I just checked and I am getting both 5 and 50 right now myself in Raleigh. Digital 50 broadcasts on channel 49 OTA, so I would think that if you are getting the analog 50 you would also be getting the digital unless there was a signal strength problem at the transmitter.
Hard to really say what is going on.
The problem may be signal refections. Please see the antenna information written by Matt Brandes who is the transmitter supervisor for WRAL and WRAZ.
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Antennas in the real world.
Over the past four years I have been helping some of our viewers receive over the air HDTV. I have been surprised at the number of "problem" viewers we have been able to help. Of course, there have been those who are just in an area that is just too low in elevation, or too far away, or that has too many reflections for any antenna system to overcome but those have been relatively few.
The following section is a collection of observations collected from those 4 years. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the opinion of management or staff of WRAL-TV.
TV is TV. Over the air HDTV is still mostly UHF frequency radio waves.
There is no such thing as a "HDTV antenna", they all are. Most of the antennas I have found to work best for HDTV were designed in the 1950's. Amazingly, the boxes they are shipped in now say "HDTV". In general, if it doesn't look like an antenna, it probably won't act like one.
Your DirecTV or Dish receiver can pick up local over the air HDTV signals*.
No matter what some people may have told you, it can be done. To do this you must somehow connect an antenna to the "air" or "antenna" plug on your receiver. This can be done with a separate wire from a TV antenna or using a system of "diplexers" to combine the over the air and satellite signals outside and split them inside at the receiver. If you use diplexers, you must have one outside and one inside for each receiver you connect. If you use diplexers, you can't put an amplifier outside and power it from inside. *There is an exception to this, recently, DirecTV has released some HD-DVR's that can not receive over the air DTV. They claim this will be rectified by the summer of 2007. They are not telling customers about this in advance and will not allow customers to go back to their old equipment once they "upgrade". Also, the upgrade hijacks the UHF band on the cables in your house which means you no longer have the option of using a diplexer and must run a new cable for over the air HD. (Thank you, DirecTV).
Indoor (set top) antennas generally don't work more than 5 to 10 miles from the transmitter.
There are some exceptions to this such as if you live on a hill pointed in the right direction but don't count on it. The best overall indoor antenna I have found is the Zenith "Silver Sensor". There are others that do better in certain situations but if you want to try an indoor set-top antenna get one of these. They are usually about $10 to $20 on Ebay.
You only need a UHF antenna for the Raleigh market DTV stations.
It is true that WTVD is going to return to Channel 11 at the end of the DTV transition but almost every UHF antenna I have tried (except for some indoor models) picks them up very well. (WRAL is not going back to channel 5 because of problems with electrical and atmospheric noise). If you buy a combination UHF/VHF antenna, 75% of the antenna will be VHF (channels 2 thru 13). You can get much more antenna in a UHF only model. They are also much smaller.
The higher the antenna, the better your chances at good reception.
Many viewers can get away with an attic mounted antenna, but some will have to mount their antenna on the roof. If you have a metal roof you can't use an attic mounted antenna.
An antenna may have to be pointed in a very different direction than you think. Even though stations are on the same tower, they may seem to be coming from different directions.
Signals reflect off of other towers, buildings and power lines. These reflections combine with the original signal in different ways depending on what channel they are. This also can cause problems with some DTV signals. If this happens, you will get rock solid signals sometimes, but when the wind blows or it rains, some channels will break up. Often this can be fixed with a narrow beam antenna such as a Channel Master 4228.
Where you put an antenna and where it is pointed can make a big difference.
When we send out an antenna we suggest the viewer try it in their attic first. We suggest they run a temporary wire through the attic door and try the antenna in several locations usually by setting it on a box or leaning it against something depending on which type of antenna it is. We do this because moving an antenna as little as one foot in any direction can make a drastic change in how it picks up signals. As I said above, the direction the antenna is pointed makes a big difference also. If you move an antenna you need to check which direction has the best reception at the new location. Don't assume it is the same direction as the last antenna location. When locating an antenna you must check the reception of all the stations you want to receive. When moving or aiming an antenna, have someone watch the antenna pointing screen on your HD receiver while you slowly turn the antenna. Aim for the most stable signal even if it is not the highest one you find. Check the reception on all the channels you are trying to receive. If the attic does not work, you will need to do a roof mount. Most people will need an installer to do this. If your installer picks a spot on the roof and doesn't check for the best location he probably has a 50-50 chance of getting the signals you need. If you want to pick up all the DTV signals in your area, you may need an antenna rotor.
Your DirecTV / Dish Network installer may or may not know about and/or be interested in getting you over the air HDTV.
I have come in behind many installers who have told customers many different things about over the air. Much of this is due to lack of a knowledge base or equipment to do the job right. Don't get me wrong, I have seen the work of many excellent DirecTV and Dish Network installers but there are some out there that don't put the effort in. Some have actually told customers well within range of the signals that there was no way they could get free local HDTV and they should call the TV station for a waiver. In one case the viewer was able to use a set top antenna. Sometimes, the customer is only given a choice of what the installer has on the truck. Don't bother with the antenna that clips on the dish. The "Stealth" antenna doesn't work too often either. Unfortunately, WRAL recommended that antenna in the early days. We, like everyone else, are learning.
Don't use an amplifier too close to a TV station.
Unfortunately, this means any TV station, not just the one you are trying to receive. In general you need to be about 15 miles away from any TV stations. Go to antennaweb dot org and you can get a list of all the stations and how far they are from you. If you are too close to one TV station and are trying to get another one far away, you may need a "notch filter" to cut down the nearby station.
There is no simple one size fits all answer for what antenna to use.
That being said, I will say that I have had the best luck with the following combinations:
• Within 30 miles of lightly rolling hills or 15 miles of rough terrain, I usually recommend a Channel Master 3022.
• 30 to 45 miles of rolling hills or 15 to 30 miles of rough terrain, I usually recommend a Channel Master 4228. Sometimes I recommend a 4228 even closer due to extreme terrain or reflection issues.
• 45 miles and farther out of rolling hills or 30 miles farther out of rough terrain, I usually recommend a Channel Master 4228 with a 7775 preamp.
I specify Channel Master Antennas because we have a good working relationship with them and their factory is in North Carolina. Winegard and the other antenna manufacturers all have equivalent antennas and most are just as good. Some may even be better.
Please bear in mind that I am not the absolute RF and HDTV reference. I am just trying to relate some of my experiences because I see many people ending up in the same place. None of them are happy to be there and by the time most of them get to me, they are very unhappy.
I hope this helps.
WRAL-TV/DT - WRAZ-TV/DT