Over-the-air TV? A third of Americans have no idea

The Wall Street Journal reports this afternoon that there are people walking among us who don’t know that a person can get TV “over the air.”

Presumably, these are people who grew up with only satellite or cable TV and were never told that local TV signals can be plucked out of the air. No monthly bills. No equipment rental.

According to the National Association of Broadcasters, nearly 30% of Americans are not aware of over-the-air TV. So, presumably they also don’t know that most every local TV station is broadcasting several different channels of programming, thanks to the mandated conversion to digital broadcasts.

Richard Schneider, founder of a St. Louis manufacturing company called Antennas Direct, says his occupation results in awkward small talk. “If I’m at a party and I tell people what I do for a living, they’ll say, ‘That’s still a thing?’ I’d think you’d be out of business by now.’”

Quite the opposite. He started selling antennas as a hobby more than 15 years ago and only expected to sell a few hundred each year. He says he sold 75,000 antennas in June. Even the latest high-definition flat-screen TVs need an antenna to get free broadcasts.

Michelle Herrick, 39, a photographer in Phoenix, says she was desperate to cancel her cable subscription after her bill topped $200 a month. The only reason she hadn’t was because she wanted local stations.

Then, about two years ago, her mother told her about modern antennas. Now, Ms. Herrick is the one who regularly has to explain to puzzled guests how she’s able to watch free television. “Everyone I talked to, they had no idea.”

Everything old is new again.