Many Boston-area TV stations are shifting their spot on the airwaves this week, requiring people who use over-the-air antennas to rescan their television sets to find them again.

WMUR-TV in Manchester is not among the stations that will be changing this week. Cable systems and those using satellite dishes are not affected.

The move is part of long-running shift in the nation’s broadcast spectrum, squeezing together TV stations that no longer need so much space after shifting from analog to digital signals, and making room for 5G and cellular data networks.  I wrote about this most recently last July.

The Federal Communications Commission in recent years has sold off frequencies worth more than $19 billion to telecom firms like Comcast. About 1,000 TV stations must give up their old frequencies by next summer.

Nine major Boston stations, including the main networks and PBS, will be making the transition between now and Friday.

The channel numbers won’t change but over-the-air viewers will have to reprogram their TV sets, using the same process when connecting up a new TV. The FCC has said that coverage area of station’s broadcast signals should not change with the transition.

Does anybody still use antennas to watch free TV? You bet.

According to Neilsen, roughly 7 percent of television viewers in the Northeast use over-the-air antennas as of March 2018, often to get local channels in conjunction with streaming media.

That’s less than in other parts of the country – nationally, about 14 percent of the population watched free broadcast TV – but the figure does appear to be rising in conjunction with so-called “cord-cutting,” in which people stop paying for large cable TV bundles. 

The Boston-area stations changing frequencies include CBS 4, ABC 5, Fox 25, NBC 10, PBS 44, PBS 2, UniMas 27, Channel 68, and Channel 23.

For more information, check the FCC website

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