weather images. In addition to the network affiliates, there are half a dozen or so independent stations that provide way more ‘round the clock home shopping opportunities and/or preaching than I really need.

I’ve never seen anything on a shopping show that wasn’t overpriced even if I might want it and my wife does more than enough preaching than I need even when the television isn’t turned on. Unlike the TV, however, I find it nearly impossible to tune Loretta out.

I’m not sure how well the relatively new digital antennas work up in the mountains, but I’d bet big bucks there’s practically no place in the state that you can’t pick up all three KET broadcasts and those, alone, make my antenna worth the pittance I paid for it, especially since KET 2 and 3 are not available on the satellite. Nor are the other network second and third stations that allow me to watch everything from Wagon Train to Mork and Mindy several times a week.

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