Build An Analog TV Station


With the transition to digital TV, the FCC has abandoned the old analog format. Luckily, you can take advantage of this and set up your own analog TV station. The FCC has a tool on their site to see what channels are open in your area to broadcast in. To broadcast, you need a TV transmitter, but cheap short-range models can be found on eBay or made at home [pdf]. Once you have a transmitter, you can pump in a video source, either your own content or videos from youtube. One group, OMGimontv is showcasing popular youtube clips on channel 14 in New York. On their site, users can vote for what clips they want to see. Although this isn’t as simple as making a radio station, it still has a lot of potential.

[via BoingBoing]

51 thoughts on “Build An Analog TV Station


    Anyway, cool as this is, as soon as the FCC auctions off the frequencies, this probably will become very illegal. Still, I believe that this counts as “wicked dope”.

  2. @refujee: I don’t believe it’s illegal as long as it’s within the fcc’s allocated “free” channels, similar to CB-Radio type frequencies. Of course, I could be completely wrong, that’s just a guess.

  3. @st. jimmy
    lol, fail!

    anyway, i wondered what would happen to the analog tv range, probably similar to what happened with the first ham/radio broadcasters. no matter ho illegal or not this is, its made of epic win all the way.

  4. Unfortunately, the Part 15 regulations of the FCC don’t allow for any transmissions on broadcast television frequencies.

    It is illegal, so don’t do it!

    There is a legal option though: Go get your Technician class, amateur radio license, and then experiment with fast-scan television in the amateur radio frequencies. Most people use a television hooked up to a regular antenna, tuned to “cable” channel 59 or 60 to receive these amateur “television” signals!

  5. well, thank you, captain fucking obvious

    this post has a big duh factor…

    who cares if it’s illegal or not.

    it’s pretty obvious you could do this with some minor effort.

    the pdf sucks btw

    give me a writeup on the technical details of building a transmitter from the ground up and I might be slightly impressed (probably not, but maybe)

    There are far more interesting things going on with this spectrum. Let’s see a hack utilizing it for cheap broadband or something else slightly more useful (or even entertaining). Preferably without twitter.

  6. Yeah, the FCC loves it when people compete with the major companies that dominate the media now, so all you have to do is:

    apply for the spectrum and pay $1,000,000 minimum non-refundable application

    If you get approved then you have to operate the station for one year on a probation phase without generating any revenue from the station to ‘prove yourself’

    comply with the 587,000 pages of regulations, which a violation of a single one will result in several millions of dollars in fines and a ‘demotion’ back to the probation phase

    It’s easy, and FUN!

  7. So according to the wikipedia article from above
    The FCC is allowing whitespace utilization locally, but you have to actively monitor to make sure there are no legacy transmissions on the same frequency. Every minute!
    So with some interesting coding and whitespace frequency monitors you might be able to get away with a low powered signal. You’d want to research to make sure that wikipedia was right on this, but still it’s doable.

    The easy way is to get a ham radio license and just do it legally without the monitors required. If you are interested in developing things like live monitoring of the band you can test and learn with that easily on the ham bands too.

  8. these broadcast bands have not been “abandoned ” they just switched the modulation format. tv is still uhf and vhf 7-80something. 2-6 is to be repurposed as some other kind of portable something or other, but certainly not abandoned, it will be used.

  9. I’m pretty sure this is illegal unless it’s a whitespace approved electronic. Wireless microphones have used tv bands for years (sorta licensed, sorta not licensed).

    New whitespace electronics need to be able to detect wireless microphones in the area and disable themselves if they find them.

    There are regulations for how often they have to rescan for new systems being powered up (30 seconds or a minute I think) and before the white space device broadcasts it has to make sure it won’t interfere with any wireless microphones.

    Also, white space electronic devices must limit themselves to select frequencies (which wireless mics still have the right of way to), other newly “freed” frequencies are being preserved for wireless mic usage only.

  10. I’ve got a couple of small black metal boxes from the 80s called “video senders” which can transmit a normal UHV tv signal over a short distance (up to 300 feet line of sight), if you look on eBay you may be able to pick one up – if you can find one in amongst all the current generation 2.4ghz tv extenders.

    These small UHV tv transmitters will be useful when the tv stations go digital only because you can use them to send a signal to the “useless” pocket tvs which only have an antenna and no AV input.

  11. Yea Hauku I use video senders to watch TV when I have to take a dump, video spliter from the box and to the sender, hook up an ATSC converter and you’ve got HDTV, sort of, on your old analogue sets, so don’t toss out your old tubes yet.

  12. Pirate TV is easy, you don’t have to build a TV-transmitter. Just use your VCR. Hook an antenna to the RF-out and voilà, your very own Pirate TV-station. We did this n school, works great. The broadcast range is of course not great, but you could always hook up an signal amplifier to reach more people.

  13. Now here would be an application for a wifi to uhf converter, to save all those otherwise useless TVs from the landfill.

    Shouldn’t be too hard, you can get wifi usb dongles and USB PICs aren’t expensive, just fake the appropriate responses to get the dongle to initialise and fit it inside the existing TV’s casing. :)

    last time i checked, wifi is more than capable of handling a single analogue channel’s worth of data, and causes far less interference than those 2.4G “senders”.

  14. I will like to make a test one to learn how broadcasting works. I was looking for a instruction on how to do and and this one helped me. I will get a $25 UHF sender and a TV attena to do it. I use cable TV in my home and will not discard it because there is hardly any TV channels in air in my area. I will just unplug the Cable from the TV for Cable TV in the basement, try the station, and then turn it off and put back the Cable TV cable.

  15. hello also has any one looked in to using the cable system fore low power broadcasting? not sure how this could be done but am curious if any one has considdered this metnod as well?

  16. Wonder how much is it gonna cost to get an entire area covered. i work at a church and is looking into covering a very large area, would be cheaper then to rent a channel than building you own one. Am aware that if i were to cover a large area you will have to pay a licence for the frequincy

  17. “Wonder how much is it gonna cost to get an entire area covered. i work at a church and is looking into covering a very large area, would be cheaper then to rent a channel than building you own one. Am aware that if i were to cover a large area you will have to pay a licence for the frequincy”

    Well I need The Design No Matter Itx Legal Or Illegal

  18. its illeal weather you like it or not when analogue TV if its not already shut down in your area runs on the same frequency bands as the digital stations the only difference is for each frequency multiple channels can be broadcast on each channel frequency thus alowing a lot more channels to be broadcast on the same frequency allocations say here in southern tasmania/australia analoge channel 6 is trasmitted with 3 other channels in digital on the same frequency band as analoge channel 8 if you use a scanner on this frequeny you dont hear anything but a digital tuner will. so if you transmit on these frequencies it can interfere with the digital TV service. anyway even if that wasn’t the case over a certain wattage you require a licence on non public frequencies. say if you wanted to transmit on 1148.3375Mhz at say 10W you require a permit for that frequeny and have to pay and re-submit the application every so many years like australia its usually 2 years a a time. but personally I dont care if I could find a decent transmitter I would run my own TV station and play all the latest movies and even Porn at night I have no respect for the law when it comes to this sort of thing :-) would love a 5W+ Transmitter schematic to build and have a community TV station and once analoge is turned uff here no one would know other than someone with a spectrom analizer unless you told them to scan there TV on Analoge chances of them finding it is slim. if you keep it to a small subburb and dont transmit into the main sity area you could get away with it for a long time.

    1. I would agree. The FCC is really no more than a bunch of unelected bureaucrats in a Monarchy, their “kingdom” being US airwaves. These airwaves are purported to be “ours,” but if you try using them without their little “note from Daddy,” you risk a $10k fine and jail if you keep it up. BUT, whenever you try to get said “note from Daddy,” cooperate with this Monarchy and “do it their way,” you’re met with nothing but bureaucratic bullshit and stonewalling. “Well, the window for applying won’t be until 2023.” So if you want to go on the air with the BEST OF INTENTIONS to SERVE your local community with programming that the local big, full-power corporate licensed stations refuse to be bothered with, oh well, you get the proverbial “middle finger” from the Monarchy, and taunting laughter from the management of your local big, full-power corporate licensed station. Well, I think that’s total horseshit. Not that it matters to them, though.

  19. Since 1994 the FCC has been auctioning licenses for the electromagnetic spectrum (airwaves). This could and does includes parts of the spectrum allocated for Amateur Radio (ham).

    Frequencies previously used by amateur radio have been sold for commercial purposes. TeleCos (cellular phones) are big users of the radio spectrum formerly designated for amateur radio.

    Sadly, unlicensed use of airwaves won’t send a message to the feds that citizens believe that preserving sections of the airways “free from commercial use” is important for THE PEOPLE.

    However, licensed users have a voice – the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL).

    Small potato pirates – not so much.

    1. To Stephen
      ,While the old dogs still have it, they are not the future. The Small potato pirates are.I agree, flooding comercial streams with interference before doing your research is not a good idea. do not, however,fool yourself into thinking your “licensed User” is the big fish in the pond.

      To everyone else:
      be safe, be free ,and dont let fuddy duddy ole farts silence you ! EXPERIMENT!

  20. I don’t think anyone’s gonna care if you transmit for a few hours then go silent. I do this on my pirate radio station. Never got caught yet, going on three years!

  21. I heard just recently that one of the main reasons that tv converted to digital from analog was because our government has technology that allows digital tv receivers to be used as…for lack of a better analogy…spy cameras. What that means is that analog didn’t give the proper signal ability to turn your screen into something that they could use to look “in” at you from your viewing tv device; digital allows such a reversal without your knowledge of such.

    Things are going to change very drastically in the next 5 years–if not sooner–and those of us that have the ability to transmit independently in am/fm/shortwave/tv are going to be the ones that convey information to those that need the help.

    Keep hacking. Keep transmitting secretly and in covert ways. Keep doing what you do to keep freedom a reality.


  22. Apparently the latest idea someone (namely me) came up with is transmitting TV signals using NIR light.
    The restrictions are a lot simpler and because it is line of sight a single 1mW VCSEL can reach hundreds of people with a custom designed passive beam splitter.
    Also as long as this is done carefully the receiver can be integrated into existing replacement LNBs and also be used for: SETI, astronomical observations, etc.
    All that is needed is a simple APD/PMT setup which can now be had for under £20 and lasts about 10 years.

    Its also possible to “transmit” from the lunar surface using an 11 GHz setup and someone also suggested this as a way to encourage “moonshot” thinking as recycling the old Apollo era nuclear RTGs would provide a regenerative power source.

  23. there’s a handheld nintendo out there called Top Guy and it has a built in VHF transmitter. turning it on will display the game on all TVs in the vicinity that are tuned to a certain channel. would have been fun to have in the 90s when everyone was tuned into cable via channel 3/coaxial connection and bringing this thing with you all over the place lol… now days everyone’s on AV or HDMI… I still wanna build one for home use, game museum etc… any know how? imagine a game gear sized device and a small transmitter built in (it had a pull out antenna i believe). parts? legal info? limits? anything would be helpful thanks!

  24. There was an article in an electronics magazine back in 1987 giving full instructions on how to build an amplifier to boost the useful channel 3 cable frequency. You could put an aerial on the output and feed a modulated ch 3 or 4 signal into it and broadcast your vcr programmes all around the house; no wires or cables. Kind of like my Bluetooth speakers. Ten years later I hooked one up to my cable tv box and can watch tv anywhere in the house, on various receivers. In this way I actually predated the multiple tv services I’m sure would cost extra, and kept my analogue TV sets in service (I couldn’t care less about “keeping up with the Joneses”, what have they done for me lately?).

    I’m sure if you wanted to try sending a modern digital signal through it it would work, but then I haven’t had the need. And I’m not totally against progress, I own a couple small portable digital tv’s I’m using for ota reception away from home

    The aforementioned unit is also pretty reliable. It’s been running 24/7 for 20yrs with no problems. As far as causing interference goes, it only covers the house floor plan (2 stories) and a small section of the yard around the outside walls so it’s not going to bother anybody anyway

    I think the magazine was “Popular Electronics” or something like that from around July 1987. Those of you with back issues, start looking. I’d guess any suitable video amplifier would do, but at the time this was the low-bucks entry level way to go.

    A friend of mine also built this, hooked it up to a rotatable roof antenna and broadcast porn across the street for a party, but that’s an entirely different story. I guess.

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