October 1953 QST
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL
for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Television interference (TVI) was a major
concern for amateur radio operators back in the heyday of broadcast TV. Other than
radio broadcasts, magazines, and newspapers, it was the only other major form of
media available; there was no Internet. Even the lowest priced TV sets represented
a significant portion of a typical family's disposable income. There was no government
handout program that provided every household with a television set and antenna.
Consequently, people were very irritated by nearby electrical or electronic equipment
that dared to interfere with their reception - and rightly so. Ham radio operators
broadcast on bands that were fairly well separate from the TV channel frequencies;
however, harmonics and intermodulation products often fell in the TV bands, and
that caused real problems with the public perception of amateur radio. Articles
like this were aimed at helping people tame the TVI and make peace with their neighbors.
A while back, I wrote about how my
radio control transmitter, broadcasting its fundamental
at 27.195 MHz, generated 2nd and 3rd harmonics that wreaked havoc with my neighbors'
daytime soap operas on VHF channels when I would run my model airplane up and down
the street in front of the house.
TVI and the Novice
Understanding the Problem
By Lewis G. McCoy,* W1ICP
In the writer's capacity as an ARRL Technical Assistant it has been one of his
jobs to handle correspondence with amateurs having TVI problems. A recent letter
was particularly interesting because it voiced a newcomer's fears of TVI. He wrote:
"I am interested in becoming a ham operator ... however, I am quite disturbed about
all the remarks being made about TVI. I am located in a small town about 60 miles
from the one and only TV station we can receive. The TV station is in the process
of increasing its power from 17,000 watts to 100,000; do you think this will help?"
He went on: "I am completely encircled by TV antennas and also have been warned
already by the wife and kids that I must not interfere with their favorite programs.
My question is this: Can a beginner in ham radio do all the necessary shielding,
trapping, etc., that must be done to prevent TVI?"
Fig. 1 - At A above, we have a graphic illustration of an 30-meter
fundamental signal shown by the dotted line, and to the right the harmonics, gradually
getting weaker as the frequency increases. At B, we see the increase in harmonic
strength in the TV band when the fundamental is moved up to 40 meters, while at
C, the low-order harmonics of the 15-meter fundamental are much greater in amplitude
than those from either 30 or 40 meters. In actual practice, the harmonics may not
have the relative strengths shown, but this drawing gives a rough idea of what takes
Here is a typical case of a newcomer voicing his fears of the nastiest problems
in amateur radio today. Actually, there is no need for the beginner to be frightened
by TVI. There are plenty of experienced people around to offer help and guidance.
Many cities in the country have TVI committees, made up of amateurs, ready to offer
their assistance. If you happen to live in an area that has no committee, there
are probably amateurs in the local club who have had experience with interference
and will be willing to help. In addition, your ARRL Headquarters staff will be glad
to help by answering your questions.
The cure for TVI is not as difficult as it may seem, and it certainly doesn't
require any great technical skill to whip the problem. In this article we hope to
acquaint the newcomer with the subject and try to give him a clear approach to the
What Is TVI?
There are many sources of TVI ... industrial heating equipment, electric devices
that have sparking contacts, diathermy, short-wave stations, and several others.
Unfortunately, even though the ham causes a very small percentage of the interference,
he somehow manages to get blamed for much of it. However, extensive public education
on the part of the amateur has gone a long way toward correcting this misunderstanding.
Forms of TVI
When you enter into a discussion about TVI with your neighbor, you must be equipped
with the necessary knowledge to know what you're talking about. It makes the job
a whole lot easier.
There are two basic forms of interference the amateur is concerned with. First,
there is the interference that comes from his station, because of faults in his
transmitter; and second, interference due to faulty design of the TV receiver. Obviously,
one form of interference is the responsibility of the ham while the other is not.
Let's for a moment discuss TVI that is caused by the transmitter.
When an amateur turns on his transmitter he is interested in transmitting his
signal on only one frequency - the "fundamental" frequency - and no others. However,
it is one of the characteristics of radio transmitters that they generate energy
at multiples of the fundamental frequency. These multiple frequencies are called
"harmonics," and when radiated are classed as "spurious" - that is, unnecessary
and unwanted - emissions. It is these harmonics that can cause TVI when they happen
to fall in a TV channel.
To obtain a clear picture of harmonics and their relation to TV, let's for a
moment look at Fig. 1. In Fig. 1A, we see the amateur bands d the TV channels represented
along a horizontal. line. Rising above the line, at 3700 kc., is a vertical line
representing the fundamental signal. At twice the frequency, 7400 kc., we find another
vertical line which represents the second harmonic. Each harmonic is shown in this
manner as we go higher in frequency. In a rough way, the length of each line represents
the amplitude of the harmonic, so it is apparent as we go higher that the harmonics
get weaker. (Although we only show harmonics through Channel 6, they will also extend
up into the higher channels, 7 through 13. However, we seldom need to concern ourselves
with these higher channels because the harmonics become so weak that it is a rare
case when harmonics from 80 or 40 meters cause interference.)
Now, looking at Fig. 1B, we see what happens to the harmonics when the transmitter
is in the 7-Mc. band. Observe that the harmonics in the TV range are considerably
stronger. And .if we look at Fig. 1C, with the transmitter operating in the 21-Mc.
band, we find we have really strong harmonics falling in the TV Channels 3 and 6.
It becomes very apparent that the lower the "order," or number, of the harmonic,
the stronger it will be. In other words, harmonics from an 80-meter signal are less
likely to interfere than those from a 40-meter, or 15-meter one. If we can visualize
a TV signal in Channel 3 having a strength equal to one-half inch on this scale,
we'll see some startling results. On 80 meters, the harmonic in Channel 3 is a high
one and is considerably weaker than the TV signal. The same is true of the 40-meter
harmonic. However, on 15 meters, the third harmonic now falls in Channel 3 and it
will be practically as strong as the TV signal. Harmonics as low as the third and
fourth can be tough to handle, even in an area where there is a strong TV signal.
This brings up another point when considering harmonic interference - the strength
of the TV signal being received. It is quite possible to have a harmonic in a given
TV channel and not cause TVI simply because the TV signal is strong enough to override
the harmonic. So it is apparent that the stronger the TV signal the less the problem
we have with TVI. Probably the answer is for the ham to move next door to the TV
station! Unfortunately, that isn't always feasible, so the next best thing is to
try to get the strongest possible TV signal to work with. It can be pointed out
to your neighbor that if he has a good antenna system, he'll not only get less interference,
he'll also have a much clearer picture to watch. When you talk to him about a better
antenna, pass along the information that such things as spark-plug interference
also will be a great deal weaker, and in many cases disappear. This is particularly
true in weak-signal areas.
Fig. 2 - What happens with two methods of attenuating harmonics.
At A, we have just the transmitter and antenna. When an antenna coupler is used
(B), the amplitudes of all harmonics are sharply reduced with a low-pass filter
(C). Harmonics above the filter's cut-off frequency are greatly attenuated hut those
harmonics below the cut-off frequency are not affected.
We could spend considerable time in this article explaining how to suppress harmonics,
but the reader would profit more by studying the chapter on BCI and TVI in The Radio
Amateur's Handbook. All phases of interference and its cure are treated in more
detail than would be possible in this space. It can be pointed out, however, that
usually only a minimum of shielding and filtering in a transmitter is necessary
to eliminate harmonic interference from 80- and 40-meter operation. In the case
of 15-meter work, good shielding, lead filtering, and a low-pass filter at the transmitter
output will be needed to do a good job. An antenna coupler frequently will provide
all the harmonic attenuation needed to clean up interference. In some cases, a low-pass
filter may be needed in addition.
Fig. 2 illustrates the difference between an antenna coupler and a low-pass filter.
Fig. 2A shows a 21-Mc. fundamental and the harmonics that fall in Channels 3 and
6, as they might be if the transmitter were fed directly to the antenna. Fig. 2B
shows what happens when an antenna coupler is used between the transmitter and the
antenna. You will note that the harmonics are sharply reduced in strength. Aside
from TV, harmonics can get you into trouble if they should interfere with any other
service, and an antenna coupler reduces the strength of all harmonics, whether they
fall in the TV range or not. Now, in Fig. 2C, we show what happens when you employ
a low-pass filter between the rig and the antenna. In this case, all the signals
lower than the filter's cut-off frequency of 45 Mc. are passed through without attenuation.
Those harmonics above the cut-off frequency are sharply attenuated.
Many newcomers hear the term "low-pass filter" and don't know exactly what is
meant. A low-pass filter is simply a combination of coils and condensers designed
to pass all frequencies below one known as the "cut-off" frequency and to reject
all frequencies above it. To make it even clearer, let's assume we have a transmitter
operating on 21,100 kc. in the Novice band. The third harmonic of the signal falls
at 63,300 kc., smack in Channel 3. With a properly designed low-pass filter installed
at the output of the transmitter, our 21,100-kc. signal will be passed to the antenna
without attenuation. However, because the filter is designed to have a cut-off frequency
at, say, 45,000 kc., the third harmonic will be attenuated.
Some amateurs have the mistaken idea that a low-pass filter is a "cure-all" for
TVI. It is true that a filter will help attenuate harmonics, but for the filter
to function properly, good shielding and lead filtering are also necessary. Otherwise,
some of the harmonic energy may get to the antenna without passing through the filter.
Fundamental Interference - Receiver Overloading
Here is a case where a TV set doesn't have enough rejection to
keep out a fundamental short-wave signal. As can be seen, the TV set is rather unhappy
about the whole thing.
We've discussed interference that is the responsibility of the ham, now let's
talk about the other common form of TVI, TV receiver overload, or "fundamental"
When an amateur station and a TV receiver are close to each other - usually less
than 100 yards1 - it is possible for the receiver to be interfered with
by r.f. from the ham's fundamental signal. Even though the amateur is transmitting
a signal on his fundamental frequency and no other, interference is likely to occur
if the receiver selectivity is inadequate. The amateur is not responsible for poor
receiver design and is not to blame for this type of interference, although it sometimes
is a little difficult to convince the TV owner of that fact.
It must be remembered that the average TV owner hasn't the vaguest idea of how
a TV receiver works. He knows that he has paid a lot of money for his set and feels
that he shouldn't get interference. He also thinks that he only gets interference
when the amateur is operating his station. Before getting into any discussions with
the TV owner, you must be positive that you are not radiating harmonics and that
the interference is the receiver's fault. About the only sure method of determining
whether or not your rig is clean is to make a test with your own TV set, if you
happen to have one. If not, try to borrow a receiver to make a test.
Assuming you have a TV set, you are now ready to determine what kind of TVI you
have, if any. If interference is present only on channels having a direct harmonic
relationship with your fundamental signal, then the trouble might be purely harmonic.
You would know for sure that interference was fundamental overloading if you had
trouble on channels that did not have harmonic relationship, but harmonics from
the Novice 40-meter band hit every channel. This is also true of 80 meters. In the
case of 15 meters, the only harmonics to interfere would be the 3rd in Channel 3
and the 4th in Channel 6. In such a spot you could look for fundamental overloading
on Channels 2, 4, and 5. Observing interference on channels where there is no sta-tion
won't be of any help as there is no sure-fire method of getting conclusive results.
The best method of making sure the receiver won't be troubled by fundamental
overloading is to use a high-pass filter.
Everybody's smiling again; the high-pass filter keeps out the
fundamental signal and hence - no interference.
We've already discussed what a low-pass filter is and how it works when used
on a transmitter. A high-pass filter is designed to pass all TV channels without
attenuation while attenuating any frequencies lower than its cut-off frequency,
usually around 40 Mc. Thus, a high-pass filter will keep your fundamental signal
out of the TV receiver.
For a high-pass filter to work properly, it should be installed as close as possible
to the antenna input of the TV receiver. By close, we don't mean on the back of
the set. In most TV receivers there is a short length of 300-ohm line that connects
the external antenna terminals to the tuner. This length of line is long enough
to pick up considerable r.f., so to avoid pick-up of this kind be sure the filter
is mounted right at the tuner. Before purchasing a high-pass filter, check to find
if the TV receiver you have already has one built in. Many of the late model sets
have built-in filters.
If you interfere with a receiver which has a high-pass filter, you'd better look
for harmonic trouble in your rig. Experience has it that when interference is present
on a receiver with a properly installed filter, the trouble is usually harmonics.
Once you are sure that your rig is clean - and your own TV set is the best witness
you have - then it is time to talk to your neighbor about his troubles. It should
be pointed out to the TV owner that you're not having trouble with your set, so
it might be possible his set is not properly filtered. It should also be pointed
out that the amateur is in no way responsible for interference in poorly designed
TV sets, and that the TV owner would be well-advised to have a reliable serviceman
install a high-pass filter. Experience has proven that it is much better for all
concerned for the ham to adopt a "hands off" attitude with respect to the neighbor's
set. What the amateur can do is explain to the serviceman exactly why the TV set
is being interfered with an how it can be cured.
Most TV receiver manufacturers have a policy of reimbursing the serviceman for
the cost of the high-pass filter installation. If there is a TVI committee in your
area, the complaint should be referred to the committee. Not only do its members
have the necessary "know-how," in addition, the FCC will approve the committee's
recommendations for a filter installation to the receiver manufacturer.
Ask an aspiring amateur fifteen years ago what his biggest problem was, and he
would probably reply, "Getting a license. After that I will be all set." Ask the
same question today and you might hear, "Well, getting a license isn't much of a
problem, but the threat of TVI worries me a lot." While one can't disregard the
threat of TVI these days, there is no need to let it make your life miserable, as
W1ICP points out in this article.
In places where a TVI committee is not functioning, a serviceman may be reluctant
to install a filter free of charge because he feels he won't be reimbursed by the
manufacturer. In such a case, it may be necessary to persuade the set owner to write
and explain the situation to the manufacturer. Another method of getting results
would be for the amateur involved to write to his regional FCC office. The FCC should
be informed of all the steps the amateur has taken and it should be pointed out
that the interference is no doubt due to fundamental overload.
As we said earlier, the BCI-TVI chapter in The Radio Amateur's Handbook should
be carefully studied. Also, ARRL Headquarters has many printed helps on TVI that
are available free of charge. These helps include such items as sample letters to
the TV owner showing him his responsibility, samples of newspaper publicity, information
on forming TVI committees and several other pieces of printed matter designed to
help the ham.
In addition, Phil Rand, W1DBM has published an excellent book on TVI.2
Spend a few evenings reading this material. You'll be well equipped to handle the
problem of TVI when you encounter it.
* Technical Assistant, QST.
1 It is possible to have this type of interference at longer distances but usually
only on receivers manufactured prior to 1949.
2 Send request and 25 cents in coin to cover cost of mailing to: Miss Anne Smith,
Remington Rand, Inc., 315 Fourth Ave., New York 10, N. Y.
Posted June 28, 2019
(updated from original post on 10/10/2012)