You don’t need me to tell you about unreliable, dare I say it, sleazy, advertising on the Internet. You encounter it in pop-up ads, pop-under ads, links in emails, and in ads that show up as sidebars to legitimate news stories.
It is rare to go more than a day without running across one or more such ads. Increasingly they are showing up in picture links on well-known and otherwise respected sites. Often the caption will make a seemingly personalized reference to the reader’s town.
Here’s one that surfaces regularly. Let’s call it “The TV antenna scam.”
Basically it uses unsubstantiated hype to convince you to ditch your cable TV subscription and replace it with a very inexpensive antenna of some sort, an antenna, so the promise is, that will let you enjoy endless free TV.
Let’s look at the claims made in the following five paragraphs, exactly as they appeared in an ad that showed up on my screen recently.
Developed with military technology, the SkyLink Antenna uses a design that offers a more reliable and technologically advanced antenna than almost any other on the market. That means more channels, movies and shows for free, without any subscription and in a completely legal way.
But how can you watch all this for free? The secret lies behind a law that no television operator in the world wants you to know. This specifies that they must provide, in addition to the conventional signal, a signal per radio. In order not to break the law, all operators therefore broadcast this signal.
But is it legal?
YES ! Without a doubt. Its use is entirely legal since the television operators themselves distribute the signal completely free of charge.
Obviously television operators do not like it at all, but they can not do anything about it. They are required by law to maintain this signal. And now, with advanced antennas like SkyLink Antenna, you can finally capture it.
Secret? Military technology? Movies for free? All questionable claims. Look, we are talking about a TV antenna that picks up signals that broadcasters send out over the air. The difference from antennas of old is that these can be relatively small because all signals nowadays are digital in nature, less prone to noise than fuzzy analogue signals.
However, and here’s the rub, not all TV channels are associated with broadcast signals. For example, news channels such as CTV Newsnet, BC1, CNN, are cable-only services. They have no broadcast signal. They cannot be picked up with an antenna. Same with dedicated movie channels.
So before you fall for the hype of getting an antenna to replace a cable subscription, make a list of the channels you watch regularly and then check a chart for services available over the air in your area.
Here in the Vancouver area you can find such lists with a search for “OTA channels Vancouver”. Although there are claims of up to twenty channels, it is more likely you will find just half a dozen or so. Don’t expect movie channels, sports channels and the like, and definitely no shopping channel. And just which channels you can pull in will be very much dependent on your location.
But the purpose of my column today isn’t to debate the merit of TV antennas. An OTA antenna can deliver an amazing picture to a modern TV set. No argument. No, this column is about sleazy ads for such items.
You see, I decided to write the company behind this ad, the Skylink Antenna Company, if that is even its name. I wanted to see, in writing, any return policy there might be. Despite a note that replies will be handled promptly, I still had not received a reply after fifteen days.
When I did receive a reply, about a month later, it was apparent that the company uses some form of bot. That reply, and subsequent ones, showed no connection to the actual request from me.
It would seem that most of the notes to Skylink are to complain about the antenna directly. Here’s one of the replies I received, despite not owning the product.
“I really apologize for any inconvenience. I am sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your antenna.
Can you provide to us the issue you encounter with our product?”
Of course I can’t! I don’t even own the product. And although the company website appears to be for a legitimate business, it has hallmarks that should raise flags. For instance a small banner across the top of the page suggests stock is limited and it shows a number in the low teens. A reference to “50% off today only” should raise a red flag. A test of the ordering system brings up a moving bar that generates expressions such as “checking for special offers,” “yes, you are eligible for special pricing” and when an order is placed, a countdown clock in minutes shows the supposed time remaining until the “deal” expires.
By all means look into a TV antenna if you want to cut the cable TV cord. Just don’t use a questionable service to buy one, especially one that comes up through a sleazy ad.
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