Cord cutting for free TV

By Craig Fiegener

In 2009  television stations switched to high-definition transmitters.

It was headline news in the broadcasting industry, but for most consumers– especially those with cable– it was a non-news event.

Does anyone remember that television used to be free?  More importantly, broadcast television is still free.   (I will have more on this with an upcoming consumer update on the best way to eliminate your cable TV bill.)

channelmasterimage.jpg Since the 2009 switch you’ve probably hears a lot about HD antennas, and indoor high-definition antennas.

Early models did receive poor reviews, according to several websites.

My personal experience is that receiving a solid HD signal requires an outdoor antenna. I rarely make recommendations, but after trying three different brands, I found success with a Channel Master (pictured right) outdoor antenna.

The Channel Master resembles a barbecue grill. When first installed, it might be a bit shocking. Trust me, after a week you won’t even notice it. And unless you need cable, the signal it delivers is crystal-clear and free. You can also purchase a DVR that will behave similarly to the devices sold by TIVO and the cable companies.

dvrimage.jpg Along with my antenna test I’ve been using the Sony (pictured) HD DVR, DHG-HDD. The device accepts the signal from your HD antenna and behaves just like any other DVR. Current models of this device will hold up to 250 hours of recorded programming.

chdvr1A newer device made by Channel Master is truly amazing. (Pictured right.)

The CM-7500TB1 handles over-the-air, dual-tuner DVR with an on-screen program guide. It has an HDMI TV connection, and ncludes a 1TB internal hard drive.  It’s $399, that’s all.  No more cable bill.

The consumer DVR boxes provide an easy-to-read grid that allows you to see what’s on TV. If there’s a program you wish to record, you simply highlight it with the record button. Unless you need cable, once again, TV is free.

Newer models include the Magnavox MDR513H/F7 which is an HDTV tuner/receiver, a DVR, and a DVD player.  I am still reviewing this product, however so far I’m impressed.

As for the antenna, I had it installed by Riverside-based Pat’s TV.   The antenna purchase and installation was $170; I paid less than $150 for the DVR. I canceled cable that same day.

When I need video news and information from sources like or, I log on and watch on the computer.  I can also stream it to my television.

Movies I want to watch arrive in the mail on DVD, and more often I simply stream them.  I’ve saved a lot of money.

In broadcasting, a revolution is underway.  In fact, it has been brewing for a while.

It’s amazing when you consider that the first televisions weren’t widely seen until 1939 at the World’s Fair. In 1945 there were just nine television stations nationwide, according to the FCC.  By 1948 there were 48 television stations across the country; that number grew to more than 500 television stations broadcasting analog signals in 1960.

By the mid 1960s the FCC reports that 85% of people in the nation had a television in their home. For decades, people were receiving the signals via antennas. Television was free.

mtvlogo.jpg In the 1980s, many neighborhoods in Southern California were wired for cable television.

In Riverside, Falcon Cable was the first to bring cable to select neighborhoods. Offerings such as MTV and CNN became mainstream.   Other consumers opted for large satellite dishes that delivered premium television programming from companies such as HBO and On-TV.

Once again television can be free — after you purchase the antenna and converter box or HD-ready television.

I like free.

Filed under Consumer News, Entertainment, Headline, News A3

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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