Maritimes Scanning Site

Broadcast Listening: AM, FM, TV

Last updated May 25, 2009

If you are like me you have an interest in all kinds of radio.  I do listen to radio and do watch TV for the music and for the programs, but beyond that I am interested in things like seeing what stations I can get on the car radio.  Certainly I have gone through phases in my radio hobby where I actively pursued broadcast listening and dx'ing.  Some of my QSL cards shown elswhere on the site (http://marscan.com/billqslpage.htm) are a great remembrance of those days.  Well, having said that I think that others who are into scanning might be interested in my broadcast listening pages and lists of FM and TV stations in the Maritimes.

Someday, to tie into scanning, I might work on a list of studio to transmitter links, as well as newsroom communications.  This would be based completely on submissions from readers.

Broadcast listening can be conveniently divided into 4 aspects:  Shortwave Broadcasting Listening (SWL), AM Broadcast Band Listening, FM Broadcast Band DX'ing, and Television DX'ing.   In each case there is the person's personal balance between listening or watching for the enjoyment of the program, and listening or watching for more technical enjoyment, principally for unusually distant stations or other criteria.  

Shortwave Broadcast Listening

I do not intend to cover this aspect of the radio hobby at all here at the Maritimes Scanning Site.  At one time I did actively listen to international shortwave broadcasts.   I was never a fanatic at it but did enjoy hearing various countries.   I actively sought QSL cards from these broadcasters, and it was a thrill to hear my name mentioned on the Swiss Broadcasting service, though of course they also mentioned by name many other listeners who wrote to them!   In retrospect I guess I mostly heard the powerhouse stations and didn't hear much in the way of real DX.   One of the great points of interest was during the Cold War to hear the various points of view, with Radio Moscow, Radio Peking, Radio Havana, Radio Kiev, Radio Prague and others arrayed against the Voice of America and the BBC!   It was particularly interesting to receive a QSL card from the Peoples Republic of China in the days when it was almost like communicating with the enemy.   In fact, when I was to take on a sensitive role within the Canadian navy in the early 70's, the investigator who was checking me out knew that I had had mail from behind the Iron Curtain!

AM Radio Listening

Click here for my special pages on AM radio listening.  Due to the long distance properties of the AM broadcast band (BCB) this page is not one about the Maritimes, but rather about listening from the Maritimes.  It includes my own personal list of stations heard in the period November 2005 to February 2006 from the Halifax area.  At that time I was going through one of my periodic flurries of interest in BCB listening, and no doubt I will have more of them in the future.  You will find the list interesting!  The page also includes information on clubs, directories, and the greatest thing there is: the Night Pattern Book from the National Radio Club.

TV and FM Listening

This topic is closely related to scanning as the frequencies involved, the propagation and the antennas are all similar.  Yes it is possible to dx the FM and TV bands.  I have done so casually on FM for quite a while, but not in any fanatical way.   In fact I do it all from my car radio!   I have not ever pursued TV DX but I have promised myself "someday".

FM Radio Broadcasting in the Maritimes and nearby Maine

Click here for the FM  page for the Maritimes and nearby parts of Maine.  You may think this weird but I have compiled a list of the FM stations of the Maritimes and Maine.  I use it often out in the car as it is my habit to go up and down the dial at times like when I am waiting outside somewhere for my spouse or kids to come along.  When I am by myself I also do this as I drive along.   It is interesting to hear stations come and go as I move even a few metres and up and down hills.   You can see my list if you click at the left.   The list indicates all the stations \i have heard from around my home area in Halifax and includes some catches from Massachusetts, all without any special radio or antenna.     I dont really think you felt it weird for me to have a list, but how about this...   I also have made up an atlas of our region so that for example if I tune into something weak on 104.9 I can flip to the page for 104.9 and see instantly what are the possibilities.  I am sorry to say that it is a manual set of maps so cannot share it with you, though I will soon scan a couple of pages so you can see what I am talking about.   

TV Broadcasting in the Maritimes and nearby Maine

Click here for the list of television stations last updated in May 2005.  THIS LIST IS SOMEWHAT OUT OF DATE NOW REGARDING THE US FULL POWER STATIONS THAT HAVE OR WILL CHANGE TO DTV IN 2009.   This list includes stations that are nearby in Maine and in Quebec. You may be astounded to see how many tv transmitters there are in the Maritimes.   Canada really is a land of rebroadcasters, with many being very low power, but others nearly full power.  In addition, we have entered the beginnings of the world of Digital TV, and many of the regular transmitters will have a Digital counterpart.  I do not think that the DT stations in our region are actually on the air, but they may be.  I cannot detect the Halifax ones on my tv, but then it isn't a digital tv, and I am not sure if they are detectable on a regular tv set. The American DT stations listed are on the air as I write. Certainly any major centre in Canada will eventually have a complete second set of transmitters.   This is happening throughout North America, and since most of the VHF channels were used up long ago, most DT transmitters are on UHF (Channels 14 to 68).  DT is going to entirely take over in the US in the near future.....  as early as 2009.  It is unclear as to whether at that time the DT stations will then take over the analog tv channel assignments, or stay where they are on the UHF channels.   If they stay where they now are, there will be a lot of VHF spectrum with nothing on it!

I realize that most of you reading this are knowledgeable about what I am going to say next, but in case you aren't it may be useful to read this:     There are two ways of providing TV signals to the public.  One is over the air, and the other is via cable.   The list you see here is strictly over the air, not cable.    Channels 2 to 13 are identical in the two systems.... in other words the frequencies are the same.    But once you come to Channel 14, that all changes.   UHF television (Channels 14 to 70, and formerly to 83) progresses in frequency in an unbroken band from about 470 MHz to 800 MHz (it used to go to 890 MHz before cell phones took that part over, and indeed much of the section in the 700 MHz area is now in the process of being handed over to trunked radio).   The only way you can tune in directly UHF television is by using the UHF dial on your tv set (old tv) or in a tv or vcr that tunes continuously from 2 to whatever the limit is that unit, you must have a switch set to tv and not catv (cable).   There is a whole other set of channels 14 and up on Cable systems.   The frequencies are not the same as UHF tv.... and in fact Cable (CATV) channels 14 and up are made up of segments from all over the spectrum.  Someday I will list them for you....   Let's just say that the cable industry uses frequencies that other services use over the air, and can do so because in theory cable signals are confined to the cable by shielding.   By the way, do you know what CATV stands for....?   It came from Community Antenna Television....     It began with a community having a big antenna to receive signals from afar and then send them out to the community members (customers) via a coaxial cable.   Things got more sophisticated as time went on, with actual commercial cable companies taking over, and the "big antenna" becoming called the "head end" and this could be shared with other companies.   I recall well the Halifax area situation in the eighties.   Not only was there a head end locally to receive the Halifax stations, there was another one near St. Andrews, New Brunswick.  This was a sort of remote head end with an array of directional tv antennas intended to pick up the stations in Bangor.   These signals were then distributed throughout the Maritimes via cable...   At that time this was the whole reason to have cable...to get the US stations.... and it was great.   It was also fascinating to a radio buff, and annoying to others, that these antennas sometimes picked up DX from farther away....     The signal from Channel 2 in Bangor was often disrupted by unwanted signals from away.    The Channel 7 feed was especially fascinating to me.   After the Bangor station went off the air at midnight (common in those days) the antenna kept on receiving whatever it could, and in the absence of the strong Bangor station, it was quite common to see viewable pictures from farther away, such as Boston or even New York City.  The antennas in New Brunswick were up high, were directional yagis, and were high gain, and they did their job well.

Back to my comments.   Cable systems invariably take any UHF stations that are in their area and put them on completely different channels.   And of course you know that nowadays most of the signals you see on cable never were "over the air".    Take ASN as an example.  ASN is not a TV station in the traditional sense.  It does not have a transmitter somewhere and certainly no "call sign" of the legal type such as CJCH or CHUM....    All there is is a studio in Halifax and an uplink to a satellite, and in most cases it goes right back to Cable Providers receivers, but in some cases to individual peoples' dishes... 

Another note of interest regarding cable.  Have you noticed that the local over the air stations are not on the same channel as they are shown on cable?  For example, in Halifax, the CTV station (CJCH) broadcasts on Channel 5, but is carried in the Halifax area on cable channel 9.   This is because no shielding is complete.   If cable carried it on Channel 5, then the tv receiver might pick up both the cable signal and the over the air signal, and they would be slightly out of sync, with the result being ghosting (double images).   To get around this, the cable system uses an otherwise unused channel.   The over the air channels, in this case Channel 5, is called an "impaired channel" and is either not used or used for a lower priority service, such as the TV Guide or Home Shopping.   By the way it is Canadian law for an unimpaired channel in the range 2 to 13 to be provided and used for community programming.   Impairment of channels is of course most pronounced in the vicinity of the over the air transmitter.  Far away from transmitters there may be no impaired channels.    Here in the inner area of Halifax there are 4 over the air stations:    CBC Channel 3, CJCH Channel 5, Global Channel 8, and CBC French Channel 13. 
These stations are carried locally on channels 11, 9, 6, and 2 respectively.   The impaired cable channels carry the following low priority services:   3 The Shopping Channel,  5 Shop TV Canada, 8 TV Guide, 13 Real Estate.    In my area in Lower Sackville 3 of these are very much impaired by the over the air signals, and 13 is almost unimpaired.  This is because the CBC French transmitter is low power compared to the others in the Halifax area. 

One more comment.  On my tv list you will see pluses and minus and zeroes.  TV channel (frequency) assignments are made in three varieties.  Zero indicates the frequency is not offset.  + and - indicate that the assignment is offset a little up or down.  This helps to avoid interference by stations that are somewhat nearby and nominally on the same channel.  I do not know exactly what the offset is in kiloHertz, but I do think that it is on the video portion only, not on the audio.  Perhaps one of you can enlighten me.